Morning in Runnemede
I want a rec room near a field,
a producer’s home studio, where I can cut
album-length LPs for trash and treasure.
Hammer and shimmer and cardboard and glue.
Mix and master a mountain,
a mountain of magazines, surround
sound movie houses, man-o-live, not House Music,
but the house shaking; the roof on fire too.
The neighborhood dogs howling
with the volunteer sirens,
and all other high frequencies.
And everyone else just mad.
I’ll chart the baseball season, soccer and basketball,
from another field, and ask more adventures
in the painted pines of Cranbury, NJ.
Motorcyclists on riverfront. “Two Tickets to Paradise,”
across parking lot.
Decade of the Corner Deli. June’s coming fast.
Tell whatever story you want
all I know is my dad said hustle.
Ambition meant something else altogether.
One thousand wrong answers: what we knew.
A gift economy would have been nice.
But even now I’d take a single sentence
that swings, something
in the pocket —
what things may come.
And Jack and Jackie too,
enough. Alack, no kind act
to go unpunished.
Grandmother said, “Watch out.”
Are quotes necessary? Not really,
and she never could have said all
I have her saying; though she did
have one refrain I loved — “Don’t get old.”
That was it. And out of the house now.
String of strip malls, strip clubs,
Roger Wilko discount liquor stores, diners —
New Jersey that’s more than its tropes
and its straighten-up and starched-right State Troopers.
Looking good, Sgt!
We swept into teams —
Uniforms vs. the Uniforms.
Some new glitch-hitter foaming
outside the fence.
Forget Second Base. Forget the Outfield,
or even the Bench.
How about the trumpet or clarinet?
The marching band queers.
Save my fucking life. “Boys Don’t Cry,”
unless with all your heart
and a heady sense
of what to wear, a way to order
or at least we prized New Order.
No succor for the soccer suckers;
though I had a pair of black MITERS.
And Village Thrift so frikkin cheap!
Whitman’s Camden Co. on the scorecard, tucked
into a nook of the future.
Still under spell of some blocky letters
scrawled in a trembling hand, a sign taped
to soda machine spelled out: OUT OF ORDER.
How it turned out is the wrong thing
to ask. Turn in your badge:
OK, another bit job in the dust, the local
pharmacy shrink-wrapped pallet.
The spider plant was a horror, yet what do you do
if you’re a cascading horror? Be a filter, or
own your ugly.
Your best and worst days were a book,
yet late in the game that one friend appeared
from nowhere — the thin air.
His basement full of Verve Records in crates.
September and March are beginning again.
So drop the script for your screenplay and release
your hands, they must be bare —
and must choose, meaning a life. Come closer,
a long pause.
“We’re all just walking each other home.”
One good voice in your head;
living off the air,
400 No Shows. When everything else is spent —
throw your body there. Down by law
and all your drowned-out calls.
Throw your body at the mark again. It’s dangerous
to close your eyes
for too long, quoth the brute image.
Not an intersection, but a series
of circles moving out from that town that continues
to roll through everything — the nearby noise
of a fight song, a wild marching band of memory.
By late morning the traffic is thinning to a tilt, though soon
will be monstrous again. Think tea, drink coffee.
The light’s green: take the side road out.
John Ashbery and the arts
Thomas Devaney Marcella Durand