Monday, April 13, 2015

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks

Dear George,
The task in our Poetry Writing Workshop this week was to write a poem about a famous work of art.  It didn't take me too long to settle on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.  It's mysterious, open to multiple interpretations, and conducive to story-telling.  Hopper finished the painting in January 1942.  He was 59 at the time.  His wife Jo was the model for the woman, and Hopper, using a mirror, was the model for both men.  Hopper's long-time studio was on Washington Square in Greenwich Village, and he said that he used a diner on Greenwich Avenue where two streets merge as the inspiration for the picture.  Nobody’s been able to pinpoint the exact location.  Jo created the title for the painting (originally "Night Hawks"), and her notes suggest the name was connected to the beak-like nose of the man in the painting.  Hopper sold the painting to the Chicago Art Institute for $3,000, and it's still there today.  I guess it's now worth a few hundred million.  I can see why.  Here's the current version of my poem.


The city streets were empty and dark
Twelve thirty on a Saturday night
Joe’s Diner was brightly lit but stark
A refuge for night hawks in flight

Three customers lingered at this late hour
A lone man and a middle-aged pair
The woman and man looked brittle and dour
Her scarlet red dress matched her hair

The couple had come from the late late show
They’d seen Joan Fontaine at the Strand
The woman’s tears had continued to flow
The man found it hard to withstand

The diner would prove the end of their date
But neither could find much to say
She picked at her food but she barely ate
They had waited so long for this day

The stranger watched the two from afar
His wife had died five years before
He knew what grief and loneliness are
Surviving each day was a chore

The counterman offered them cherry pie
He hoped that they’d leave, then he’d close
The man just shook his head with a sigh
The woman was immersed in her woes

They were married for thirteen up and down years
But now they’d been six months apart
Coming together renewed all their fears
They both knew they’d never restart

Joe’s Diner was a suitable place to end
It symbolized their loss and their plight
There might come a time when they could be a friend
But for now these hawks vanished in the night

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful poem, Dave! This painting always brings to my mind the scene from "The Sting."