Winter Sunrise Outside a Café, by Joseph Hutchison | Ted Kooser

Anyone who has followed this column since its introduction in 2005 knows how much I like poems that describe places. Here’s one by Joseph Hutchison, who lives in Colorado. This is the kind of scene that Edward Hopper might have painted. I especially love the way Hutchison captures the buzz of the neon sign.


Winter Sunrise Outside a Café

Near Butte, Montana


A crazed sizzle of blazing bees

in the word EAT. Beyond it,


thousands of stars have faded

like deserted flowers in the thin


light washing up in the distance,

flooding the snowy mountains


bluff by bluff. Moments later,

the sign blinks, winks dark,


and a white-aproned cook—

surfacing in the murky sheen


of the window—leans awhile

like a cut lily . . . staring out


into the famished blankness

he knows he must go home to.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Joseph Hutchison, whose most recent book of poems is Marked Men, Turning Point Books, 2013. Reprinted from Thread of the Real, Conundrum Press, 2012, by permission of Joseph Hutchison and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.