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  • Ana Savković

Elizabeth Bishop: Electrical Storms and Slow Sundays

Image: Unsplash, downloaded (9.3.2021.)

Sunday, 4 A.M.

An endless and flooded dreamland, lying low, cross- and wheel-studded like a tick-tack-toe. At the right, ancillary, "Mary" 's close and blue, Which Mary? Aunt Mary? Tall Mary Stearns I knew? The old kitchen knife box, full of rusty nails, is at the left. A high vox humana somewhere wails: The gray horse needs shoeing! It's always the same! What are you doing, there beyond the frame? If you're the donor, you might do too much! Turn on the light. Turn over. On the bed a smutch - black-and-gold gesso on the altered cloth. The cat jumps to the window; in his mouth's a moth. Dream dream confronting, now the cupboard's bare. The cat's gone-a-hunting. The brook feels for the stair. The world seldom changes, but the wet foot dangles until a bird arranges two notes at right angles.

Electrical Storm

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.

A Short, Slow Life We lived in a pocket of Time. It was close, it was warm. Along the dark seam of the river the houses, the barns, the two churches, hid like white crumbs in a fluff of gray willows and elms, till Time made one of his gestures; his nails scratched the shingled roof. Roughly his hand reached in, and tumbled us out.

Source: Poems, prose, and letters (Bishop, E. (2008.), Poems, prose, and letters, New York: The Library of America)


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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