Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

American Literature

Poets and storytellers
move into the vacancies
Edward Hopper left them.
They settle down in blank spaces
where the light has been scoured and bleached
skull-white and nothing grows
except absence. Where something is missing,
the man a woman waits for
or furniture in a room
stripped like a hospital bed
after the patient has died.
Such bereft interiors
is just what they've been looking for,
with their lumpy beds, 
their birdcages and decks of cards,
their dog-eared books, their predilection
for starting fires in empty rooms.

--Lisel Mueller

Gas

--after Edward Hopper

The lonely man
    performs some necessary ritual
      behind a pump. We cannot tell
exactly what it is he does because
    the angle is so odd. A rack of cans

of oil between
    two pumps on the island stands, as they al-
      ways do, conveniently avail-
able, in easy reach of any needy
    motorist. The light is low, and the trees,

massed heavily
    behind the man and his pumps, march darkly
      off to the right. A modest shock
of roadside weeds attends the greenery
    as it condenses. On the periphery,

out of our ken,
    shines a source of artificial light. We
      are meant to feel the clutch of the
evening. It is not benevolent. 
    The artist has invested his talent

in loneliness.
    The values and the crusty inflections
      of his particular diction
demonstrate devotion to the modest
    fears of the soul in the longest moments

of late after-
    noon. A sign hangs white above the station.
      Mobilgas and Pegasus. A 
flag of sorts, a standard, here, to more
    than gas. The language, though hard, is clear.

--Sidney Wade

Hopper's "Nighthawks" (1942)

Imagine a town where no one walks the streets.
Where the sidewalks are swept clean as ceilings and
the barber pole stands still as a corpse. There is no
wind. The windows on the brick buildings are
boarded up with doors, and a single light shines in
the all-night diner while the rest of the town sits in
its shadow.

In an hour it will be daylight. The busboy in the
diner counts the empty stools and looks at his
reflection in the coffee urns. On the radio the
announcer says the allies have won another victory.
There have been few casualties. A man with a wide-
brimmed hat and the woman sitting next to him are
drinking coffee or tea; on the other side of the
counter a stranger watches them as though he had
nowhere else to focus his eyes. He wonders if
perhaps they are waiting for the morning buses to
arrive, if they are expecting some member of their
family to bring them important news. Or perhaps 
they will get on the bus themselves, ask the driver 
where he is going, and whatever his answer they 
will tell him it could not be far enough.

When the buses arrive at sunrise they are empty as
hospital beds--the hum of the motor is distant as
a voice coming from deep within the body. The
man and woman have walked off to some dark
street, while the stranger remains fixed in his chair.
When he picks up the morning paper he's not
surprised to read there would be no exchange of
prisoners, the war would go on forever, the 
Cardinals would win the pennant, there would be 
no change in the weather.

--Ira Sadoff