Out Hedda Sterne’s Window, 1956
I wonder how she narrowed her gaze,
softened the edges of her vision, and
fixed her stare before it was broken
again. Is this evidence of that focused
eye? A frame beyond girders, beyond
glass. The pane and panel, the steel
bones crosswise, and the brittle crusts
of New York wearing sunlight like
Does the city speak its own name in
creaking metal and the monotone coo
of trucks moving in reverse? Here,
there’s none of that. Sound is frozen,
but vibrancy is played out in depth, in
artifact. There is a metropolis of people
here but they’re all implied. Lives caught
as a suggestion in dark and pale
strokes of empire.
Was there anyone behind Hedda,
anyone who, were they to step forward,
would enjoy being captured in crisp
lines? A friend, patient and calming,
leaning against a cracked white pillar,
leafing through old issues of Vogue.
Perhaps it was a disheveled lover snoring
softly, half concealed by flowered sheets
and sharp morning shadows.
Or maybe it was the same unspoken
millions, trapped in canvas upon
leaning canvas in earlier versions
of their own world. Aspiration and
status shot up through dark blurred
lines, a gray sprawling growth awash
in its own cold stillness. The scalloped
mirror of a slow river brushed smooth,
reflecting only blue sky.
This poem responds specifically to New York, by Hedda Sterne (USA, b. Romania) 1956. Click here.
C. Zeeck is an educator living and writing in Chicago.
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