Note: The dreamscape in this poem is where I grew up, in Fishkill, NY (mid-Hudson Valley), and will appear in my forthcoming book, Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series): (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DRUG STORE, 1927
--after a painting by Edward Hopper
The window display is the only light
in this murky painting, shadows
casting isosceles triangles from
the lamp post on the corner, the dark
doorways, and then the street beyond,
lost in the umbra of a time before neon,
before streetlights that always burned,
keeping the city awash in daylight.
And I'm thrown back to my own
home town, the recurrent dream
of walking the mile and a half past
the Bogardus General Store,
the Busy Bee, the White House Bar,
Karl Ehmer's Meats, Van Wyck Hall,
to my long-gone parents' house,
the cracked sidewalks of my childhood.
Did I mention that I'm not wearing
any clothes? That there are no cars,
no other pedestrians? It's just me
and my bare feet on the uneven pavement.
Is this the land of the dead?
The journey between the stores
and the outskirts, where the tract homes lie,
seems important, but although I cast my
net in the dark waters, it comes up empty.
I shiver as I keep walking, my feet cut
and bleeding. Sunrise and the yellow light
of my mother's kitchen, coffee and cinnamon
cake, seem to be a fathomless distance away.
First there is an ocean of darkness to row across,
and I only have one oar. I keep paddling anyway.
-first published in Poet Lore
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© 2019 Barbara Crooker