116 Total Quotes

Elizabeth Bishop Quotes Page 4

Elizabeth Bishop
This is the house of Bedlam. This is the man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is the time of the tragic man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a wristwatch telling the time of the talkative man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a sailor wearing the watch that tells the time of the honored man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is the roadstead all of board reached by the sailor wearing the watch that tells the time of the old, brave man that lies in the house of Bedlam. These are the years and the walls of the ward, the winds and clouds of the sea of board sailed by the sailor wearing the watch that tells the time of the cranky man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances weeping down the ward over the creaking sea of board beyond the sailor winding his watch that tells the time of the cruel man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a world of books gone flat. This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances weeping down the ward over the creaking sea of board of the batty sailor that winds his watch that tells the time of the busy man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is a boy that pats the floor to see if the world is there, is flat, for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat that dances weeping down the ward waltzing the length of a weaving board by the silent sailor that hears his watch that ticks the time of the tedious man that lies in the house of Bedlam. These are the years and the walls and the door that shut on a boy that pats the floor to feel if the world is there and flat. This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances joyfully down the ward into the parting seas of board past the staring sailor that shakes his watch that tells the time of the poet, the man that lies in the house of Bedlam. This is the soldier home from the war. These are the years and the walls and the door that shut on a boy that pats the floor to see if the world is round or flat. This is a Jew in a newspaper hat that dances carefully down the ward, walking the plank of a coffin board with the crazy sailor that shows his watch that tells the time of the wretched man that lies in the house of Bedlam.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Soldier #War

Elizabeth Bishop
Wasted, wasted minutes that couldn't be worse, minutes of a barbaric condescension. --Stare out the bathroom window at the fir-trees, at their dark needles, accretions to no purpose woodenly crystallized, and where two fireflies are only lost. Hear nothing but a train that goes by, must go by, like tension; nothing. And wait: maybe even now these minutes' host emerges, some relaxed uncondescending stranger, the heart's release. And while the fireflies are failing to illuminate these nightmare trees might they not be his green gay eyes.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Waste

Elizabeth Bishop
I live only here, between your eyes and you, But I live in your world. What do I do? --Collect no interest--otherwise what I can; Above all I am not that staring man.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Life #Short

Elizabeth Bishop
Think of the storm roaming the sky uneasily like a dog looking for a place to sleep in, listen to it growling. Think how they must look now, the mangrove keys lying out there unresponsive to the lightning in dark, coarse-fibred families, where occasionally a heron may undo his head, shake up his feathers, make an uncertain comment when the surrounding water shines. Think of the boulevard and the little palm trees all stuck in rows, suddenly revealed as fistfuls of limp fish-skeletons. It is raining there. The boulevard and its broken sidewalks with weeds in every crack, are relieved to be wet, the sea to be freshened. Now the storm goes away again in a series of small, badly lit battle-scenes, each in "Another part of the field." Think of someone sleeping in the bottom of a row-boat tied to a mangrove root or the pile of a bridge; think of him as uninjured, barely disturbed.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Exercise #Storms

Elizabeth Bishop
I can make out the rigging of a schooner a mile off; I can count the new cones on the spruce. It is so still the pale bay wears a milky skin; the sky no clouds except for one long, carded horse?s tail. The islands haven't shifted since last summer, even if I like to pretend they have --drifting, in a dreamy sort of way, a little north, a little south, or sidewise, and that they're free within the blue frontiers of bay. This month, our favorite one is full of flowers: Buttercups, Red Clover, Purple Vetch, Hackweed still burning, Daisies pied, Eyebright, the Fragrant Bedstraw's incandescent stars, and more, returned, to paint the meadows with delight. The Goldfinches are back, or others like them, and the White-throated Sparrow's five-note song, pleading and pleading, brings tears to the eyes. Nature repeats herself, or almost does: repeat, repeat, repeat; revise, revise, revise. Years ago, you told me it was here (in 1932?) you first "discovered girls" and learned to sail, and learned to kiss. You had "such fun," you said, that classic summer. ("Fun"--it always seemed to leave you at a loss...) You left North Haven, anchored in its rock, afloat in mystic blue...And now--you've left for good. You can't derange, or re-arrange, your poems again. (But the Sparrows can their song.) The words won't change again. Sad friend, you cannot change.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Friends Or Friendship #Sadness

Elizabeth Bishop
This is not my home. How did I get so far from water? It must be over that way somewhere. I am the color of wine, of tinta. The inside of my powerful right claw is saffron-yellow. See, I see it now; I wave it like a flag. I am dapper and elegant; I move with great precision, cleverly managing all my smaller yellow claws. I believe in the oblique, the indirect approach, and I keep my feelings to myself. But on this strange, smooth surface I am making too much noise. I wasn't meant for this. If I maneuver a bit and keep a sharp lookout, I shall find my pool again. Watch out for my right claw, all passersby! This place is too hard. The rain has stopped, and it is damp, but still not wet enough to please me. My eyes are good, though small; my shell is tough and tight. In my own pool are many small gray fish. I see right through them. Only their large eyes are opaque, and twitch at me. They are hard to catch but I, I catch them quickly in my arms and eat them up. What is that big soft monster, like a yellow cloud, stifling and warm? What is it doing? It pats my back. Out, claw. There, I have frightened it away. It's sitting down, pretending nothing's happened. I'll skirt it. It's still pretending not to see me. Out of my way, O monster. I own a pool, all the little fish that swim in it, and all the skittering waterbugs that smell like rotten apples. Cheer up, O grievous snail. I tap your shell, encouragingly, not that you will ever know about it. And I want nothing to do with you, either, sulking toad. Imagine, at least four times my size and yet so vulnerable... I could open your belly with my claw. You glare and bulge, a watchdog near my pool; you make a loud and hollow noise. I do not care for such stupidity. I admire compression, lightness, and agility, all rare in this loose world.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Animals #Self-image

Elizabeth Bishop
On the fair green hills of Rio There grows a fearful stain: The poor who come to Rio And can't go home again. On the hills a million people, A million sparrows, nest, Like a confused migration That's had to light and rest, Building its nests, or houses, Out of nothing at all, or air. You'd think a breath would end them, They perch so lightly there. But they cling and spread like lichen, And people come and come. There's one hill called the Chicken, And one called Catacomb; There's the hill of Kerosene, And the hill of Skeleton, The hill of Astonishment, And the hill of Babylon. Micuçú was a burglar and killer, An enemy of society. He had escaped three times From the worst penitentiary. They don't know how many he murdered (Though they say he never raped), And he wounded two policemen This last time he escaped. They said, "He'll go to his auntie, Who raised him like a son. She has a little drink shop On the hill of Babylon." He did go straight to his auntie, And he drank a final beer. He told her, "The soldiers are coming, And I've got to disappear." "Ninety years they gave me. Who wants to live that long? I'll settle for ninety hours, On the hill of Babylon. "Don't tell anyone you saw me. I'll run as long as I can. You were good to me, and I love you, But I'm a doomed man." Going out, he met a mulata Carrying water on her head. "If you say you saw me, daughter, You're as good as dead." There are caves up there, and hideouts, And an old fort, falling down. They used to watch for Frenchmen From the hill of Babylon. Below him was the ocean. It reached far up the sky, Flat as a wall, and on it Were freighters passing by, Or climbing the wall, and climbing Till each looked like a fly, And then fell over and vanished; And he knew he was going to die. He could hear the goats baa-baa-ing. He could hear the babies cry; Fluttering kites strained upward; And he knew he was going to die. A buzzard flapped so near him He could see its naked neck. He waved his arms and shouted, "Not yet, my son, not yet!" An Army helicopter Came nosing around and in. He could see two men inside it, but they never spotted him. The soldiers were all over, On all sides of the hill, And right against the skyline A row of them, small and still. Children peeked out of windows, And men in the drink shop swore, And spat a little cachaça At the light cracks in the floor. But the soldiers were nervous, even with tommy guns in hand, And one of them, in a panic, Shot the officer in command. He hit him in three places; The other shots went wild. The soldier had hysterics And sobbed like a little child. The dying man said, "Finish The job we came here for." he committed his soul to God And his sons to the Governor. They ran and got a priest, And he died in hope of Heaven --A man from Pernambuco, The youngest of eleven. They wanted to stop the search, but the Army said, "No, go on," So the soldiers swarmed again Up the hill of Babylon. Rich people in apartments Watched through binoculars As long as the daylight lasted. And all night, under the stars, Micuçú hid in the grasses Or sat in a little tree, Listening for sounds, and staring At the lighthouse out at sea. And the lighthouse stared back at him, til finally it was dawn. He was soaked with dew, and hungry, On the hill of Babylon. The yellow sun was ugly, Like a raw egg on a plate-- Slick from the sea. He cursed it, For he knew it sealed his fate. He saw the long white beaches And people going to swim, With towels and beach umbrellas, But the soldiers were after him. Far, far below, the people Were little colored spots, And the heads of those in swimming Were floating coconuts. He heard the peanut vendor Go peep-peep on his whistle, And the man that sells umbrellas Swinging his watchman's rattle. Women with market baskets Stood on the corners and talked, Then went on their way to market, Gazing up as they walked. The rich with their binoculars Were back again, and many Were standing on the rooftops, Among TV antennae. It was early, eight or eight-thirty. He saw a soldier climb, Looking right at him. He fired, And missed for the last time. He could hear the soldier panting, Though he never got very near. Micuçú dashed for shelter. But he got it, behind the ear. He heard the babies crying Far, far away in his head, And the mongrels barking and barking. Then Micuçú was dead. He had a Taurus revolver, And just the clothes he had on, With two contos in the pockets, On the hill of Babylon. The police and the populace Heaved a sigh of relief, But behind the counter his auntie Wiped her eyes in grief. "We have always been respected. My shop is honest and clean. I loved him, but from a baby Micuçú was mean. "We have always been respected. His sister has a job. Both of us gave him money. Why did he have to rob? "I raised him to be honest, Even here, in Babylon slum." The customers had another, Looking serious and glum. But one of them said to another, When he got outside the door, "He wasn't much of a burglar, He got caught six times--or more." This morning the little soldiers are on Babylon hill again; Their gun barrels and helmets Shine in a gentle rain. Micuçú is buried already. They're after another two, But they say they aren't as dangerous As the poor Micuçú. On the green hills of Rio There grows a fearful stain: The poor who come to Rio And can't go home again. There's the hill of Kerosene, And the hill of the Skeleton, The hill of Astonishment, And the hill of Babylon.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Home #Life

Elizabeth Bishop
Here is a coast; here is a harbor; here, after a meager diet of horizon, is some scenery: impractically shaped and--who knows?--self-pitying mountains, sad and harsh beneath their frivolous greenery, with a little church on top of one. And warehouses, some of them painted a feeble pink, or blue, and some tall, uncertain palms. Oh, tourist, is this how this country is going to answer you and your immodest demands for a different world, and a better life, and complete comprehension of both at last, and immediately, after eighteen days of suspension? Finish your breakfast. The tender is coming, a strange and ancient craft, flying a strange and brilliant rag. So that's the flag. I never saw it before. I somehow never thought of there being a flag, but of course there was, all along. And coins, I presume, and paper money; they remain to be seen. And gingerly now we climb down the ladder backward, myself and a fellow passenger named Miss Breen, descending into the midst of twenty-six freighters waiting to be loaded with green coffee beaus. Please, boy, do be more careful with that boat hook! Watch out! Oh! It has caught Miss Breen's skirt! There! Miss Breen is about seventy, a retired police lieutenant, six feet tall, with beautiful bright blue eyes and a kind expression. Her home, when she is at home, is in Glens Fall s, New York. There. We are settled. The customs officials will speak English, we hope, and leave us our bourbon and cigarettes. Ports are necessities, like postage stamps, or soap, but they seldom seem to care what impression they make, or, like this, only attempt, since it does not matter, the unassertive colors of soap, or postage stamps-- wasting away like the former, slipping the way the latter do when we mail the letters we wrote on the boat, either because the glue here is very inferior or because of the heat. We leave Santos at once; we are driving to the interior.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Life #Self-pity

Elizabeth Bishop
On the unbreathing sides of hills they play, a specklike girl and boy, alone, but near a specklike house. The Sun's suspended eye blinks casually, and then they wade gigantic waves of light and shade. A dancing yellow spot, a pup, attends them. Clouds are piling up; a storm piles up behind the house. The children play at digging holes. The ground is hard; they try to use one of their father's tools, a mattock with a broken haft the two of them can scarcely lift. It drops and clangs. Their laughter spreads effulgence in the thunderheads, Weak flashes of inquiry direct as is the puppy's bark. But to their little, soluble, unwarrantable ark, apparently the rain's reply consists of echolalia, and Mother's voice, ugly as sin, keeps calling to them to come in. Children, the threshold of the storm has slid beneath your muddy shoes; wet and beguiled, you stand among the mansions you may choose out of a bigger house than yours, whose lawfulness endures. It's soggy documents retain your rights in rooms of falling rain.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Children #Storms

Elizabeth Bishop
Out on the high "bird islands," Ciboux and Hertford, the razorbill auks and the silly-looking puffins all stand with their backs to the mainland in solemn, uneven lines along the cliff's brown grass-frayed edge, while the few sheep pastured there go "Baaa, baaa." (Sometimes, frightened by aeroplanes, they stampede and fall over into the sea or onto the rocks.) The silken water is weaving and weaving, disappearing under the mist equally in all directions, lifted and penetrated now and then by one shag's dripping serpent-neck, and somewhere the mist incorporates the pulse, rapid but unurgent, of a motor boat. The same mist hangs in thin layers among the valleys and gorges of the mainland like rotting snow-ice sucked away almost to spirit; the ghosts of glaciers drift among those folds and folds of fir: spruce and hackmatack-- dull, dead, deep pea-cock colors, each riser distinguished from the next by an irregular nervous saw-tooth edge, alike, but certain as a stereoscopic view. The wild road clambers along the brink of the coast. On it stand occasional small yellow bulldozers, but without their drivers, because today is Sunday. The little white churches have been dropped into the matted hills like lost quartz arrowheads. The road appears to have been abandoned. Whatever the landscape had of meaning appears to have been abandoned, unless the road is holding it back, in the interior, where we cannot see, where deep lakes are reputed to be, and disused trails and mountains of rock and miles of burnt forests, standing in gray scratches like the admirable scriptures made on stones by stones-- and these regions now have little to say for themselves except in thousands of light song-sparrow songs floating upward freely, dispassionately, through the mist, and meshing in brown-wet, fine torn fish-nets. A small bus comes along, in up-and-down rushes, packed with people, even to its step. (On weekdays with groceries, spare automobile parts, and pump parts, but today only two preachers extra, one carrying his frock coat on a hanger.) It passes the closed roadside stand, the closed schoolhouse, where today no flag is flying from the rough-adzed pole topped with a white china doorknob. It stops, and a man carrying a bay gets off, climbs over a stile, and goes down through a small steep meadow, which establishes its poverty in a snowfall of daisies, to his invisible house beside the water. The birds keep on singing, a calf bawls, the bus starts. The thin mist follows the white mutations of its dream; an ancient chill is rippling the dark brooks.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Dreams #Landscape

Elizabeth Bishop
Across the floor flits the mechanical toy, fit for a king of several centuries back. A little circus horse with real white hair. His eyes are glossy black. He bears a little dancer on his back. She stands upon her toes and turns and turns. A slanting spray of artificial roses is stitched across her skirt and tinsel bodice. Above her head she poses another spray of artificial roses. His mane and tail are straight from Chirico. He has a formal, melancholy soul. He feels her pink toes dangle toward his back along the little pole that pierces both her body and her soul and goes through his, and reappears below, under his belly, as a big tin key. He canters three steps, then he makes a bow, canters again, bows on one knee, canters, then clicks and stops, and looks at me. The dancer, by this time, has turned her back. He is the more intelligent by far. Facing each other rather desperately— his eye is like a star— we stare and say, "Well, we have come this far."
Elizabeth Bishop
#Dancers

Elizabeth Bishop
I A washing hangs upon the line, but it's not mine. None of the things that I can see belong to me. The neighbors got a radio with an aerial; we got a little portable. They got a lot of closet space; we got a suitcase. I say, "Le Roy, just how much are we owing? Something I can't comprehend, the more we got the more we spend...." He only answers, "Let's get going." Le Roy, you're earning too much money now. I sit and look at our backyard and find it very hard. What have we got for all his dollars and cents? --A pile of bottles by the fence. He's faithful and he's kind but he sure has an inquiring mind. He's seen a lot; he's bound to see the rest, and if I protest Le Roy answers with a frown, "Darling, when I earns I spends. The world is wide; it still extends.... I'm going to get a job in the next town." Le Roy, you're earning too much money now. II The time has come to call a halt; and so it ends. He's gone off with his other friends. He needn't try to make amends, this occasion's all his fault. Through rain and dark I see his face across the street at Flossie's place. He's drinking in the warm pink glow to th' accompaniment of the piccolo.* The time has come to call a halt. I met him walking with Varella and hit him twice with my umbrella. Perhaps that occasion was my fault, but the time has come to call a halt. Go drink your wine and go get tight. Let the piccolo play. I'm sick of all your fussing anyway. Now I'm pursuing my own way. I'm leaving on the bus tonight. Far down the highway wet and black I'll ride and ride and not come back. I'm going to go and take the bus and find someone monogamous. The time has come to call a halt. I've borrowed fifteen dollars fare and it will take me anywhere. For this occasion's all his fault. The time has come to call a halt. *Jukebox III Lullaby. Adult and child sink to their rest. At sea the big ship sinks and dies, lead in its breast. Lullaby. Let mations rage, let nations fall. The shadow of the crib makes an enormous cage upon the wall. Lullaby. Sleep on and on, war's over soon. Drop the silly, harmless toy, pick up the moon. Lullaby. If they should say you have no sense, don't you mind them; it won't make much difference. Lullaby. Adult and child sink to their rest. At sea the big ship sinks and dies, lead in its breast. IV What's that shining in the leaves, the shadowy leaves, like tears when somebody grieves, shining, shining in the leaves? Is it dew or is it tears, dew or tears, hanging there for years and years like a heavy dew of tears? Then that dew begins to fall, roll down and fall, Maybe it's not tears at all. See it, see it roll and fall. Hear it falling on the ground, hear, all around. That is not a tearful sound, beating, beating on the ground. See it lying there like seeds, like black seeds. see it taking root like weeds, faster, faster than the weeds, all the shining seeds take root, conspiring root, and what curious flower or fruit will grow from that conspiring root? fruit or flower? It is a face. Yes, a face. In that dark and dreary place each seed grows into a face. Like an army in a dream the faces seem, darker, darker, like a dream. They're too real to be a dream.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Making Money #Song And Singing

Elizabeth Bishop
Alone on the railroad track I walked with pounding heart. The ties were too close together or maybe too far apart. The scenery was impoverished: scrub-pine and oak; beyond its mingled gray-green foliage I saw the little pond where the dirty old hermit lives, lie like an old tear holding onto its injuries lucidly year after year. The hermit shot off his shot-gun and the tree by his cabin shook. Over the pond went a ripple The pet hen went chook-chook. "Love should be put into action!" screamed the old hermit. Across the pond an echo tried and tried to confirm it.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Sad Love

Elizabeth Bishop
I am too big. Too big by far. Pity me. My eyes bulge and hurt. They are my one great beauty, even so. They see too much, above, below. And yet, there is not much to see. The rain has stopped. The mist is gathering on my skin in drops. The drops run down my back, run from the corners of my downturned mouth, run down my sides and drip beneath my belly. Perhaps the droplets on my mottled hide are pretty, like dewdrops, silver on a moldering leaf? They chill me through and through. I feel my colors changing now, my pig- ments gradually shudder and shift over. Now I shall get beneath that overhanging ledge. Slowly. Hop. Two or three times more, silently. That was too far. I'm standing up. The lichen's gray, and rough to my front feet. Get down. Turn facing out, it's safer. Don't breathe until the snail gets by. But we go travelling the same weathers. Swallow the air and mouthfuls of cold mist. Give voice, just once. O how it echoed from the rock! What a profound, angelic bell I rang! I live, I breathe, by swallowing. Once, some naughty children picked me up, me and two brothers. They set us down again somewhere and in our mouths they put lit cigarettes. We could not help but smoke them, to the end. I thought it was the death of me, but when I was entirely filled with smoke, when my slack mouth was burning, and all my tripes were hot and dry, they let us go. But I was sick for days. I have big shoulders, like a boxer. They are not muscle, however, and their color is dark. They are my sacs of poison, the almost unused poison that I bear, my burden and my great responsibility. Big wings of poison, folded on my back. Beware, I am an angel in disguise; my wings are evil, but not deadly. If I will it, the poison could break through, blue-black, and dangerous to all. Blue-black fumes would rise upon the air. Beware, you frivolous crab.
Elizabeth Bishop
#Animals #Self-image #Smoking