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Early Sunday Morning on the White Pages: Edward Hopper (1882-1967).

Not this dividing and indifferent blue ...
 Whatever it is I was waiting for years ago
 In that red brick apartment house where I grew up,
 Whatever it is I was that ached to break loose
 But had to sit cross-legged, staring out the window
 Like someone staring out the window at row house yards
 Identical to yards laid out in facing mirrors,
 Appeared to arrive at our doorstep in the hallway
 With the other volumes at the other hallway doors,
 The other volumes with the same transfiguring cover
 That we took inside and placed inside the cupboard
 For when our book of names grew slim as our knowledge,
 Or the phone number desired eluded our memory.
 Though there were times I would prize it from its niche
 Beside the liquor shelf and the earnest drawings
 I'd crayon during weekday art classes at school
 To pore over this famously deserted street
 With the bright, brooding storefronts like a movie set,
 Depression-era shops propped against their emptiness.
 But the film must be over, the extras gone home,
 And the star, stepping free of character and plot,
 Walks off in his fedora from the studio's back lot
 With its mock facades like these mute buildings,
 The banner of an absence beheld, or the mood
 A bit actor might feel in the cold water fiat of his need.
 --
 The man who brushed this band of space into canvas
 --Solitary windows with shades drawn or half-drawn,
 Chimerical rock face, its hardness softened by light--
 Knew that like light nothing permeates every brick,
 That it's the dark glow of nothing behind plate glass
 That was his private vacancy staring back at him,
 So he could not be happy until he had defeated
 The gravity in himself with scorn and silence,
 And such lavish barrenness as the heart can bear.
 That's why this early Sunday morning no one
 Gazes out their window at the luminous dawn
 Lowering the streetlamps along Seventh Avenue
 As though it really were the seventh day.
 That's why no one walks, dissimulation of one,
 Before these barely distinguishable shop fronts,
 Or stands before the hydrant and the barber pole
 As if they were tribal gods of want's frozen world.
 Why no one waits with an air of helpless longing
 As in some bland office or midnight luncheonette
 As though the puzzle of their lives had been configured
 To this precisely stark arrangement of light and form.
 --
 Along the rooftops' brows a radiant bar hovers,
 The ruddled facades burnish in their underglow,
 Each blunt, brilliant plane beheld into place.
 Yet somehow the picture ramifies endlessly,
 Still unpopulated, iterative as grass, or time neutered
 Of the human in a row of wind-worn stones.
 Only the viewer, like the last person on earth,
 Waits an eternity for shades to rise that never will,
 For lights to come on and the shadow of a face
 Appear, tentatively, on the bland horizon of a sill,
 For the slow, steady retinue of worshippers
 To pass into then out of this street's timeless frame
 The way I might have done my own Sunday morning,
 Walking out the door of the building where I lived,
 Like anyone hushed by night choosing to enter day,
 Anyone with a name in the great book of names
 Left in front of every door, every column and page
 In spate behind the painting folded over like a seal
 In which, like me, they might have pictured themselves
 Hidden, a haunted figure waking behind the blind,
 A sudden hand groping absently for the cord.
 How strange the light outside illumining that scene
 On your own street and the avenue descending away,
 From inside the frame of your own life passing forward--
 You feel its warmth. You bear the blue weight of the sky. 


DANIEL TOBIN is the author of four books of poems, Where the World Is Made, co-winner of the 1998 Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize (University Press of New England, 1999), Double Life (Louisiana State University Press, 2004), The Narrows (Four Way Books, 2005), and Second Things (Four Way Books, 2008), as well as a book of criticism, Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and numerous essays on poetry. He is presently Chair of the Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College in Boston.
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Author:Tobin, Daniel (American poet)
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Words:778
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