Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The cakes that were served

All across Europe a partial eclipse
is checking in: Unsudden surprise
and its sister, weary impatience,
mark the flow once the sluices
have been opened a little. Then it just goes,
an impromptu horizon clipped to it.

I ask what is special about this helix, if
indeed anything is. Can you see it, 
its difference, distinguish among halftones,
fugitive tints, measure the rising level
even as it suffocates us? Time was
it all seemed like a party, even work
before the workers were expelled for the day.
Dreams were positive heaven then, not just
framed pictures for the sleeper's instruction
and, yes, delight.

                  So if the mercury plummets
again, as it's supposed to tonight, what shred
of blanket will you deem sufficient for the occasion,
dread or ecstasy, or just wanting to be covered?

A low-grade fever installs itself.
These were dancers once, with faces
and senses of humor. Which of course wasn't
too much to ask, and so she came through smiling,
good-natured to the end. The cakes that were served - 
is there a record of those? Or leaves collected
in the hollow of a stump, something one
would wish to have included in the reckoning
even if it was never going to be reckoned,
or small sail breasting the apparent tide,
on and out of the forever harbor, just this once?

John Ashbery
  A Worldly Country
  Autumn Tea Leaves
Harper Collins, 2007

iii  Photo Laurent
        Russian sailor below decks, San Francisco
        Leica M-6, 50mm Summicron, 1/30 sec.

No comments:

Post a Comment