They stare into coffee cups, or gaze at wheat
from windows with imaginary glass.
They fixate on the smoothness of a street.
An introspective class
from dusk to night,
they ponder how they might have got things right.
We’re drawn to their abstraction by a hope
they seem to share—that selves can be renewed.
The fresh identity toward which they grope
in contemplative moods
can still be seen
in hues of rose and phosphorescent green.
But look too long, and you might say defeat
has cornered them. Like dollhouse props
their furniture is kept too clean, too neat.
No accidental drops
of paint or sweat
will rouse them from their theatre of regret.
Meanwhile, sunbeam diamonds cross the floor
as shadows in the doorways turn pure black.
Motel room, diner, office, general store
prepare for an attack
of twilight blues.
A voice inside the head throbs, Choose. Choose.
The creed of Hopper’s people is that souls
are faceted and feral. Hard as we strive
to settle into human pigeonholes,
birth instincts come alive
when evening has filled
our senses with a wilderness we’ve stilled.
David Southward grew up in Southwest Florida and currently teaches in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the author of Bachelor’s Buttons (Kelsay Books 2020) and Apocrypha, a sonnet sequence based on the Gospels (Wipf & Stock 2018). David resides in Milwaukee with his husband, Geoff, and their two beagles. Read more at davidsouthward.com.
The Ekphrastic Review
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