Today’s poem is a response to this painting by Edward Hopper. I have used it as a prompt for ekphrastic poems when teaching creative writing. As in all Hopper’s work, like Shaw’s, it is both grounded and ineluctable. at least the whether is brighter than it is today in Leicester. What is the woman looking at? Straining too see or hear? We’ll never know and that is the delicious point.
Hopper says of Cape Cod: “There’s a beautiful light there—very luminous—perhaps because it’s so far out to sea—an island even.”
One critic says that Hopper captures the post-war mood of anxiety in this painting but does it? Just because it is dated 1950, do we presume as much?Maybe it heralds something expected, better times ahead. The woman is poised like an animal. Her tension is apparent. But tension has many causes. Is it sexual anticipation for the arrival of a lover? Hope for a child? Is it a valedictory stance? We’ll never know. This poem skitters across the surface of the painting and leaps off the springboard of this Cape Cod morning. As a counterpoint I am also including another Cape Cod morning, this time taken from a webcam .
Just as the woman looks out of the window
in the Hopper painting, I look through my screen
at another one which uploads Coastguard Beach,
Cap Cod, at 8.56 this morning. Hopper was right,
‘There’s a beautiful light there -very luminous…’
It’s almost of the sea, composed of water, air
smelling of fish and brine, a-dazzle, how lucky
to be winding down that coastal-path when all April
brought us here this morning was snow and grey sky.
She is so tall and strong, those long arms prop
her firmly on the sill. If she were a dog
she’d be a pointer, a faithful one, well trained,
tense but not nervous, alert for the kiss or the kill.
Why speculate what’s outside the frame? If we
shift our gaze between the two we know the sea
is not far from that cornfield. I transpose today’s
Cape Cod April morning -not mine- on hers worlds away.