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John Ashbery

Street Musicians [by birthday boy John Ashbery]

Ashbery
One died, and the soul was wrenched out   
Of the other in life, who, walking the streets   
Wrapped in an identity like a coat, sees on and on   
The same corners, volumetrics, shadows   
Under trees. Farther than anyone was ever   
Called, through increasingly suburban airs   
And ways, with autumn falling over everything:   
The plush leaves the chattels in barrels   
Of an obscure family being evicted
Into the way it was, and is. The other beached   
Glimpses of what the other was up to:
Revelations at last. So they grew to hate and forget each other.

So I cradle this average violin that knows   
Only forgotten showtunes, but argues
The possibility of free declamation anchored
To a dull refrain, the year turning over on itself   
In November, with the spaces among the days   
More literal, the meat more visible on the bone.   
Our question of a place of origin hangs
Like smoke: how we picnicked in pine forests,
In coves with the water always seeping up, and left   
Our trash, sperm and excrement everywhere, smeared   
On the landscape, to make of us what we could.

John Ashbery, “Street Musicians” from Houseboat Days. 
Copyright © 1987, 1979 by John Ashbery.

Astrological fact: Ashbery, a  July Leo with Virgo rising, and a lot of Virgo in his chart, outraged the astrological community by ending his poem “The Skaters” with these lines:

The constellations are rising
In perfect order:
Taurus, Leo, Gemini

From John Ashbery as Icon by Jonathan Walker:  <<< “By placing Leo ahead of Gemini, as if the world went from May to August and then back to June, Ashbery either (a) deliberately  subverted the natural “order,” (b) questioned the concept of “perfection” when related to the heavens (or any force outside of human agency),  or (c) exhibited an aloof indifference to fact, thus showing that (a) ignorance of esoteric matters is not a liability, or (2) one was entitled to disregard the Vietnam War as a subject even if good citizenship requires that one “brush the teeth” and all that. >>

Asked to comment, Ashbery recommended the Kirby cocktail at Trestle on Tenth, on 10th Ave and 24th St. The recipe consisted of “gin (Plymouth, I think), sweet vermouth (I think), cucumber juice (I think) made from kirby cucumbers, which are now in season--they're the small, pickle-like ones, Cynar aperitif (it's an Italian brand, made from artichokes), and orange bitters, which proved very difficult to find.  Maybe you could have one at the bar there to (a) see if you like it, and (b) coax the recipe out of the bartender (though they didn't seem very secretive about it).”


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October 07, 2019

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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