Friday, February 18, 2011

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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