Another Wrong Fedora

Four Paintings by Edward Hopper

“Morning Sun”

is geometry and flesh, trapezoids
of sunlight and windowsill interrupted
by Jo, sitting more than upright, leaning forward
into the coming day, her one visible eye
a dark-as-a-berry, wide-open wedge,
her strong and handsome jaw dividing the light,

her knees pulled breast-high, the halves
of her legs making two sides of an almost-
equilateral triangle, the bed's clean,
nearly-smooth sheet forming the base,
depressed slightly by her uncovered buttocks
which begin a curve that unwinds up her spine
and leads to the tangled knot of auburn hair
low on the shadowed back of her head.

 

“Four Dead Trees”

They're to the right and in sunlight,
bone white and almost barkless.

Two have limbs, stumpy but long enough
to suggest arms raised in supplication, or a stance
of self-defense. The shortest tree, center,
was sliced off at a slant, exposing
an upturned face, now turned away
from the viewer, eyes closed, waiting.

To the left, in the foreground bushes,
a too-wet brush has made a muddy storm,
disintegration.

 

“Stairway”

When he first began the sketches in 1925, he knew what lay
down there, past the foot of the stairs and open door:
a plank porch under a swag lamp, a rail, and beyond,
telephone poles, the wires semi-slack between them,
stretching off to round dark distant hills.

 

But when he painted in '49, he knew better
what he didn't know. Oh, there was the newel, the post
capped with a turned hardwood ball, and the door,
curved now with age, but between the robin's-egg sky
and the autumn yellow lawn lay a darkness
indistinct as a brown bear in a black cave.

 

“Excursion into Philosophy”

Never mind the light, or the woman on the bed
facing the wall, dead? Or at least asleep, in any case,
turned away, her bottom bare, her hair splayed
across the white pillow. Notice, instead, next to her,
the open red-edged book and the man, fully dressed,
except for tie, his trousers freshly pressed, sitting on the edge,
his elbows on his thighs, his hands hung between them.

The man and woman form a crooked cross
crowned with his heavy head of grey hair,
his eyes, his mouth, full of wry despair.