Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Musica Reservata by John Ashbery


Musica Reservata

Then I reached the field and I thought 
this is not a joke not a book 
but a poem about something—but what? 
Poems are such odd little jiggers. 
This one scratches himself, gets up, then goes off to pee 
in a corner of the room. Later looking quite 
stylish in white jodhpurs against the winter 
snow, and in his reluctance to talk to the utterly 
discursive: “I will belove less than feared ...”

He trotted up, he trotted down, he trotted all around the town. 
Were his relatives jealous of him? 
Still the tock-tock machinery lies half-embedded in sand. 
Someone comes to the window, the wave is a gesture proving nothing, 
and nothing has receded. One gets caught 
in servants like these and must lose the green leaves, 
one by one, as an orchard is pilfered, and then, with luck, 
nuggets do shine, the baited trap slides open. 
We are here with our welfare intact.

Oh but another time, on the resistant edge of night 
one thinks of the pranks things are. 
What led the road that sped underfoot 
to oases of disaster, or at least the unknown? 
We are born, buried for a while, then spring up just as 
everything is closing. Our desires are extremely simple: 
a glass of purple milk, for example, or a dream 
of being in a restaurant. Waiters encourage us, and squirrels. 
There’s no telling how much of us will get used.

My friend devises the cabbage horoscope 
that points daily to sufficiency. He and all those others go home. 
The walls of this room are like Mykonos, and sure enough, 
green plumes toss in the breeze outside 
that underscores the stillness of this place 
we never quite have, or want. Yet it’s wonderful, this 
being; to point to a tree and say don’t I know you from somewhere? 
Sure, now I remember, it was in some landscape somewhere, 
and we can all take off our hats.

At night when it’s too cold 
what does the rodent say to the glass shard? 
What are any of us doing up? Oh but there’s 
a party, but it too was a dream. A group of boys 
was singing my poetry, the music was an anonymous 
fifteenth-century Burgundian anthem, it went something like this:

“This is not what you should hear, 
but we are awake, and days 
with donkey ears and packs negotiate 
the narrow canyon trail that is 
as white and silent as a dream, 
that is, something you dreamed. 
And resources slip away, or are pinned 
under a ladder too heavy to lift. 
Which is why you are here, but the mnemonics 
of the ride are stirring.”

That, at least, is my hope.

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