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Steve Brisendine

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Every Room is a Waiting Room


If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.

-Edward Hopper

I am here, Mr. Hopper. 

I am ready. All is arranged for you:
high ceiling, significant light, 

              colors saturated to dream-intensity. 


Strangers are here, wearing faces I have

both seen and not seen. I am isolated and 

              in the company of isolates. 


You recognize me, them, us – as you know

             all who sit alone and reflect. 


I have read and heard that you are decades 

gone, your brushes long stilled. But I have

              seen you in Wichita, in Chicago. 


Even through glass (not the glass 

of windows), I saw you alive if aloof – 

and I know the dead well enough. 

              I cannot be fooled about such things.


I have walked past, moved through 

and lived in vacant buildings, facades 

              untouched by sun or streetlight. 


Now I am come to new life, stilled. 

I have learned to sit without fidgeting, 

eyes cast to the right and slightly downward,

left hand raised to my chin, barely 

touching it with the thumb and first finger, 

               a found object lost in contemplation. 

Did you see, just now? I have made myself

a mere collection of surfaces, no more 

or less alive than my coffee cup, 

or a hand-chalked menu, 

               or these nineteen jars of loose tea. 


No one is looking now. 

I am not looking now. 

I promise not to notice, not to shift

               and pose as you mutter and sketch.

Steve Brisendine (He/him) lives, works and remains unbeaten against The New York Times crossword in Mission, KS. He is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently full of old books and silence (Alien Buddha Press, 2024). His work has appeared in Modern Haiku, I-70 Review, Flint Hills Review and other publications and compilations. He has no degrees, one tattoo and a deep and unironic fondness for strip-mall Chinese restaurants. In his spare time, he tries to make himself seem far more interesting than he actually is.

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