Saturday, March 31, 2012

Today's poem by Elizabeth Bishop

The End Of March

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist.

The sky was darker than the water
--it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed
a track of big dog-prints (so big
they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on
lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,
looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,
over and over. Finally, they did end:
a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,
rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,
falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost...
A kite string?--But no kite.

I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,
my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
set up on pilings, shingled green,
a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
(boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),
protected from spring tides by a palisade
of--are they railroad ties?
(Many things about this place are dubious.)
I'd like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:
look through binoculars, read boring books,
old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,
talk to myself, and, foggy days,
watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.
At night, a grog a l'américaine.
I'd blaze it with a kitchen match
and lovely diaphanous blue flame
would waver, doubled in the window.
There must be a stove; there is a chimney,
askew, but braced with wires,
and electricity, possibly
--at least, at the back another wire
limply leashes the whole affair
to something off behind the dunes.
A light to read by--perfect! But--impossible.
And that day the wind was much too cold
even to get that far,
and of course the house was boarded up.

On the way back our faces froze on the other side.
The sun came out for just a minute.
For just a minute, set in their bezels of sand,
the drab, damp, scattered stones
were multi-colored,
and all those high enough threw out long shadows,
individual shadows, then pulled them in again.
They could have been teasing the lion sun,
except that now he was behind them
--a sun who'd walked the beach the last low tide,
making those big, majestic paw-prints,
who perhaps had batted a kite out of the sky to play with.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
For John Malcolm Brinnin and Bill Read: Duxbury


  1. Oh thank you for posting this one, I love it.

  2. Dear Nan, thanks for Elizabeth's poem, which is so perfect. I adore her works and went to a seminar on both the works of Elizabeth and Robert Lowell, who both, at one time, lived on Damariscotta Lake in the Mills.

    Thanks and happy April loping toward you,


  3. As the others have said, thank you for posting this poem - I love Elizabeth Bishop's work. By the way, I like the bunnies on your header!

    1. I'm so pleased you like it. I hope to post more by her.
      The bunnies thank you. :<)

  4. A perfect poem for the day, Nan. Our end of March looks more like the end of April.

    1. I thought that was going to be so here when the temps were so warm, but then they got cold and we had a few little snows. They've melted but still we are mostly brown and cool.

  5. I didn't know this one, wonderful to read it. Love that lion image, his big paws...

  6. Nan - I love Bishop's poem, and I like March breezes, but I tell you I am really looking forward to April Showers. Is there a poem for those?

    1. 'April showers bring May flowers?!' :<)
      Seriously, I do have a new Mary Oliver poem already for the full moon this week!

  7. Lovely poem, Nan. I especially like this part:

    I'd like to retire there and do nothing,
    or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:
    look through binoculars, read boring books,
    old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,
    talk to myself, and, foggy days,
    watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.

    Our last day of March was more like the like day of August! 90 degrees with bright blue sky and sunshine. Same for April 1st. Such an odd year with regards to the weather.

  8. I really liked this part too, and plan to look into EB's life to see if she ever did it!
    We are pretty seasonal around here. Snow last night. Melted in the sun today. Temps in the forties. We had a brief fling with hot weather but then it went back to normal. Only chives and day lilies and daffs are out of the ground. Grass is very gradually turning from brown to green.

  9. Beautiful. I love "The rackety, icy, offshore wind."

    1. I agree. I want to read more EB. Rackety is one of my favorite words.


Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.