Two Prose Poems

John Ashbery

A Linnet

It crossed the road so as to avoid having to greet me. ‘Poor thing but mine own,’ I said, ‘without a song the day would never end.’ Warily the thing approached. I pitied its stupidity so much that huge tears began to well up in my eyes, falling to the hard ground with a plop. ‘I don’t need a welcome like that,’ it said. ‘I was ready for you. All the ladybugs and the buzzing flies and the alligators know about you and your tricks. Poor, cheap thing. Go away, and take your song with you.’

Night had fallen without my realising it. Several hours must have passed while I stood there, mulling the grass and possible replies to the hapless creature. A mason still stood at the top of a ladder repairing the tiles in a roof, by the light of the moon. But there was no moon. Yet I could see his armpits, hair gushing from them, and the tricks of the trade with which he was so bent on fixing that wall.

The Bobinski Brothers

‘Her name is Liz, and I need her in my biz,’ I hummed wantonly. A band of clouds all slanted in the same direction drifted across the hairline horizon like a tribe of adults and children, all hastening toward some unknown destination. A crisp pounding. Done to your mother what? Are now the ... And so you understand it, she ... I. Once you get past the moralising a new winter twilight creeps into place. And a lot of guys just kind of live through it? Ossified soup, mortised sloop. Woody has the staff to do nothing. You never know what. That’s what I think. Like two notes of music we slid apart, far from one another’s protective jealousy. The old cat, sunning herself, had no problem with that. Nor did the diaphanous trains of fairies that sagged down from a sky that suggested they had never been anywhere, least of all there. At the time we had a good laugh over it. But it did hurt. It still does. That’s what I think, he slapped.