Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1863) Apartment in Leme
1. Off to the left, those islands, named and renamed so many times now everyone's forgotten their names, are sleeping. Pale rods of light, the morning's implements, lie in among them tarnishing already, just like our knives and forks. Because we live at your open mouth, oh Sea, with your cold breath blowing warm, your warm breath cold, like in the fairy tale. Not only do you tarnish our knives and forks - regularly the silver coffee-pot goes into dark, rainbow-edged eclipse; the windows blur and mirrors are wet to touch. Custodia complains, and then you frizz her straightened, stiffened hair. Sometimes you embolden, sometimes bore. You smell of codfish and old rain. Homesick, the salt weeps in the salt-cellars. Breathe in. Breathe out. We're so accustomed to those sounds we only hear them in the night. Then they come closer but you keep your distance. 2. It's growing lighter. On the beach two men get up from shallow, newspaper-lined graves. A third sleeps on. His coverlet is corrugated paper, a flattened box. One running dog, two early bathers, stop dead in their tracks; detour. Wisps of fresh green stick to your foaming lips like those on horses' lips. The sand's bestrewn: white lilies, broken stalks, white candles with wet, blackened wicks, and green glass bottles for white alcohol meant for the goddess meant to come last night. (But you've emptied them all.) 3. Perhaps she came, at that. It was so clear! And you were keeping quiet: roughened, greeny-black, scaly as one of those corroded old bronze mirrors in all the world's museums (How did the ancients ever see anything in them?) incapable of reflecting even the biggest stars. One cluster, bright, astringent as white currants, hung from the Magellanic Clouds above you and the beach and its assorted lovers and worshippers, almost within their reach if they had noticed. The candles flickered. Worshippers, in white, holding hands, singing, walked in to you waist-deep. The lovers lay in the sand, embraced. Far out, saffron flares of five invisible fishing boats wobbled and hitched along, farther than the stars, weaker, and older. 4. But for now the sun. Slowly, reluctantly, you're letting go of it; it slowly rises; metallic; two-dimensional. You sigh, and sigh again. We live at your open mouth, with your cold breath blowing warm, your warm breath cold like in the fairy tale no - the legend.
Another glorious poem about the sea. In the fragments of an essay collected as part of the newly released Edgar Allan Poe and the Juke Box  (from which this poem is also taken), Bishop writes that three qualities she admires most in poetry are Accuracy, Spontaneity and Mystery. I can't say this poem is particularly mysterious, nor does it feel particularly spontaneous to me (though there are a few nice surprises). But it is accurate, undeniably so. Bishop, a former protegee of Marianne Moore, has a lovely eye for detail and her images have that rare quality of being both instantly recognisable and dizzyingly beautiful ("Pale rods of light, the morning's implements,/ lie in among them tarnishing already,/just like our knives and forks."). Reading this poem, you can picture the scene perfectly - first the house near the sea, its damp, ubiquitious presence; then the pre-dawn stroll on the beach; then the luminous flashback to the previous night, with its hushed, flickering imagery, and finally the sun rising and the return to the everyday singled by the repetition of that second stanza. It's a humbling thought that Bishop considered so lovely a poem unworthy of being published. Aseem  A collection of unpublished (often fragmentary) poems and prose pieces written by Bishop, put together by Alice Quinn and released recently by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.