Perhaps this sadness is magnified by her isolation,
this loneliness, this apparent need to grieve.
The lone woman in Hopper’s Automat appears adrift
among the tragic themes. Maybe she’s caught
in the more derelict form, self pity, a place we try
not to visit for fear we won’t recover in time to open the door.
She sits staring into a cup of coffee, perhaps drowning
in her reflection, her eyes black smudges, pupils glazed
over so completely it’s impossible to trace her fix;
maybe she’s just spacing off into the hollow recess
of no return, a smoldering fire that billows its own flame.
Whatever has her alone in this cafe must be decisive
and crucial. I get the sense that she is the recipient
of something crumbled, that a terrible judgment
has been gaveled in. Perhaps she has stooped so far into
befuddlement she has forgotten to slip off her emerald
and black coat, her left handed glove, her need
to draw the cup from the saucer to her lips.
Maybe it’s cold inside, perhaps she’s just been served,
maybe the latent heat from the low, bronze radiator
has yet to reach her.
It’s dark outside, the round light fixtures
streak in bright reflection in the black window behind her
like a vapor trail, an apparition, that large emptiness
after a lover’s departure. Perhaps she is bestowed with a rare
grace and dignity, maybe she is encumbered with a sorrow
so great she suffers a price which will never be paid.
I too am alone, not in the larger sense, but in this museum
which has just announced its closing in five minutes.
Perhaps I’ll reconstruct this feeling from memory,
maybe the fashion in which Hopper painted. Unlike this woman,
I must eventually abandon the canvas, I must carry
the weight of more modest decisions, driving headlong.
—from Rattle #21, Summer 2004