872 Readings

The Man in Hopper’s “Office in a Small City”

A kiss or rather the ruins of one: a swirl
of dust in sunlight, perhaps, as it mingles
with the stifled love-cries of a hotel painting

above an unmade bed even after the lovers
have left, checked out to wherever it is
lovers go hours later, driving a blue Chevrolet
down a two-lane highway in Kansas
watching a controlled burn’s flames
flutter, smoke braids rising from black grass
and becoming the ashen haze of evening

jotting down its regular inventory
of empty silos and sagging fence posts bound
with rusted wire that mark the miles.
But whatever it is, I’ll never know it, trapped
as I am decades now, staring out spotless
window glass forever at God-knows-what.

My sleeves rolled and vest chest-tight,
this sun-muted office severe in its loneliness,
I know you’re thinking I could be your father
years back, working late, distracted
by the thought of a woman not your mother,
a woman who even now remains nameless, 

though it wasn’t what you’ve thought: Motel 6
and an hour for lunch, Jim Beam in a plastic cup,
lipstick-smeared menthols, the alarm buzzing
get back to work, as if in your imagining of it
you might find some shadowed truth
made visible, something like what would find you here 

if you searched long enough, something there
in the foreground, maybe. Right there.
Something knowable, touchable, a single stroke.
Posted 07/22/10
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