The poet as a young girl sits in a dentist's office in Worcester, Massachusetts, waiting for her Aunt Consuelo, who is being treated. She looks at the exotic photographs in National Geographic magazines--volcanoes, pith helmets, "babies with pointed heads," and "black, naked women with necks / wound round and round with wire." The girl hears her aunt cry out in pain. Suddenly, she has a revelation, "you are an I, / you are an Elizabeth, / you are one of them," a person. In some mysterious way, they were all bound together, even the women with "those awful hanging breasts."[99 lines]


This long poem is one of Elizabeth Bishop's finest evocations of the magic in ordinary life. Through a child's consciousness, she illuminates the oceanic or mystical experience of connectedness.

Primary Source

The Complete Poems, 1927-1979


Farrar, Straus & Giroux: Noonday

Place Published

New York