Oct 22, 2012 Paradoxes and Oxymorons

Well, the comments have been made, the invitation sent… I can no longer avoid a “cut and paste” job, and re-printing this MV classic, first printed 15 years ago, down to the month. How many of us were there then–12? 20? The research department here at MV tells me the latest known publication was 6 years ago, again to the month, October 9, 2006. Reading today’s poem for the first time was like total infatuation, but it hasn’t faded much: I’ve been going back to the well of John Ashbery throughout these years. Please take a moment to enjoy one of his most lucid, concise, and lyrical statements. -ed

PARADOXES AND OXYMORONS
This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there.
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

-1980
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