“Plainness in Diversity”


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.

Plainness in Diversity

Silly girls your heads full of boys
There is a last sample of talk on the outer side
Your stand at last lifts to dumb evening
It is reflected in the steep blue sides of the crater
So much water shall wash over these our breaths
Yet shall remain unwashed at the end. The fine
Branches of the fir tree catch at it, ebbing.
Not on our planet is the destiny
That can make you one.

To be placed on the side of some mountain
Is the truer story, with the breath only
Coming in patches at first, and then the little spurt
The way a steam engine starts up eventually.
The sagas purposely ignore how better off it was the next day,
The feeling in between the chapters, like fins.
There is so much they must say, and it is important
About all the swimming motions, and the way the hands
Came up out of the ocean with original fronds,
The famous arrow, the girl who came at dawn
To pay a visit to the young child, and how, when he grew up to be a man
The same restive ceremony replaced the limited years between
Only now he was old, and forced to begin the journey to the sun.