Alienated Majesty: Edward Hopper Trio
"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts;
they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." —Ralph Waldo Emerson
One does not see the gleaming wall of glass,
its nickel slots and plates of apple pie,
the scores of harried customers who pass.
Reflected in the window’s blackened eye,
two rows of matching ceiling fixtures light
a way to nowhere through the city night.
Inscrutable as an unsculptured stone,
between the brass-railed stairway and the door,
we see a woman sitting all alone,
a quiet presence in a stark décor.
Her posture mimics, spiritless and still,
the fresh fruit posing on the window sill.
A little radiator crouches near
the wall, and yet the woman wears a glove,
a knee-length, fur-trimmed coat, a hat. Career
girl? Budding actress? Maybe she’s in love . . .
She’s staring far beyond the coffee cup.
I wonder if some man has stood her up.
The empty wooden chair, the empty plate,
the downcast eyes beneath the cloche’s brim,
suggest he was expected. Now it’s late,
and any prospect of his coming’s grim.
She weighs her options, as she slowly sips
and seems to pout with daubed vermilion lips.
Perhaps she can’t find work, and soon must pack
her dreams and bags and board a Greyhound bound
for where she swore she never would go back.
Perhaps it’s just her favorite stomping ground
where no one blinks at tables set for one;
where one can wallow in oblivion.
I want to tell her that I know. I know
she can survive whatever’s brought her here;
that glad and sorry seasons come and go;
that there is nothing and no one to fear --
I’ve owned the loss, I’ve worn the coat and hat.
I am the woman in the automat.
Early Sunday Morning
There’s something comforting and intimate
about the line of small shops in the glare
of Sunday morning. Something clean and spare,
bounded but suggesting infinite
extent. Then all at once we take a hit
to the solar plexus— we become aware
of storefront windows whispering Beware,
and that the quietude is counterfeit.
The atmosphere is placidly bereft,
devoid of movement and of human face;
the softened desolation of the street
suggests a hyper-emptiness, a trace
of absent presences, a bittersweet
tristesse, as though the world has just been left
alone to face the heft
of enigmatic darkness to the right,
a monolith that leads our line of sight--
through Hopper's scumbled light--
away from consolation toward concern
as we approach our point of no return.
Sun in an Empty Room
Sunlight streams into an empty room
through an undraped window to the walls and floor
in silence, like the silence of a tomb.
Don’t go looking for the bride and groom.
They’ve split. No, they don’t live here anymore.
Sunlight seeps into an empty room,
where absences—a trace of her perfume,
the stark adumbral corners—underscore
the silence. In the silence of a tomb,
in the hush and stillness of impending doom,
at angles most observers will ignore,
sunlight swirls into an empty room
that’s now for rent. The landlord took his broom
and, whistling, swept old sorrows out the door,
the space deserted, mute as Joseph’s tomb
on Easter morning. Past the window, gloom
lies juxtaposed with the interior:
the frenzied, elemental tree/the room
a silent, sunlit, unappointed tomb.
"Automat" was first published in Quadrant.
"Early Sunday Morning" was first published in Mezzo Cammin.
"Sun in an Empty Room" was first published in Frostwriting.
Catherine Chandler is the author of three full length collections of poetry, Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press), shortlisted for the Poets' Prize; Glad and Sorry Seasons (Biblioasis); and The Frangible Hour (University of Evansville Press), recipient of the 2016 Richard Wilbur Award. Her award-winning poetry, translations, essays and reviews have been published in journals and anthologies throughout the English-speaking world. Catherine currently lives in Saint-Lazare-de-Vaudreuil, Quebec, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. She holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship.
The Ekphrastic Review
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