A Miracle For Breakfast

A sestina by Elizabeth Bishop

A Miracle for BreakfastAt six o’clock we were waiting for coffee,

waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb

that was going to be served from a certain balcony

–like kings of old, or like a miracle.

It was still dark. One foot of the sun

steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.
.

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.

It was so cold we hoped that the coffee

would be very hot, seeing that the sun

was not going to warm us; and that the crumb

would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.

At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.
.

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony

looking over our heads toward the river.

A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,

consisting of one lone cup of coffee

and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,

his head, so to speak, in the clouds–along with the sun.
.

Was the man crazy? What under the sun

was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!

Each man received one rather hard crumb,

which some flicked scornfully into the river,

and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.

Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.
.

I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.

A beautiful villa stood in the sun

and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.

In front, a baroque white plaster balcony

added by birds, who nest along the river,

–I saw it with one eye close to the crumb–
.

and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb

my mansion, made for me by a miracle,

through ages, by insects, birds, and the river

working the stone. Every day, in the sun,

at breakfast time I sit on my balcony

with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.
.

We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.

A window across the river caught the sun

as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.
_______________________
.
An early reminder that we’ll be discussing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on September 28. Read also: The passions of Elizabeth Bishop

 

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