John Ashbery

J
John Ashbery
The Short Answer
I am forced to sleepwalk much of the time.
We hold on to these old ways, are troubled
sometimes and then the geyser goes away,
time gutted. In and of itself there is
no great roar, force pitted against force that
makes up in time what it loses in speed.
The waterfalls, the canyon, a royal I-told-you-so
comes back to greet us at the beginning.
Read Poem
0
58
Rating:

A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing
A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing

I inch and only sometimes as far as the twisted pole gone in spare colors

Too late the last express passes through the dust of gardens
Read Poem
0
46
Rating:

The One Thing That Can Save America
Is anything central?
Orchards flung out on the land,
Urban forests, rustic plantations, knee-high hills?
Are place names central?
Elm Grove, Adcock Corner, Story Book Farm?
As they concur with a rush at eye level
Beating themselves into eyes which have had enough
Thank you, no more thank you.
Read Poem
0
36
Rating:

Day Bump
Whether the harborline or the east shoreline
consummated it was nobody’s biz until you got there,
eyelids ashimmer, content with one more dispensation
from blue above. And just like we were saying,
the people began to show some interest
in the mud-choked harbor. It could be summer again
for all anyone in our class knew.
Yeah, that’s right. Bumped from our dog-perch,
Read Poem
0
46
Rating:

Late-ish
The girl in the green ski chasuble
hasn’t yet graduated from radio school.
Let’s pay attention.

Looking ahead, why, he waved his mouth along.
Doesn’t life get difficult in the summer?
The divine medicine for it collapsed
in front of the shortstop,
who took off like a battalion.
Read Poem
0
37
Rating:

Mean Particles
Sometimes something like a second
washes the base of this street.
The father and his two assistants
are given permission to go.
One of them, a woman, asks, “Why
did we come here in the first place,
to this citadel of dampness?”

Some days are worse than others,
Read Poem
0
42
Rating:

People Behaving Badly a Concern
Aggressive panhandling, public urination, verbal threats,
public nudity and violation of the open container law
followed us down the days, for why
are we here much longer,
or even this long? I ask you
to be civil and not interrupt night’s business.

It was fun getting used to you,
who couldn’t have been more nicer.
Read Poem
0
36
Rating:

The Mauve Notebook
“Say it enough times and it's August.”
—Geoffrey G. O'Brien, “Three Years” On a set you need bush rebels,
that numbing little chair while passing.
Read Poem
0
46
Rating:

Alms for the Beekeeper
He makes better errors that way.
Pass it around at breakfast:
the family and all, down there with a proximate sense of power,
lawyering up. Less log-heavy, your text-strategy
beat out other options, is languid.
Duets in the dust start up,
begin. Again.

He entered the firm at night.
The 26th is a Monday.
Read Poem
0
53
Rating:

Blueprints and Others
The man across the street seems happy,
or pleased. Sometimes a porter evades the grounds.
After you play a lot with the military
you are my own best customer.

I’ve done five of that.
Make my halloween. Ask me not to say it.
The old man wants to see you — now.
That’s all right, but find your own.
Do you want to stop using these?

Last winning people told me to sit on the urinal.
Do not put on others what you can put on yourself.
How to be in the city my loved one.
Men in underwear    ...    A biography field
Read Poem
0
70
Rating:

Bunch of Stuff
To all events I squirted you
knowing this not to be this came to pass
when we were out and it looked good.
Why wouldn’t you want a fresh piece
of outlook to stand in down the years?
See, your house, a former human energy construction,
crashed with us for a few days in May
and sure enough, the polar inscape
brought about some easier poems,
which I guessed was a good thing. At least
some of us were relaxed, Steamboat Bill included.

He didn’t drink nothing.
It was one thing
to be ready for their challenge, quite another to accept it.
Read Poem
0
39
Rating:

By Guess and by Gosh
O awaken with me
the inquiring goodbyes.
Ooh what a messy business
a tangle and a muddle
(and made it seem quite interesting).

He ticks them off:
leisure top,
a different ride home,
whispering, in a way,
whispered whiskers,
so many of the things you have to share.

But I was getting on,
and that’s what you don’t need.
Read Poem
0
39
Rating:

Dramedy
Things I left on your paper:
one of the craziest episodes that ever overtook me.
Do you like espionage? A watered charm?
My pod cast aside, I’ll walk in the human street,
protect the old jib from new miniseries.

I could swear it moved
in incomplete back yards
to endorse the conversation, request to be strapped in.
Then it will be time to take the step
giving fragile responses,
and finally he wrote the day.

It happened in the water
so that was nice.
Read Poem
0
40
Rating:

A Worldly Country
Not the smoothness, not the insane clocks on the square,
the scent of manure in the municipal parterre,
not the fabrics, the sullen mockery of Tweety Bird,
not the fresh troops that needed freshening up. If it occurred
in real time, it was OK, and if it was time in a novel
that was OK too. From palace and hovel
the great parade flooded avenue and byway
and turnip fields became just another highway.
Read Poem
0
42
Rating:

This Room
The room I entered was a dream of   this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of   a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.

We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
Read Poem
0
36
Rating:

Anticipated Stranger,
the bruise will stop by later.
For now, the pain pauses in its round,
notes the time of day, the patient’s temperature,
leaves a memo for the surrogate: What the hell
did you think you were doing? I mean . . .
Oh well, less said the better, they all say.
I’ll post this at the desk.

God will find the pattern and break it.
Read Poem
0
39
Rating:

Crossroads in the Past
That night the wind stirred in the forsythia bushes,
but it was a wrong one, blowing in the wrong direction.
“That’s silly. How can there be a wrong direction?
‘It bloweth where it listeth,’ as you know, just as we do
when we make love or do something else there are no rules for.”

I tell you, something went wrong there a while back.
Just don’t ask me what it was. Pretend I’ve dropped the subject.
No, now you’ve got me interested, I want to know
Read Poem
0
41
Rating:

Hotel Lautréamont
1.
Research has shown that ballads were produced by all of society
working as a team. They didn’t just happen. There was no guesswork.
The people, then, knew what they wanted and how to get it.
We see the results in works as diverse as “Windsor Forest” and “The Wife of Usher’s Well.”

Working as a team, they didn’t just happen. There was no guesswork.
The horns of elfland swing past, and in a few seconds
we see the results in works as diverse as “Windsor Forest” and “The Wife of Usher’s Well,”
Read Poem
0
42
Rating:

How to Continue
Oh there once was a woman
and she kept a shop
selling trinkets to tourists
not far from a dock
who came to see what life could be
far back on the island.

And it was always a party there
always different but very nice
Read Poem
0
38
Rating:

If You Said You Would Come With Me
In town it was very urban but in the country cows were covering the hills. The clouds were near and very moist. I was walking along the pavement with Anna, enjoying the scattered scenery. Suddenly a sound like a deep bell came from behind us. We both turned to look. “It’s the words you spoke in the past, coming back to haunt you,” Anna explained. “They always do, you know.”
Indeed I did. Many times this deep bell-like tone had intruded itself on my thoughts, scrambling them at first, then rearranging them in apple-pie order. “Two crows,” the voice seemed to say, “were sitting on a sundial in the God-given sunlight. Then one flew away.”
“Yes . . . and then?” I wanted to ask, but I kept silent. We turned into a courtyard and walked up several flights of stairs to the roof, where a party was in progress. “This is my friend Hans,” Anna said by way of introduction. No one paid much attention and several guests moved away to the balustrade to admire the view of orchards and vineyards, approaching their autumn glory. One of the women however came to greet us in a friendly manner. I was wondering if this was a “harvest home,” a phrase I had often heard but never understood.
“Welcome to my home . . . well, to our home,” the woman said gaily. “As you can see, the grapes are being harvested.” It seemed she could read my mind. “They say this year’s vintage will be a mediocre one, but the sight is lovely, nonetheless. Don’t you agree, Mr. . . .”
“Hans,” I replied curtly. The prospect was indeed a lovely one, but I wanted to leave. Making some excuse I guided Anna by the elbow toward the stairs and we left.
“That wasn’t polite of you,” she said dryly.
“Honey, I’ve had enough of people who can read your mind. When I want it done I’ll go to a mind reader.”
“I happen to be one and I can tell you what you’re thinking is false. Listen to what the big bell says: ‘We are all strangers on our own turf, in our own time.’ You should have paid attention. Now adjustments will have to be made.”
Read Poem
0
49
Rating:

Sleepers Awake
Cervantes was asleep when he wrote Don Quixote.
Joyce slept during the Wandering Rocks section of Ulysses.
Homer nodded and occasionally slept during the greater part of the Iliad; he was awake however when he wrote the Odyssey.
Proust snored his way through The Captive, as have legions of his readers after him.
Melville was asleep at the wheel for much of Moby-Dick.
Fitzgerald slept through Tender Is the Night, which is perhaps not so surprising,
but the fact that Mann slumbered on the very slopes of The Magic Mountain is quite extraordinary—that he wrote it, even more so.
Kafka, of course, never slept, even while not writing or on bank holidays.
Read Poem
0
43
Rating:

This Room
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.

We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
Read Poem
0
38
Rating:

Boundary Issues
Here in life, they would understand.
How could it be otherwise? We had groped too,
unwise, till the margin began to give way,
at which point all was sullen, or lost, or both.

Now it was time, and there was nothing for it.

We had a good meal, I and my friend,
slurping from the milk pail, grabbing at newer vegetables.
Yet life was a desert. Come home, in good faith.
You can still decide to. But it wanted warmth.
Otherwise ruse and subtlety would become impossible
in the few years or hours left to us. “Yes, but . . .”
The iconic beggars shuffled offtoo. I told you,
once a breach emerges it will become a chasm
Read Poem
0
40
Rating:

El Dorado
We have a friend in common, the retired sophomore.
His concern: that I shall get it like that,
in the right and righter of a green bush
chomping on future considerations. In the ghostly
dreams of others it appears I am all right,
and even going on tomorrow there is much
to be said on all these matters, “issues,” like
“No rest for the weary.” (And yet—why not?)
Feeling under orders is a way of showing up,
but stepping on Earth—she’s not going to.
Ten shades of pleasing himself brings us to tomorrow
evening and will be back for more. I disagree
with you completely but couldn’t be prouder
and fonder of you. So drink up. Feel good for two.

Read Poem
0
44
Rating:

Leave the Hand In
Furthermore, Mr. Tuttle used to have to run in the streets.
Now, each time friendship happens, they’re fully booked.
Sporting with amaryllis in the shade is all fine and good,
but when your sparring partner gets there first
you wonder if it was all worth it. “Yes, why do it?”
I’m on hold. It will take quite a lot for this music
to grow on me. I meant no harm. I’ve helped him
from getting stuck before. Dumb thing. All my appetites are friendly.
Children too are free to go and come as they please.
I ask you only to choose between us, then shut down this election.
But don’t reveal too much of your hand at any given time.
Then up and pipes the major, leave the hand in,
or change the vows. The bold, enduring menace of courtship is upon us
like the plague, and none of us can say what trouble
will be precipitated once it has had its way with us.
Read Poem
0
32
Rating:

Uptick
We were sitting there, and
I made a joke about how
it doesn’t dovetail: time,
one minute running out
faster than the one in front
it catches up to.
That way, I said,
there can be no waste.
Waste is virtually eliminated.

To come back for a few hours to
the present subject, a painting,
looking like it was seen,
half turning around, slightly apprehensive,
but it has to pay attention
Read Poem
0
35
Rating:

And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name
You can’t say it that way any more.
Bothered about beauty you have to
Come out into the open, into a clearing,
And rest. Certainly whatever funny happens to you
Is OK. To demand more than this would be strange
Of you, you who have so many lovers,
People who look up to you and are willing
To do things for you, but you think
Read Poem
0
42
Rating:

The Bungalows
Impatient as we were for all of them to join us,
The land had not yet risen into view: gulls had swept the gray steel towers away
So that it profited less to go searching, away over the humming earth
Than to stay in immediate relation to these other things—boxes, store parts, whatever you wanted to call them—
Whose installedness was the price of further revolutions, so you knew this combat was the last.
And still the relationship waxed, billowed like scenery on the breeze.

They are the same aren’t they,
The presumed landscape and the dream of home
Read Poem
0
48
Rating:

... by an Earthquake
A hears by chance a familiar name, and the name involves a riddle of the past.
B, in love with A, receives an unsigned letter in which the writer states that she is the mistress of A and begs B not to take him away from her.
B, compelled by circumstances to be a companion of A in an isolated place, alters her rosy views of love and marriage when she discovers, through A, the selfishness of men.
A, an intruder in a strange house, is discovered; he flees through the nearest door into a windowless closet and is trapped by a spring lock.
A is so content with what he has that any impulse toward enterprise is throttled.
A solves an important mystery when falling plaster reveals the place where some old love letters are concealed.
A-4, missing food from his larder, half believes it was taken by a “ghost.”
A, a crook, seeks unlawful gain by selling A-8 an object, X, which A-8 already owns.
Read Poem
0
51
Rating:

Chinese Whispers
And in a little while we broke under the strain:
suppurations ad nauseam, the wanting to be taller,
though it‘s simply about being mysterious, i.e., not taller,
like any tree in any forest.
Mute, the pancake describes you.
It had tiny roman numerals embedded in its rim.
It was a pancake clock. They had ’em in those days,
always getting smaller, which is why they finally became extinct.
Read Poem
0
55
Rating:

Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape
The first of the undecoded messages read: “Popeye sits in thunder,
Unthought of. From that shoebox of an apartment,
From livid curtain’s hue, a tangram emerges: a country.”
Meanwhile the Sea Hag was relaxing on a green couch: “How pleasant
To spend one’s vacation en la casa de Popeye,” she scratched
Her cleft chin’s solitary hair. She remembered spinach

And was going to ask Wimpy if he had bought any spinach.
“M’love,” he intercepted, “the plains are decked out in thunder
Read Poem
0
36
Rating:

Glazunoviana
The man with the red hat
And the polar bear, is he here too?
The window giving on shade,
Is that here too?
And all the little helps,
My initials in the sky,
The hay of an arctic summer night?

The bear
Read Poem
0
36
Rating:

The Instruction Manual
As I sit looking out of a window of the building
I wish I did not have to write the instruction manual on the uses of a new metal.
I look down into the street and see people, each walking with an inner peace,
And envy them—they are so far away from me!
Not one of them has to worry about getting out this manual on schedule.
And, as my way is, I begin to dream, resting my elbows on the desk and leaning out of the window a little,
Of dim Guadalajara! City of rose-colored flowers!
City I wanted most to see, and most did not see, in Mexico!
Read Poem
0
49
Rating:

Last Month
No changes of support—only
Patches of gray, here where sunlight fell.
The house seems heavier
Now that they have gone away.
In fact it emptied in record time.
When the flat table used to result
A match recedes, slowly, into the night.
The academy of the future is
Read Poem
0
42
Rating:

Like a Sentence
How little we know,
and when we know it!

It was prettily said that “No man
hath an abundance of cows on the plain, nor shards
in his cupboard.” Wait! I think I know who said that! It was . . .

Never mind, dears, the afternoon
will fold you up, along with preoccupations
that now seem so important, until only a child
Read Poem
0
49
Rating:

My Erotic Double
He says he doesn’t feel like working today.
It’s just as well. Here in the shade
Behind the house, protected from street noises,
One can go over all kinds of old feeling,
Throw some away, keep others.
The wordplay
Between us gets very intense when there are
Fewer feelings around to confuse things.
Read Poem
0
47
Rating:

The Painter
Sitting between the sea and the buildings
He enjoyed painting the sea’s portrait.
But just as children imagine a prayer
Is merely silence, he expected his subject
To rush up the sand, and, seizing a brush,
Plaster its own portrait on the canvas.

So there was never any paint on his canvas
Until the people who lived in the buildings
Read Poem
0
34
Rating:

Paradoxes and Oxymorons
Highlight Actions Enable or disable annotations
Read Poem
0
41
Rating:

Pyrography
Out here on Cottage Grove it matters. The galloping
Wind balks at its shadow. The carriages
Are drawn forward under a sky of fumed oak.
This is America calling:
The mirroring of state to state,
Of voice to voice on the wires,
The force of colloquial greetings like golden
Pollen sinking on the afternoon breeze.
Read Poem
0
37
Rating:

Rivers and Mountains
On the secret map the assassins
Cloistered, the Moon River was marked
Near the eighteen peaks and the city
Of humiliation and defeat—wan ending
Of the trail among dry, papery leaves
Gray-brown quills like thoughts
In the melodious but vast mass of today’s
Writing through fields and swamps
Read Poem
0
46
Rating:

Soonest Mended
Barely tolerated, living on the margin
In our technological society, we were always having to be rescued
On the brink of destruction, like heroines in Orlando Furioso
Before it was time to start all over again.
There would be thunder in the bushes, a rustling of coils,
And Angelica, in the Ingres painting, was considering
The colorful but small monster near her toe, as though wondering whether forgetting
The whole thing might not, in the end, be the only solution.
Read Poem
0
39
Rating:

Street Musicians
One died, and the soul was wrenched out
Of the other in life, who, walking the streets
Wrapped in an identity like a coat, sees on and on
The same corners, volumetrics, shadows
Under trees. Farther than anyone was ever
Called, through increasingly suburban airs
And ways, with autumn falling over everything:
The plush leaves the chattels in barrels
Read Poem
0
43
Rating:

Syringa
Orpheus liked the glad personal quality
Of the things beneath the sky. Of course, Eurydice was a part
Of this. Then one day, everything changed. He rends
Rocks into fissures with lament. Gullies, hummocks
Can’t withstand it. The sky shudders from one horizon
To the other, almost ready to give up wholeness.
Then Apollo quietly told him: “Leave it all on earth.
Your lute, what point? Why pick at a dull pavan few care to
Read Poem
0
51
Rating:

The Tennis Court Oath
What had you been thinking about
the face studiously bloodied
heaven blotted region
I go on loving you like water but
there is a terrible breath in the way all of this
You were not elected president, yet won the race
All the way through fog and drizzle
When you read it was sincere the coasts
Read Poem
0
44
Rating:

These Lacustrine Cities
These lacustrine cities grew out of loathing
Into something forgetful, although angry with history.
They are the product of an idea: that man is horrible, for instance,
Though this is only one example.

They emerged until a tower
Controlled the sky, and with artifice dipped back
Into the past for swans and tapering branches,
Burning, until all that hate was transformed into useless love.
Read Poem
0
42
Rating:

Vetiver
Ages passed slowly, like a load of hay,
As the flowers recited their lines
And pike stirred at the bottom of the pond.
The pen was cool to the touch.
The staircase swept upward
Through fragmented garlands, keeping the melancholy
Already distilled in letters of the alphabet.

It would be time for winter now, its spun-sugar
Read Poem
0
44
Rating:

Late Echo
Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
Read Poem
0
38
Rating: