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Faustina, or Rock Roses - Poem by Elizabeth Bishop (Elizabeth Bishop)

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Tended by Faustina yes in a crazy house upon a crazy bed, frail, of chipped enamel, blooming above her head into four vaguely roselike flower-formations, the white woman whispers to herself. The floorboards sag this way and that. The crooked towel-covered table bears a can of talcum and five pasteboard boxes of little pills, most half-crystallized. The visitor sits and watches the dew glint on the screen and in it two glow-worms burning a drowned green. Meanwhile the eighty-watt bulb betrays us all, discovering the concern within our stupefaction; lighting as well on heads of tacks in the wallpaper, on a paper wall-pocket, violet-embossed, glistening with mica flakes. It exposes the fine white hair, the gown with the undershirt showing at the neck, the pallid palm-leaf fan she holds but cannot wield, her white disordered sheets like wilted roses. Clutter of trophies, chamber of bleached flags! -Rags or ragged garments hung on the chairs and hooks each contributing its shade of white, confusing as undazzling. The visitor is embarrassed not by pain nor age nor even nakedness, though perhaps by its reverse. By and by the whisper says, "Faustina, Faustina. . ." Vengo, senora!" On bare scraping feet Faustina nears the bed. She exhibits the talcum powder, the pills, the cans of "cream," the white bowl of farina, requesting for herself a little conac; complaining of, explaining, the terms of her employment. She bends above the other. Her sinister kind face presents a cruel black coincident conundrum. Oh, is it freedom at last, a lifelong dream of time and silence, dream of protection and rest? Or is it the very worst, the unimaginable nightmare that never before dared last more than a second? The acuteness of the question forks instantly and starts a snake-tongue flickering; blurs further, blunts, softens, separates, falls, our problems becoming helplessly proliferative. There is no way of telling. The eyes say only either. At last the visitor rises, awkwardly proffers her bunch of rust-perforated roses and wonders oh, whence come all the petals. Elizabeth Bishop Topic(s) of this poem: sickness

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