The Lost Worcester Poems of Elizabeth Bishop

          Elizabeth Bishop was born and lived in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is buried there, but “had no fond feelings” for the city.

                                                 The Boston Globe

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Diner Sonnet

I am in need of Worcester home fries, the kind
that the counter-man makes jump in the skillet
at the Miss Worcester Diner. He really kills it,
underneath the railroad bridge, where you find
pigeons at any hour of the day. It may be a grind
but he with pride has made it his life’s trade.
I will wake tomorrow with indigestion, I’m afraid
but even with sweat-drenched brow he doesn’t mind.

The secret, the Worcester-magic, is in the paprika.
In no other city is this ingredient added to the mix.
It is not just the spice, it is the oddity, the loneliness
of this recipe in the world. Who first said “Eureka!”
when sprinkling the red powder, perhaps for kicks,
and created a dish that I celebrate for its only-ness?


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South Main Nocturne

And now creeps down
Grand Street from South Main,
to the top porches of the town’s
triple-deckers, a mother’s pain:

“Karen,” she cries to her kin,
“Put that pigeon down,
you don’t know where it’s been!”
The girl looks up and frowns.

Later, at Guertin’s, a waggish crone
calls out to the owner regarding his fare:
“Richie–are them pigeon eggs?” She is alone,
the publican lets the question hang in the air.

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Stupid Argument

The City Council’s proceedings
are there for all to see,
in the paper, for the reading.
The Mayor’s adversary, a hack,
calls him “Stupid.”
Hizzoner’s response is not muted,
he says “Stupid!”–quite cursory–back.


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