(incorporating a poem by John Ashbery)
No comfort in the dead wind
And its loud philosophizing;
The glumly repeated eyelets
Tease me with hushed reproach,
And snores of my friends and lovers
Tell me “last night was just that.”
Ah, solitary night! Except for my goofball
Baby next to me — no snoring there, not yet,
But that won’t matter amid the irregular
Screams tomorrow morning. It’s weird how upsetting
Extreme calm can be; it won’t let you think:
The rumpus of natural silence, the frenzy
Of immobility, not like last night
When the woods burbled, and fire crackled
That is now still as a still photograph.
I still have to undress. What is goofball
Thinking — dreaming that his absent-minded Mama
Is humping his cradle? Surely something close to home.
I used to stare at that photograph for signs
But they pointed only to what had been, not to
Getting out of my lovely bed next morning, when the bells
Sing of the amusement park’s opening, or my going down
To redistribute my joy, even pretending to take
My schoolbook seriously, which I can barely see
Through my tears; also zipping up my mother’s back,
Waiting for the unknown person who will take me away.
Beloved Goofball! You fill in my voids.
You’d better like this place, with its firs and fish,
Not like my Manhattan where the only landscape’s in the sky
(And in worn municipal parks): before I was twenty
I never saw a redbud with its leafless purple flowers,
All that stuff out there adds up; you have to think,
Out there is better than the dream in your head,
Than the dreamers in the ministry of fear;
But don’t forget that we are a vulnerable lot
With death by slaughter, fire, or frost hanging over us,
About whom judgments will be made at high tables
To no doubt become our only trace.
John Ashbery and the arts
Thomas Devaney Marcella Durand