Poetry Friday: “Looking for the Gulf Motel”

I love podcasts. I love that they come in neat little packages that I can listen to while I’m doing the dishes or folding laundry. I love that I can press a few buttons on my phone and Ada Limón or Pádraig Ó Tuama will read a poem to me as I drive to work. This is the best way to begin the day.

Not long ago, on Poetry Unbound, Pádraig Ó Tuama shared “Looking for the Gulf Motel” by Richard Blanco. Although I have never been to the Gulf Motel, or Marco Island, Florida, I instantly recognized everything in Blanco’s poem. Substitute my father and friends clamming at Head’s Beach, or the Cafe 2000 in Newport, and this poem is the poem of my childhood summers.

Although many of you may have already read this poem or heard this episode, I’m sharing it today in honor of Father’s Day, the start of summer, and all the Gulf Motels of our childhoods.

“Looking for the Gulf Motel”
by Richard Blanco

Marco Island, Florida

There should be nothing here I don’t remember . . .

The Gulf Motel with mermaid lampposts
and ship’s wheel in the lobby should still be
rising out of the sand like a cake decoration.
My brother and I should still be pretending
we don’t know our parents, embarrassing us
as they roll the luggage cart past the front desk
loaded with our scruffy suitcases, two-dozen
loaves of Cuban bread, brown bags bulging
with enough mangos to last the entire week,
our espresso pot, the pressure cooker—and
a pork roast reeking garlic through the lobby.
All because we can’t afford to eat out, not even
on vacation, only two hours from our home
in Miami, but far enough away to be thrilled
by whiter sands on the west coast of Florida,
where I should still be for the first time watching
the sun set instead of rise over the ocean.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Please be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Looking for the Gulf Motel”

  1. I bought the book after I first read this poem and I was privileged a few summers ago to hear Richard Blanco on Zoom read it aloud. He reminds me that my stories are universal in their specificity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I want to blame/the condos”, too. I had no beach vacations growing up but trips to the Lake of the Ozarks at some small motel with a pool! That itself was enough plus pool tables for my dad. Blanco writes it as it was for many. Thanks, Catherine. Have a lovely weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. oh, my goodness…that poem got to me in unexpected ways. The love of the parents, the details…those squeaky sandals…looking for what was. Absolutely beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing Blanco’s poem, Catherine. It’s appeal is so universal. I spent childhood vacations at my uncle’s house at the New Jersey shore. When I took my own children there many years later I found myself remembering the way it was and wishing “my uncle should still be here.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Catherine, I really loved the poem you shared, especially the last two lines. Thanks for reminding me to visit Limon’s podcast. I never heard of Pádraig Ó Tuama and am listening to him now. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

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