personal favorites / poetry collections… Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard / two passages & video

Sam Shepard

Motel Chronicles


“He stands still by the smashed suitcase…”

       He stands still by the smashed suitcase peering down into all his one-time belongings. Crushed soap bars saved from motel showers. Flattened cans of string beans. A mangled map of Utah. Hot tar and blacktop ground into the pure white towel he was saving for his first long bath in a month.
       Nothing moves from one end of the highway to the other. Not even a twig flutters. Not even the Meadowlark feather stuck to a nail in the fence post.
       He pushes the toe of his boot across the burned black rubber skid mark. Follows the crazy swerve of tires with his eyes. Sour smell of rubber. Sweet smell of sand sweltering.
       Now a lizard moves. Makes a fragile fish-like wake with its tail. Disappears. Swallowed in a sea of sand.
       Should he try to salvage something? Some small token of the whole collection. A pair of socks? The batteries from his flashlight? He should try to bring her something back. Some little something. Some memento so at least she’d think he’d been doing more than nothing. Just drifting all these months.
       He pokes around in the debris with a mesquite stick looking for a present. Nothing seems worth saving. Not even the undamaged things. Not even the clothes he’s wearing. The Turquoise ring. The wing-tip boots. The Bareback buckle.
       He drops them all on the pile of rubble. Squats naked in the baking sand. Sets the whole thing up in flame. Then stands. Turns his back on U.S. Highway 608. Walks straight out into opened land.

Santa Rosa, Ca.

Shepard reads from Motel Chronicles:


“If you were still around”

If you were still around
I’d hold you
Shake you by the knees
Blow hot air in both ears

You, who could write like a Panther Cat
Whatever got into your veins
What kind of green blood
Swam you to your doom

If you were still around
I’d tear into your fear
Leave it hanging off you
In long streamers
Shreds of dread

I’d turn you
Facing the wind
Bend your spine on my knee
Chew the back of your head
Til you opened your mouth to this life

Homestead Valley, Ca.


~ by samofthetenthousandthings on May 1, 2012.

10 Responses to “personal favorites / poetry collections… Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard / two passages & video”

  1. For a European, there is something so American it’s almost mythological in that fantastic prose poem by Sam Shepard.

    It’s like 1000 books about being on the road, or 1000 road movies in one.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Two films come to mind, Berit – both by Wenders – primarily Paris, Texas – since Motel Chronicles was the basis for the screenplay by Shepard … and Kings of the Road. Glad you like the post.

    • Completely forgot Shepard had written the basis for Paris, Texas. Love that film, although it’s years since I saw it.

      Will check what Kings of the Road is about.

  3. Both are outstanding films – Paris, Texas is on my short list.

  4. Reblogged this on finder finder.

  5. Thanks for your post ! =)
    Do you know what is the title of the extract that Sam Shepard reads ?

  6. My library has changed titles frequently over the years, with only a core handful of volumes remaining intact. Motel Chronicles (and its companion volume, Hawk Moon) being one of them. I return to it often. Amazing American poetry. Tonally exact. Incredible perception and insight. I’ve been through many changes over the years, and this book, which I’ve owned since I was 17, continues to speak to me. “If you were still around,” incidentally, and one other piece from this volume, were set to music by John Cale, and appear on his key album Music for a New Society (1982). Both are haunting.

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