another myself

What is it now with me
And is it as I have become?
Is there no state free from the boundary lines
Of before and after? The window is open today

And the air pours in with piano notes
In its skirts, as though to say, “Look, John,
I’ve brought these and these” – that is,
A few Beethovens, some Brahamses,

A few choice Poulenc notes… Yes,
It is being free again, the air, it has to keep coming back
Because that’s all it’s good for.
I want to stay with it out of fear

That keeps me from walking up certain steps,
Knocking on certain doors, fear of growing old
Alone, and of finding no one at the evening end
Of the path except another myself

Nodding a curt greeting: “Well, you’ve been awhile
But now we’re back together, which is what counts.”
Air in my path, you could shorten this,
But the breeze has dropped, and silence is the last word.

~ John Ashbery, Fear of Death

2 comments

  1. Thanks Jesse for posting this. I'd forgotten about it (though I think it's in Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror). Lovely, all the things Ashbery does with the “air” in this poem.

    Like

  2. Michael, good to *see* you here.
    I have my 1975 Penguin edition at hand, replete with embarrassing annotations [I was 21 when first infatuated with Ashbery's surrealism-he has changed significantly].
    I haven't kept current with his work; my re-reading of Self-Portrait and Houseboat Days is occasioned by the imminent arrival of A Wave, so thank you for the prod to revisit a fantastic [and fantastical] writer.

    Like

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