Maybe it is evening in a distant city, not too big or too small.
A man is folding his suit pants in the bedroom, making sure the creases align.
He is sitting on a bed in his undershirt, and she is brushing her teeth in the bathroom.
He hears the water running, the toothbrush sliding across her teeth, her mild humming.
He bends down to untie his shoes, and a shadow passes over his face.
She walks into the bedroom, wearing her pink nightgown.
She walks to her side of the bed, crawls under the white comforter,
snaps off the lamp on the wooden stand beside the bed.
He unbuttons his shirt in the half dark,
and stands to hang his shirt and pants in the closet.
No one talks in a Hopper painting. People are caught
after they have spoken, when there is nothing left to say.
The pauses must be endured, the way pain is endured,
silently, sometimes hidden, as if to slip and speak of suffering
were to break for a moment the spell of our aloneness.
A woman plays piano as a man reads the newspaper.
Two friends eat chop suey at a restaurant, without talking.
Each person is bathed in light: the natural light of the sun,
the fluorescence of a diner, a motel room; and the light
is another character in the painting, something that watches
each person’s privacy, always without comment,
without even the courtesy of a sound.
Lend me the weight of your writing. Shine on all the mildewed parts of me:
the rusting wrenches, rakes, old jeans and t-shirts, license plates and jars of salt for snow.
Walk into my mind’s shaded garage, light a cigarette, sit down on that pink and blue lawn chair,
stretch your legs, have a drink, talk to me shyly. You can ash on the ground.
When you’re ready, come inside. The air conditioning’s on. See the pictures on the wall –
that’s a Chagall print. Wait, not a print. A copy of a print? The other I ordered from 20×200.
I like it, too. I like its colors. And how abstract it is. Just colors sliding downwards –
two slants, one with red, yellow, pink, black, purple,
the other pale red, soft blue, grass green, light orange, black, and pink.
I think it’s called “Flow.”
I like the diagonals. They’re framed in a square.
The background of the print is grey and white: grey on the right, white on the left.
Now, if you’d like, I’ll make some tea. But only if you talk to me.
Metaphorically, I’d love
if you could fire the teapot of my heart,
boil the grey-bagged leaves of my insides,
and notice with your blend of regret and delight
how future tastes bleed into heated water,
how poetry rises from my helpless pen,
how day and all its sunlit clouds receive the night,
visible and invisible.
Now show me how to write a long poem. And put everything in it:
old boxer shorts, and a stack of books hiding behind a curtain.
There’s Susan Howe and Robert Creeley, Saul Bellow and John Ashbery.
That notebook I use sporadically, you’re free to write in it.
Just don’t turn to that – yes – no – please don’t read that!
It’s an embarrassing love poem I didn’t want to show anyone.
It makes you think of Delmore Schwartz? How perceptive!
I was reading him when I wrote it. Tear it up if you want,
I want nothing to do with it now.
So tell me, what is your secret? How do you make your poems, well, sigh?
What I mean is, I’ve tried to write poems like yours. Yes, “descriptions.”
They never work. They don’t have your “subtlety,” the way
outside my window is a grey and maroon brick building,
and it has awnings that are maroon and white, hanging over four of the windows in the front.
An enormous green tree is bursting out of the head of this building.
A bird just flew out of it (the tree). Someone is mowing the lawn, too.
Not in a constant drone, but in spurts. Maybe they’re trimming a bush?
The light is hitting a reddish purple tree in front of the bursting green tree,
and the leaves of the sunlit purple mingle with a fluffy evergreen behind it.
You can also hear the whirr of the fan above my head (I lied about the air-conditioning).
But now I’m left with my “description.” You end yours and it feels like
something very beautiful has transpired. Beautiful and very sad.
Yet my description just feels lonely, or, er, not lonely, but unfinished.
An unfinished sketch. Yours feel unfinished, but in a way meant to be displayed.
Anyways, this is yours now.
It’s for you, wherever you are.
Andrew Field teaches composition at Owens Community College. He has published book reviews at The Rumpus, and articles about John Ashbery and Robert Creeley at Thethe Poetry Blog. He blogs at http://andrewfield81.