John Ashbery

Readings in Contemporary Poetry

John Ashbery

The American

It’s dull, no realism. A no-color. To what
formlessness have we committed? How I am
fond of it blew off the pensive boarder
hunkered amid lilacs, a hoverer, as meat loves salt.
Such scenes are not at all uncommon in this 
world of decent gin, this midden whose ungodly
stench plunders all inserts of a keepable diary.

Why do they call them stones?
Swapping and cheating are as a labor of love
for all concerned. I try to read some sense
into the minutes but am usually rebuffed,
as scorched linen yells at the ironing board’s 
syllabus of intrigue. Sooner or later 
we send them packing, and they leave us—it’s
so simple? Don’t you love it? Ask later whether
we and they were loved. Someone should know. In 150, 160 years
they’ll be beholden, you bet. And not knowing what 
those others want has all along been a jiffy.
The shelf’s cancelled.

Then I became as one who followed.
From the Adriatic to the Antarctic, my footsteps cast
incredibly long shadows, though that’s not for you to macerate.
Or masticate. I who matriculated am perhaps
to be a lover unto you
through the unabated storm’s portholes—dear, we’re
here because he asked us to wait some more.

© 2000 John Ashbery