Edward Hopper, oil on canvas, 1927

Nothing automatic or newly modern here, nothing springs open
to dispense a bowl of hot soup or a cool slice of pie
in exchange for coins. But neither will a waiter intrude.
The young woman sits alone, fashionably dressed and
without expectation. Surely someone said he would meet her,
but that was at another place, and hours ago. The round
white tabletop repeats its cold infinity in a small empty dish.
The chair across from her is hopelessly tight to the table,
and her left hand is already—or still—in its glove.

In the dark window looming behind, the thirteen ceiling lights
are only reflections; they disappear out there in a curve
of distance. The window sill’s a proscenium for yawning spaces
on either side, and it holds only a single overfilled bowl
of glass bananas and apples. Almost unnoticed in the outside
dead of night is the one window in all New York that’s lit.
It’s blue. That dab of paint is the cosmos breaking through
the canvas, a universal ache that brushes Hopper’s
numbed woman seated alone in a spare interior
where everything is a set, where nothing can act by itself.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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