Poem of the Day 35

Giant Snail

The rain has stopped. The waterfall will roar like that all
night. I have come out to take a walk and feed. My body–foot,
that is–is wet and cold and covered with sharp gravel. It is
white, the size of a dinner plate. I have set myself a goal, a
certain rock, but it may well be dawn before I get there.
Although I move ghostlike and my floating edges barely graze
the ground, I am heavy, heavy, heavy. My white muscles are
already tired. I give the impression of mysterious ease, but it is
only with the greatest effort of my will that I can rise above the
smallest stones and sticks. And I must not let myself be dis-
tracted by those rough spears of grass. Don’t touch them. Draw
back. Withdrawal is always best.
The rain has stopped. The waterfall makes such a noise! (And
what if I fall over it?) The mountains of black rock give off such
clouds of steam! Shiny streamers are hanging down their sides.
When this occurs, we have a saying that the Snail Gods have
come down in haste. I could never descend such steep escarp-
ments, much less dream of climbing them.
That toad was too big, too, like me. His eyes beseeched my
love. Our proportions horrify our neighbors.
Rest a minute; relax. Flattened to the ground, my body is like
a pallid, decomposing leaf. What’s that tapping on my shell?
Nothing. Let’s go on.
My sides move in rhythmic waves, just off the ground, from
front to back, the wake of a ship, wax-white water, or a slowly
melting floe. I am cold, cold, cold as ice. My blind, white bull’s
head was a Cretan scare-head; degenerate, my four horns that
can’t attack. The sides of my mouth are now my hands. They
press the earth and suck it hard. Ah, but I know my shell is
beautiful, and high, and glazed, and shining. I know it well,
although I have not seen it. Its curled white lip is of the finest
enamel. Inside, it is as smooth as silk, and I, I fill it to perfection.
My wide wake shines, now it is growing dark. I leave a lovely
opalescent ribbon: I know this.
But O! I am too big. I feel it. Pity me.
If and when I reach the rock, I shall go into a certain crack
there for the night. The waterfall below will vibrate through
my shell and body all night long. In that steady pulsing I can
rest. All night I shall be like a sleeping ear.

–Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 34

Florida

The state with the prettiest name,
the state that floats in brackish water,
held together by mangrave roots
that bear while living oysters in clusters,
and when dead strew white swamps with skeletons,
dotted as if bombarded, with green hummocks
like ancient cannon-balls sprouting grass.
The state full of long S-shaped birds, blue and white,
and unseen hysterical birds who rush up the scale
every time in a tantrum.
Tanagers embarrassed by their flashiness,
and pelicans whose delight it is to clown;
who coast for fun on the strong tidal currents
in and out among the mangrove islands
and stand on the sand-bars drying their damp gold wings
on sun-lit evenings.
Enormous turtles, helpless and mild,
die and leave their barnacled shells on the beaches,
and their large white skulls with round eye-sockets
twice the size of a man’s.
The palm trees clatter in the stiff breeze
like the bills of the pelicans. The tropical rain comes down
to freshen the tide-looped strings of fading shells:
Job’s Tear, the Chinese Alphabet, the scarce Junonia,
parti-colored pectins and Ladies’ Ears,
arranged as on a gray rag of rotted calico,
the buried Indian Princess’s skirt;
with these the monotonous, endless, sagging coast-line
is delicately ornamented.

Thirty or more buzzards are drifting down, down, down,
over something they have spotted in the swamp,
in circles like stirred-up flakes of sediment
sinking through water.
Smoke from woods-fires filters fine blue solvents.
On stumps and dead trees the charring is like black velvet.
The mosquitoes
go hunting to the tune of their ferocious obbligatos.
After dark, the fireflies map the heavens in the marsh
until the moon rises.
Cold white, not bright, the moonlight is coarse-meshed,
and the careless, corrupt state is all black specks
too far apart, and ugly whites; the poorest
post-card of itself.
After dark, the pools seem to have slipped away.
The alligator, who has five distinct calls:
friendliness, love, mating, war, and a warning–
whimpers and speaks in the throat
of the Indian Princess.

Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 33

Five Flights Up

Still dark.
The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.
The little dog next door barks in his sleep
inquiringly, just once.
Perhaps in his sleep, too, the bird inquires
once or twice, quavering.
Questions—if that is what they are—
answered directly, simply,
by day itself.

Enormous morning, ponderous, meticulous;
gray light streaking each bare branch,
each single twig, along one side,
making another tree, of glassy veins…
The bird still sits there. Now he seems to yawn.

The little black dog runs in his yard.
His owner’s voice arises, stern,
“You ought to be ashamed!”
What has he done?
He bounces cheerfully up and down;
he rushes in circles in the fallen leaves.

Obviously, he has no sense of shame.
He and the bird know everything is answered,
all taken care of,
no need to ask again.
—Yesterday brought to today so lightly!
(A yesterday I find almost impossible to lift.)

–Elizabeth Bishop

By temperament, I am neither disciplined nor forgiving–I would rather spend six hours perfecting a miniscule detail of the project I care about, leaving half my work undone, than budget realistically and accept a compromise. If you have an obsessive, project-oriented streak, this can work well up to a point, but eventually, time for sleep becomes very sweet, and the baffled sense “for I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate” very frustrating.

I can get one or two things done, and done to my satisfaction, but the problem was realizing that I want to do many things. When you want, not just to produce, but live well–eat good food, answer letters, dance, speak French–the finitude of time becomes much more pressing, and you can’t succeed by treating everything as a crisis.

I was noodling this after reading Calah’s post. Full-time childcare with the majority of housework is essentially working two jobs (in which your first job actively tries to destroy your second). Part of Calah’s point is that the problem is in some ways intractable; part of the problem also seems related to impossible demands placed overwhelmingly and specifically on mothers. But working two jobs and trying to find the energy to open a beer, at least, is familiar to me. Sometimes even minor adjustments have been helpful, and here some from my frantic times.

1. Focus on habits, not projects.

People tell you to begin with the end in mind, and I do! And that end is one in which I pray daily, am fluent in several languages, have an organized wardrobe with appropriate outfits for every occasion all of which fit and none of which are ripped, go for runs in a high ponytail and those cool stretchy outfits, write several thousand words a day, return emails immediately, read six newspapers every morning, make things like “walnut crusted salmon with artichokes and lemon pesto tapenade” for dinner, and have read literally every book.

Part of this is just me, but part of it, I think, is a well-marketed concept of femininity, and the tip-off is the picture of the self as a product–clean, contained, accessorized, on brand. It doesn’t touch on the development of a continuous person as much as the assembly of a static persona.

It also happens to be impossible, because most people have to work and reproduce their labor power, and there is barely time for leisure, let alone perfection, And even if you scale down your goals, you’ll still be stuck trying to create a setting, an aesthetic, “fixing your life” as if it existed in some malleable, adjustable “hackable” remove from you, the person.

And then, so much of the aesthetic of the clean, finished life depends on money, and so much of that, unless you are rich, is out of your control. You’ll gather up the skirts that desperately need alteration, and realize the money you’d blocked out went to fixing yesterday’s burst pipe. So you go on, waiting patiently for the day you can get everything just right, become the fantasy of yourself you wish to see in the world, finally take out your to do-list and cross “life” off forever.

When I really attend to happiness, not pawn it off on some immaterial collection of future things and traits and circumstances, I still want a good life. But I want to live it now, at a cruddy job and with cruddy pens that write in ugly smears, without scented candles or the silk pillowcases on which I know, deep down, my head was meant to lie

What makes me happy is being someone who gives what time she has to good books –maybe just page a day, not enough to become an expert in anything–not trying to become someone who has read a certain quota of good books.

What I really want and need is an order to my time and the habits that make that possible, not this or that particular outcome.

2. Don’t make a to-do list, set aside time.

I like to-do lists, because they impose little discipline and maximum achievement. I can treat them as a project, and faithfully, eventually, get everything done without having to worry about what the cost was, what I did with the rest of my time, or how long I can keep it up. But if what I really want is not just to plow through a complete set of Harvard Classics, but to give my time and attention to good things every single day, it helps to pre-allot the time I want to give. If I get up at 6 and get coffee, I can read the newspaper. If it is 5pm, I can be at my desk and computer, whether I feel like writing or have any good ideas.

And the best thing about this, for me, is the discipline of failure. You slept in? You read articles instead of writing? There’s no analgesic. You don’t get to make it up later, borrowing time from sleep or work. You don’t get to excuse yourself by shoving it off on a perfect tomorrow when you’ll “get your life in order.” You committed a specific amount of time to a specific work, and you failed, and that’s that.

But it’s ok, because now it’s time for another good thing you can succeed at, and tomorrow you’ll have another chance at this one. Making the acceptance of failure a part of the discipline helps quarantine what can otherwise be overwhelming self-castigation. You didn’t just tank your whole plan for your time, you failed at one thing, and by letting yourself feel that failure without abandoning the whole struggle, you’re turning it into a success.

And the flip-side to the discipline of failure is letting stuff go when it’s out of your control. The essay needed more work to be good, time’s up and you’re only halfway through? Hit save and move on. Unavoidable freak errand popped up in the evening prayer time? That’s ok, it’ll roll around again same time tomorrow.

When my focus is on achievement, interruptions and failures make me feel out of control, or that trying to do [goal] until [future condition] materializes is pointless. But with habits, what matters is the fidelity.

This is why I like the liturgy of the hours–your prayer is set up for you around regular intervals, and if you miss one, in three hours you try again.

3. Scale down.

Obviously, some things do not admit failure–some things are on a deadline, some of children’s needs are urgent.

In my experience, applying the discipline of failure to these non-negotiables, insofar as you can, makes them more manageable in the long run. If I have a paper due, rather than say “Saturday, I will write this paper,” I can begin, way before it’s due, giving myself half an hour a day to work on it. And you can fail  at all those half hours, or use them with less than maximal efficiency, sure, but–wasting manageable bites of daily time explicitly set out for a task feels, to me, more difficult, harder to ignore, than dicking around when the only constraint is “get it done sometime today.” And even if I end up really using 15 minutes of that half hour productively, in a week I might still surprise myself with half a paper.

But I’ve found that it is a learning curve, and when you’re at the beginning, or you have many non-negotiables, or very difficult and time-consuming ones, it helps to massively scale down. Right now I exercise for three to five minutes a day, right before I shower and go to bed. It takes less energy to make myself do it when it’s only five minutes, and if for some reason I don’t get to it, it’s easier to jump back into the routine. My tiny workout won’t make me any kind of cross-fit champion, but I exercise more than I would with more ambitious goals; when I miss it, I notice.

4. Make bed-time a non-negotiable.

I tend to waste less of my allotted time if I know I’m going to bed at 9:30 whether I’ve finished it or not. I can’t always do this, obviously, but it helps, more than almost anything else. I’m happier and more capable, I don’t sleep in, and instead of finishing my to do list at an ever-increasing rate of inefficiency and exhaustion, I have to let the day go.

This applies, actually, to physical stuff in general. Prioritizing my goals by a kind of Maslow’s hierarchy is very helpful, and my top priority is the physical. Getting up on time, going to bed on time, my tiny workout, making myself drink water and stand up straight.

Putting it first and foremost provides a structure that keeps me from charging randomly at a free-wheeling vortex of obligations, never knowing which ones I’ll fulfill on any given day. If there’s just not enough time for everything, or I waste some of my time, or I fail at lower priority tasks, having my small, daily, absolute baseline physical regimen prevents me from feeling like I’ve lost all order so nothing matters after all..

I keep harping on this, because for me, it’s the key: understanding that I will sometimes fail to get everything done, especially at first, and having a structure that can absorb and neutralize that failure is how I build good habits.

And for some reason, putting the physical first offers a balance that enables me to attack the other stuff without being overwhelmed. Maybe because it’s relatively easy and therefore a low-cost way to keep your sense of order intact, or maybe it’s just that everything’s easier when you’re healthy. Either way, taking care of myself, even at the cost of other more important things, helps me stick to the hardest part of a discipline: not doing it perfectly every day, but doing it, like clockwork, the next day after you’ve let it slide.

My hierarchy goes something like this: physical care, liturgy of the hours, work, writing project A, writing project B, personal writing, reading, other miscellania.

It’s not what’s most important that comes first–prayer, writing, and reading all more important to me than sleep–it’s what allows me to stay disciplined in the pursuit of the important things.

5. Figure out what you actually need.

I enjoy cooking, and for me “eating well” was tied up with cooking a meal from scratch every night, chicken thighs and rice pilaf and a glass of red wine, etc. But that, you will no doubt be surprised to hear, is a massive time suck! I do need to eat well, but right now that doesn’t mean having fun in the kitchen, it means making a giant salad with chicken at the beginning of the week and storing it in five tupperwares.

6. Figure out what you want to do daily and what you want to do regularly.

For me, reading, writing, studying, answering mail, and exercising are what I need to do daily, and the first three are what I give the majority of my time to. Once a week I want a block of time for bills and budget, one for groceries and cooking, one for cleaning and laundry, and one for scheduling appointments and other miscellania. I don’t need to do those things every day, and I don’t need to devote a certain amount of time for them in the same way in the same way as reading and writing, but if I know when they are going to be done, I can put everything that accumulates into that block and bracket it off, so I don’t become bogged down in small tasks during the rest of the week, or put off what I really should  do by telling myself I’m still being productive.

Some things I let slide for long periods of time, because I just don’t need to, say, have a busy social life right now. Some things I really can give to future–if my aunt says she’s going to teach me how to sew this summer, I don’t need to be looking up how-to videos on my own. And some things I have to be satisfied with making slow progress on, because I’ve given most of my time to more important things, and there’s really only ten minutes a day to learn X. But slow progress is still progress.

All this makes sense for the life of a single person with no dependents, not someone in Calah’s situation. But this post isn’t really for Calah (although she’s great). It’s for me. If it’s likely, one way or another, that changed circumstances in the not terribly distant future will render me much less mistress of my own time, it makes sense to work on ordering it now, and think consciously about what techniques are helpful in doing so. Hopefully, even if what works changes, the ability to come up with a modus vivendi that lends discipline to failure won’t.

Poem of the Day 32

First Death in Nova Scotia

In the cold, cold parlor
my mother laid out Arthur
beneath the chromographs:
Edward, Prince of Wales,
with Princess Alexandra,
and King George with Queen Mary.
Below them on the table
stood a stuffed loon
shot and stuffed by Uncle
Arthur, Arthur’s father.

Since Uncle Arthur fired
a bullet into him,
he hadn’t said a word.
He kept his own counsel
on his white, frozen lake,
the marble-topped table.
His breast was deep and white,
cold and caressable;
his eyes were red glass,
much to be desired.

“Come,” said my mother,
“Come and say good-bye
to your little cousin Arthur.”
I was lifted up and given
one lily of the valley
to put in Arthur’s hand.
Arthur’s coffin was
a little frosted cake,
and the red-eyed loon eyed it
from his white, frozen lake.

Arthur was very small.
He was all white, like a doll
that hadn’t been painted yet.
Jack Frost had started to paint him
the way he always painted
the Maple Leaf (Forever).
He had just begun on his hair,
a few red strokes, and then
Jack Frost had dropped the brush
and left him white, forever.

The gracious royal couples
were warm in red and ermine;
their feet were well wrapped up
in the ladies’ ermine trains.
They invited Arthur to be
the smallest page at court.
But how could Arthur go,
clutching his tiny lily,
with his eyes shut up so tight
and the roads deep in snow?

–Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 31

Oh, but it is dirty!
—this little filling station, 
oil-soaked, oil-permeated 
to a disturbing, over-all 
black translucency. 
Be careful with that match!

Father wears a dirty, 
oil-soaked monkey suit 
that cuts him under the arms, 
and several quick and saucy 
and greasy sons assist him 
(it’s a family filling station), 
all quite thoroughly dirty.

Do they live in the station? 
It has a cement porch 
behind the pumps, and on it 
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork; 
on the wicker sofa 
a dirty dog, quite comfy.

Some comic books provide 
the only note of color—
of certain color. They lie 
upon a big dim doily 
draping a taboret 
(part of the set), beside 
a big hirsute begonia.

Why the extraneous plant? 
Why the taboret? 
Why, oh why, the doily? 
(Embroidered in daisy stitch 
with marguerites, I think, 
and heavy with gray crochet.)

Somebody embroidered the doily. 
Somebody waters the plant, 
or oils it, maybe. Somebody 
arranges the rows of cans 
so that they softly say:
ESSO—SO—SO—SO
to high-strung automobiles. 
Somebody loves us all.

--Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 30

Exchanging Hats

Unfunny uncles who insist
in trying on a lady’s hat,
–oh, even if the joke falls flat,
we share your slight transvestite twist

in spite of our embarrassment.
Costume and custom are complex.
The headgear of the other sex
inspires us to experiment.

Anandrous aunts, who, at the beach
with paper plates upon your laps,
keep putting on the yachtsmen’s caps
with exhibitionistic screech,

the visors hanging o’er the ear
so that the golden anchors drag,
–the tides of fashion never lag.
Such caps may not be worn next year.

Or you who don the paper plate
itself, and put some grapes upon it,
or sport the Indian’s feather bonnet,
–perversities may aggravate

the natural madness of the hatter.
And if the opera hats collapse
and crowns grow draughty, then, perhaps,
he thinks what might a miter matter?

Unfunny uncle, you who wore a
hat too big, or one too many,
tell us, can’t you, are there any
stars inside your black fedora?

Aunt exemplary and slim,
with avernal eyes, we wonder
what slow changes they see under
their vast, shady, turned-down brim.

–Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 29

Conversation

The tumult in the heart
keeps asking questions.
And then it stops and undertakes to answer
in the same tone of voice.
No one could tell the difference.

Uninnocent, these conversations start,
and then engage the senses,
only half-meaning to.
And then there is no choice,
and then there is no sense;

until a name
and all its connotation are the same.

–Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 28

Cirque D’Hiver

Across the floor flits the mechanical toy,
fit for a king of several centuries back.
A little circus horse with real white hair.
His eyes are glossy black.
He bears a little dancer on his back.

She stands upon her toes and turns and turns.
A slanting spray of artificial roses
is stitched across her skirt and tinsel bodice.
Above her head she poses
another spray of artificial roses.

His mane and tail are straight from Chirico.
He has a formal, melancholy soul.
He feels her pink toes dangle toward his back
along the little pole
that pierces both her body and her soul

and goes through his, and reappears below,
under his belly, as a big tin key.
He canters three steps, then he makes a bow,
canters again, bows on one knee,
canters, then clicks and stops, and looks at me.

The dancer, by this time, has turned her back.
He is the more intelligent by far.
Facing each other rather desperately—
his eye is like a star—
we stare and say, “Well, we have come this far.”

–Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 27

Cape Breton

Out on the high “bird islands,” Ciboux and Hertford,
the razorbill auks and the silly-looking puffins all stand
with their backs to the mainland
in solemn, uneven lines along the cliff’s brown grass-frayed edge,
while the few sheep pastured there go “Baaa, baaa.”
(Sometimes, frightened by aeroplanes, they stampede
and fall over into the sea or onto the rocks.)
The silken water is weaving and weaving,
disappearing under the mist equally in all directions,
lifted and penetrated now and then
by one shag’s dripping serpent-neck,
and somewhere the mist incorporates the pulse,
rapid but unurgent, of a motor boat.

The same mist hangs in thin layers
among the valleys and gorges of the mainland
like rotting snow-ice sucked away
almost to spirit; the ghosts of glaciers drift
among those folds and folds of fir: spruce and hackmatack–
dull, dead, deep pea-cock colors,
each riser distinguished from the next
by an irregular nervous saw-tooth edge,
alike, but certain as a stereoscopic view.

The wild road clambers along the brink of the coast.
On it stand occasional small yellow bulldozers,
but without their drivers, because today is Sunday.
The little white churches have been dropped into the matted hills
like lost quartz arrowheads.
The road appears to have been abandoned.
Whatever the landscape had of meaning appears to have been abandoned,
unless the road is holding it back, in the interior,
where we cannot see,
where deep lakes are reputed to be,
and disused trails and mountains of rock
and miles of burnt forests, standing in gray scratches
like the admirable scriptures made on stones by stones–
and these regions now have little to say for themselves
except in thousands of light song-sparrow songs floating upward
freely, dispassionately, through the mist, and meshing
in brown-wet, fine torn fish-nets.

A small bus comes along, in up-and-down rushes,
packed with people, even to its step.
(On weekdays with groceries, spare automobile parts, and pump parts,
but today only two preachers extra, one carrying his frock coat on a
hanger.)
It passes the closed roadside stand, the closed schoolhouse,
where today no flag is flying
from the rough-adzed pole topped with a white china doorknob.
It stops, and a man carrying a bay gets off,
climbs over a stile, and goes down through a small steep meadow,
which establishes its poverty in a snowfall of daisies,
to his invisible house beside the water.

The birds keep on singing, a calf bawls, the bus starts.
The thin mist follows
the white mutations of its dream;
an ancient chill is rippling the dark brooks.

–Elizabeth Bishop

Poem of the Day 26

At the Fishhouses

Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong of codfish
it makes one’s nose run and one’s eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

Down at the water’s edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

 

–Elizabeth Bishop

How To Elegantly Request the Cheapest Wine in the Store

“A sort of opiate of the masses, as it were.”

 

“A pared down, minimalist wine. In every possible particular.”

 

“Earthy. Very earthy.”

 

“Harsh, bracing; like a loan officer’s third call of the day.”

 

“A sort of rustic feel, do you know what I mean?”

 

“One tires, does one not, of the mad rush for chic and the modish? One craves simplicity. Ah yes, simplicity.”

 

“Something with the air, musk,

the je ne sais quoi of a dirt cheap motel room.”

 

“Can you recommend a good pairing with Velveeta?”

 

“No? Perhaps Ramen?”

 

“Unpretentious”

 

“Infused with the melancholy of an abandoned steel-town”

 

“The rising tide of the global proletariat, but in a bottle”

 

“A recently cast-off mistress’ drink”

 

“Heady base notes, just a soupçon of goat farmer”

 

“A daring, cubist take on wine. Yes, that’s– yes, you could also just call it boxed.”

 

“Off the beaten path. Lying in the ditch next to it.”

 

“Normcore, for  alcohol.”

 

“Wine fit for a king. Specifically, Oedipus, post-Jocasta.”

 

“A free spirited wine. A wine that’s ‘figuring it out’ in a Peruvian hostel right now.”

 

“A Loretta Lynn song, but with tannins.”

 

“The sort of wine that belongs in a fairy-tale. Like, oh, say, The Little Match Girl.”

 

“A buoyant–dare I say–populist wine.”

 

“I like to unwind with a glass of wine and a good book. Right now I’m reading Oliver Twist and Sister Carrie.”

 

“Something to drink while playing a few jazz records, or, alternatively, burning all your bills.”

 

“Not too aggressive a flavor profile–a wine that perhaps avoids its landlady from time time.”

 

“Something that voted for Syriza.”

 

 

Poem of the Day 25

Arrival at Santos

Here is a coast; here is a harbor;
here, after a meager diet of horizon, is some scenery:
impractically shaped and–who knows?–self-pitying mountains,
sad and harsh beneath their frivolous greenery,

with a little church on top of one. And warehouses,
some of them painted a feeble pink, or blue,
and some tall, uncertain palms. Oh, tourist,
is this how this country is going to answer you

and your immodest demands for a different world,
and a better life, and complete comprehension
of both at last, and immediately,
after eighteen days of suspension?

Finish your breakfast. The tender is coming,
a strange and ancient craft, flying a strange and brilliant rag.
So that’s the flag. I never saw it before.
I somehow never thought of there being a flag,

but of course there was, all along. And coins, I presume,
and paper money; they remain to be seen.
And gingerly now we climb down the ladder backward,
myself and a fellow passenger named Miss Breen,

descending into the midst of twenty-six freighters
waiting to be loaded with green coffee beaus.
Please, boy, do be more careful with that boat hook!
Watch out! Oh! It has caught Miss Breen’s

skirt! There! Miss Breen is about seventy,
a retired police lieutenant, six feet tall,
with beautiful bright blue eyes and a kind expression.
Her home, when she is at home, is in Glens Fall

s, New York. There. We are settled.
The customs officials will speak English, we hope,
and leave us our bourbon and cigarettes.
Ports are necessities, like postage stamps, or soap,

but they seldom seem to care what impression they make,
or, like this, only attempt, since it does not matter,
the unassertive colors of soap, or postage stamps–
wasting away like the former, slipping the way the latter

do when we mail the letters we wrote on the boat,
either because the glue here is very inferior
or because of the heat. We leave Santos at once;
we are driving to the interior.

–Elizabeth Bishop