The brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs' eyes followed him, a cheerful stare--
even to the sow that always ate her young--
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
And then he thought he almost might endure
his exile yet another year or more.
But evenings the first star came to warn.
The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
to shut the cows and horses in the barn
beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
safe and companionable as in the Ark.
The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
The lantern--like the sun, going away--
laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
he felt the bats' uncertain staggering flight,
his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
touching him. But it took him a long time
finally to make up his mind to go home.
Elizabeth Bishop's Other Poems
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Comments about this poem (A Prodigal by Elizabeth Bishop )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(8 February 1911 – 6 October 1979)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
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