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Heading Out

John Ashbery, 4 December 2014

... A single drop fills the rainbow glass. The fountain overflows. How come the purr and passing of this every night arrives at stealth? Just – be prepared. If it happens every day around this time it happens more than twice. I’d wager this one has nothing in it. So’s your old man. We get called out often on all kinds of suspicious business, he decried ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 18 May 2000

... Not You Again Thought I’d write you this poem. Yes, I know you don’t need it. No, you don’t have to thank me for it. Just want to kind of get it off my chest and drop it in the peanut dust. You came at me and that was something. I was more than a match for you, you were a match for me, we undid the clasps in our shirtings, it was a semblance of all right ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 20 January 2000

... Pale Siblings Cheerio. Nothing on the shore today. Far out to sea, some eczema mimicking sunlight and shadow, with but temporary success. Was it for wandering that I have been punished? Or was it another plot of the siblings, Always anxious to torment, to twist my hair into witches’ brooms, with no inherent power? Remember they love you like powder in the air, and it wouldn’t take them long at all ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 25 November 1999

... The Gods of Fairness The failure to see God is not a problem God has a problem with. Sure, he could see us if he had a hankering to do so, but that’s not the point. The point is his concern for us and for biscuits. For the loaf of bread that turns in the night sky over Stockholm. Not there, over there. And I yelled them what I had told them before ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 6 March 2014

... A Breakfast Radish Whatever we’re dealing with catches us in mid-reconsideration. It’s beautiful, my lord, just not made to be repeated, that’s all. Counterterrorists have already invaded parts of England and Spain. Your action dollar at work. Deception figures in quite a few precious things, although, as I say, it’s a small remnant of what others have achieved to avoid being singed ...

Three Poems

John Ashbery, 27 August 2009

... Idea of Steve Too bad I have this idea of him based on someone else, named Matt (another uncluttered name), whom I disliked for no reason other than having once thought he misprised me, which I didn’t really believe. (Whew!) This is getting complicated, like always. Let’s leave Steve at the wellhead of a dream, where he belongs, and belongs also to others who will make fun of him and gradually come to despise themselves for doing so ...

Sir Gammer Vans

John Ashbery, 11 July 2002

... Last Sunday morning at six o’clock in the evening as I was sailing over the tops of the mountains in my little boat a crewcut stranger saluted me, so I asked him, could he tell me whether the little old woman was dead yet who was hanged last Saturday week for drowning herself in a shower of feathers? ‘Ask Monk Lewis what he thinks “been there done that” means in the so-called evening of life ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 22 August 2002

... I Asked Mr Dithers Whether It Was Time Yet He Said No to Wait Time, you old miscreant! Slain any brontosauruses lately? You – Sixty wondering days I watched him navigate the alkali lick, always a little power ebbing, streaming from high windowsills. Down here the tetched are lonely. There’s nothing they can do except spit. We felt better about answering the business letter once the resulting hubris had been grandfathered in, slowly, by a withered sage in clogs and a poncho vast as a delta, made of some rubbery satinlike material ...

Etudes Second Series

John Ashbery, 8 March 2012

... A cloud blew up and like that: OK fun’s fun but we’ve got issues, to wait until tomorrow. At least that’s what I heard, a kind of rushing as of water over steep slabs. More ants to fry. I was placed on administrative leave, you had to be there, nevertheless it sucked, went back years. No one could find the original copy, there were bats in the belfry ...

A Voice from the Fireplace

John Ashbery, 2 August 2012

... Like a wind-up denture in a joke store fate approaches, leans quietly. Let’s see … There was moreover meaning in the last clause, meaning we couldn’t equate from what was happening to us down the block. We approached with some hesitancy: Let ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would.’ Wasn’t it April? Weren’t things more likely to last in this or any season? Rhymes we like ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 30 September 1999

... Hierarchy of the Unexpected There is still something I’d like to explain, yet can’t be sure I’m ready yet. Beside, we’ve done pretty well with the non-sequiturs, and they by us, don’t you think? Next time I recognise one I’ll call you, but will you hear me? Will I suddenly find myself alone in some glade or dell (it scarcely matters which) from which I’ll have a time extricating myself? Let’s not waste time worrying about needless necessities, though ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 31 July 2008

... Planisphere Mysterious barricades, a headrest (of sorts), boarded the train at Shinjuku junction to the palpable consternation of certain other rubberneckers already installed in the observation car of their dreams. ‘It’s so peaceful on my pallet. I could just live here.’ In a second the deadbeat returned with lunch tokens. It had been meant to be sublime, but hell was what it more specifically resembled ...

The Winemakers

John Ashbery, 5 November 2009

... It wasn’t meant to stand for what it stood for. Only a puptent could do that. Besides, we were in a state called New York, where only bees made sense. Those who were with us were not with us and deserved a spanking. Others, looking out over the bay’s mild waters could barely distinguish a message made of logs: ‘Return to the frontier or all is lost, though in time some may reap the benefit and glory of a frozen attitude ...

Three Poems

John Ashbery, 19 February 2004

... Composition We used to call it the boob tube, but I guess they don’t use tubes anymore. Whatever, it serves a small purpose after waking and before falling asleep. Today’s news – but is there such a thing as news, or even history? Yes, when you want to go back after a while and appraise the accumulation of leaves, say, in the sandbox. The rest is rented depression, available only in season and the season is always next month, a pure but troubled time ...

Disagreeable Glimpses

John Ashbery, 22 March 2001

... After my fall from the 16th floor my bones were lovingly assembled. They were transparent. I was carried into the gorgeous dollhouse and placed on a fainting couch upholstered with brilliant poppies. My ship had come in, so to speak. There were others, lovers, sitting and speaking nearby. ‘Are you the Countess of C?’ I demanded. She smiled and returned her gaze to the other ...

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