Monday, February 4, 2013

"Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper


Here are two very different poems inspired by Hopper's 1942 oil painting, which is in
the Art Institute of Chicago.





A Midnight Diner by Edward Hopper
David Ray (1970)

Your own greyhounds bark at your side.

It is you, dressed like a Siennese, 

Galloping, ripping the gown as the fabled 

White-skinned woman runs, seeking freedom. 

Tiny points of birches rise from hills, 

Spin like serrulate corkscrews toward the sky;

In other rooms it is your happiness

Flower petals fall for, your brocade

You rediscover, feel bloom upon your shoulder. 
 

And freedom's what the gallery's for. 

You roam in large rooms and choose your beauty. 

Yet, Madman, it's your own life you turn back to: 

In one postcard purchase you wipe out 

Centuries of light and smiles, golden skin 

And openness, forest babes and calves. 

You forsake the sparkler breast 

That makes the galaxies, you betray 

The women who dance upon the water, 

All for some bizarre hometown necessity!

Some ache still found within you! 

Now it will go with you, this scene 

By Edward Hopper and nothing else.
It will become your own tableau of sadness 

Composed of blue and grey already there.

Over or not, this suffering will not say Hosanna.
Now a music will not come out of it. 

Grey hat, blue suit, you are in a midnight 

Diner painted by Edward Hopper. 
 

Here is a man trapped at midnight underneath the El. 

He sought the smoothest counter in the world 

And found it here in the almost empty street, 

Away from everything he has ever said. 

Now he has the silence they've insisted on. 

Not a squirrel, not an autumn birch, 

Not a hound at his side, moves to help him now. 

His grief is what he'll try to hold in check. 

His thumb has found and held his coffee cup. 
 

Nighthawks 

By Samuel Yellen (1952)
The place is the corner of Empty and Bleak, 

The time is night's most desolate hour, 

The scene is Al's Coffee Cup or the Hamburger Tower, 

The persons in this drama do not speak.

We who peer through that curve of plate glass 

Count three nighthawks seated there—patrons of life: 

The counterman will be with you in a jiff, 

The thick white mugs were never meant for demitasse.

The single man whose hunched back we see 

Once put a gun to his head in Russian roulette, 

Whirled the chamber, pulled the trigger, won the bet, 

And now lives out his x years' guarantee.

And facing us, the two central characters 

Have finished their coffee, and have lit 

A contemplative cigarette; 

His hand lies close, but not touching hers.

Not long ago together in a darkened room, 

Mouth burned mouth, flesh beat and ground 

On ravaged flesh, and yet they found 

No local habitation and no name.

Oh, are we not lucky to be none of these! 

We can look on with complacent eye: 

Our satisfactions satisfy,
Our pleasures, our pleasures please.


 painters and poets

3 comments:

  1. I LOVE THIS SITE AND THE POEMS CHOSEN
    CAN I SUBMIT TO YOU MY EKPHRASTIC POEMS?
    SARAH BROWN WEITZMAN [GOOGLE OR BING ME]
    SBWPOET@AOL.COM

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