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Roosters Analysis

Author: Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop Type: Poetry Views: 612

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At four o'clock

in the gun-metal blue dark

we hear the first crow of the first cockjust below

the gun-metal blue window

and immediately there is an echooff in the distance,

then one from the backyard fence,

then one, with horrible insistence,grates like a wet matchfrom the broccoli patch,

flares,and all over town begins to catch.Cries galore

come from the water-closet door,

from the dropping-plastered henhouse floor,where in the blue blurtheir rusting wives admire,

the roosters brace their cruel feet and glarewith stupid eyes

while from their beaks there rise

the uncontrolled, traditional cries.Deep from protruding chests

in green-gold medals dressed,

planned to command and terrorize the rest,the many wiveswho lead hens' lives

of being courted and despised;deep from raw throats

a senseless order floats

all over town.A rooster gloatsover our beds

from rusty irons sheds

and fences made from old bedsteads,over our churcheswhere the tin rooster perches,

over our little wooden northern houses,making salliesfrom all the muddy alleys,

marking out maps like Rand McNally's:glass-headed pins,

oil-golds and copper greens,

anthracite blues, alizarins,each one an activedisplacement in perspective;

each screaming, "This is where I live!"Each screaming

"Get up!Stop dreaming!"

Roosters, what are you projecting?You, whom the Greeks elected

to shoot at on a post, who struggled

when sacrificed, you whom they labeled"Very combative..."

what right have you to givecommands and tell us how to live,cry "Here!" and "Here!"

and wake us here where are

unwanted love, conceit and war?The crown of red

set on your little head

is charged with all your fighting bloodYes, that excrescence

makes a most virile presence,

plus all that vulgar beauty of iridescenceNow in mid-air

by two they fight each other.

Down comes a first flame-feather,and one is flying,

with raging heroism defying

even the sensation of dying.And one has fallen

but still above the town

his torn-out, bloodied feathers drift down;and what he sung

no matter.He is flung

on the gray ash-heap, lies in dungwith his dead wives

with open, bloody eyes,

while those metallic feathers oxidize.St. Peter's sin

was worse than that of Magdalen

whose sin was of the flesh alone;of spirit, Peter's,

falling, beneath the flares,

among the "servants and officers."Old holy sculpture

could set it all together

in one small scene, past and future:Christ stands amazed,

Peter, two fingers raised

to surprised lips, both as if dazed.But in between

a little cock is seen

carved on a dim column in the travertine,explained by


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