Little Exercise

By Elizabeth Bishop 1911–1979 Elizabeth Bishop

for Thomas Edwards Wanning

Think of the storm roaming the sky uneasily
like a dog looking for a place to sleep in,
listen to it growling.

Think how they must look now, the mangrove keys
lying out there unresponsive to the lightning
in dark, coarse-fibred families,

where occasionally a heron may undo his head,
shake up his feathers, make an uncertain comment
when the surrounding water shines.

Think of the boulevard and the little palm trees
all stuck in rows, suddenly revealed
as fistfuls of limp fish-skeletons.

It is raining there. The boulevard
and its broken sidewalks with weeds in every crack
are relieved to be wet, the sea to be freshened.

Now the storm goes away again in a series
of small, badly lit battle-scenes,
each in "Another part of the field."

Think of someone sleeping in the bottom of a row-boat
tied to a mangrove root or the pile of a bridge;
think of him as uninjured, barely disturbed.

Elizabeth Bishop, "Little Exercise" from Elizabeth Bishop: The Collected Poems 1927-1979. Copyright © 1989 by Elizabeth Bishop. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Elizabeth Bishop 1911–1979

Subjects Nature, Animals, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Trees & Flowers, Weather

Poetic Terms Pastoral, Tercet

 Elizabeth  Bishop

Biography

During her lifetime, poet Elizabeth Bishop was a respected yet somewhat obscure figure in the world of American literature. Since her death in 1979, however, her reputation has grown to the point that many critics, like Larry Rohter in the New York Times, have referred to her as "one of the most important American poets" of the twentieth century. Bishop was a perfectionist who did not write prolifically, preferring instead to . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Trees & Flowers, Weather

Poetic Terms Pastoral, Tercet

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.