Monday, September 4, 2017

Our Pleated Longevity Mimics Us, or: Rest in Peace


John Ashbery

Only those who actively dislike poetry didn’t like him. The others could care less. There were too many other things to worry about, like is my licence expired yet? Fortunately there were a few in-between, those who school themselves to take an interest in everything, which is not to say they’re not truly, deeply interested in the things that matter most. To them he was a special case, something to take home and place on the library table, and talk about. To them he was truly unique, like the first in what would become a memorable series.
Mostly these were opera lovers, lovers of all opera, whether by Verdi, Wagner, Gluck or Puccini. They adored this category, which to them was almost as a false religion, something that would have repercussions later but now we are enjoying it with no regrets, like a freshly cooked fish. And so he got off lightly, amid the ceremony of unsnapping pyramid-folded dinner napkins and making conversation about trivial subjects, the better to enjoy the illicit feast that was rolling down the rails toward them. ‘You’ll be my fancy, won’t you?’ Yes indeed, once I polish off this ephemeral morsel. Then we’ll all be more or less part of the conversation, which will lead to enlightenment.
Not so fast, though. He was raising himself, like a pudding on a platter. ‘You guys know where you are? I’m trying to figure out what in hell’s going on. So is he too,’ he added, waving his fork at the piebald host, who pressed a napkin to his exquisite lip.
‘No need to panic, folks. Our friend is but the first in a series that may well turn out to be infinite, if past experience is any indicator.’
The clock is running over, and an octopus wears my wallet now.


Here's his recent birthday post with lots of poems and links to more.
Lot's of poems from London Review of Books.
More poems here from the New York Times.
The NYT obit.
Ashbery interviewed.
More to come......



John Ashbery

Like a forest fire in a jungle
with no one to watch it, this sea breeze
releases me to the cloud of knowing.
There are beaters in the woods,
nourishing it, and you’re it,
reciting it. The long scramble upstairs
landed us here. There is no method
in the alphabet; the urchin came unseated.
You have to learn to ‘bounce’
with the ages, just to keep up with time.
By then it will have been censored,
bleached from an autumn of folly.
In time we were twins, grew apart,
felt the centennial dawning.
There was nowhere to turn
and nobody to turn to.
To have ‘landed’ requires skills
we knew nothing of in our era,
yet their musicianly acts accompany us,
push us out of doors, into late summer’s clamour.
Now our pleated longevity mimics us.
We should have been nicer, talked to children
and their pets. To draw the tapestry aside
at this late date is to shuffle with fools
and clergymen, though there is one more thankless
task to claim and be influenced by:
the credible flight of footfall plays and calls.
These not any more for our adornment:
talking to new rulers and insight gained,
sunflowers over and out,
ashes on the clapboard credenza.



John Ashbery

Weather drips quietly through the skeins
in my diary. What surly elision is this?
Who faxed the folks news of my homecoming,
even unto the platform number? The majestic parlor car
slides neatly into its berth, the doors fly open,
and it’s Jean and Marcy and all the kids, waving pink plastic pinwheels,
chomping on popcorn. Ngarrrh. You know I adore ceremony,
even while refusing to stand on it, but this, this is too inane.
And the cold anonymity of the station takes over,
reins in the crowds that were sifting to the furthest exits. No one is here.
Now I know why I’ve always hated the tango, yet loved the intimacy
secreted in its curls. And for this to continue, we’ve got to
get together, renew old saws, let old grudges ride ...
Later I’m posting this to you.
I just thought of you, you see, as indeed I do
several million times a day. I need your disapproval,
can’t live without your churlish ways.

1 comment:

  1. speaking of conversation, which will lead to enlightenment -

    and also of god will find the pattern, and break it -

    over the weekend i read an interview with ilia delio, a theologian much influenced by teilhard de chardin, who considers how our view of life, the universe, and everything might be influenced by taking into account what we know scientifically of the size, age, and constant change in the cosmos

    she stated

    But we can only really attain this aim of unity and love if we are conscious of being in evolution. Without it, we will be on the downward spiral of devolution, where things fragment and fall apart. I see devolution as a real possibility and counter force to evolution. The human species could devolve but I do not think human devolution will thwart God’s ultimate plan in Christ. We can annihilate ourselves, even destroy the earth. But there is an indestructible element of life at the heart of this universe—divine Love—and because it is the heart, life will evolve anew, even from the ashes of history. So, yes, we can destroy human life and the planet, but I don’t think the evolutionary universe itself will be destroyed. Evolution will struggle to go forth in a new way.

    as i told missus charley, a thought that has crossed my mind in recent years is that human beings may destroy technological civilization, or even make ourselves extinct as a species - but it's a big universe, and even if we mess things up here, there are lots of other planets where Knowledge and Love have a chance of reaching their full potential

    on that cheerful note, may peace be with us all