John Ashbery

John Ashbery

Parallel Movement of the Hands (1)

Don’t put me on the desk.
I was afraid I was going to die very soon,
on a paper spree. Any nice person will
die very shortly. It doesn’t really fit.
A missing dog or donkey (registered)
does the American state police talk show
no favors, just as in the past you coaxed
belligerent sweetness from the hedge and then
it was gone. Color? Why no color?
What did you expect from the microtonal
overlap of minutes? And then when it
did stand up, it was like nothing you ever imagined.

There was an unshapely tuft where the chimes rang
and forever after it was solid wall.
nothing so became it as its tiresome
leave-taking. We were all pretty much
dispatched to our different sectors when the truth
happened, and bombed yet again.

What registers no vibration can’t
expect to be named a consequence
or co-respondent if the peaceful enemy is really
coming back to engage the shares that were laid down
ages ago and are now indistinguishable
from gaps in the truth. See here,
it seems to say, this is consequence
(though inconsequential) and all of what was first
only by dreaming itself into position.

It’s funny about dreams; they
happen pretty much everywhere. That’s why
you can’t ever be sure you’re in one,
or out of it; why the rules of assembly
never apply to you in the present, only later
when the color of time being is finished anyway.

This poem is published with the permission of Carcanet Press. Excerpted from Parallel Movement of the Hands: Five Unfinished Longer Works (Carcanet, 2021).

JOHN ASHBERY was an American poet who published more than 20 books, the most recent of which, Parallel Movement of the Hands: Five Unfinished Longer Works (Carcanet, 2021), collects five long, serial poems which the poet left unfinished and will become part of his archive at Harvard University’s Haughton Library.