"It's about words, and words are all I have…"



You’re probably covered with a tarpaulin now

Laying in state in the back of a flatbed truck

On your way to Rochester   You lived with your

physicist grandfather there   I quoted you in my

1st Collection  In the poem: Deny Deny Deny  on

page 75


I tried each thing  only some were immortal and free


I didn’t really understand your poetry at first

John Ashbery   But then it dawned on me  that if

I stopped trying to read for meaning  I would glean

your code    The human mind craves knowing


Knowing if there is a jaguar in the bushes  restless for

my sprackled skin + plump calves  (no they are not)

I will make a boney breakfast  +he will have to eat my

shrunken brother too


You died yesterday at 90  so now your poetry about the:

experience of the experience  has died too   They say there

are zillions of pretenders to your throne   But I footnoted

you   And though I may steal from Shakespeare outright

Never you   (except for today’s title which I bastardized)


My own self portrait is in the midst of a make-over John

Soul about to do back flips after scunnered by so much grief

New face almost unrecognizable   Especially when in the throes

of denial re: a recurring dream  of some 50+ years    One is

tempted not to go there   but much more tempted to


My husband has developed a fondness for our nanny    In the

emptiness of late afternoon   And has left me   She is now having

their 3rd baby   And when I awake +tell him this  there is an interest

He says: After I read your poems I am always a bit puzzled


Later when I drive by the café where he was to have been   I think of

John Ashbery  scrunched into the interstices between heaven+earth

His dark trousers + silver hair  full of dirt   And of how we will all have

to get along without each other now



Easing the thing

Into spurts of activity

Before the emptiness of late afternoon

Is a kind of will power

Blaring back its received vision

From a thousand tenement windows

Just before night

Its signal fading


No one has the last laugh.


(RIP  John Ashbery   Self Portait In A Convex Mirror  1975)

(PulitzerPrize   National Book Award   National Book Critics Award

Griffin Poetry Prize)



Fall  2017







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