Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

Questions of Travel

Written by: Elizabeth Bishop | Biography
 | Quotes (9) |
 There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams 
hurry too rapidly down to the sea, 
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops 
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion, 
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains, aren't waterfalls yet, in a quick age or so, as ages go here, they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling, the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships, slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here? Where should we be today? Is it right to be watching strangers in a play in this strangest of theatres? What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life in our bodies, we are determined to rush to see the sun the other way around? The tiniest green hummingbird in the world? To stare at some inexplicable old stonework, inexplicable and impenetrable, at any view, instantly seen and always, always delightful? Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too? And have we room for one more folded sunset, still quite warm? But surely it would have been a pity not to have seen the trees along this road, really exaggerated in their beauty, not to have seen them gesturing like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
--Not to have had to stop for gas and heard the sad, two-noted, wooden tune of disparate wooden clogs carelessly clacking over a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.
) --A pity not to have heard the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird who sings above the broken gasoline pump in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque: three towers, five silver crosses.
--Yes, a pity not to have pondered, blurr'dly and inconclusively, on what connection can exist for centuries between the crudest wooden footwear and, careful and finicky, the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear and, careful and finicky, the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
--Never to have studied history in the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
--And never to have had to listen to rain so much like politicians' speeches: two hours of unrelenting oratory and then a sudden golden silence in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes: "Is it lack of imagination that makes us come to imagined places, not just stay at home? Or could Pascal have been not entirely right about just sitting quietly in one's room? Continent, city, country, society: the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there .
.
.
No.
Should we have stayed at home, wherever that may be?"



Comments