by Elizabeth Bishop
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.
- We've been cruising along through our six-line stanzas, so this short little tercet throws us for a loop. But never fear; it's got all those end words in there—two per line, in fact. We're checking off all the sestina boxes in this one, and this final stanza's called an envoi.
- The almanac, having lost moons to the child's drawing, speaks again, saying, "time to plant tears." What does the almanac mean? What does it mean to plant tears? Is the almanac speaking in riddles? Remember how the grandmother feels the equinox has something to do with her crying? What do you think could be the connection between the equinox, the almanac, and tears? Maybe the moons are tears, and they're being planted in that flowerbed in the drawing.
- All of these tears make us feel like the grandmother misses something, or has lost something. But the idea of planting tears suggests new life and growth.
- Maybe the tears will lead to something new.
- The grandmother sings to the stove. Check out the shift from "Marvel Stove" to marvelous stove. Pretty clever, right? We are beginning to think the grandmother and the stove are good friends.
- The child draws another scribble of a house. The word "inscrutable" means hard to see clearly, or difficult to understand. We think a drawing of an "inscrutable" house might look like one with slanted lines or squiggles.
- This last stanza is a total mix of the fantastical and the real. For some reason, we feel like the grandma and the child are in very separate and lonely places at the end of the poem. It seems like they are very far away from each other and that they take comfort in the imaginative world by singing and drawing. The fact that they do take comfort in this world makes us think that they are trying to get away from reality, or from something that's happened. It's an eerie ending for a very surreal poem.