Delayed Appreciation & Elizabeth Bishop

by nicolecallihan

My father has a tendency to give me gifts that I don’t realize I love. Take the case of the gift he gave me for my thirtieth birthday: a blue pitcher; a not-quite-ordinary blue pitcher that I had no idea how to use. And so…I stuck it in the basement where it grew dustier and dustier until one day having stumbled upon it (after bumping my head on the too-low ceiling), I filled it with hot water to keep at my desk and, well, you know the rest. There are poets like this too. Yeats, of course, but Bishop too, these days I’m feeling Bishop especially. When I was younger I wanted nothing to do with her; now, though, I crave her and can hardly imagine how anyone who knows her work could not crave it. Here, a morsel:

Late Air
by Elizabeth Bishop

From a magician’s midnight sleeve
the radio-singers
distribute all their love-songs
over the dew-wet lawns.
And like a fortune-teller’s
their marrow-piercing guesses are whatever you believe.

But on the Navy Yard aerial I find
better witnesses
for love on summer nights.
Five remote lights
keep their nests there; Phoenixes
burn quietly, where the dew cannot climb.