Man Inside Nighthawks: A Flash Fiction Story

Here’s a flash fiction story inspired by the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks.

I assume I was nothing before I found myself sitting here, staring straight ahead. But I don’t know for sure.

This is what I do know: I can’t move my head. I can’t smoke the cigarette pressed between the fingers of my right hand or drink the cup of coffee resting on top of the counter. I can’t touch the woman seated next to me or talk to the other two men.

This is my life. Suspended in warm, yellow light. Unable to move, locked in a soundless existence—no water running, fan whirring or grill sizzling. No sirens or street sounds beyond the glass.

Time drags on with no discernible shift—no transition to morning. Here night never ends.

Yet my mind still works. In fact, it never stops; I’m cursed with thoughts that run continuously.

I wonder: Why am I here? And where exactly is here? What purpose do I serve? Why put me next to these people and not give me an opportunity to interact with them?

Do I have a past? Did I exist before I became frozen in this moment—captured and imprisoned for eternity?

As you can see, I have nothing but questions that yield no answers. If only I could talk to the other people. If only I could pry open my lips and make a sound. Then maybe we could communicate. Maybe we could figure out our reason for being here. Then I could scream for help. But who would hear my voice and who would come to our aid?

If only I could stand up and walk around, stretch my legs and peek outside the window.

But then I would upset the balance of the composition. And so I will stay in place. Funny, right? I don’t have a choice. I can’t move even if I wanted to. So I’ll be here any time you feel like looking at me.

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Been Away Too Long

I’ve been so tied up with work, family and long-range creative projects that I have neglected this blog for far too long. I haven’t posted anything since January—not that anyone is missing my content.

But during my Saturday morning jog/walk in downtown Syracuse, I snapped a photo and composed a short poem. To me both represent the ephemeral nature of life. If I had not stopped running on the sidewalk to take the picture or pull out my mini notebook and jot down the poem, the image and words would have been lost.

The sun would have shifted or shadows would have altered the light hitting the buildings and the words would have escaped my mind. A good reason to always carry a smartphone, a pen and a notebook. You never know when inspiration will strike.

Morning reflection. A George Costanza pinkish hue. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Giving Up Admission

I can’t keep
it together.

I don’t have
the strength
to carry on.

Can I let go
and fall into
your arms?

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Fortune Cookie Philosophy

A pithy aphorism pulled from a fortune cookie this weekend.

But the poet in me would like to rearrange the lines:

Dispel negativity
through
creative activity.

The saying also reminds me of a poem that appeared in my full-length collection Sidewalk Stories (Kelsay Books, 2017).

Decisive

Action Defeats Anxiety
Is a saying I’ve kept
In my head to call upon
Throughout the years.
When in doubt,
I think it’s best
To do something, anything.
Go somewhere, anywhere.
Move from point A to point B.
Just make a decision,
One way or another—
As opposed to
Sitting there, worrying,
Pondering the situation,
And wondering how
It will all turn out.

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Snuffleupagus Tree

Instagram Poem #11

Snuffleupagus Tree. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Snuffleupagus Tree

A fallen tree in Chittenango, New York,
reminds me of Mr. Snuffleupagus
from Sesame Street.

And I wonder:
Is my psychological
interpretation accurate?

Did I pass this Rorschach test
inspired by a tree?

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Message on a City Block

Instagram Poem #9

Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Message on a City Block

A note written on a flyer
posted outside a Dunkin’ Donuts store.

The words read:
“What About the Homeless In CNY??
Does Any One Care??”

The message provokes empathy
and a swelling of guilt,
since my answers to the questions
lack sufficient compassion.

Do I care? Yes I do.
Enough to do something about it?
Well, apparently not.

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Sitting in a Pew

This is the eighth Instagram poem that I have shared from my work-in-progress poetry collection, entitled Outward Arrangements. I took the photo in December of 2019, when I slipped into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse to say a quick prayer. I have not stepped inside a church since the pandemic hit. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and brighter days ahead.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, New York. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Sitting in a Pew

An empty church
instills a feeling of peace,
and a sense of being
part of something
larger than yourself.
It’s a reminder that for me,
life without faith in God
is meaningless.

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The Real Bedford Falls Documentary on WNET

For people living in the NYC/Tri-State area, I want to pass along this note. The indie documentary short I co-produced/directed with my partner Stu Lisson—The Real Bedford Falls: It’s a Wonderful Life—airs tonight at 10:30 p.m. and again on Christmas Day on Thirteen WNET, the PBS station in New York.

Bridge Street Bridge in Seneca Falls. Aerial image by Chase Guttman.

The film explores the connections between the town of Seneca Falls, New York, and Bedford Falls, the fictional home of George Bailey in the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The documentary features interviews with film critic Leonard Maltin, Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu Bailey), Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy Bailey), Syracuse University professor of popular culture Robert Thompson, film historian Jeanine Basinger and Monica Capra Hodges, granddaughter of director Frank Capra. Former NBC Today show correspondent Bob Dotson lends his mellifluous voice as narrator.

Thanks to everyone who was involved in this indie passion project. Special thanks go to The Seneca Falls It’s a Wonderful Life Museum for access to the story and most of all to Joanne Storkan, Chris Carpenter and the team at Honest Engine Films for making the project a reality. We hope to have a streaming/online viewing option in the near future.

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