Elizabeth Bishop Comes to Dinner
First, you should know it’s a dream. I’ve been reading
about her. She sits opposite me
at the table, overlooking the river. Snaggle-
toothed, frail (like in the photo with Methfessel)
she stinks of tobacco, is gray in the face, sort of
like Mom. I look at this shell of a woman—really,
a kind of smart Jean Stapleton, and think:
“… the Fish Houses,” “Crusoe in England,” the pressed-
down-upon sense of who one is, subsumed,
for the water that burns her wrist. Such jovial
sadness and brief outcry (!) But what about
the competent lover’s voice in that withheld poem?
She drinks in the river, the dying light,
all my scotch and finally, Canadian Club.
We turn in. I lend a nightie,
toothbrush. There is
no sex, but an exact mind next to me in the bed
hums: elegant passion of cold, loss, iridescence,
(wire, cages, water) says the woman from Vassar.
—Susan Pliner. Art credit Ville Andersson.