When I first saw the paintings of Jeffrey L. Neumann, in a gallery in Hudson, N.Y., I could hardly contain myself. I knew I had discovered a simpatico artist, a realist painter whose images of a lost America — faded motels, eateries and roadside oddities — could have illustrated much of the nourish imagery of my poetry and fiction.
Then, recently, in a kind of artistic kismet, I discovered a poem I had written years before I happened on Jeff’s work. The poem was about a motel in Wildwood, N.J., the very same seaside relic Jeff had painted in 2009. I shared the poem with Jeff, who responded: “Wow. I can hear this set in Waitsonian (re: Tom Waits) phrasing.” He agreed to let me use the image of his painting “Sea Shell” for this publication.
My poem, accompanied by Jeff’s painting of the same subject, follows.
CHECKOUT AT THE SEA SHELL MOTEL
the caramel room
at the Sea Shell Motel
dollar store palm prints
and nicotine sills
cheap rum hangs in the shaft of sun dust
hula lamps hold the afternoon
dealings have come and gone —
Greek families, pimps, divorcees,
schmuck runaways, suicide watches
music plays no more
only murmurings and distant trucks
the scent of the bulldozer