Poem: Life in the Painting

Life in the Painting

The diner is empty. Snow falls outside.
Van Morrison wails Tupelo Honey on the stereo.
The cook leans against the counter, sleepy eyed.
A Hopper painting in the early morning.

One patron comes in. The bell on the door rings.
The cook shuffles. From downstairs, a waitress appears.
Coffee appears. And a refill for you. No words
are spoken.

Some days you have nothing to say.
It is enough to take in the atmosphere
and meld into it. Flat and as evocative
and Hoppers best.

You do not have to be happy to be content.
That has become the lesson of your life
and it is a good one. Loneliness does not exist
for you as it once did.

You look across the room. There is a mirror there
and you barely recognize yourself.
The face is familiar but the person beneath it
feels new.

When you were a boy they told you
you would find yourself, settle into yourself.
They did not tell you that as soon as you did,
you would change.

Perhaps they did not know.
Perhaps there are people who remain the same,
comfortable and familiar. Perhaps,
but it has never been your fate.

It is a lack of character, this shape shifting?
or is it character itself? You have ceased to care.
It simply is. and times like this, empty and quiet,
you can feel it at work.

Despite the stillness, things are happening,
even if you do not have the words.
Tom Petty breaks in on the stereo. “Built to Last”
You smile. You are. And in whatever form that might be,

it is enough.

About this poem.

When I am flat, when I don’t have any clear things to write on, I just start writing about the place I am in that moment, the studio, my favorite diner, where ever. And if I write enough, something subconscious finds a hook to write about. Then I go find a picture to fit the poem.

This is one of those poems

Edward Hopper is one of my favorite painters. Nighthawks, which is the painting in this post, is one of my favorite paintings. I think it is what turned me on to diners, even before I had been in one.


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