Monday, January 15, 2007

Elizabeth Bishop, "The Shampoo"

The still explosions on the rocks,
the lichens, grow
by spreading, gray, concentric shocks.
They have arranged
to meet the rings around the moon, although
within our memories they have not changed.

And since the heavens will attend
as long on us,
you've been, dear friend,
precipitate and pragmatical;
and look what happens. For Time is
nothing if not amenable.

The shooting stars in your black hair
in bright formation
are flocking where,
so straight, so soon?
-- Come, let me wash it in this big tin basin,
battered and shiny like the moon.

~from A Cold Spring, 1955

This is, I guess, the first guest post of The Poetic Quotidian (while TPQ roams Egypt); you can usually find me over at A Room Full of Books. I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I've picked an Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) poem. I have a particular fondness for this one, because it displays a more open, less complicated affection than her other love poems. It has other Bishop hallmarks, like the way she makes rhyme and formal structure seem so easy, and the way the symbols echo to each other: "shocks" is a word usually used to describe hair, but it's used instead for lichens. The pair of "precipitate and pragmatical" is wonderful, too--opposite meanings, similar sounds. What I like most, though, I have to say, is the idea: time can't be stopped, and death can't be averted, but a simple act of physical affection can stave them off for a moment. Those are just my thoughts, of course. There's probably more I could say, but I'll keep it to a paragraph here.

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