Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Western Motel

Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Western Motel

Article excerpt

(after Edward Hopper, 1957)

She sits. Like Patience on a monument?

Not quite: there's coldness in her narrowed eyes,

Which look straight through us and across the room,

Suggesting eagerness (perhaps for help),

As well as her awareness of the space.

Her lips are pursed, about to say a word

To someone here. Her manicured right hand

Hangs, almost loosely, on the wooden frame

Bracing the bottom of her motel bed.

Her leather bags are packed and ready for

Someone-husband? lover?-to pick them up.

A pointed stillness animates the scene.

The car, at least the hood that we can glimpse,

Stands waiting like a steed outside the glass.

But maybe not. Perhaps she's just arrived

And, sitting rigid on the bed, is now

About to recompose herself within

This temporary home away from home.

That's it! They're checking in, not out, and now

He's dropped the luggage off, and stands outside

The room, or in the John, or grabs a smoke

Poolside. Out of sight? Out of mind? At least,

We wisely tell ourselves, not out of hers.

A slight discomfort in her pose might mean

That she's unhappy with the wooden chest,

The mirror on the wall, the small TV,

Which, like her man, exist implicitly

Within the picture Hopper's given us.

We're taken in.

In fact, what do we see?

A woman, stiff, reclusive, muscular.

Her impassivity seduces us.

The room is bright-too bright, she seems to think-

And hot. Its garish colors make her want

To draw the rusted orange draperies

Against the sea-green wall. The bed and chair

That complement her stylish cotton dress

Encourage us to think she wants to make

Herself at home because her colors match

The ones inside the room. She now must live

Within this burgundy-inflected dream:

The painter's clear, embellished fantasy.

The burning Western desert scene extends

Into the place we thought its opposite.

She doesn't quite fit in. Something's not right.

Her posture is a pose, about to break.

Her face, though stern and uncomplaining, begs

Onlookers to see her through by seeing

Through its opaque façade of nonchalance.

She's draped her coat, a single touch of blue

(Repeating the capacious skies outside)

That has been added to the room, across

The chair. …

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