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FUMES: After “Edward Hopper and Photography” at the Whitney Museum of Art


Lights are coming on everywhere
you look tonight. The flickering shutter
of cameras announce (whisper)
everybody already knew how
to take photographs of television screens
before you even thought to change.

Women stand
in something greater
than the misunderstanding of men
they've grown to tolerate. Sunlight
screams as loud as a radio
catching new stations
as we twist beyond
the static.

He turns his back to us,
presents his side, cross-
armed on the porch
near where the ocean
meets the land down south,
at the place
our 20th Century absurdity

When I think of your feet in the sand
I turn over my shoes, make sure
there's nothing stuck there.

Next to the shape of numbers
announcing progress,
as even artworks might be dated
by the price of gasoline
that day, a sense of railroad tracks
leads everything away.

Black and white food stands
intersect every idea of roads
and highways as sustenance
you may have had. Televisions
and radio announcements,
the repetitive crucifix of America
is tangled up in line drawings
of redemption and epiphany.

There's an open driver’s side door
as expectant as the grease stain
on the ground. With the exception
of the sunlight, nothing here can bind us.
Our living rooms and desolate off-road
window slits catch these moments of illumination.
Home is there, on the second floor, where
morning caresses brick and says out loud:
There are skies everyone must belong in.

Shape of white and tree.
Hopper as Degas mending costumes
with a needle.

Hopper as Mark Rothko.

All our lovers leave light traces
on the walls
when they stop touching paint
and wallpaper,
stop exhaling forgotten shoes.

Even in the light, the gestural cross-armed,
back-turned, unforgiving, expecting, resentful,
tired, and charming light, people off every road,
off every city street, decide to park their cars
or starve.

We met in an crosswalk and have been arguing
between barbeque and inconvenience ever since.
This is how Manhattan and South Carolina, Cape Cod,
Boston, and speckled towns near railroads all taste
the exact same. No photographer could challenge us
for owning dull copper green and lonesome brick red.
It's the apparitions we hold dearest, the ghosts we have
in common. Upstairs a Rothko is inherited on opposing walls
from windows in empty hollow mornings. The figure, form,
and ground, ache into everything a person might remember
how to feel. Until we've left words for sorrows
and the perspective of the sun, no one can expect to heal.
Our needles are far too sharp.
The distances between hope in interiors
hold nothing.

When you turn
your back to me
are you mending?

Despite the colors some of us need
to appropriate into a signature, and measured
dates as rolling prices progress into solidity,
everyone (murmured: everyone) seems
consumed with empty. How else can science
explain the permanence of smoke? Empty rooms,
hollow smiles, shallow skies with oceans looming,
hidden beyond horizon; laughter, the smell
of someone in their home before you rob them,
the scent of perfume in an elevator in a building
you no longer work in. Your father's shirts.

When you turn away from the gas pump
do you wonder at accounts, wish math
had always come easier? Do you know
she is someplace else remembering you
as torn?

That haze of far horizon is only tolerable
when the reality of constructed hope
blots out enduring emptiness. Hallelujah.

Darling, if you pose the wrong way
right now,
the sun— the god every sunburn prays to—
will turn your face to nothing.

When I think of you,
those moments
naked in an empty
room, either the light,
or your skin, or sensuous
containers of flesh
and curvy bulging,
is worth envying
between ecstatic groans
and clenched
hard teeth.

I forget which illusions are most valuable.
Until the sun comes up, rises again.

Fumes is the right word.

More endearing to the architecture of isolation,
the compliments strangers pay to slightly warped
front windows, is the imitation of originality our insides
rail against. Harsher than leaving is staying forever.

Frailties and inconsistencies of light remain incomplete,
as distant music may seem familiar. Fumes of food prepared
earlier are not the same as finding a cure for famine. This,
exactly this, is what telephone calls from far away, or the moment
your lover reveals they kicked the dog, and of course that ghostly light,
make us wary of. The car door is open and we stop. Is everyone
coming back?

Is everyone leaving forever? Words act like rain
when the roads are already shimmering with sweat.

You are my distance.
You are my arrival.
Until the end of sunrise.

I always miss you more in the morning.
That's what I hope you remember
when you look at our pictures again.

This text was written in response to the exhibition "Edward Hopper and Photography" on view until October 19th, 2014, at the Whitney Museum, New York City
For more information visit www.whitney.org

About Author

Kurt Cole Eidsvig is an artist, poet, and writer. He has taught courses in Art History and Writing for UMASS/Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the University of Montana. His work has earned awards from organizations like the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital.

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