Poem Beginning with a Line by John Ashbery

Jealousy.  Whispered weather reports.
The lure of the land so strong it prompts
gossip: we chatter like small birds
at the edge of the ocean gray, foaming.

Now sand under sand hides
the buried world, the one in which our fathers failed,
the palm frond a dangerous truth
they once believed, and touched.  Bloodied their hands.

They once believed.  And, touched, bloodied their hands;
the palm frond, a dangerous truth;
the buried world, the one in which our fathers failed.
Now sand under sand hides

at the edge of the ocean: gray, foaming
gossip.  We chatter like small birds,
the lure of the land so strong it prompts
jealousy.  Whispered weather reports.

More by Randall Mann

?

is only something on which to hang
your long overcoat; the slender snake asleep
in the grass; the umbrella by the door;

the black swan guarding the pond.
This ? has trouble in mind: do not ask
why the wind broods, why the light is so unclean.

It is summer, the rhetoric of the field,
its yellow grasses, something unanswerable.
The dead armadillo by the roadside, indecent.

Who cares now to recall that frost once encrusted
the field? The question mark—cousin to the 2,
half of a heart—already has begun its underhanded inquiry.

September Elegies

          in memory of Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, and Tyler Clementi

There are those who suffer in plain sight,
there are those who suffer in private.
Nothing but secondhand details:
a last shower, a request for a pen, a tall red oak.

There are those who suffer in private.
The one in Tehachapi, aged 13.
A last shower, a request for a pen, a tall red oak:
he had had enough torment, so he hanged himself.

The one in Tehachapi, aged 13;
the one in Cooks Head, aged 15:
he had had enough torment, so he hanged himself.
He was found by his mother.

The one in Cooks Head, aged 15.
The one in Greensburg, aged 15:
he was found by his mother.
"I love my horses, my club lambs. They are the world to me,"

the one in Greensburg, aged 15,
posted on his profile.
"I love my horses, my club lambs. They are the world to me."
The words turn and turn on themselves.

Posted on his profile,
"Jumping off the gw bridge sorry":
the words turn, and turn on themselves,
like the one in New Brunswick, aged 18.

Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.
There are those who suffer in plain sight
like the one in New Brunswick, aged 18.
Nothing but secondhand details.

End Words

        in memory of Reetika Vazirani (1962-2003) and Rachel Wetzsteon (1967-2009)
 
Sewanee, Tennessee. 
Summer of '96, I went there for 
booze and poetry and rest. 
I danced a little dance; 
I talked a little shop. 
I forgot a recent ghost.  

"Invitation to a Ghost" 
was my favorite poem in Tennessee. 
And Justice taught my workshop. 
(God love him, he called me decadent for 
ending a line with an anapest.) At the dance 
party with Allison and the rest  

of the poets from Rebel's Rest, 
ambition was the ghost 
unseen, but always in attendance. 
And I misplaced my faith in Tennessee, 
upon a hill: I gave an undergrad what-for 
after priming him with lines of Bishop.  

Gossip is another word for talking shop. 
But Rachel, sharper than the rest, 
winner of things I hoped for, 
was above all that, like a charming host. 
She spoke of posterity in Tennessee. 
And every day felt like a dance  

preparing us for a bigger dance. 
In the bookstore, I pretended to shop 
with Reetika, Rachel's roommate in Tennessee, 
wicked-funny and stunning and rest- 
less. We flirted like we stood a ghost 
of a chance. I was twenty-four.  

I wonder now what it's all been for: 
that summer; the words; the awful dance 
that followed. So many ghosts. 
Let the muses close the horror shop. 
Let Rachel and Reetika rest. 
—Years ago, there was Tennessee.

Related Poems

Beginning with Two Lines from Rexroth

I see the unwritten books, the unrecorded experiments, the unpainted pictures, the interrupted lives, a staircase leading to a guarantee, the glowing frame of wisdom protecting me from harm after I escape the questions of a lifetime. I see the turning of the pages in a book I have not read, its story proclaiming the reader is going to escape without knowing how the equation injured the moment—sacred leaves rotting in a bottle of rubbing oil, their black designs sinking farther than my reach.

I witness what is made for someone else, its motion calling me to wait for the regions of love where we come back, able to dismiss the picture of ourselves where we can't smile because no one is able to capture time that has not happened and never will. There is no agony and waste, only the steps into the frontier where it is easy to hide.

Even a shoulder bone cracks in the morning light, a man rising at the end of a century where everyone gives him pictures, including one of a translucent scene where the running youth carries the host, his confusion between danger and desire making the boy stop at the bank of the river, turn, and go home. When he gets to the house, he doesn't cry out. When it goes dark and the arguments begin, it is his portrait that is handed to me first because I already arrived at the junction between the lamp and the staircase to the mocking stars.