On any busy street, just stop and take a glance
Outside the windshield: the hard romance
Of what it means
To be American. The scene is
There on full display—the open road
That stretches down the city blocks, like an ode
To possibility, to fate.
The street itself seems to await
A call to “Action!” As if the Disunited States—
The diners with their plates,
The fast-food outlets with their architectural thrusts—
Were meant for auto-viewing of their encyclopedic lusts.
Think back to Ruscha’s oils
Of LA’s Standard Station icon, how he boils
The smoky atmosphere down to the view
Behind the wheel—as if he knew
This is the real America,
Where everything’s a prop and each are, duh,
An actor in an unknown script.
Waiting for the light, in New York or LA, our presence stripped
Of meaning: the platinum blond from Vertigo,
A rumpled private eye who’s in the know—
A package cradled tight
Under his arm, as if he’s spoiling for a fight.
And all the passersby, anonymous.
They could be any one of us,
Trying to hail a cab or grab a bus.
The afternoon’s late light is hitting us
Like one of Hopper’s spotlit rays,
Exposing all our guilt and boredom to his gaze.