Saturday, October 14, 2017

dear john

(A poem for John Ashbery)

Let me begin by saying I find you incredibly frustrating.

(This line will be removed in later iterations of the poem,
but will ultimately return because it is accurate,
though not true. I’m still deciding). So many things
said and each phrase untethered or tenuous.

What if I aspired to the same dense offhandedness?
Nibbling at the edges of something bigger
than poetry, less than poeisis, when
I would wish to dine.
A passage of some sort and
this is the vessel we are building.
Did you know that poet means maker?
Seeing your collages helped me see your poetry,
though not more clearly.

I’m tired of chasing after your strays, picking up their shit in little plastic bags.

They say you were a beautiful singer.
Well, okay – that’s not true, but I could believe that
you were enthusiastic. Your guests brought wine to the banquet
and drank it all, too. I hear tell there was a lovely burgundy.

Go ahead. The seats aren’t assigned. And weren’t you invited? Please join us.
Don’t be alarmed. We have always been this drunk and disorderly.
But not really. There was that time you spilled your drink on your date
and there was no going back at that point.

There must be a way to navigate this but I haven’t the map.
I turned left when you should have turned right. You are my true north.
Everything is better with Rosario Dawson.
I keep turning left when I should be turning
right. Whose failure?

And what’s with all the birds? Shivering, delicate wings. All
hummingbirds will fit in the palm of your hand. Even a small child’s hand.

When reading one of your poems, we sing together.
I try listening to the parts. I really do.
I try listening to the parts, how the tone shifts
and glistens like rain on the road at night as the lights reach onward,

Once more the lash. How one faces the storm. Whether
it bruises or braces. If I might take your hand. Let’s agree
to disagree with a firm handshake.

Sentences keep running akimbo, unleashed. Language
angles in and you choose whether to bend the knee.
One must ever decide how one surrenders.
I suppose it’s time.

Go ahead. Let the dogs out.