Tuesday, June 21, 2005

First Day of Summer

From The Last Avant-Garde: "On one occasion Ashbery summed up their [Ashbery’s and Kenneth Koch’s] differing approaches to poetic closure. You 'put a simile in the last line as a sort of sculptor’s last loving pat,' Ashbery observed…, 'whereas I try to erect a smokescreen near the end of my poems so I can withdraw unperceived—I never like to be around for the last line.'"

Summer by John Ashbery

There is that sound like the wind
Forgetting in the branches that means something
Nobody can translate. And there is the sobering “later on,”
When you consider what a thing meant, and put it down.

For the time being the shadow is ample
And hardly seen, divided among the twigs of a tree,
The trees of a forest, just as life is divided up
Between you and me, and among all the others out there.

And the thinning-out phase follows
The period of reflection. And suddenly, to be dying
Is not a little or mean or cheap thing,
Only wearying, the heat unbearable,

And also the little mindless constructions put upon
Our fantasies of what we did: summer, the ball of pine needles,
The loose fates serving our acts, with token smiles,
Carrying out their instructions too accurately—

Too late to cancel them now—and winter, the twitter
Of cold stars at the pane, that describes with broad gestures
That state of being that is not so big after all.
Summer involves going down as a steep flight of steps

To a narrow ledge over the water. Is this it, then,
This iron comfort, these reasonable taboos,
Or did you mean it when you stopped? And the face
Resembles yours, the one reflected in the water.

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