Friday, January 15, 2010


A moment of reflection...

A fog that will lift

Song for the Rainy Season by Elizabeth Bishop

Hidden, oh hidden
in the high fog
the house we live in,
beneath the magnetic rock,
rain-, rainbow-ridden,
where blood-black
bromelias, lichens,
owls, and the lint
of the waterfalls cling,
familiar, unbidden.

In a dim age
of water
the brook sings loud
from a rib cage
of giant fern; vapor
climbs up the thick growth
effortlessly, turns back,
holding them both,
house and rock,
in a private cloud.

At night, on the roof,
blind drops crawl
and the ordinary brown
owl gives us proof
he can count:
five times--always five--
he stamps and takes off
after the fat frogs that,
shrilling for love,
clamber and mount.

House, open house
to the white dew
and the milk-white sunrise
kind to the eyes,
to membership
of silver fish, mouse,
big moths; with a wall
for the mildew's
ignorant map;

darkened and tarnished
by the warm touch
of the warm breath,
maculate, cherished;
rejoice! For a later
era will differ.
(O difference that kills
or intimidates, much
of all our small shadowy
life!) Without water

the great rock will stare
unmagnetized, bare,
no longer wearing
rainbows or rain,
the forgiving air
and the high fog gone;
the owls will move on
and the several
waterfalls shrivel
in the steady sun.

and a fog that won't

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.


Ruth said...

There's too much synchronicity here for me to run off without a brief comment. I have to run out the door. But I'll come back later to explain.


Ruth said...

It's just that there are all these parallels for me here.

- I posted about water today.
- your photo looks a lot like one of mine in the slide show
- I named my cat after Elizabeth Bishop
- I'm reading an article about Billy Collins
- I've been seeing words about water all week, including the Millstone poem I sent you.

Wow: "the lint of the waterfalls"
"a rib cage of a giant fern"
"membership of . . . "

And Billy who manages to be so accessible while so deep.

Thanks for all these. And being in the flow.

Trulyfool said...

You're showing that shift between generations, the way generations have come to handle an image.

Ours is a more ironic age than even those (2nd gen!) modernists like Bishop whose sense of nature smoothed the edges of 20th Century so ugly in its ruptures.

Billie Collins (our contemporary) writes these interesting, wittily understandable 'domestic' view pieces that make us rue not a little that they do make sense to us.

Maybe we have to use a dessert wine to wash down the garlic. Maybe all our smiles, if we had the steel to investigate them, crinkle at the corners or upturn at only one.

Claudia said...

Ruth, wow, synchronicity is most definitely the right word! Here's a second "les grands esprits se rencontrent"!

Claudia said...

TF, I loved your metaphor. Thanks.

Peter said...

The Billy Collins poem of course makes you (me) quite a bit melancholy. Aging.... But melancholy also has some good sides; some memories (the best?) may remain and be so nice to recall, more important than to remember the name of the capital of Paraguay (Asuncion? – I’m trying...).

Once more, you photo is outstanding!

João said...

All beautiful...parabéns.

Claudia said...

Peter, selective memory can be very comforting emotionally but it's not practical in the least. Aging doesn't get me down, though. At least not yet...

Thank you for praising the photo. It's old, I took it in March 2007, but sometimes old photos can fit present day moods, right?

Claudia said...

Obrigada João!

rauf said...

i am happy that i am not intelligent Claudia.
Its a stunning picture.

Claudia said...

i'm unhappy about not being happy