Two Poems

John Ashbery

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The passionate are immobilised.
The case-hardened undulate over walls
of the library, in more or less expressive poses.
The equinox again, not knowing
whether to put the car in reverse
or slam on the brakes at the entrance
to the little alley. Seasons belong
to others than us. Our work keeps us
up late nights; there is no more joy
or sorrow than in what work gives.
A little boy thought the raven on the bluff
was a winged instrument; there is so little
that gives and says it gives. Others
felt themselves ostracised by the moon.
The pure joy of daily living became impacted
with the blood of fate and battles.
There’s no turning back the man says,
the one waiting to take tickets at the top
of the gangplank. Still, in the past
we could always wait a little. Indeed,
we are waiting now. That’s what happens.

The New Higher

You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.

Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am half in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.