116 Total Quotes

Elizabeth Bishop Quotes

Should we have stayed at home and thought of here? Where should we be today? Is it right to be watching strangers in a play in this strangest of theatres?
Elizabeth Bishop
#Travel And Tourism #Home

The art of losing isn't hard to masters; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Art

What childishness is it that while there's breath of life in our bodies, we are determined to rush to see the sun the other way around?
Elizabeth Bishop
#American Poet #Life

All my life I have lived and behaved very much like the sandpiper - just running down the edges of different countries and continents, 'looking for something'.
Elizabeth Bishop
#American Poet #Running

Icebergs behoove the soul (Both being self-made from elements least visible) to see themselves: fleshed, fair, erected, indivisible.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Self

The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
Elizabeth Bishop
#American Poet

The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
Elizabeth Bishop
#American Poet

The armored cars of dreams, contrived to let us do so many a dangerous thing.
Elizabeth Bishop
#American Poet

The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Elizabeth Bishop
#American Poet

Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn't hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster: places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster. I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went. The art of losing isn't hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster. --Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident the art of losing's not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Losses #Art

Elizabeth Bishop
I caught a tremendous fish and held him beside the boat half out of water, with my hook fast in a corner of his mouth. He didn't fight. He hadn't fought at all. He hung a grunting weight, battered and venerable and homely. Here and there his brown skin hung in strips like ancient wallpaper, and its pattern of darker brown was like wallpaper: shapes like full-blown roses stained and lost through age. He was speckled with barnacles, fine rosettes of lime, and infested with tiny white sea-lice, and underneath two or three rags of green weed hung down. While his gills were breathing in the terrible oxygen --the frightening gills, fresh and crisp with blood, that can cut so badly-- I thought of the coarse white flesh packed in like feathers, the big bones and the little bones, the dramatic reds and blacks of his shiny entrails, and the pink swim-bladder like a big peony. I looked into his eyes which were far larger than mine but shallower, and yellowed, the irises backed and packed with tarnished tinfoil seen through the lenses of old scratched isinglass. They shifted a little, but not to return my stare. --It was more like the tipping of an object toward the light. I admired his sullen face, the mechanism of his jaw, and then I saw that from his lower lip --if you could call it a lip grim, wet, and weaponlike, hung five old pieces of fish-line, or four and a wire leader with the swivel still attached, with all their five big hooks grown firmly in his mouth. A green line, frayed at the end where he broke it, two heavier lines, and a fine black thread still crimped from the strain and snap when it broke and he got away. Like medals with their ribbons frayed and wavering, a five-haired beard of wisdom trailing from his aching jaw. I stared and stared and victory filled up the little rented boat, from the pool of bilge where oil had spread a rainbow around the rusted engine to the bailer rusted orange, the sun-cracked thwarts, the oarlocks on their strings, the gunnels--until everything was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! And I let the fish go.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Fish

Elizabeth Bishop
September rain falls on the house. In the failing light, the old grandmother sits in the kitchen with the child beside the Little Marvel Stove, reading the jokes from the almanac, laughing and talking to hide her tears. She thinks that her equinoctial tears and the rain that beats on the roof of the house were both foretold by the almanac, but only known to a grandmother. The iron kettle sings on the stove. She cuts some bread and says to the child, It's time for tea now; but the child is watching the teakettle's small hard tears dance like mad on the hot black stove, the way the rain must dance on the house. Tidying up, the old grandmother hangs up the clever almanac on its string. Birdlike, the almanac hovers half open above the child, hovers above the old grandmother and her teacup full of dark brown tears. She shivers and says she thinks the house feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove. It was to be, says the Marvel Stove. I know what I know, says the almanac. With crayons the child draws a rigid house and a winding pathway. Then the child puts in a man with buttons like tears and shows it proudly to the grandmother. But secretly, while the grandmother busies herself about the stove, the little moons fall down like tears from between the pages of the almanac into the flower bed the child has carefully placed in the front of the house. Time to plant tears, says the almanac. The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove and the child draws another inscrutable house.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Grandmother #Tears

Elizabeth Bishop
Minnow, go to sleep and dream, Close your great big eyes; Round your bed Events prepare The pleasantest surprise. Darling Minnow, drop that frown, Just cooperate, Not a kitten shall be drowned In the Marxist State. Joy and Love will both be yours, Minnow, don't be glum. Happy days are coming soon-- Sleep, and let them come...
Elizabeth Bishop
#Cats #Sleep

Elizabeth Bishop
Earliest morning, switching all the tracks that cross the sky from cinder star to star, coupling the ends of streets to trains of light. now draw us into daylight in our beds; and clear away what presses on the brain: put out the neon shapes that float and swell and glare down the gray avenue between the eyes in pinks and yellows, letters and twitching signs. Hang-over moons, wane, wane! From the window I see an immense city, carefully revealed, made delicate by over-workmanship, detail upon detail, cornice upon facade, reaching up so languidly up into a weak white sky, it seems to waver there. (Where it has slowly grown in skies of water-glass from fused beads of iron and copper crystals, the little chemical "garden" in a jar trembles and stands again, pale blue, blue-green, and brick.) The sparrows hurriedly begin their play. Then, in the West, "Boom!" and a cloud of smoke. "Boom!" and the exploding ball of blossom blooms again. (And all the employees who work in a plants where such a sound says "Danger," or once said "Death," turn in their sleep and feel the short hairs bristling on backs of necks.) The cloud of smoke moves off. A shirt is taken of a threadlike clothes-line. Along the street below the water-wagon comes throwing its hissing, snowy fan across peelings and newspapers. The water dries light-dry, dark-wet, the pattern of the cool watermelon. I hear the day-springs of the morning strike from stony walls and halls and iron beds, scattered or grouped cascades, alarms for the expected: queer cupids of all persons getting up, whose evening meal they will prepare all day, you will dine well on his heart, on his, and his, so send them about your business affectionately, dragging in the streets their unique loves. Scourge them with roses only, be light as helium, for always to one, or several, morning comes whose head has fallen over the edge of his bed, whose face is turned so that the image of the city grows down into his open eyes inverted and distorted. No. I mean distorted and revealed, if he sees it at all.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Love #Lies And Lying #Sleep

Elizabeth Bishop
Oh, but it is dirty! --this little filling station, oil-soaked, oil-permeated to a disturbing, over-all black translucency. Be careful with that match! Father wears a dirty, oil-soaked monkey suit that cuts him under the arms, and several quick and saucy and greasy sons assist him (it's a family filling station), all quite thoroughly dirty. Do they live in the station? It has a cement porch behind the pumps, and on it a set of crushed and grease- impregnated wickerwork; on the wicker sofa a dirty dog, quite comfy. Some comic books provide the only note of color- of certain color. They lie upon a big dim doily draping a taboret (part of the set), beside a big hirsute begonia. Why the extraneous plant? Why the taboret? Why, oh why, the doily? (Embroidered in daisy stitch with marguerites, I think, and heavy with gray crochet.) Somebody embroidered the doily. Somebody waters the plant, or oils it, maybe. Somebody arranges the rows of cans so that they softly say: ESSO--SO--SO--SO to high-strung automobiles. Somebody loves us all.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Jobs #Socialism #Working Class

Elizabeth Bishop
In Worcester, Massachusetts, I went with Aunt Consuelo to keep her dentist's appointment and sat and waited for her in the dentist's waiting room. It was winter. It got dark early. The waiting room was full of grown-up people, arctics and overcoats, lamps and magazines. My aunt was inside what seemed like a long time and while I waited and read the National Geographic (I could read) and carefully studied the photographs: the inside of a volcano, black, and full of ashes; then it was spilling over in rivulets of fire. Osa and Martin Johnson dressed in riding breeches, laced boots, and pith helmets. A dead man slung on a pole "Long Pig," the caption said. Babies with pointed heads wound round and round with string; black, naked women with necks wound round and round with wire like the necks of light bulbs. Their breasts were horrifying. I read it right straight through. I was too shy to stop. And then I looked at the cover: the yellow margins, the date. Suddenly, from inside, came an oh! of pain --Aunt Consuelo's voice-- not very loud or long. I wasn't at all surprised; even then I knew she was a foolish, timid woman. I might have been embarrassed, but wasn't. What took me completely by surprise was that it was me: my voice, in my mouth. Without thinking at all I was my foolish aunt, I--we--were falling, falling, our eyes glued to the cover of the National Geographic, February, 1918. I said to myself: three days and you'll be seven years old. I was saying it to stop the sensation of falling off the round, turning world. into cold, blue-black space. But I felt: you are an I, you are an Elizabeth, you are one of them. Why should you be one, too? I scarcely dared to look to see what it was I was. I gave a sidelong glance --I couldn't look any higher-- at shadowy gray knees, trousers and skirts and boots and different pairs of hands lying under the lamps. I knew that nothing stranger had ever happened, that nothing stranger could ever happen. Why should I be my aunt, or me, or anyone? What similarities boots, hands, the family voice I felt in my throat, or even the National Geographic and those awful hanging breasts held us all together or made us all just one? How I didn't know any word for it how "unlikely". . . How had I come to be here, like them, and overhear a cry of pain that could have got loud and worse but hadn't? The waiting room was bright and too hot. It was sliding beneath a big black wave, another, and another. Then I was back in it. The War was on. Outside, in Worcester, Massachusetts, were night and slush and cold, and it was still the fifth of February, 1918.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Self-discovery #Women

Elizabeth Bishop
For a Child of 1918 My grandfather said to me as we sat on the wagon seat, "Be sure to remember to always speak to everyone you meet." We met a stranger on foot. My grandfather's whip tapped his hat. "Good day, sir. Good day. A fine day." And I said it and bowed where I sat. Then we overtook a boy we knew with his big pet crow on his shoulder. "Always offer everyone a ride; don't forget that when you get older," my grandfather said. So Willy climbed up with us, but the crow gave a "Caw!" and flew off. I was worried. How would he know where to go? But he flew a little way at a time from fence post to fence post, ahead; and when Willy whistled he answered. "A fine bird," my grandfather said, "and he's well brought up. See, he answers nicely when he's spoken to. Man or beast, that's good manners. Be sure that you both always do." When automobiles went by, the dust hid the people's faces, but we shouted "Good day! Good day! Fine day!" at the top of our voices. When we came to Hustler Hill, he said that the mare was tired, so we all got down and walked, as our good manners required.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Manners

Elizabeth Bishop
The moon in the bureau mirror looks out a million miles (and perhaps with pride, at herself, but she never, never smiles) far and away beyond sleep, or perhaps she's a daytime sleeper. By the Universe deserted, she'd tell it to go to hell, and she'd find a body of water, or a mirror, on which to dwell. So wrap up care in a cobweb and drop it down the well into that world inverted where left is always right, where the shadows are really the body, where we stay awake all night, where the heavens are shallow as the sea is now deep, and you love me.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Insomnia

At six o'clock we were waiting for coffee, waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb that was going to be served from a certain balcony --like kings of old, or like a miracle. It was still dark. One foot of the sun steadied itself on a long ripple in the river. The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river. It was so cold we hoped that the coffee would be very hot, seeing that the sun was not going to warm us; and that the crumb would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle. At seven a man stepped out on the balcony. He stood for a minute alone on the balcony looking over our heads toward the river. A servant handed him the makings of a miracle, consisting of one lone cup of coffee and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb, his head, so to speak, in the clouds--along with the sun. Was the man crazy? What under the sun was he trying to do, up there on his balcony! Each man received one rather hard crumb, which some flicked scornfully into the river, and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee. Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle. I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle. A beautiful villa stood in the sun and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee. In front, a baroque white plaster balcony added by birds, who nest along the river, --I saw it with one eye close to the crumb-- and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb my mansion, made for me by a miracle, through ages, by insects, birds, and the river working the stone. Every day, in the sun, at breakfast time I sit on my balcony with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee. We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee. A window across the river caught the sun as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Miracles