John Ashbery |
What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is not name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them.
Just walking around,
An object of curiosity to some,
But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much and wander around,
Smiling to yourself and others.
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting.
Counterproductive, as you realize once again
That the longest way is the most efficient way,
The one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
And now that the end is near
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there and mystery and food.
Come see it.
Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.
David Lehman |
Light rain is falling in Central Park
but not on Upper Fifth Avenue or Central Park West
where sun and sky are yellow and blue
Winds are gusting on Washington Square
through the arches and on to LaGuardia Place
but calm is the corner of 8th Street and Second Avenue
which reminds me of something John Ashbery said
about his poem "Crazy Weather" he said
he was in favor of all kinds of weather
just so long as it's genuine weather
which is always unusually bad, unusually
good, or unusually indifferent,
since there isn't really any norm for weather
When he was a boy his mother met a friend
who said, "Isn't this funny weather?"
It was one of his earliest memories
John Ashbery |
The first of the undecoded messages read: "Popeye sits
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
To spend one's vacation en la casa de Popeye," she
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
Today, and it shall be as you wish.
" He scratched
The part of his head under his hat.
Seemed to grow smaller.
"But what if no pleasant
Inspiration plunge us now to the stars? For this is my
Suddenly they remembered how it was cheaper in the country.
Wimpy was thoughtfully cutting open a number 2 can of spinach
When the door opened and Swee'pea crept in.
But Swee'pea looked morose.
A note was pinned to his bib.
And tears are unavailing," it read.
Be but remembered space, toxic or salubrious, whole or
Olive came hurtling through the window; its geraniums scratched
Her long thigh.
"I have news!" she gasped.
"Popeye, forced as
you know to flee the country
One musty gusty evening, by the schemes of his wizened,
duplicate father, jealous of the apartment
And all that it contains, myself and spinach
In particular, heaves bolts of loving thunder
At his own astonished becoming, rupturing the pleasant
Arpeggio of our years.
No more shall pleasant
Rays of the sun refresh your sense of growing old, nor the
Tree-trunks and mossy foliage, only immaculate darkness and
She grabbed Swee'pea.
"I'm taking the brat to the country.
"But you can't do that--he hasn't even finished his spinach,"
Urged the Sea Hag, looking fearfully around at the apartment.
But Olive was already out of earshot.
Now the apartment
Succumbed to a strange new hush.
"Actually it's quite pleasant
Here," thought the Sea Hag.
"If this is all we need fear from
Then I don't mind so much.
Perhaps we could invite Alice the Goon
One dug pensively--"but Wimpy is such a country
Bumpkin, always burping like that.
" Minute at first, the thunder
Soon filled the apartment.
It was domestic thunder,
The color of spinach.
Popeye chuckled and scratched
His balls: it sure was pleasant to spend a day in the country.
More great poems below...
John Ashbery |
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?
Drops dead in sight of the window.
Lovely tribes have just moved to the north.
In the flickering evening the martins grow denser.
Rivers of wings surround us and vast tribulation.
David Lehman |
Did you know that Evian spelled backwards is naive?
I myself was unaware of this fact until last Tuesday night
when John Ashbery, Marc Cohen, and Eugene Richie
gave a poetry reading and I introduced them
to an audience that already knew them,
and there were bottles of Evian at the table.
As air to the lungs of a drowning man was
a glass of this water to my dry lips.
I recommend it
to you, a lover of palindromes, who will also
be glad to learn that JA read us three "chapters"
of his new poem, "Girls on the Run," a twelve-
part saga inspired by girls' adventure stories, with
characters named Dimples and Tidbit plus Talkative and
Hopeful on loan from "Pilgrim's Progress.
As Frank O'Hara would have said, "it's the nuts.
The poets' books were on sale and afterwards
two of the poets signed theirs happily and the third
did so willingly and Joe took photos and I smiled
for the camera, shaking hands with people
I knew or didn't know and thinking how
blessed was the state of naivete
my naive belief in the glory of the word
David Lehman |
Wisteria, hysteria is as obvious a rhyme
as Viagra and Niagara there must be a reason
honeymooners traditionally went to the Falls
which were, said the divine Oscar,
an American bride's second biggest disappointment
tell me which do you like better,
the American Falls or the Horseshoe Falls,
I say the Horseshoe Falls, Joe says,
because its magnificence surpasses the American Falls
thank you, Joe, and did you know
when Casey Stengel managed the Yankees
he sat next to Bob Cerv on the bench one day,
put his arm around the big outfielder, and said,
"One of us has just been traded to Kansas City"
I don't know what put that in my mind
except that it backs up Michael Malinowitz's line
about John Ashbery being the Casey Stengel of poetry
meanwhile the Yankees are playing like the Bronx Bombers of old
and though I used to hate the Yankees I'm just enough
of a New York chauvinist to feel gleeful about it
wait a minute I'll be right back I am back that's
another line I've always wanted to put in a poem
what it will say on Johnny Carson's gravestone
"I'll be right back"