Chair Car, 1965 by Edward Hopper
Even the sun is trapped inside. Just a front wall
with lines to define door. But no handle.
Gradations of yellow, blue, green tempered. Stroked by white.
Like shined glass on the verge of shatter.
And in 1965, painted two years before he dies, trains named Chair Car
might have been this. Real.
Still. Composed motion. Sun sifted through blinds
as four yellow flags on the aisle between four pairs of alternate
occupied and unoccupied green velvet chairs. White doilies for necks.
No two of the four people are near each other. Beside and behind each
is an empty seat. One man. Three women.
Locomotive pull somewhere behind us or
in front of us.
No child waving outside.
The blind right windows translate light dead on the floor.
The two women could look at each other across the aisle.
The man stares. We see the back of his hair.
The woman behind the seat behind him is swiveled
to almost make eye contact with the woman across
from her looking down at her book unopened.
They are mannequins? No.
They are Josephine. Jo, his wife, his model, silent in
his swirls. She was an artist too. And sometimes got a small show.
I am trying to feel, know,
see what great art is. In the Whitney museum
with my students, in 1996. I showed reproductions in the classrooms.
I told them his lighthouses are his self-portraits, as Jo said.
but Berneal wrote, “this lighthouse…with no one to know within.”
I didn’t tell them Jo said all the dead birds attracted to the lighthouse were her (Jo’s diary)
but Patrick wrote, “She doesn’t know what to do./The wall looks like sky
reflected in water./The green’s the land.” Erwin wrote “ she keeps her secret…in solitude…”
A crowd is gathering. Listening to their comments.
The ceiling is closing in. There are no knobs to open gray luggage storage,
a thin right angled corridor above the eight seats.
There is nowhere to go.
Barbara Flug Colin
Barbara Flug Colin has published poems, essays and interviews in art, literary and teaching magazines and anthologies. Essays received: Teachers and Writers' 2012 Bechtel Prize; Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2013; finalist in 2014 Diagram/New Michigan Essay contest, She created a writing program she taught for 26 years at the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson, New York. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook SWIMMING and will publish her forthcoming chapbook, What is the Real Story?
The Ekphrastic Review
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