Thursday, 14 April 2011

Pocket a Poem

Apparently it's Poem in Your Pocket Day today over the pond. I don't have a poem in my pocket, but do have one in my bag. So, before the day is over here it is:

The Bight

[On my birthday]

At low tide like this how sheer the water is.

White, crumbling ribs of marl protrude and glare

and the boats are dry, the pilings dry as matches.

Absorbing, rather than being absorbed,

the water in the bight doesn’t wet anything,

the colour of the gas flame turned as low as possible.

One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire

one could probably hear it turning to marimba music.

The little ocher dredge at work off the end of the dock

already plays the dry perfectly off-beat claves.

The birds are outsize. Pelicans crash

into this peculiar gas unnecessarily hard,

it seems to me, like pickaxes,

rarely coming up with anything to show for it,

and going off with humorous elbowings.

Black-and-white man-of-war birds soar

on impalpable drafts

and open their tails like scissors on the curves

or tense them like wishbones, till they tremble.

The frowsy sponge boats keep coming in

with the obliging air of retrievers,

bristling with jackstraw gaffs and hooks

and decorated with bobbles of sponges.

There is a fence of chicken wire along the dock

where, glinting like little plowshares,

the blue-gray shark tails are hung up to dry

for the Chinese-restaurant trade.

Some of the little white boats are still piled up

against each other, or lie on their sides, stove in,

and not yet salvaged, if they ever will be, from the last bad storm,

like torn-open, unanswered letters.

The bight is littered with old correspondences.

Click. Click. Goes the little dredge,

and brings up a dripping jawful of marl.

All the untidy activity continues,

awful but cheerful.

Elizabeth Bishop

I have a rather literary weekend coming up: tomorrow evening I will meet the organisers of Moffat Book Events, a new venture which sounds quite exciting. On Saturday I'm to spend the day at a conference organised by NAWE and CCA for graduates of creative writing degrees from Scottish Universities. I'm a bit trepidatious about this as it starts at 9.30 in the morning. I'll have to set my alarm for about 6 to get there on time, so I'll be in serious danger of blindly stoving into people. By the end of the conference I'll probably have pissed off all the nice writers I went to commune with.


Tess Kincaid said...

Wonderful Bishop poem. Enjoy the conference Saturday. Sounds amazing.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

The poem is wonderfully atmospheric and we have much enjoyed reading it as a start to a busy Friday.

We do hope that you have an interesting and productive, also enjoyable, day tomorrow which we are sure that you will. Don't forget to set the alarum!

Linnhe Mara said...

Best of luck getting to the conference, I'll be thinking of you as I lie snuggly ( and smuggly ! ) in bed.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

It's poetry month at my kid's elementary school. Can you imagine!? When I was 9 years old I didn't even know what a poem WAS!

WV = wireflan. A Mexican desert made of wire?

nick said...

A nice bit of scene-setting, but rather too wordy for my taste. Some of it is more like prose than poetry. I like the bit "Some of the little white boats are still piled up.... like torn-open, unanswered letters."

Pat said...

I'm sure you'll have a great time.

The small font size meant I lost the flow of Elizabeth's poem. My bad luck.

nick said...

Pat, you can adjust the font size on the Zoom option.

Scarlet Blue said...

The poem could be about my pinterest boards. Where I have been all afternoon... okay, all day... AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

Pat said...

Thanks Nick:)

Anonymous said...

So how went the writer pissing off? Did everyone get his fair share? Just asking ...

wv: zwist (!)

rochambeau said...

Thank you for introducing me to the work of Elizabeth Bishop. Also Eryl,
have an excellent literary weekend!
Happy Easter to you and yours!


Kathryn Magendie said...

Wonderful poem ...

Looking forward to hearing about the conference!

Alexa said...

fantastic poem. printing it right now thanks for sharing.

red-handed said...

I never have literary weekends! (Well, except when I'm writing.) Enjoy it, even when pissing people off.

Anonymous said...

Anybody home? You can come out now, it's safe ... tehee ...