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Sophia Bannister



He painted the loneliness, the man behind the counter in his humiliating white cap. I worked behind a counter once—poured cappuccinos, took orders for lemonades, muffins, cream-filled French donuts. The woman in the red dress represents a prostitute, an English teacher told me. She’s the only woman there, wearing that color, sitting that close to a man in a suit, that late at night. I worked as a prostitute once. More than once. I always wore black. Is it so lonely to be a woman? I wonder most days if it is lonelier to wear red. Lonelier to wear red, nothing on your head, surrounded by men in hats.



Night Windows


Because she keeps the overhead light on, or the train runs parallel to her bedroom, or one sheer drape’s billowing so gently from her apartment into the blue-toned wind, the evening commuters can’t help but notice the back of her, bent over in peach—could be lingerie, a nightie, even just a towel—but they know to look to their shoes before she turns, flips her head—all that red hair falling, the weight of post-shower curls, even the painting knows only to imagine it.



Room in New York


Not for music, but for recognition, she turns to the piano. As long as he goes on reading his paper, she too will keep her head down. Would it be too obvious to use the metaphor of the apartment? Light pouring out. Pressing over and over the same note. The loneliness of proximity. Red bow on her back.



Soir Bleu


The clown, at rest. The rouge, the unlit cigarettes. Like comedy or tragedy, sensuality lies in the distances. Beneath the painted face, the bare. Within the stiffness of a green satin dress, the possibility of its straps soon sagging from the inside handle of a bedroom door. This is a painting in which no one looks at each other—no need to discuss shame: it’s lonely to work, which is to say, it’s lonely to consume. Imagine another prostitute, back at last hunched to the blue sky for a smoke, the plume from the opening of her pure, wet lips.



Sunlight in a Cafeteria


Like all Hopper’s women, she too sits by the window. No sweater, just shoulders. Dress, a chaste blue. Because the smoking man’s waiting for the right moment to approach, her eyes sit fixed on the snake plant. Say, he might say, do you like that snake plant? And she’d say yes. What if, she imagines, he says look closer, and she discovers the fake rubber of its leaves—all that sunlight pouring in, nothing to make of it.



Sophia Bannister holds a BA from Barnard College and an MFA from Hunter College CUNY, where she currently works as an adjunct lecturer.


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