Dec. 29, 2004: IN THOSE DAYS (John Ashbery)

Dear readers,

This is the first day I’m back at work since the high holidays, so it’s
like a Monday to me. I hope everyone had a good time with their families
and/or lovers and/or friends and/or pets and/or roommates and/or neighbors
and/or the guy that runs the convenice store. Me, I had fun with all
seven. And have a safe and happy new year! Remember: Friends don’t let
friends call me after 2 am EST.

So now let us conclude our American Masters trilogy with a reading from
the book of John. Ashbery. John Ashbery–Pulitzer Prize winner, National
Book Award winner, New York Book Critics Circle Award winner, winner,
winner, winner. I actually made that last one up, but seriously, he’s won
lots of things, not the least of which is the hearts of the MV readership
with an early (circa 1997) entry of "Paradoxes and Oxymorons." Enjoy this
new one.

IN THOSE DAYS

Music, food, sex, and their accompanying
tropes like a wall of light at a door
once splattered by laughter

come round to how YOU like it–
was it really you that approved?
And if so what does the loneliness
in all this mean? How blind are we?

We see a few feet into our future
of shrouded lots and ditches.
Surely that way was the long one
to have come. Yet nobody

sees anything wrong with what we’re doing,
and how we came to discuss it, here, with the wind
and the sun sometimes slanting.
You have arrived at this step, and the way down

is paralyzing, though this is the lost
youth I remember as being O.K., once.
Got to shuffle, even if it’s only the sarcasm
of speech that gets lost, while the blessed
sense of it bleeds through,

open to all kinds of interpretations.

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