FOUR POEMS

ELIZABETH BISHOP

I / Conversation

The tumult of the heart
keeps asking questions.
And then it stops and undertakes to answer
in the same tone of voice.
No one could tell the difference.
Uninnocent, these conversations start,
and then engage the senses,
only half-meaning to.
And then there is no choice,
and then there is no sense;
until a name
and all its connotation are the same.

II / Rain Towards Morning

The great light cage has broken up in the air,
freeing, I think, about a million birds
whose wild ascending shadows will not be back,
and all the wires come falling down.
No cage, no frightening birds; the rain
is brightening now. The face is pale
that tried the puzzle of their prison
and solved it with an unexpected kiss,
whose freckled unsuspected hands alit.

III / While Someone Telephones

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 not 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.

IV // O Breath

Beneath that loved         and celebrated breast,
silent, bored really         blindly veined,
grieves, maybe         lives and lets
live, passes         best,
something moving         but invisibly,
and with what clamor         why restrained
I cannot fathom         even a ripple.
(See the thin flying         of nine black hairs
four around one         five the other nipple,
flying almost intolerably         on your own breath.)
Equivocal, but what we have in common’s         bound to be there,
whatever we must own         equivalents for,
something that maybe I         could bargain with
and make a separate peace         beneath
within        if never with.

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