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Imaginings, after viewing Automat, 1927 by Edward Hopper.

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Imaginings, after viewing Automat, 1927 by Edward Hopper.

half past three, a cold and dreary afternoon,
she orders Earl Grey tea at the kiosk, pulls up a chair,
opens paper wrapped cake, stirs in sugar with the spoon
she eats the cake with. Seated with a clear view where
from under her hats brim she fixes a furtive stare
on the door and, tucked out of sight by her feet a carefully packed small valise.
Leaving behind words to explain she’d always care
the letter on the mantelpiece.

half past four tea fuels warmth as she relives the dance in June,
rings said neither one was free, though both declared
they were ‘meant to be’ ‘instantly in tune’
while dancing the Charleston with such flair
they teased and laughed until their affair
was a foregone conclusion. Snatched moments now to cease
he’s bought one-way tickets, got keys, to a place she’s not sure where
the letter on the mantelpiece.

smile stretched to nothing, waiting in the unfamiliar gloom
of the automat, she feels inside a prick of fear
and pulls on a glove against the chill, looks out at the November moon
expecting him to block her view. Half past five cold cup, drained, aware
of the waitress turning the sign to closed, dimming lights with a glare.
Wiping tears, she stands to leave, re-folds her napkin along its crease,
catches the bus, pays her fare, inside of her a silent prayer.
The letter on the mantelpiece.

Envoi

Darkness wraps the house; she slips silently through the rear
door into the parlour where, reflected in Hopper’s masterpiece,
by dancing flames her anguished face, casts with despair
the letter on the mantelpiece.

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