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When Edward Hopper finishes his painting for the night,
sets the boar bristles to soak in turpentine, wipes the thick
not-yet-crusted-over drips from his smock with a blue rag
and tips his palette up to incubate tomorrow’s luck,
he isn’t thinking of the greenish light from a street lamp,
how it hits plate glass and fractures through it, or the counter’s
corner in an all-night city diner. Most of the time
he is just hungry, already smelling the stew his wife
likes to make from white beans and bacon. His eyes lose focus,
and his other senses — so long ignored in deference
to saturated color — come alive, more vivid now
because of their confinement. How clear the little click as
the lamp’s wick sinks below its silver mouth, scritch of bootheels
on the tile stair when he descends. He inhales the evening,
the butcher’s bloody work, stale malt that drifts from a window.
The snowy world receives him: flakes melt and run down his cheeks.
Copyright 2010 Molly Fisk. Winner of the Dogwood Prize, originally published in Dogwood, from The More Difficult Beauty by Molly Fisk
Edward Hopper “Nighthawks” (1942)