Friday, July 22, 2016

Deactivating the Napoleon Emergency Alert System


John Ashbery

Not the smoothness, not the insane clocks on the square,
the scent of manure in the municipal parterre,
not the fabrics, the sullen mockery of Tweety Bird,
not the fresh troops that needed freshening up. If it occurred
in real time, it was OK, and if it was time in a novel
that was OK too. From palace and hovel
the great parade flooded avenue and byway
and turnip fields became just another highway.
Leftover bonbons were thrown to the chickens
and geese, who squawked like the very dickens.
There was no peace in the bathroom, none in the china closet
or the banks, where no one came to make a deposit.
In short all hell broke loose that wide afternoon.
By evening all was calm again. A crescent moon
hung in the sky like a parrot on its perch.
Departing guests smiled and called, "See you in church!"
For night, as usual, knew what it was doing,
providing sleep to offset the great ungluing
that tomorrow again would surely bring.
As I gazed at the quiet rubble, one thing
puzzled me: What had happened, and why?
One minute we were up to our necks in rebelliousness,
and the next, peace had subdued the ranks of hellishness.

So often it happens that the time we turn around in
soon becomes the shoal our pathetic skiff will run aground in.
And just as waves are anchored to the bottom of the sea
we must reach the shallows before God cuts us free.

1 comment:

  1. Nice they came back. I need an Alert System™ that when activated will impel the return of: (A) Portions of my right leg; (B) An old girlfriend, now living in Eurp; (C) The bottle of Crown Royal, with blue-and-white paper seal, "Property (of) U.S. Navy Stores - 1935", broken in the Loma Prieta 'quake of '89; (D) An abiding sense of safety, curiosity, and wonder; or (E) All of the above.