Audio Poem: “The Salt Flats”

Year written:  2006
Collection:  The Salt Flats  
 The Salt Flats
Here be the salt flats of the soul;
the long wide white expanse,
the glowing blank field,
the loving wide glowing blank
salt flats of the soul.

When I used to drink everyday
I got so lonely sometimes
I could hear
(and see!)
my heart beating,
pumping gin & nicotine rapidly
to my confused organs;

I could get so drunk & lonely
and all I could ever think about
(and see when my stuttering eyes closed)
were those girls who’d taken their clothes off
for me,
who had whispered sweet things,
blown kisses across parking lots.

Near the end of the drinking
I began to get hotel rooms
for myself
so I could drink with no one seeing me.
I’d throw my bag on the bed
unwrap the complimentary plastic cup
mix a drink
(three-fourths gin one-fourth Coke)
& drain it like a marathon runner
drains water held out to him.

After the first drink
I was loose and steady
(and maybe grinning a little)
& I’d mix a second one,
take it into the shower with me.
I never used soap or shampoo
but just sat there
with hot hot water dancing on me
thinking and drinking in the dark.

For an hour or more I usually sat there.

Out of the shower
(the room now entirely humid everywhere,
the mirrors fogged, the sheets damp,
even the television needed wiping off)
I’d position myself at the round oak table
with the TV on
& old newspapers or magazines
spread everywhere,
the gin bottle & 2 liter of soda
by my socked feet.

It didn’t take much for the loneliness
to happen;
two drinks?  Three?
Soon the naked whispering women filled the room
(muttering about how great I was,
what a shame life was).
I rarely cried. I just tried not to think.

Sometimes they’d taunt me.
Sometimes they drank with me.
Sometimes we’d argue,
I’d call them whores and harlots
and apologize & apologize.
Usually they fucked me.
Once they were there,
they didn’t leave
(until sunrise).

After some weeks
(a month? Maybe more,
I’ll never know)
of performing this ritual
the newspapers, the magazines,
the pre-emptive shower were no longer enough
to hold off that miserable loneliness:
it began as I walked through the door.
Desperate, I tremblingly paged through
the Gideon’s Bible
(there was nothing there for me.
It never left the bedside table.)

And then I found the phone book.

I suppose I knew what I was looking for
because I turned right to it.
Escorts, right there in the open
for anybody to find.
I was amazed!
Women would actually come to my room
(and do whatever I asked).
The idea was a wonderment.

The first time I called
I requested an Asian woman
(I’d never so much as held hands
with a girl who wasn’t as white as
freshly painted parking lot spaces);
immediately after hanging up
I knew I wouldn’t sleep with her.

She got to my room an hour later.
She wasn’t Asian
(she was whiter than me)
and she wasn’t very pretty.
But she wasn’t ugly.

I told her I was a writer
(for a reputable magazine, no less)
doing a story on the lives of
young girls working for dreary escort services.
I just wanted to talk, I told her,
and she’d be paid for her time.

I mixed her a drink,
which she gladly took.

She told me all about herself,
but I don’t remember any of it now.
I just remember staring at her
(taking fake notes)
and smiling as she became more enchanting
with each drink I took,
each word out of her mouth.

After an hour she said it was time to go.
I gave her the money I owed her.
As she was gathering her things I managed to say
How much more would it be
for a quick handjob?

That’s not what you want,
she said. She shut the door behind her.

I just sat there, mixing another drink.
I remember it was snowing outside
and the roads were icy.
Letterman was on TV.

Here be the salt flats of the soul;
the long wide white expanse,
the glowing blank field,
the loving wide glowing blank
salt flats of the soul.

4 Responses to “Audio Poem: “The Salt Flats””

  1. Franklin Says:

    I can’t read this enough. I’ve always loved it because it’s stark honesty is marked by a major departure from your normal style of poetics. It doesn’t sound like a normal Seth poem, and I think that is probably appropriate. Great use of the medium.

  2. This was a perfect choice for an audio poem. Franklin is right about it being a departure from typical “Seth” poetry, and I second his admiration of the stark honesty. You paint a perfect picture of a bleak time in your life.

  3. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    When you posted this I was at my parent’s house and I had the speakers hooked up to my Zune so I as unable to hear this. I kept the e-mail alert though but forgot about it til now. I’m glad I finally heard/read it though.

    I know I’ve said it before, but I really find the tales of your alcoholism fascinating and this poem is no exception.

    I really enjoyed this.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Why thank you, sir! Ultimately, that is why I still write about that period…it still seems interesting to me. Glad to hear I’m not alone!

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