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Elizabeth Bishop Poems

A collection of select Elizabeth Bishop famous poems that were written by Elizabeth Bishop or written about the poet by other famous poets. PoetrySoup is a comprehensive educational resource of the greatest poems and poets on history.

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by Bishop, Elizabeth
 At six o'clock we were waiting for coffee, 
waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb 
that was going to be served from a certain balcony 
—like kings of old, or like a miracle. 
It was still dark. One foot of the sun 
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river. 

The first ferry of the day had just...Read More



by Bishop, Elizabeth
Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong of codfish
it makes one's nose run and one's eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 The tumult in the heart 
keeps asking questions. 
And then it stops and undertakes to answer 
in the same tone of voice. 
No one could tell the difference. 

Uninnocent, these conversations start, 
and then engage the senses, 
only half-meaning to. 
And then there is no choice, 
and then there is no sense; 

until a name 
and all its connotation...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist's appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist's waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited and read
the National Geographic 
(I could read) and carefully 
studied the photographs:
the inside...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
for Louise crane


In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road gose round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look...Read More



by Bishop, Elizabeth
 Earliest morning, switching all the tracks
that cross the sky from cinder star to star,
 coupling the ends of streets 
 to trains of light.

now draw us into daylight in our beds;
and clear away what presses on the brain:
 put out the neon shapes 
 that float and swell and glare

down the gray avenue between the eyes
in pinks and yellows,...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 Minnow, go to sleep and dream,
 Close your great big eyes;
Round your bed Events prepare
 The pleasantest surprise.

Darling Minnow, drop that frown,
 Just cooperate,
Not a kitten shall be drowned
 In the Marxist State.

Joy and Love will both be yours,
 Minnow, don't be glum.
Happy days are coming soon--
 Sleep, and let them come......Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther losing faster:
places and names and where it was your meant
to travel. None of these...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 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,...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 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...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 This celestial seascape, with white herons got up as angels,
flying high as they want and as far as they want sidewise 
in tiers and tiers of immaculate reflections; 
the whole region, from the highest heron 
down to the weightless mangrove island 
with bright green leaves edged neatly with bird-droppings 
like illumination in silver, 
and down to the suggestively Gothic...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house 
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 Caught -- the bubble
in the spirit level,
a creature divided;
and the compass needle
wobbling and wavering,
undecided.
Freed -- the broken
thermometer's mercury
running away;
and the rainbow-bird
from the narrow bevel
of the empty mirror,
flying wherever
it feels like, gay!...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 [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 color of the gas flame turned as low as possible.
One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire
one...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 On the fair green hills of Rio
 There grows a fearful stain:
The poor who come to Rio
 And can't go home again.

On the hills a million people,
 A million sparrows, nest,
Like a confused migration
 That's had to light and rest,

Building its nests, or houses,
 Out of nothing at all, or air.
You'd think a breath would end them,
 They perch...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown 
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship, 
although it meant the end of travel. 
Although it stood stock-still like cloudy rock 
and all the sea were moving marble. 
We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship; 
we'd rather own this breathing plain of snow 
though the ship's sails were laid upon the sea 
as the snow lies undissolved...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 Land lies in water; it is shadowed green.
Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges
where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.
Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under,
drawing it unperturbed around itself?
Along the fine tan sandy shelf
is the land tugging at the sea from under?

The shadow of...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 Now can you see the monument? It is of wood
built somewhat like a box. No. Built
like several boxes in descending sizes
one above the other.
Each is turned half-way round so that
its corners point toward the sides
of the one below and the angles alternate.
Then on the topmost cube is set 
a sort of fleur-de-lys of weathered wood,
long petals of board, pierced...Read More

by Bishop, Elizabeth
 From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats 
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats'
lavender, rich...Read More