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Roosters Analysis



Author: poem of Elizabeth Bishop Type: poem Views: 7

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At four o'clock

in the gun-metal blue dark

we hear the first crow of the first cock



just below

the gun-metal blue window

and immediately there is an echo



off in the distance,

then one from the backyard fence,

then one, with horrible insistence,



grates like a wet match

from 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 blur

their rusting wives admire,

the roosters brace their cruel feet and glare



with 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 wives

who lead hens' lives

of being courted and despised;



deep from raw throats

a senseless order floats

all over town.  A rooster gloats



over our beds

from rusty irons sheds

and fences made from old bedsteads,



over our churches

where the tin rooster perches,

over our little wooden northern houses,



making sallies

from 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 active

displacement 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 give

commands 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 blood



Yes, that excrescence

makes a most virile presence,

plus all that vulgar beauty of iridescence



Now 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 dung



with 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 gallus canit;

flet Petrus
underneath it,

There is inescapable hope, the pivot;



yes, and there Peter's tears

run down our chanticleer's

sides and gem his spurs.



Tear-encrusted thick

as a medieval relic

he waits.  Poor Peter, heart-sick,



still cannot guess

those cock-a-doodles yet might bless,

his dreadful rooster come to mean forgiveness,



a new weathervane

on basilica and barn,

and that outside the Lateran



there would always be

a bronze cock on a porphyry

pillar so the people and the Pope might see



that event the Prince

of the Apostles long since

had been forgiven, and to convince



all the assembly

that "Deny deny deny"

is not all the roosters cry.



In the morning

a low light is floating

in the backyard, and gilding



from underneath

the broccoli, leaf by leaf;

how could the night have come to grief?



gilding the tiny

floating swallow's belly

and lines of pink cloud in the sky,



the day's preamble

like wandering lines in marble,

The cocks are now almost inaudible.



The sun climbs in,

following "to see the end,"

faithful as enemy, or friend.






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