Saturday, September 25, 2010

Letter to N.Y.

I drove down Campbell Avenue and listened to Terry Gross and David Rakoff on "Fresh Air" this past Tuesday afternoon. Just before David signed off, he shared this Elizabeth Bishop poem, and now I can't stop thinking about it. I don't get the wheat & oats part at the end, and while usually I get irked by poetic ambiguity (or at least, phrases I don't get), I dig this poem.

P.S. If you'd like to hear David read it - and he recited it so beautifully - visit this audio link and fast-forward 36 minutes, 18 seconds.

Letter to N.Y.
For Louise Crane

In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.

Elizabeth Bishop

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