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The balloons can be seen to represent the world in the time of Bishop, which was taken to be turning on the innocent individuals in the time of war.
The fish is described ambiguously, with ‘brown skin hung in strips/ like ancient wallpaper’ but also ‘speckled with barnacles, fine rosettes of lime,/ and infested with tiny white sea-lice’, and elsewhere ‘battered and venerable/ and homely.’ The contrast is initially surprising but when considering the link of the poem to Bishop it makes sense, as the fish can be compared to Bishop and be seen to symbolize how she has been ‘battered’ by the turmoil in her life, such as her difficult familial situation; the mention that the fish’s ‘pattern of ark brown/ was like wallpaper:/ shapes like full-blown roses/ stained and lost through age’ can be read as a commentary on Bishop and how life has had a debilitating.
Language is again intense and concrete, and helps in presenting the aforementioned representation of Bishop: the short sentence ‘He didn’t fight./ He hadn’t fought at all’ reminds us of how the fish fought earlier in the poem when initially caught, and concisely symbolizes how Bishop may have initially had strength to fight back against her difficult situation, yet does not have such strength any longer, due to her being ‘battered’ by life. The eye-catching imagery is again present, with the ‘frail, illegal fire balloons’ juxtaposed against the sky lit up with stars and planets; Bishop speaks of the balloons and tells us ‘Once up against the sky it’s hard/ to tell them from the stars’ and the comparison of the balloons to stars and planets emphasizes how visually spectacular these objects are.
Elsewhere, the need for a mother is emphasized as the sons and father are present, yet are presented as unsuitable for maintaining a suitable environment, seen in such details as when it is declared ‘Someone waters the plant,/ or oils it, maybe’, a reference to the males’ working in the filling station.
The concluding line that ‘Somebody loves us all’ is an ironic lament that while someone even loves the father wearing ‘a dirty,/ oil-soaked monkey suit’ and the ‘greasy sons’ (none of whom is capable of providing a suitable family unit), Bishop has no parents to love her.
Instead they build bomb-shelters to protect themselves and ignore the problem that should be dealt with; as a result they are shown in their true form in the concluding stanza, weak against events they will not, or cannot control: ‘Oh falling fire and piercing cry/ and panic, and a weak mailed fist/ clenched ignorant against the sky!
’ More of the same is seen in First Death in Nova Scotia, as Bishop remembers the death of a relative and explores not only this but also the death of her parents and the effect of this on her as a child.
As said, an appealing aspect of Bishop’s poetry is that her poetry links with her life.
Bishop has some connection to each poem, and this adds credibility to her poetry.
This effect is greatened when Bishop compares the collapse of a balloon to the messiness of a smashed egg, saying it ‘splattered like an egg of fire’; the splattering of an egg is a spectacle in itself, given the messiness of a broken egg with the mixture of various colours and the broken shell mixed with the destroyed yolk, but Bishop goes further, calling it an egg of fire, mixing fire and flame with the aforementioned messiness.
Concrete language is also present, as the shameful exit of the armadillo is encapsulated succinctly in three words, ‘Hastily, all alone’; the words are all of negative connotation, implying weakness and shamefulness, and contrast sorely with the more intense language associated with the baby rabbit, such as its ‘fixed, ignited eyes’.