I swoon when I read Elizabeth Bishop. She’s got perfect timing. I can’t dissect her writing at all. I have no idea how she makes it so effortless, funny, punchy. This essay, a memoir piece about a little trip through remote Brazil, had me exclaiming to myself on the beach today. In particular, this paragraph:
The store had been raided, sacked. Oh, that was its normal state. It was quite large, no color inside or cloud-color perhaps, with holes in the floor, holes in the walls, holes in the roof. A barrel of kerosense stood in a dark stain. There were a coil of blue cotton rope, a few mattock heads, and a bundle of yellow-white handles, fresh cut from hard ipe wood. Lined up on the shelves were many, many bottles of cachaca, all alike: Esperanca, Hope, Hope, Hope. There was a counter where you could drink, if you wanted. A bunch of red-striped lamp wicks hung beside a bunch of rusty frying pans. A glass case offered brown coffees leaking through their papers, and old, old old, sweet buns. Some very large ants were making hay there while the sun shone. Our eyes negotiated the advertisements for Orange Crush and Guarana on the cloud-colored walls, and we had seen everything. That was all.
Weren’t you there? I was there. Surprised by the Orange Crush, but oh, swooning, swooning, swooning.