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Roosters

Written by: Elizabeth Bishop | Biography
 | Quotes (9) |
 At four o'clock
in the gun-metal blue dark
we hear the first crow of the first cock

just below
the gun-metal blue window
and immediately there is an echo

off in the distance,
then one from the backyard fence,
then one, with horrible insistence,

grates like a wet match 
from the broccoli patch,
flares,and all over town begins to catch.
Cries galore come from the water-closet door, from the dropping-plastered henhouse floor, where in the blue blur their rusting wives admire, the roosters brace their cruel feet and glare with stupid eyes while from their beaks there rise the uncontrolled, traditional cries.
Deep from protruding chests in green-gold medals dressed, planned to command and terrorize the rest, the many wives who lead hens' lives of being courted and despised; deep from raw throats a senseless order floats all over town.
A rooster gloats over our beds from rusty irons sheds and fences made from old bedsteads, over our churches where the tin rooster perches, over our little wooden northern houses, making sallies from all the muddy alleys, marking out maps like Rand McNally's: glass-headed pins, oil-golds and copper greens, anthracite blues, alizarins, each one an active displacement in perspective; each screaming, "This is where I live!" Each screaming "Get up! Stop dreaming!" Roosters, what are you projecting? You, whom the Greeks elected to shoot at on a post, who struggled when sacrificed, you whom they labeled "Very combative.
.
.
" what right have you to give commands and tell us how to live, cry "Here!" and "Here!" and wake us here where are unwanted love, conceit and war? The crown of red set on your little head is charged with all your fighting blood Yes, that excrescence makes a most virile presence, plus all that vulgar beauty of iridescence Now in mid-air by two they fight each other.
Down comes a first flame-feather, and one is flying, with raging heroism defying even the sensation of dying.
And one has fallen but still above the town his torn-out, bloodied feathers drift down; and what he sung no matter.
He is flung on the gray ash-heap, lies in dung with his dead wives with open, bloody eyes, while those metallic feathers oxidize.
St.
Peter's sin was worse than that of Magdalen whose sin was of the flesh alone; of spirit, Peter's, falling, beneath the flares, among the "servants and officers.
" Old holy sculpture could set it all together in one small scene, past and future: Christ stands amazed, Peter, two fingers raised to surprised lips, both as if dazed.
But in between a little cock is seen carved on a dim column in the travertine, explained by gallus canit; flet Petrus underneath it, There is inescapable hope, the pivot; yes, and there Peter's tears run down our chanticleer's sides and gem his spurs.
Tear-encrusted thick as a medieval relic he waits.
Poor Peter, heart-sick, still cannot guess those cock-a-doodles yet might bless, his dreadful rooster come to mean forgiveness, a new weathervane on basilica and barn, and that outside the Lateran there would always be a bronze cock on a porphyry pillar so the people and the Pope might see that event the Prince of the Apostles long since had been forgiven, and to convince all the assembly that "Deny deny deny" is not all the roosters cry.
In the morning a low light is floating in the backyard, and gilding from underneath the broccoli, leaf by leaf; how could the night have come to grief? gilding the tiny floating swallow's belly and lines of pink cloud in the sky, the day's preamble like wandering lines in marble, The cocks are now almost inaudible.
The sun climbs in, following "to see the end," faithful as enemy, or friend.



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