Early Sunday Morning on the White Pages: Edward Hopper (1882-1967).
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|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2008|
|Next Article:||Selected letters from words in air.|