Poetry Wednesday – Elizabeth Bishop

I hope you are as excited for the return of Poetry Wednesday as I am!  It got lost in the holiday shuffle, but it’s back in business, which coincides nicely with the announcement of Clover, Bee & Reverie: A Poetry Challenge that I’m hosting with Jason.  Today I am feeling sick of winter and cold after that warm spell we had last weekend.  I just have no time for this stupid thing called winter and I am really desperately holding out for spring.  One thing I miss most most are thunder storms and I adore poems about lightning and rain and thunder.  If you’ll remember, I already posted one poem about this from Mary Oliver, so when I opened up Elizabeth Bishop’s The Complete Poems 1927-1979 and the second poem I read was about a storm, I knew it was meant to be.


Dawn an unsympathetic yellow.
Cra-aack! – dry and light.
The house was really struck.
Crack! A tinny sound, like a dropped tumbler.
Tobias jumped in the window, got in bed –
silent, his eyes bleached white, his fur on end.
Personal and spiteful as a neighbor’s child,
thunder began to bang and bump the roof.
One pink flash;
then hail, the biggest size of artificial pearls.
Dead-white, wax-white, cold –
diplomats’ wives’ favors
from an old moon party –
they lay in melting windrows
on the red ground until well after sunrise.
We got up to find the wiring fused,
no lights, a smell of saltpetre,
and the telephone dead.

The cat stayed in the warm sheets.
The Lent trees  had shed all their petals:
wet, stuck, purple, among the dead-eye pearls.


For me, what really makes this poem, are those last two lines.  They are beautiful, but describe destruction, and refer back to the hail that we were shown at the beginning.  It’s a lovely poem that shows just how closely fear and comfort, beauty and destruction are connected.


6 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday – Elizabeth Bishop

  1. I love poems about storms too! I loved reading this one and I think I was meant to just as you mentioned. 🙂
    Here are the lines that struck me today:
    “Dead-white, wax-white, cold –
    diplomats’ wives’ favors
    from an old moon party -“

  2. I’ve never been able to develop a love of Elizabeth Bishop, which puzzles me because so many people I respect absolutely ADORE her. She always seems a little bit…clinical to me. But she does have a great gift with imagery and pacing, as the poem you chose so amply demonstrates. I’m glad Poetry Wednesdays are back!

    1. Emily: I have to admit! I’m surprised you don’t like Elizabeth Bishop, I thought you would. I agree that there is a clinical feel to her poems, but that’s not necessarily something I dislike.

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