Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Bright objects hypnotize the mind."

A Word with You

Look out! there’s that damned ape again

sit silently until he goes,

or else forgets the things he knows

(whatever they are) about us, then

we can begin to talk again.

Have you tried playing with your ring?

Sometimes, that calms them down, I find.

(Bright objects hypnotize the mind.)

Get his attention on anything—

anything will do—there, try your ring.

The glitter pleases him. You see

he squints his eyes; his lips hang loose.

You were saying?—Oh Lord, what’s the use,

for now the parrot’s after me

and the monkeys are awake. You see

how hard it is, you understand

This nervous strain in which we live—

Why just one luscious adjective

infuriates the whole damned band

And they’re squabbling for it. I understand

some people manage better. How?

They treat the creatures without feeling.

- Throw books to stop the monkeys’ squealing,

slap the ape and make him bow,

are firm, keep order,—but I don’t know how.

Quick! there’s the cockatoo! he heard!

(He can’t bear any form of wit.)

- Please watch out that you don’t get bit;

there’s not a thing escapes that bird.

Be silent—now the ape has overheard.

Elizabeth Bishop 1933

The 2011 National Poetry Month poster features the line "bright objects hypnotize the mind" from Elizabeth Bishop's poem "A Word with You." Bishop was born February 8, 1911, so we are celebrating her centennial in 2011.

It was designed by Stephen Doyle and is sponsored by The New York Times, National Endowment for the Arts, Random House, Inc., Merriam-Webster, and The Poetry Foundation.

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