For John Clare

John Ashbery

 
Kind of empty in the way it sees everything, the earth gets to its feet and
        salutes the sky. More of a success at it this time than most
        others it is. The feeling that the sky might be in the back of someone's
        mind. Then there is no telling how many there are. They grace
        everything--bush and tree--to take the roisterer's mind off his
        caroling--so it's like a smooth switch back. To what was aired in
        their previous conniption fit. There is so much to be seen everywhere
        that it's like not getting used to it, only there is so much it
        never feels new, never any different. You are standing looking at that
        building and you cannot take it all in, certain details are already hazy
        and the mind boggles. What will it all be like in five years' time
        when you try to remember? Will there have been boards in between the
        grass part and the edge of the street? As long as that couple is
        stopping to look in that window over there we cannot go. We feel like
        they have to tell us we can, but they never look our way and they are
        already gone, gone far into the future--the night of time. If we could
        look at a photograph of it and say there they are, they never really
        stopped but there they are. There is so much to be said, and on the
        surface of it very little gets said.
        
There ought to be room for more things, for a spreading out, like.
        Being immersed in the details of rock and field and slope --letting them
        come to you for once, and then meeting them halfway would be so much
        easier--if they took an ingenuous pride in being in one's blood.
        Alas, we perceive them if at all as those things that were meant to be
        put aside-- costumes of the supporting actors or voice trilling at the
        end of a narrow enclosed street. You can do nothing with them. Not even
        offer to pay.
        
It is possible that finally, like coming to the end of a long,
        barely perceptible rise, there is mutual cohesion and interaction. The
        whole scene is fixed in your mind, the music all present, as though you
        could see each note as well as hear it. I say this because there is an
        uneasiness in things just now. Waiting for something to be over before
        you are forced to notice it. The pollarded trees scarcely bucking the
        wind--and yet it's keen, it makes you fall over. Clabbered sky.
        Seasons that pass with a rush. After all it's their time
        too--nothing says they aren't to make something of it. As for Jenny
        Wren, she cares, hopping about on her little twig like she was tryin'
        to tell us somethin', but that's just it, she couldn't
        even if she wanted to--dumb bird. But the others--and they in some way
        must know too--it would never occur to them to want to, even if they
        could take the first step of the terrible journey toward feeling
        somebody should act, that ends in utter confusion and hopelessness, east
        of the sun and west of the moon. So their comment is: "No comment."
        Meanwhile the whole history of probabilities is coming to life, starting
        in the upper left-hand corner, like a sail.
 
From The Mooring of Starting Out: The First Five Books of Poetry, by John Ashbery, published by The Ecco Press. Copyright 1956 by John Ashbery. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

Alcove by John Ashbery
Is it possible that spring could be
At North Farm by John Ashbery
Bells II by John Ashbery
For just as a misunderstanding germinates
Daffy Duck In Hollywood by John Ashbery
Something strange is creeping across me.
Elective Infinities by John Ashbery
Thirsty? They race across ampersands
Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape by John Ashbery
The first of the undecoded messages read: "Popeye sits in thunder,
Instead of Losing by John Ashbery
Anyone, growing up in a space you hadn't used yet
Into the Dusk-Charged Air by John Ashbery
Far from the Rappahannock, the silent
Love in Boots by John Ashbery
Our first assignment was to make a square
Meaningful Love by John Ashbery
What the bad news was
Mottled Tuesday by John Ashbery
Something was about to go laughably wrong
My Philosophy of Life by John Ashbery
Just when I thought there wasn't room enough
Robin Hood's Barn by John Ashbery
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror [MS excerpt] by John Ashbery
Some Trees by John Ashbery
These are amazing: each
Syringa by John Ashbery
Orpheus liked the glad personal quality
The New Higher by John Ashbery
You meant more than life to me. I lived through
The Plural of Jack-in-the-Box by John Ashbery
How quiet the diversion stands


Further Reading

Related Poems
For Aaron Sheon
by Judith Vollmer