The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Wednesday


At the Fishhouses
By Elizabeth Bishop


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 be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

Down at the water's edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

--------

This is a reposted public version of a post I made private because of family photos and such that I didn't want to leave unlocked, in case anyone wanted the poetry and advertising snark but couldn't see it.

So you know how I was snarking about Viagra and Cialis ads the other day? Now, from The Onion, "U.S. Children Still Traumatized One Year After Seeing Partially Exposed Breast On TV". This made my day, along with rumors that Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes will be in the Enterprise series season finale...and how much does it suck that my first reaction was, "Shit! This probably means no Shatner!"?

Something had to make my day because the Marriage Protection Act = oh F U a$$holes and no Best Picture nomination for Eternal Sunshine = Hollywood sucks though I should not care because no matter what else happens, there is no way Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman or the increasingly less-odious-by-comparison Renee Zellwegger can win an Oscar this year. Michael Moore, I hear you made your own bed, sorry about that, though I did squee about the Razzie nomination for George Bush and Condi Rice as Worst Couple in your film. I still want to trade The West Wing for the actual government -- I promise to watch the weekly Bush sitcom, it can have the highest Nielsen ratings ever!

It's been a Shitty Fannish Day. I could blame January, except I want to know why I felt that way the 25th instead of the 24th. (Probably because I had kids home and went to the movies on the 24th, and mostly stayed off the computer.) Wednesday, barring snow or other disasters (and I am knocking wood as we have managed to have to postpone repeatedly), I am going to see beeej and get Highlanderized! So expect me to babble, or to come home and have to write HP because Snape will have been talking quietly in my head all day long like he did during Phantom of the Opera the other day except when Lupin took over and tried to convince me there should be Remus/Sirius songfic to "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," which made me blush so hard that I was really glad it was dark in the theater. Below, the soulmate quiz -- does this mean the real me or the person I should be with, which is how I tend to think of "soulmate"?! Of course, none of the people I really wanted to date were on here...I was hoping for Remus 98%, Snape 95%, Sirius 92% and Lucius 90%.

You scored as Hermione Granger. Yup, you are an insufferable know it all! However, you do manage to get people out of tight places every time. ps. watch out for mysterious purple hexes!

</td>

Hermione Granger

75%

Ginny Weasley

69%

Harry Potter

56%

Neville Longbottom

56%

Luna Lovegood

50%

Fred/George Weasley

38%

Ron Weasley

38%

Draco Malfoy

31%

Who is your Harry Potter Soulmate?
created with QuizFarm.com


I really enjoyed Veronica Mars again, though I am with juleskicks: the lead boys look too much alike! It's very confusing until you start paying attention to their clothes! There were some lovely story elements and I was very creeped out by the nightmarish stuff, though I am still astonished at the "oh, date rape doesn't really affect anything" mentality that seems to be going on. I suspect this show is going to be laundry-folding and pleasant diversion rather than serious fandom for me, which is fine -- I haven't really had one of those since the end of Dawson's Creek, unless Smallville counts since I've only ever been very marginally involved in that fandom. There's a new episode this week, right? Forgive me, but I am more eager to see Josh and Matt again. *g*
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