“America the Lovely”


In Memoriam

John Ashbery. Photo: Lynn Davis


This week, in memory of our longtime contributor John Ashbery, we bring you a selection of his poems from our archive.

America the Lovely

If it’s loveliness you want, here, take some,
hissed the black fairy. Waiting for the string quartet,
on the corner, denatured I wondered what the heck.
I’ll have some too. They call it architecture,
I was told. Anything to sift the discerning
from the mob-capped mob, their stiffened frightwigs
marching against the breeze improbably back
into colonial dreams and days. See that polecat?
He’s yours, if you want it. Only be careful what you ask for,
she warned. Here in hither Tartarus we have names
for jerks like you. Flustered, I released the emergency brake,
turned to warn the approaching others.

This was the real thing:
The flash comes handily, signs of its musing scattered next day
like hoar-frost. The glittering, the of-two-minds
pause to share a winter pear and notes on decomposition
glued to the door of the fridge.
Was it for this we journeyed so far
by prairie schooner from reassuring Pennsylvania?
Believe the nights are bleak now,
though perhaps no more than our earliest attempts
at love poetry in a house across the street.
Pagans do combat with other pagans,
men with two hyphenated names block access
to the embarcadero.
Palinodes charm our hearing
as new strictures emerge in the ruckus, belike, betimes.

Then it too went away.