After Hopper

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AFTER HOPPER
        Nighthawks, 1942

She says that everything is after Hopper.
That posh hotel—you looked about to slap her,
but never did. Sometimes she’d wait at night
in her blue robe, face folded like the note
you didn’t leave crumpled in a coat pocket.
Sometimes she’d stand in broad daylight, naked
before an open window, flesh so pale
and round and full it seemed about to pull
a tide of ruttish men up from the street.
But mostly it’s the red dress. The cut straight,
sleeveless, loose. And her mouth is only lipstick.
She says you never even see her talk,
but just about to talk, about to smile.
She says that every moment is a jail;
this diner is her prison of endless light,
the ceaseless hour always getting late—
yet no one moves. Her cigarette remains
unlit. The busboy doesn’t lift his hands.
You could write a thousand lines, she says,
on all the things she never does or has.
How she seems so sad she might have cried.
How you only see her almost satisfied.

from American Fractal
first published in
The Pedestal Magazine