Hopper’s “Automat”

By Janet McCann


Come sit at my table. Look,

Hopper even painted a chair for you.

(His spaces so large, so empty,

only a book or vase there

and sometimes nothing but surfaces.)

My hat is too warm

but I can’t remove it.

The coffee is weak and my

friend did not show up; please

sit down, spread your junk out

on the table, disturb the artist.

It is 1927 so you can smoke.

Pull out a ratty life-saver roll and

a rumpled handkerchief.

Live in, liven this picture.

Strike a match. Light up.


janet mccann

Journals publishing Janet McCann’s work include KANSAS QUARTERLY, PARNASSUS, NIMROD, SOU’WESTER, AMERICA,  CHRISTIAN CENTURY, CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE, NEW YORK QUARTERLY, TENDRIL, and others. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she taught at Texas A & M University from 1969-2016, is now Professor Emerita. She has co-edited anthologies with David Craig, ODD ANGLES OF HEAVEN (Shaw, 1994), PLACE OF PASSAGE (Story Line, 2000), and POEMS OF FRANCIS AND CLARE (St. Anthony Messenger, 2004). Most recent poetry collection: THE CRONE AT THE CASINO (Lamar University Press,  2014).

26 thoughts on “Hopper’s “Automat”

  1. What fun! To occupy these images, casting ourselves back to a place and time long gone. It brings creations like these alive, with all their emotions. Imagining, some 90 years ago, that a woman sitting alone at a restaurant (even an automat) and that she’d be smoking (you’ve come a long way, Virginia!) and might be joined by a visitor from the future. So many possibilities!
    Thanks for your expression.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. other chairs empty
    your space is so full but distant
    sorrow obviously arrived first
    but you wear it well……along with the too warm hat

    coffee cold
    where’s the waitress
    nothing to say
    i move
    embarrassed that i perhaps imposed

    table by the window
    close to closing
    my friend didn’t show either

    i don’t smoke but always wanted to be one of the cool kids
    much neglected pack makes a grand entrance releasing
    a smooth, white silly dancing smoke wafting pal
    i light up and you lean over and ask if i can spare one

    of course….
    and here comes the waitress with a warm up for you and a fresh one for me

    Liked by 3 people

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  6. I really liked this poem! “Live in, liven this picture.” Great line.

    You have to wonder what Hopper, with his intimate knowledge of solidarity and emptiness, would make of these times when we all can connect with the click of a button.

    Liked by 1 person

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