A new poem…
I was shuffling down the sidewalk that night,
My hands fixed in the pockets of my coat,
Thumb and finger turning at keys, aping
The turning in my mind,
When I found myself outside Hopper’s Nighthawks.
It was eerie at first to see my curious look
In the reflection of the old diner,
Though not so old in this impossible present
Where I stood peering through the dingy glass,
Squinting to note the familiar figures at the bar:
The hatted cigaretteer, the suspicious woman in red,
Their hands eternally touching or not touching,
The amiable boy tending the bar
And the fourth with his back to the world.
I drew my forehead up to the window
To determine how cool this outside dark,
Placing my hands like parentheses around my eyes
Only to see the still figures inside
Staring at nothing,
Dwelling on absent futures, listless
In their fixed points where Phillies are only 5¢
And the lights are always on.
Yet before I pulled away to turn the corner to my car,
A lazy glance happened upon a single glass,
Idle and unclaimed,
On the nearer end of the bar,
Removed from the four characters
Paralyzed in their cold moments.
So I drifted inside,
Lay my keys and scarf upon the counter,
And asked the boy if he’d exchange the empty tumbler
For a coffee cup like the others.
But he wouldn’t take it, wouldn’t even listen,
Didn’t even stand up straight from his persistent stooping,
And I gathered the glass was meant to stay,
Left by someone else,
Destined never to be filled,
Perhaps stuck in his own still point,
Caught in a portrait of frozen dancing
Or motionless on the curb.
I scooped up my keys and turned them over,
One by one around the ring,
But not before I waited for a while
To see what would happen next.