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John Palen

John Palen’s poetry has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Passages North, Sou’Wester, The MacGuffin, Bluestem, Ocotillo Review and elsewhere. His most recent book, Distant Music, came out from Mayapple Press in 2017. He lives on the Illinois Grand Prairie.


A Carefully Dressed Man

Edward Hopper (1925-1930)

He is turned partway toward us,
this man in a soft brown fedora,
well worn gray jacket, green tie,
blue shirt with upturned collar tips.

At his back, a blank wall,
plain baseboard at the floor line,
an unopened door in cove framing.
Is he going out? And where?

Under the wide brim’s shadow,
light falls on the neck, cheek
and fleshy mouth. In the eyes,
something vulnerable and elusive,

the way they half observe us,
half look away. Is it our
gaze he shies from, or his own?

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