Sunday, May 29, 2011

Poems for Sunday

I couldn't decide on which of these two to put up, so I'm just going to throw them both on here.

One Art gets the most press out of Elizabeth Bishop's work, but this one is one of my favorites. It's an untitled poem for her lover Lilli, a woman who only had lesbian relationships after her husband's death, and their time in together in a small village in Brazil called Ouro Preto. I know less about the history of You Are Happy, but I love the imagery in both. You Are Happy especially makes you want to get out a sweater. Bishop's has an intimacy to it that suggests it had only one person in mind to ever read it, even though it was published in the New Yorker.

And, yes, I love a poem with a subtle innuendo.


Dear, my compass
Still points north
to wooden houses
and blue eyes

fairytales where
younger sons
bring home the goose

Love in hay-lofts,
Protestants, and
heavy drinkers
Springs are backward

But crab-apples
ripen to rubies,
cranberries to
drops of blood

and swans can paddle
icy water,
so hot the blood
in those webbed feet

-- Cold as it is,
we'd go to bed, dear,
early, but never to keep warm.

You Are Happy

The water turns
a long way down over the raw stone,
ice crusts around it

We walk separately
along the hill to the open
beach, unused
picnic tables, wind
shoving the brown waves, erosion, gravel
rasping on gravel.

In the ditch a deer
carcass, no head. Bird
running across the glaring
road against the low pink sun.

When you are this
cold you can think about
nothing but the cold, the images

hitting into your eyes
like needles, crystals, you are happy.

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