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.