Jordan Smith – Edward Hopper:
Studies of Men in Hats…

Smith LE P&W April 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2024.

Edward Hopper: Studies of Men in Hats
and an Arched Window, poems by Jordan Smith.

Edward Hopper: Studies of Men in Hats
and an Arched Window

A derby and a trilby, even a topper, and this slant upper-story window,
An office, probably, above a bank,

Where we went with our fathers (were we eight or ten?)
After a haircut, after a stop at the drugstore,
A sneaked look at the Police Gazette in the magazine rack
While the pharmacist chatted and filled the prescriptions,

And then across the street, along the canal, to the hardware store’s
Long building of low rooms that went on and on,
Racks of rakes and picks, boxes of bolts and fasteners,
Matchbox Cars on sale by the cash register
We knew better than to ask for,

And then, in the Bank & Trust, past the oak cashier’s window and the gold-trimmed vault
With a barred door, where the safe deposit boxes were,
And up the stairs, for a handshake and a chat with a friend from church

Wearing a dark suit with a Masonic pin, our fathers on a day off
That turned into a week, a long year,
In khakis and a Pendleton shirt, fedora pushed back,
While the man in the suit offered suggestions, condolences, Canadian

Rye from a bottle in the file drawer, and we counted the cream and green cars
Heading up North Main past the cream and green Victorian inn
On one corner of the intersection with West Church Street, a gas station
On one diagonal, and the Baptists and Congregationalists on the other,

Which is where we’d go on Sundays, hats resting on our knees
In the back pew of the balcony, with the old men,
Who whispered and nodded through the sermon,
Counting the squares in the screen hiding the organ pipes,
When all of this wasn’t over, not by half.

Bowling with Luchadores

In San Diego, which I now acknowledge as a city of miracles,
My son went bowling with luchadores.

Can you even begin to imagine my envy? He drove
From Los Alamos, north of White Sands, south of Area 51,

Sites of fall and inferno and revelation,
Wandering that desert to stand at last with reverence in the presence

Of King Rey Mysterio and his son, El Hijo, their masks, scarlet and black,
Their rituals of violence and wonder and surprise, and then

To laugh over beers with the flame-infused Fenix, disciple
Of splendor and self-abnegation, as the mottled globes

Spun headlong and the pins split in chain reaction, tumbling
Like the dice God doesn’t throw, who left that to us.

Elegy for the Master of the Declarative

for Norman Dubie

There is a freedman in a long oilcloth coat
Playing The Eagle’s Whistle on a gourd banjo
In an abandoned meeting house in Maine.

As snow falls through the buckling roof,

His notes bend into the long lament you might imagine,
Sitting on one of the warped oak pews
You hauled onto a cart, then home through the frozen woods
And into your study in the parsonage by the lake
Where the woodstove chills the corners of the room.

Eloquence, as you have observed, is a cold comfort
To the oppressed, to the afflicted.
Silence, as you observe it, is another.

You can hardly make him out in the darkness.

Such music, such earned and infinite resentment, 
Such claims upon us …
You will write in your sermon for the following Sunday,

To be delivered to the congregation of birches
Nodding in the storm outside the broken stained-glass windows.

© Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith is the author of eight full-length books of poems, most recently Little Black Train, winner of the Three Mile Harbor Press Prize and Clare’s Empire, a fantasia on the life and work of John Clare from The Hydroelectric Press, as well as several chapbooks, including Cold Night, Long Dog from Ambidextrous Bloodhound Press. The recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim and Ingram Merrill foundations, he is the Edward Everett Hale Jr., Professor of English at Union College.

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