The Armadillo

The Armadillo

by Elizabeth Bishop

For Robert Lowell

This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,

rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts.

Once up against the sky it's hard
to tell them from the stars--
planets, that is--the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,

or the pale green one. With a wind,
they flare and falter, wobble and toss;
but if it's still they steer between
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,

receding, dwindling, solemnly
and steadily forsaking us,
or, in the downdraft from a peak,
suddenly turning dangerous.

Last night another big one fell.
It splattered like an egg of fire
against the cliff behind the house.
The flame ran down. We saw the pair

of owls who nest there flying up
and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.

The ancient owls' nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,

and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft!--a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry! O falling fire and piercing cry and panic,
and a weak mailed fist clenched ignorant against the sky!

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Miscellany


Other poems by Elizabeth Bishop (read randomly)


Earliest morning, switching all the tracks
that cross the sky from cinder star to star,
coupling the ends of streets

At four o’clock
in the gun-metal blue dark
we hear the first crow of the first cock

You won't become a gourmet* cook
By studying our Fannie's book--
Her thoughts on Food & Keeping House

This is not my home. How did I get so far from wate …
be over that way somewhere.
I am the color of wine, of tinta. The inside of my

This is a day when truths will out, perhaps;
leak from the dangling telephone earphones
sapping the festooned switchboards' strength;

Now can you see the monument? It is of wood
built somewhat like a box. No. Built
like several boxes in descending sizes

I can make out the rigging of a schooner
a mile off; I can count
the new cones on the spruce. It is so still

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child

I dreamed that dead, and meditating,
I lay upon a grave, or bed,
(at least, some cold and close-built bower).

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

This celestial seascape, with white herons got up a …
flying high as they want and as far as they want si …
in tiers and tiers of immacu...

On the unbreathing sides of hills
they play, a specklike girl and boy,
alone, but near a specklike house.

It is so peaceful on the ceiling!
It is the Place de la Concorde.
The little crystal chandelier

This is the house of Bedlam.
This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

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