Skunk Hour

Robert Lowell

 
For Elizabeth Bishop
Nautilus Island's hermit
heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;
her sheep still graze above the sea.
Her son's a bishop.  Her farmer
is first selectman in our village,
she's in her dotage.
Thirsting for
the hierarchic privacy
of Queen Victoria's century,
she buys up all
the eyesores facing her shore,
and lets them fall.
The season's ill--
we've lost our summer millionaire,
who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean
catalogue.  His nine-knot yawl
was auctioned off to lobstermen.
A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.
And now our fairy
decorator brightens his shop for fall,
his fishnet's filled with orange cork,
orange, his cobbler's bench and awl,
there is no money in his work,
he'd rather marry.
One dark night,
my Tudor Ford climbed the hill's skull,
I watched for love-cars.  Lights turned down,
they lay together, hull to hull,
where the graveyard shelves on the town. . . .
My mind's not right.
A car radio bleats,
'Love, O careless Love . . . .' I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat . . . .
I myself am hell,
nobody's here--
only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes' red fire
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.
I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air--
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.
 
From Selected Poems by Robert Lowell, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1976, 1977 by Robert Lowell. Used by permission.

Poems by This Author

"To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage" by Robert Lowell
The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open
Dolphin by Robert Lowell
My Dolphin, you only guide me by surprise,
Epilogue by Robert Lowell
Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme--
For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell
The old South Boston Aquarium stands
History by Robert Lowell
History has to live with what was here,
Home After Three Months Away by Robert Lowell
Gone now the baby's nurse,
Homecoming by Robert Lowell
What was is . . . since 1930;
Man and Wife by Robert Lowell
Tamed by Miltown, we lie on Mother's bed;
Memories of West Street and Lepke by Robert Lowell
Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
The Drunken Fisherman by Robert Lowell
Wallowing in this bloody sty,
The Public Garden by Robert Lowell
The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket by Robert Lowell
A brackish reach of shoal off Madaket--
Waking in the Blue by Robert Lowell
The night attendant, a B.U. sophomore


Further Reading

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Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]
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A List of Praises
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Animals and Art
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At Bay
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Grasshopper
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by Sarah Messer
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The Lorca Variations (XXVIII)
"For Turtles"

by Jerome Rothenberg
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The Parakeets
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79
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