2016年3月11日 星期五

From “Spring Day,” “Flow Chart,” poems by John Ashbery

The Paris Review

Spring Day
by John Ashbery
The immense hope, and forbearance
Trailing out of night, to sidewalks of the day 
Like air breathed into a paper city, exhaled
As night returns bringing doubts
That swarm around the sleeper’s head
But are fended off with clubs and knives, so that morning
Installs again in cold hope
The air that was yesterday, is what you are,
In so many phases the head slips form the hand.
The Paris Review is a literary magazine featuring original writing, art, and in-depth interviews with famous writers.

“and then it’s back to work again, more work, lots of it”

The Paris Review is a literary magazine featuring original writing, art, and in-depth interviews with famous writers.


from Flow Chart

John Ashbery
The madhouse statuary seemed to dispel the pre-life
      we gave it.
in sleep, to become the one bauble rescued from that
      hoard, whose shapes
no one now will know. It cannot be said they existed.
surely there was life, once in those seams, life the
      daughters of the iron teeth
of time gave it, and swallows flew over it. One might
      say, casually,
that there was variation in it, that there was texture.
      More, though,
one still couldn’t say. Yet one day the sanitation
      department decreed
it was coming through, a nice day in May with the
      usual blossoms, though these
were only accessories, having no bearing on the tale or
its context, petal-like, in fact, like a cat’s nose, but the
happened by just then and told them to stop it. They
      went away and someone,
a bushy-haired man, came back and said it was OK,
      they could keep on doing it
if they wanted to, but not to say he said so, but that it
      was OK.
I long meanwhile for the confines of any other
      principality, but can’t abandon
working even if I wanted to, it’s like play to me
      though I get no pleasure from it
except pausing at odd moments to watch the rill for a
      few seconds,
and then it’s back to work again, more work, lots of
      it, and the pollution
attendant on it, like Hebe to the rainbow’s gauzy
      showers, or web, and I
can’t stand on tradition nor beside it. Here it suits
      me, boys, to turn
over a new leaf like a chunk of recalcitrant granite. I
      know no other gadfly
who berates me so much; I love it; the woman came
      back to say she was in the way
and would we go away please it was four o’clock. Not
      on your life thundered the
hangman, and so it became a kind of ritual, then a
      game, and every day
someone came to ask after the stone, and someone
      would stand up to say
it has gone away, go lose yourself in studies or the
more none can say. He just came up that day,
had a look round, and left. We aren’t even sure
we saw him. It could have been wildflowers in the
or stray ashes in the grate, no more. Then the bird
      came back and shat
on the stone, and that proved it was there for awhile,
      but somehow
that got forgotten and we were thrust out of doors to
      play in the rain
and sleet, and somebody got hold of the key, we
      entered, and presto, no one
was there, it was a different room, another empty one
too, and had
obviously been vacated pretty recently. A smell of
hung in the front hall. OK, I said, we must press on to
      the last house
they were seen in in the next block. The green
      cement one. But my
companions whispered why, let’s ditch him at the first
      opportunity, no
let’s not even wait that long, which is why I came
      across the lawn bruised
and moist, and trembling with pity to be let in, and
      you came
and let me in. Nowhere did I have anything to say
      again, but that
was not noticed until yesterday, too late to have us do
      anything about it.
One source said it was the tulips, against the nice
      gesture to be led and fed
and have others shut up about it. But one said, you
      can’t have that
and not condone the listless others who don’t know
      yet they’re walking
in your tracks and will be sorry when they find out,
      but another man joined
the woman and said you could too talk about it, it was
      just a subject
and therefore forgotten, i.e. dead. And Joan she said
too it was like being dead only she didn’t care, she
      might as well be anyway, for all
she cared, and then someone came back with beef.
      And said here
put a rose on this, you’re not afraid, you do it, and
      someone said, O if the law
decree it he must do it. So the one went in and the
      others stayed out and waited.
And if you’re not going to do it, and if it’s none of
      your business, why are
you going to do it, the first one said, to which that
      one said: begone. You are my
business in any case and it behooves me not to be in
      the shadow of you
while I wait. And then one who came from a great
      distance said, why does it suit you
to be ornery, if others cannot join the general
      purgative exodus, to which that one inside
said, and so it becomes you, if it become you. And
      then in the shade they put their heads
together, and one comes back, the others being a little
      way off, and says, who
do you think taught you to disobey in the first place?
      And he says, my father.
And at that they were all struck dumb
And left that place falling all over each other
in their haste to get away, and it was all over for that
But another day came and the rice was still laying
on the ground, next to the dust ball. And one took it
      up, saying,
this is all that shall be till I get back from my trip.
And the others were amused because he had never
      mentioned a trip before,
but he spat at them, saying, you are too powerful now
      for my injunction to take hold,
but just wait till the others see you in my chamois
      costume, because if you think it’s too late
now what will you think when it has gotten really out
      of hand
like a vine that grows and grows and cannot stop
      growing, or a fire
deep in a coal mine that burns for centuries before
      anyone can do anything
about it. So he stepped down at last. And the others,
and unrecognizable, concurred that something
      extraordinary had taken place and that there
was nothing to be done about it. And so he went

Love that lasts a minute like a filter
on a faucet, love that is always like headlights in the
      glistening dark, heed
the pen’s screech. Do no read what is written. In
it too shall become incoherent but for the time being
      it is good
just to tamper with it and be off, lest someone see
      you. And when this veil
of twisted creeper is parted, and the listing tundra is
behind it, say why you had come to say it: the
      divorce. The no reason, as
the plane dives up into the sky and is lost. All that
      one had so carefully polished
and preserved, arranged in rows, boasted modestly to
      the neighbors about,
is going and there is nothing, repeat nothing, to take
      its place. Only should we
wander a bit and then return without expectations,
      does some faint impulse twitch at its
base before expiring, and a lesbian truth rise up for a
      post-mortem arrangement
until the rabble of the skies cries and all is assumed to
      be productive.
Get your ass out of here. But it is time
to work again, but a sad, a tragic time, a time of
and vast snowbanks, and so
you put on your hat backwards and decipher it again
      dutifully; it’s the home stretch
but dare I say more before you think it’s time to go
      and they think so
but they say only, is no more time to stay here, in any
      case we would have gone
if we knew where to go, but we have a place to go,
      so we will go there. And behind
the barn it behooves us again to take up the principle,
      so like the art
of tragedy and so unlike, and so we let it rest
      carefully, and someone says
he would like to be off, and the others agree, it
      ignites a general stampede
before the clock closes down. In the old corners of
      why the situation
was ever allowed to come into existence in the first
      place, the nasal whining
is first heard, then perturbed groans and idle retreats
      into shuttered
middle distances and auxiliary alcoves. Aw, shucks,
seems to be repeating, we could stay here all night if
      we wanted to
but that couldn’t bring the child back into being, and
      I say, I suppose so.
One’s gone for some grants. Be back
when the coal trestle is finished, and idle
against the apricot lamé of the distance here. And
      boys I know
the distance between your empty bellies and the jobs
      that will not fill them,
but I still maintain you are better here, but better off
      far from here
where the choo-choo whistles and a deadly white
      wind stoops to take a few prisoners,
where we shall be pleasant once the future has had its
      way with us. And you know,
he said, sure, that’s the way to hell and its
      conundrums if that’s the way
you want to go, and they all said we know, we are
      going that way
cautiously approved of in the introduction, only it
      seems so full of asperities now.
And he said that’s they way it was, it was a tangle and
      will never be anything
more than a diagram pointing you in a senseless
      direction toward yourself.
Sure, they come with snacks you have foreseen,
but that doesn’t excuse you for having been caught in
      this place. And they all said
giddyap, let’s go on to the next
place on the side, for having won, and being here to
      count up our winnings, which are
surely all right with us. Watch it, he said.

So the initial exuberance departed. But that was all
      right, because surely
the beginning of a festival is a nice place to be, if it’s
      Asia, and more hogs
were brought down. But when he saw the hogs, the
      owner of the grain elevator was angry
and went out. Now, there were two others who were
      there. And they were
each determined to get what was coming to them.
      The master returning, said OK boys,
never let it be said you didn’t ask for it. And in that
       moment a fuzz of bloom
was on them. Each spring the desert comes alive with
      birds and flowers,
a breathtaking view at the foot of the framed
      Superstition Mountains,
reported home of the Lost Dutchman Mine with its
      still undiscovered caches of gold.
And all around it is fine too. The mineral springs I
      wanted so much to exploit—what
does any of it matter now, now that I have found my
      home in a narrow cleft
stained with Indian paintbrush and boar’s blood, from
      which an avenue eventually leads
to the flatter, more civilized places I have no quarrel
      with either. After all,
we have to go in once or twice a month to pick up
      supplies, the few
articles we don’t grow such as coffee, to which I’m
      still addicted by the way, and
records too from a local music shop, which are
      important to have—no man
needs to live by his own law in the wilderness after
      all, but even if he is going
to try it is best not to let the old world slip too
      casually. Rather it should come about
naturally, without too much fuss or horn tooting. And
      then, by and by, if he sees
he likes it, why then there is always time to make
      such decisions later on as regards
one’s insurance, and such, and peter out from
      there—trickle accurately
into the sand so that each drop is utilized to the max,
      and then we’ll see
how the desert is improving—only “improve” is a
      word I don’t want to use too much
either. For after all everything is good of its kind to
      start with. It’s all a
question only of finding out what the kind is and
      letting the thing ferment
in its own bile for a few decades. By then
it should become apparent to whomever has been
      watching how much the land owes us,
and how we re-distribute it wisely, if only we ever
      stop to think about it. Don’t
you agree? I mean, don’t you see the silhouetted
      foothills too? How bland and discordant,
yet after all how deeply satisfying in one’s rage—and
      then too the pods fall off
all at once eventually, and must rot
if the seeds are to get into the ground, providing they
      are still alive and haven’t rotted too.
So in all ways I think it’s a question of a man
      coming—he had
a chicken or something on his arm. And when he
      arrived, the expected salutation
rang out like a shot; people took cover. I don’t mean
I did, though, I stood up to him, just like a man, the
      man I was, or is, and he, he just
looked back at me, kind of funny and defiant-like, but
      he wuz saying nothing.
Too smart for that.