Edward Hopper: People in the Sun, 1960
Two middle-aged people, in business attire,
Relaxing in their perfectly aligned
Folding wooden deck chairs,
Ponder whether or not to be alarmed
By the horizon of either foothills or azure waves,
That seem to be advancing towards them
Like a scene out of Macbeth
Across the meadow floor of level hay.
Behind them a more casually clothed young man
Finds more interesting than daylight
The only written text on view among
These people in the sun. The artist obviously loves
The opportunity to estimate the comparative lengths
Of the elongated shadows, which never let the people
Of the sun forget the injunction to memento mori.
The sun giveth life and taketh it away.
So far I’ve only had one melanoma—superficial, diagnosed
Early, and quickly removed. I’m convinced that my years
Of swimming without sunblock were less to blame
Than the radiation treatments the best dermatologists
In my home town fired into my facial glands to mitigate
A near-Bukowskian onslaught of acne that dampened
The social pleasures of my teenaged years.
For now, though, the geometrically ordered “X-es”
Of the legs of the deck chairs and their shadows
Bear false witness to the order we think we are
Capable of imposing on the universe.