Elizabeth Bishop

(8 February 1911 – 6 October 1979 / Worcester, Massachusetts)

Insomnia


The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Nici M (1/23/2014 12:45:00 AM)

    In my final year of high school, some 20 years ago, I know that Elizabeth Bishop was the name attached to a poem rated high on that dread list called You might be examined on this. I know that I studied the poem- I turned it to words, inside out and upside down; every possible meaning extracted, and it remained words. I think that's why I cannot (for the life of me) remember which of her poems that was. I'm commenting on this one, though, for the sheer delight it brought, and I'm very glad that I shall never, *ever* turn Ms. Bishop's gorgeous poetry into mere words again. (Report) Reply

  • Mary Ann Leone (8/9/2006 12:05:00 PM)

    The language is fresh and unique, a hallmark of Bishop's incomparable work. She can turn a mundane topic (as in Shampoo, another favorite of mine) into something unforgettable. I am completely awed by her talent and how she weaves emotion into her world; in this case, a fantastic one where the moon (synonymous with the speaker) resides in a bedroom mirror. It is only at the end we understand the depth of feeling behind her mystical images. A true genius, and I wish she were alive so I could write and tell her what her poetry means to me. (Report) Reply

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