Thursday evening, September the 19th, I decided at the last minute to go hear John Ashbery at the public library. There was a long line to get in, but once inside I made my way to the front, wanting to film the poet. Not a bad profile to begin with; although he vanishes from sight at one point, you can hear him loud and clear. Words To That Effect was the first poem he read.

The drive down was smooth
but after we arrived things started to go haywire,
first one thing and then another. The days
scudded past like tumbleweed, slow then fast,
then slow again. The sky was sweet and plain.
You remember how still it was then,
a season putting its arms into a coat and staying unwrapped
for a long, a little time.

It was during the week we talked about deforestation.
How sad that everything has to change,
yet what a relief, too! Otherwise we’d only have
looking forward to look forward to.
The moment would be a bud
that never filled, only persevered
in a static trance, before it came to be no more.

We’d walked a little way in our shoes.
I was sure you’d remember how it had been
the other time, before the messenger came to your door
and seemed to want to peer in and size up the place.
So each evening became a forbidden morning
of thunder and curdled milk, though the invoices
got forwarded and birds settled on the periphery.

© 2012, John Ashbery
From: Quick Question
Publisher: Ecco / Harper Collins, New York, 2012

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