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  Nighthawks Oceania

A noodle bar in Japan inspires the author to think of Edward Hopper's classic painting Nighthawks.

In a city of loners men in suits
hunker over bowls of ramen.
You must forgive my useless glimpses,
to draw conclusions would be unfair.

They’re taking up room.
Our ramen bar an extension domicile
between time off and work time.
What Hopper saw in his American city

is my version of elemental awe.
Night and no one to pass judgment.
I’m here with my bosses, dear Monk,
dear Coltrane. We’re happy and unfound.

Take this colored sheet of paper and fold it
in the prescribed creases then pull out a bird,
a solitary vireo, a swan, no, a woman
turned into a swan and a god in hot pursuit.

I want Monk to stop spinning like a lonely planet,
I want Coltrane to assure us that we’re an island—
that we’re the night and also the ocean.

What I wanted mostly to capture in this poem was the mood of loneliness. I look back on my brief time in Japan where I didn’t speak the language and where I found solace within the incantatory urban melodies of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk converging with Western myth, indigenous cultures with elaborate carvings and masks, and my imaginary community of islands amidst other islands. The space a poem occupies for me operates within the logic of dreams; in the same way we sometimes mistake our dreams as actual memories of another time.”

—EUGENE GLORIA

From Sightseer in this Killing City by Eugene Gloria, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. © 2019 by Eugene Gloria.

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