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Mark Olival-Bartley studied applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University, attaining B.A. and M.A. degrees in Teaching English as a Second Language, and poetry at the City College of New York. He is now writing a dissertation on the sonnets of E. A. Robinson at LMU, where he tutors composition alongside editing flyers on poetry and style. His poems and translations have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the resident poet at EcoHealth, where his science-themed verse is regularly featured, and a senior copyeditor at Review of International American Studies. He also teaches at Münchner Volkshochschule and leads the Amerikahaus Literaturkreis.



by Elizabeth Bishop

September rain falls on the house. 
In the failing light, the old grandmother 
sits in the kitchen with the child 
beside the Little Marvel Stove, 
reading the jokes from the almanac, 
laughing and talking to hide her tears. 

She thinks that her equinoctial tears 
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house 
were both foretold by the almanac, 
but only known to a grandmother. 
The iron kettle sings on the stove. 
She cuts some bread and says to the child, 

It's time for tea now; but the child 
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears 
dance like mad on the hot black stove, 
the way the rain must dance on the house. 
Tidying up, the old grandmother 
hangs up the clever almanac 

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac 
hovers half open above the child, 
hovers above the old grandmother 
and her teacup full of dark brown tears. 
She shivers and says she thinks the house 
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove. 

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove. 
I know what I know, says the almanac. 
With crayons the child draws a rigid house 
and a winding pathway. Then the child 
puts in a man with buttons like tears 
and shows it proudly to the grandmother. 

But secretly, while the grandmother 
busies herself about the stove, 
the little moons fall down like tears 
from between the pages of the almanac 
into the flower bed the child 
has carefully placed in the front of the house. 

Time to plant tears, says the almanac. 
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove 
and the child draws another inscrutable house.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

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