Created Spaces: John Ashbery's Textual and Domestic Environments
by Joshua Pelletier
with special thanks to David Bush
click on images to enlarge
“Late Echo” (from As We Know)
Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.
Beehives and ants have to be reexamined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.
Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.
“Sleeping in the Corners of Our Lives” (from As We Know)
So the days went by and the nickname caught on.
It became a curiosity, but it wasn’t curious.
Afternoon leaves blew against the stale brick
Surface. Just an old castle. Enjoy it
While you’re here. And in looking for a more convenient way
To save one’s soul, one is led up to it like a season,
And in looking all around, and about, its tome
Becomes legible in the interstices. A great biography
That is also a good autobiography, at the station;
A honeycomb of pages with listings
Of the tried and true, that radiates
Out into what is there, that averages up as wind,
And settles back into a tepid, modest
Chamber with its mouse-gray furniture, its redundant pictures.
This is tall sleeping
To prepare you for the soup and the ruins
In giving the very special songs of the first meaning,
The ones incorporating the changes.
“As We Know” (from As We Know)
All that we see is penetrated by it—
The distant treetops with their steeple (so
Innocent), the stair, the windows’ fixed flashing—
Pierced full of holes by the evil that is not evil,
The romance that is not mysterious, the life that is not life,
A present that is elsewhere.
And further in the small capitulations
Of the dance, you rub elbows with it,
Finger it. That day you did it
Was the day you had to stop, because the doing
Involved the whole fabric, there was no other way to appear.
You slid down on your knees
For those precious jewels of spring water
Planted on the moss, before they got soaked up
And you teetered on the edge of this
Calm street with its sidewalks, its traffic,
As though they are coming to get you.
But there was no one in the noon glare,
Only birds like secrets to find out about
And a home to get to, one of these days.
The light that was shadowed then
Was seen to be our lives,
Everything about us that love might wish to examine,
Then put away for a certain length of time, until
The whole is to be reviewed, and we turned
Toward each other, to each other.
The way we had come was all we could see
And it crept up on us, embarrassed
That there is so much to tell now, really now.
“This Room” (from Your Name Here)
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.
We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
You are not even here.
AS WE KNOW by John Ashbery. Copyright © 1979 by John Ashbery.
YOUR NAME HERE by John Ashbery. Copyright © 2000 by John Ashbery.
Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc., on behalf of the author.
Rain Taxi Online Edition, Summer 2008 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2008