Kind of empty in the way it sees everything, the earth gets to its feet and salutes the sky. More of a success at it this time than most others it is. The feeling that the sky might be in the back of someone's mind. Then there is no telling how many there are. They grace everything--bush and tree--to take the roisterer's mind off his caroling--so it's like a smooth switch back. To what was aired in their previous conniption fit. There is so much to be seen everywhere that it's like not getting used to it, only there is so much it never feels new, never any different. You are standing looking at that building and you cannot take it all in, certain details are already hazy and the mind boggles. What will it all be like in five years' time when you try to remember? Will there have been boards in between the grass part and the edge of the street? As long as that couple is stopping to look in that window over there we cannot go. We feel like they have to tell us we can, but they never look our way and they are already gone, gone far into the future--the night of time. If we could look at a photograph of it and say there they are, they never really stopped but there they are. There is so much to be said, and on the surface of it very little gets said. There ought to be room for more things, for a spreading out, like. Being immersed in the details of rock and field and slope --letting them come to you for once, and then meeting them halfway would be so much easier--if they took an ingenuous pride in being in one's blood. Alas, we perceive them if at all as those things that were meant to be put aside-- costumes of the supporting actors or voice trilling at the end of a narrow enclosed street. You can do nothing with them. Not even offer to pay. It is possible that finally, like coming to the end of a long, barely perceptible rise, there is mutual cohesion and interaction. The whole scene is fixed in your mind, the music all present, as though you could see each note as well as hear it. I say this because there is an uneasiness in things just now. Waiting for something to be over before you are forced to notice it. The pollarded trees scarcely bucking the wind--and yet it's keen, it makes you fall over. Clabbered sky. Seasons that pass with a rush. After all it's their time too--nothing says they aren't to make something of it. As for Jenny Wren, she cares, hopping about on her little twig like she was tryin' to tell us somethin', but that's just it, she couldn't even if she wanted to--dumb bird. But the others--and they in some way must know too--it would never occur to them to want to, even if they could take the first step of the terrible journey toward feeling somebody should act, that ends in utter confusion and hopelessness, east of the sun and west of the moon. So their comment is: "No comment." Meanwhile the whole history of probabilities is coming to life, starting in the upper left-hand corner, like a sail.
John Ashbery - 1927-2017
Orpheus liked the glad personal quality Of the things beneath the sky. Of course, Eurydice was a part Of this. Then one day, everything changed. He rends Rocks into fissures with lament. Gullies, hummocks Can't withstand it. The sky shudders from one horizon To the other, almost ready to give up wholeness. Then Apollo quietly told him: "Leave it all on earth. Your lute, what point? Why pick at a dull pavan few care to Follow, except a few birds of dusty feather, Not vivid performances of the past." But why not? All other things must change too. The seasons are no longer what they once were, But it is the nature of things to be seen only once, As they happen along, bumping into other things, getting along Somehow. That's where Orpheus made his mistake. Of course Eurydice vanished into the shade; She would have even if he hadn't turned around. No use standing there like a gray stone toga as the whole wheel Of recorded history flashes past, struck dumb, unable to utter an intelligent Comment on the most thought-provoking element in its train. Only love stays on the brain, and something these people, These other ones, call life. Singing accurately So that the notes mount straight up out of the well of Dim noon and rival the tiny, sparkling yellow flowers Growing around the brink of the quarry, encapsulizes The different weights of the things. But it isn't enough To just go on singing. Orpheus realized this And didn't mind so much about his reward being in heaven After the Bacchantes had torn him apart, driven Half out of their minds by his music, what it was doing to them. Some say it was for his treatment of Eurydice. But probably the music had more to do with it, and The way music passes, emblematic Of life and how you cannot isolate a note of it And say it is good or bad. You must Wait till it's over. "The end crowns all," Meaning also that the "tableau" Is wrong. For although memories, of a season, for example, Melt into a single snapshot, one cannot guard, treasure That stalled moment. It too is flowing, fleeting; It is a picture of flowing, scenery, though living, mortal, Over which an abstract action is laid out in blunt, Harsh strokes. And to ask more than this Is to become the tossing reeds of that slow, Powerful stream, the trailing grasses Playfully tugged at, but to participate in the action No more than this. Then in the lowering gentian sky Electric twitches are faintly apparent first, then burst forth Into a shower of fixed, cream-colored flares. The horses Have each seen a share of the truth, though each thinks, "I'm a maverick. Nothing of this is happening to me, Though I can understand the language of birds, and The itinerary of the lights caught in the storm is fully apparent to me. Their jousting ends in music much As trees move more easily in the wind after a summer storm And is happening in lacy shadows of shore-trees, now, day after day." But how late to be regretting all this, even Bearing in mind that regrets are always late, too late! To which Orpheus, a bluish cloud with white contours, Replies that these are of course not regrets at all, Merely a careful, scholarly setting down of Unquestioned facts, a record of pebbles along the way. And no matter how all this disappeared, Or got where it was going, it is no longer Material for a poem. Its subject Matters too much, and not enough, standing there helplessly While the poem streaked by, its tail afire, a bad Comet screaming hate and disaster, but so turned inward That the meaning, good or other, can never Become known. The singer thinks Constructively, builds up his chant in progressive stages Like a skyscraper, but at the last minute turns away. The song is engulfed in an instant in blackness Which must in turn flood the whole continent With blackness, for it cannot see. The singer Must then pass out of sight, not even relieved Of the evil burthen of the words. Stellification Is for the few, and comes about much later When all record of these people and their lives Has disappeared into libraries, onto microfilm. A few are still interested in them. "But what about So-and-so?" is still asked on occasion. But they lie Frozen and out of touch until an arbitrary chorus Speaks of a totally different incident with a similar name In whose tale are hidden syllables Of what happened so long before that In some small town, one indifferent summer.