Varick Street

Could I be a person who likes Elizabeth Bishop? Here’s the opening stanza and a half of “Varick Street,” a few lines at a time:

At night the factories
struggle awake,
wretched uneasy buildings
veined with pipes
attempt their work. Trying to breathe,


the elongated nostrils
haired with spikes

Yes. Nice. I’m in...

give off such stenches, too

The “too” is strange. Distance, complaint... later on there’s more of that.

And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you’ll sell me

What’s this thing, a song, a refrain?

The second stanza begins:

On certain floors
certain wonders

I like this repetition of “certain.” It reminds me of how “other” is used in this poem of Adrienne Rich’s, from Fox:

A life thrashes/half unlived/its passions
don’t desist/displaced from their own habitat
like other life-forms take up other dwellings

What is it that’s so lovely about “certain floors” / “certain wonders”? Certain floors, not others. What are on those other floors? No wonders? Or other wonders, different in number or kind from the certain wonders of the certain floors?

PoetryReadingElizabeth Bishop