after Edward Hopper

A lonely man
    performs some necessary ritual
        behind the pump. We cannot tell
exactly what it is he does because
    the angle is so odd. A rack of cans

of oil between
    two pumps on the island stands, as they al-
        ways do, conveniently avail-
 able, in easy reach of any needy
     motorist. The light is low, and the trees,

massed heavily
     behind the man and his pumps, march darkly
         off to the right. A modest shock
 of roadside weeds attends the greenery
     as it condenses. On the periphery,

out of our ken,
     shines a source of artificial light. We
         are meant to feel the clutch of the
 evening. It is not benevolent.
     The artist has invested his talent

in loneliness.
     The values and the crusty inflections
         of his particular diction
 demonstrate devotion to the modest
     fears of the soul in the longest moments

of late after-
     noon. A sign hangs white above the station.
         Mobilgas and Pegasus. A
 flag of sorts, a standard, here, to more
     than gas. The language, though hard, is clear.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 5 Number 4, on page 47
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