Cleaving bishop

Elizabeth Bishop

Letter to Robert Lowell
January 20, 2009

Dear Robert,

I don’t know—I’ve always felt
Writing poetry—was really more like
Not writing poetry—and now all this
Poet laureate business—makes me feel
Very uneasy—“poet by default”

At first, well—I just said no
Aaron Shurin—would be better
He’s cuter—and a better speaker
Than me—he’s written much more
Poetry than I ever will—plus his
Students in SF—they love him so
While most people—simply despise me

A letter just arrived—from D.C.
I told them—the Rose Garden stinks
Well, thank you—but no thanks
How can I—intellectually carouse
And give a—decent poetry reading
When Baghdad is—going up in flames?

I can’t even—look at desert now
Lemon cake—so yellow & radioactive
Looking out the window—the moonlit Dome
The grim view—from the Library of Congress
The NYTimes—and Washington Post conniving
I feel like a scullery maid—a Polish girl
Instead of a Bard—politicians woo me

I wish I were back—at home in Key West
My landlady Faustius—and me on the porch
Settling down to our—cognac and cigars
I wish you’d visit me—take a trip to Havana?
The Beltway—a small marbleized Tea Room
This Washington job—so Faggy Bottoms

The New Yorker though—I’m proud to say
Is quibbling with me—as they always do
Over an indelicacy—in one of my poems
I guess I’m just—too politically incorrect
For either Cold War—or New World Order
It’s so difficult sometimes—dearest Robert
Being America’s—proud dyke poet laureate.

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