Thursday 12 September 2013

Anthology. 2

Here is a poem by the great Elizabeth Bishop, demonstrating one of the things she does best - the inhabiting of a non-human life. It also demonstrates the 'particularity' of her work, the extraordinary intensity of her focus in a short poem that moves effortlessly between the vast and the minute...


The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn't tell you which.
His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.


  1. Love that -
    Also to receive a poem a day - like seeing a letter on the doormat in the morning. Thank you.