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Skunk Hour

Written by: Robert Lowell | Biography
 | Quotes (9) |
(for Elizabeth Bishop)

Nautilus Island's hermit
heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;
her sheep still graze above the sea.
Her son's a bishop. Her farmer
is first selectman in our village;
she's in her dotage.

Thirsting for
the hierarchic privacy
of Queen Victoria's century
she buys up all
the eyesores facing her shore
and lets them fall.

The season's ill--
we've lost our summer millionaire
who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean
catalogue. His nine-knot yawl
was auctioned off to lobstermen.
A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.

And bow our fairy
decorator brightens his shop for fall;
his fishnet's filled with orange cork
orange his cobbler's bench and awl;
there is no money in his work
he'd rather marry.

One dark night
my Tutor Ford climbed the hill's skull;
I watched for love-cars. Lights turned down
they lay together hull to hull
where the graveyard shelves on the town....
My mind's not right.

A car radio bleats
"Love, O careless Love...." I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat....
I myself am hell;
nobody's here--

only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes' red fire
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.

I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air--
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage

pail.
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.



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