John Ashbery

Ah, the farts
we used to let back then.
Flatulence was a kind of way
of life, I guess.

Sitting around doing nothing
was another one.
It’s a burden, all right,
in an elegant apartment
overlooking the Seine.

The pilgrim’s stare
pierces you like a sharpened goose quill.
You look down along a day,
these spoons still recognize us
but the groundhog has gone under his hill.

Now there will be no one to play with
when we come out in groups, after four,
until evening’s parachute settles on us
like a pinkish-gray mushroom.
You must empty your pockets
of everything, including sand
and screw-fragments. Now I think
it’s going better, but uphill.
We must join the orchestra.

Could travel posters have been
more delirious? Colors of breadfruit and ice cubes,
salt and bourbon. A railroad trestle
in a faintly “cubistic” style
so you can see the other train approaching
from its bed of spruces…

The rain livens things up, at last.
Downtown is perky, though overbuilt
off the face of the planet.
Here is where a sea serpent unrolls
and devours the city.
Miraculously we are all inside its belly
in a cathedral
with windows aglint—it must be Christmas
if you say so.

(I didn’t.) Jerking away
from the land is all that’s possible
for us for the time being.
I like you in lacquer.
You are going to have to love me in gypsum.
But the pointed roofs under their dusting
of talc have not made it to the frontier.

We sit beside a stone and grieve for them.

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