This is the House of Lesbian: after Elizabeth Bishop

I was in the far back room on the second floor that is euphemistically called the sunroom that, among infrequently used household stuff, houses another huge bookcase filled with books. Other items have landed on the shelves: a whole box of the Nightmare Before Christmas trading cards; blank books to write in, a bobblehead Bullwinkle still in the box and a tin robot, also still in the box. But mostly, books.

Two shelves of this bookcase are stuffed with books of poetry. I was in need of a poetry fix. So there I was this sunny day in the sun + storage room, foraging for poems. I took a few books and off I went to read, to satisfy my addiction for words placed together JUST so; that heady, transcendent placement of certain words that can only ever meet in poetry. Hours later, sated, I put the books back.

Sometime during the night I lost whatever shred of sanity I had left because I got out of bed with a mad task in mind; I was going to write a poem. Not just any run-of-the mill poem: I was going to write a poem in honour of, and after, Elizabeth Bishop.

To say Bishop had a tragic, difficult life is like saying water is wet. To say she was a consummate perfectionist about her writing is like saying, well, water is wet again.

At any rate, I got out of bed determined to write a poem after Elizabeth Bishop. Oh, and not just any poem of hers, either. The one titled, This is the House of Bedlam. Bishop’s poem is extraordinary for the words, the language, her vision, the sounds, the cadence, the images, the story, the characters; the pounding drums of madness that the reader can hear and feel. While a bit dated, it is still a poem to read out loud, several times.

I have loosely followed the punctuation and language style. I have not reproduced the pounding drums of madness found in Bishop’s poem so much as the pounding moments of lesbian life. I don’t pretend to write poetry and haven’t a clue why this cropped up as a thing to do; it was mad and fun and a very interesting writing exercise.

This is the house of Lesbian

This is the woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is the moment

of the joyful woman who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is the heartbeat

Sounding out love

of the contented woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is the lover

Being the world

That strokes the heart

Of the quiet woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is the sanctuary full of dreams

Found by the lover

Being the world

That strokes the heart

Of the wise witch woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

These are the days and the doors and the mind,

the grass and ground of the place of dreams

Walked by the lover

Being the world

That strokes the heart

Of the worried woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is a boi in a white tank top

who glances warily past the cop

over the pressing crowd of girls

beyond the lover

restraining the world

That strokes the heart

of the absurd woman

who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is an age of words gone mad.

This is a boi in a white tank top

Who glances warily past the cop,

Over the pressing crowd of girls

Around the startled lover

straddling the world

That strokes the heart

Of the brooding woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is the femme that reads the story

To feel if the words are good, or wrong,

For the frightened boi in a bloodied tank top

Who glances warily at the cop,

Moving through the humming crowd of girls

directly to the lover

that soothes the world

that touches the heart

of the sensitive woman

who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

These are the times of chains and names and shame

That fly at the femme that reads the story

To feel if the words are good, or wrong.

This is a boi in a white tank top

Who glances fast past the cop

Into the parting sea of girls

Past the scheming lover

That burst the world

That touches the heart

Of the artist, the woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

.

This is a woman about to come out.

These are the years of chains and names and shame

That fly at the femme that reads the story

To feel if the words are good, or wrong.

This is a boi in a white tank top

Who dances cautiously past the cop

edging through the crowd of girls getting strong

To tell the lover

who paused the world

to open the arms

Of the waiting woman

Who lives in the house of Lesbian.

© fcs, May 21, 2010

About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween. On hiatus from writing anywhere else but here ... at least for now.
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6 Responses to This is the House of Lesbian: after Elizabeth Bishop

  1. lollylamilton says:

    What a remarkable, startling piece of art. This is a beautiful piece of poetry as well as an homage to another great writer. You have succeeded in capturing so much in a handful of wonderful words. I agree with Scimmia… thank you.
    LL

  2. You say “I don’t pretend to write poetry”, and so I will not pretend to critique it. Instead I will tell my dear friend that she creates crisp, sharp images and that she is neither predictable nor boring. I will tell her that I love her words here just as I love her words always.

    Thank you so much for existing in this world.

    • Frances says:

      PK: Thank you muchly, Princess. And back at you. Dare we discuss the notion of existence?

  3. terrisitagg says:

    Wow. Oh My Goddess. No, my dear, you do not pretend to write poetry, you do it. And well. I’d like to end with my usual glib, nonsensical quip, but none come to mind. I am, however, inspired to write a poem. As well as read one. Thank you!

    • Frances says:

      T: ANYTHING that I can possibly do that prompts you to pick up a pen or make music(al) and words with the computer keyboard can only be a good thing. Should you be willing, I’d love to see what you craft.

  4. scimmia says:

    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU

    THANK YOU

    LUV YOU AND LUV ELIZABETH TOO!

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