John Ashbery, “Variant”

languagepoetry

Sometimes a word will start it, like
Hands and feet, sun and gloves. The way
Is fraught with danger, you say, and I
Notice the word “fraught” as you are telling
Me about huge secret valleys some distance from
The mired fighting – “but always, lightly wooded
As they are, more deeply involved with the outcome
That will someday paste a black, bleeding label
In the sky, but until then
The echo, flowering freely in corridors, alleys,
And tame, surprised places far from anywhere,
Will be automatically locked out – vox
Clamans
– do you see? End of tomorrow.
Don’t try to start the car or look deeper
Into the eternal wimpling of the sky: luster
On luster, transparency floated onto the topmost layer
Until the whole thing overflows like a silver
Wedding cake or Christmas tree, in a cascade of tears.”

* * *

Whew! I’m exhausted reading that. Don’t ask me what it means just yet but man this thing is chock full of some incredible language. “Fraught,” of course, but also “vox clamans” – the voice of one crying out (how beautiful!), “wimpling,” “luster on luster,” “cascade.” This is poetry right here.

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