80 Elizabeth Bishop Quotes on The Complete Poems, One Art and Words in air - Quotes.pub

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I caught a tremendous fishand held him beside the boathalf out of water, with my hookfast in a corner of his mouth.He didn't fight.He hadn't fought at all.He hung a grunting weight,battered and venerableand homely. Here and therehis brown skin hung in stripslike ancient wallpaper,and its pattern of darker brownwas like wallpaper:shapes like full-blown rosesstained and lost through age.He was speckled with barnacles,fine rosettes of lime,and infestedwith tiny white sea-lice,and underneath two or threerags of green weed hung down.While his gills were breathing inthe terrible oxygen—the frightening gills,fresh and crisp with blood,that can cut so badly—I thought of the coarse white fleshpacked in like feathers,the big bones and the little bones,the dramatic reds and blacksof his shiny entrails,and the pink swim-bladderlike a big peony.I looked into his eyeswhich were far larger than minebut shallower, and yellowed,the irises backed and packedwith tarnished tinfoilseen through the lensesof old scratched isinglass.They shifted a little, but notto return my stare.—It was more like the tippingof an object toward the light.I admired his sullen face,the mechanism of his jaw,and then I sawthat from his lower lip—if you could call it a lip—grim, wet, and weaponlike,hung five old pieces of fish-line,or four and a wire leaderwith the swivel still attached,with all their five big hooksgrown firmly in his mouth.A green line, frayed at the endwhere he broke it, two heavier lines,and a fine black threadstill crimped from the strain and snapwhen it broke and he got away.Like medals with their ribbonsfrayed and wavering,a five-haired beard of wisdomtrailing from his aching jaw.I stared and staredand victory filled upthe little rented boat,from the pool of bilgewhere oil had spread a rainbowaround the rusted engineto the bailer rusted orange,the sun-cracked thwarts,the oarlocks on their strings,the gunnels—until everythingwas rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!And I let the fish go.
Questions of TravelThere are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streamshurry too rapidly down to the sea,and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintopsmakes 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, as ages go here,they probably will be.But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,slime-hung and barnacled.Think of the long trip home.Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?Where should we be today?Is it right to be watching strangers in a playin this strangest of theatres?What childishness is it that while there's a breath of lifein our bodies, we are determined to rushto see the sun the other way around?The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,inexplicable and impenetrable,at any view,instantly seen and always, always delightful?Oh, must we dream our dreamsand have them, too?And have we roomfor one more folded sunset, still quite warm?But surely it would have been a pitynot to have seen the trees along this road,really exaggerated in their beauty,not to have seen them gesturinglike noble pantomimists, robed in pink.—Not to have had to stop for gas and heardthe sad, two-noted, wooden tuneof disparate wooden clogscarelessly clacking overa grease-stained filling-station floor.(In another country the clogs would all be tested.Each pair there would have identical pitch.)—A pity not to have heardthe other, less primitive music of the fat brown birdwho sings above the broken gasoline pumpin a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:three towers, five silver crosses.—Yes, a pity not to have pondered,blurredly and inconclusively,on what connection can exist for centuriesbetween the crudest wooden footwearand, careful and finicky,the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.—Never to have studied history inthe weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.—And never to have had to listen to rainso much like politicians' speeches:two hour of unrelenting oratoryand then a sudden golden silencein which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:"Is it lack of imagination that makes us cometo imagined places, not just stay at home?Or could Pascal have been entirely rightabout just sitting quietly in one's room?Continent, city, country, society:the choice is never wide and never free.And here, or there...No. Should we have stayed at home,wherever that may be?