words from the two monologues of John Ashbery’s poem ‘Litany’ transcribed (and mistranslated) while listening to the monologues being simultaneously presented by Makyla Curtis and Murray Edmond 20th March, 2014
Heaving of sighs
made to look transparent
a mast at some earlier time
saw the coastline
they shift – you might say.
You are perversely evasive.
All this mummified writing
in the past of no mean confection
the brown sky sweeping unusually away.
Who could explain it?
Yet I too, was captured
this way – still – over and over again.
Tiger lilies, dirty colours,
mounting of witch-tales
pink storerooms for photographs
swerve the sheaf of odes
a repellent lodge of the here and now.
How she is coming along,
praying for it to be better
day by day – as narrow as a sewer
sandwiched in a spirits refrain
and praise is lascivious
to a choreographed intrusion –
a vast storehouse of agendas.
Passing over hordes
death, the haze of blue,
hangs an aria.
Bells are rung
and folded into furniture
where each one comes from
a fashionable sundown.
It performs a marble floor,
another function: a bridge in noon smoke.
What difference does it make?
Death’s loom. A firm enigma,
a foggy reality.
Two can go at once –
under the intimate light of the lantern.
Big tears, a time in Hawaii,
we never could’ve parted.
It gets dark at seven now
where it is until the next time.
The other part of the year
is a staring goldfish bowl.
Too much is written about manifestation.
Here, whatever is to come is to.
Most precisely at night.
Perhaps the noises in the bedroom
has a clear concept of itself.
What are they selling?
This thing – awful –
no rest from the storm,
pick-up lose things here
even as I am invisible
in the eye of the shore.
The waves drown the rain,
the margins – catechism of life –
it matters to them,
to the boy who cried wolf
waiting for you –
Happier than this?
A mature collection,
a removed construction,
candy-canes of glass.
There are many of us
to choose from
in new crayons.
As long as the clock is stolen
its always there –
French horns, oboes –
full of promise.
The old Chevy
parked under the trees
receives few invitations.
Full of people having a good time.
Sinking history up to the waist –
an unearthly radiance
inhaling the French cement smell
wrinkles on the forehead, ironing breasts,
removing glass stoppers –
we can breathe.
I went over to the dog show the other day.
The ocean grey
hounds away from the sun.
Honey – it’s all Greek to me.
I would do well to take-up my studies again.
I have no reason to rejoice – meaning I can sleep.
Squaring off the map of distant hills
we arrive in the morning
from a broccoli forest.
Only the towers dot it –
it got mailed in a letter by mistake.
A trough of silent chatter, an elephant trap,
where one shall encounter stairs rolling
down an urgent sea.
Leave it alone. An apple tree
hallowed out by bees
long invisible now.
The days rub off scales.
The number in the book
under both headings
deep in the veils
to form an itinerary
without much to go on.
The journey is at an end.
A moody performance.
He goes out among the trees,
an orange light to divert one’s gaze.
For raising intimate knowledge
with no effort at all
the end has been quiet.
No one, including them,
a tale of starving musicians
spring up after great rains
in a counter-event
of the war time Britain
against the thunder of a frame
oblivious to the traffic –
a music –
until you were ready to scream.
Back home from the beauty
contest a stressful headache,
spring, artisan, its truth of being,
pointed into a whispering earth.
The greater interest of the whole,
a crisp vagueness –
none of it had been predicted.
How many years before,
emptied into the mirror,
nothing can replace it –
only the cartoon animals –
leaving in twos and threes.
Yet there is a slight chance
the distant planes
watch up with pictures.
rumoured to a corral
if you stand face.
How to take some of it home
before it melts?
Broken fences –
question of frontiers
in the dome of heaven.
Breath we wanted
rustling of night, tiny triumphs,
the shaft sunk into mingling conversations
trapped in the attic
wind chime of fanfare
and hoop beats
from a long time ago.
These uninteresting pangs of birth –
discreet to shreds of clear –
play it on any instrument.
Ships pulling away from piers…
poetic licence abolished everything.
Somehow, in the scrapbooks,
(translucent – do not go there –
live in the land like a spy)
a desirable effect might occur.
They do see a certain way,
they did to raise higher,
a slow, feeble – too close – lurching,
featuring his own twilight –
our interventions be gone.
In the middle distance
strangers at the ballet
are the Melville mind.
Readers are looking for something sad,
the way they feel about it, poetry,
no one’s ever directly linked to them.
Change details, hours, what does it say?
We have to be it.
It takes over seasons:
bare twigs against sky grey
expecting snow. Yet the writing,
grasshoppers, soothes and flatters
a few selected ones.
I like you this way.
My features come to rest.
Now it is so. Silly.
A welcomed sigh.
A bird sailing on for days.
They are so close to the side of evil –
the human side of good.
Poetry is making something in the past,
it has already happened. No longer grace
in the long run – which is what poetry is.
Cacophonous yachts jammed against
the human spirit – steep building shadows –
jumping, plunging, profit
and this is just a long list of complaints –
old and useful.
I was waiting for a taxi. Sometimes flow –
a young girl lost in thought
or whatever else might be in the channel of time.
The alluded poet’s brain,
indeed a long something out of the cue.
Truth. The whole life walking through a field
could easily happen again.
Now – and afterwards –
nothing was again as it had once been.
Patience of calm skies,
a bit of tape soon removed like a fort
like a fruit one peels then eats. I salute you,
pausing to get one’s bearings,
I must forget the clouds. The present has
dried out, perforated and pristine,
refrigerates me, yes.
It was a fine gift you sent me,
only yesterday it was in perfect working order.
Fences were not built to last. No trace
can be found.
Not food necessarily. Turn all this
anxious scrutiny – what is on your mind?
Desperate convoy issues, spans and flux
noodling in the near
meaning nothing to do with
what others were thinking, kicking and screaming.
Playing again is the only way
to see it through. Sink and disappear –
A velvet portrait. An erosion process.
Eroding goes on constantly in the brain
and then we are in a full state of music
toward the ultramarine gates –
heaven a drop in the bucket of eternity.
Rubbing her gloved hand
the search for nightingales
breaks at evening. We were children again.
The blanket varies us, like Hamlet,
life takes on an uncanny resemblance.
It was nice of you to love me.
Remembering feathered beds are soft.
If there is a fire, unlike the way all trivia
falling around you is history
what is true serves twice over,
a garden plunged in sun.
Reading the papers
we are inflamed
in the strength of confusion.
Some person far out on the curb
is always rescued by the outdoors.
Demons on chuckling hearths
hurry a directive.
In the dump behind
no one can make any sense of it.
How many badgers on the far tussock?
Who are we – poor workers?
What are we to make of
what appears to be our lot
disappearing behind your crane?
We fall like fish.
Appreciative sidewalks find land around them,
a forest weary and slipping-eyed.
Everything gets done. This time has been good
for my working – time cosy around the eyes.
A continuing collapse
flat narrow time
oranges, apples, dishes –
as we always imagined it would be.
As seen by others,
we are more what is all about.
We just see another boring side of ourselves.
All the arts use stretch away.
I can never see the point
of any of this. Inexpressible.
Faces – dark now – absent minded, weathering,
what is to be erected on this plot?
A closed book. It’s hard to say how far
we have come. A vague impression.
Life is not for the squeamish. Short roses.
It goes without saying.
Piss and destruction
smiling through tears that never come,
defining a locust
painted wooden tulips.
Good news –
we can’t tell that much about it,
not in our day
it sits open and limited
though it seems
two bodies do form
the throng of gay,
the grey ridge of roam
comedy and tragedy
and they lay
woven in the sun
Kind words are like,
I thought in vain, my name.
It is the little sigh,
a present word.
The bird of paradise flies up
arranged all the gaps
find the key to all that
gives – shapes them
it is in the disrepair.
I’m against all forms of appetites
slim like a prism
fogs and crevices, avenue so shady,
true freedom bobbing down from surfdom –
dating from the silver age,
dematerialised too soon.
No one would ever want to see it
before it materialises.
No going to is going to
and to feel better for having done so
you would have to belong to
beings made of love. There is
the great central traitor
made out of the great egg.
Fugal societies. It takes longer to catch them
from the brown ploughed fields. The wind,
flowers by the roadside,
an object the mind cannot contain.
The main feeling – love – is different.
Happiness can be felt outside of time,
think about it,
a replica of itself like the moon
fused with kinetic purpose, confused stringent,
one’s own forever.
On each of the moments
just beyond the range
of simple perception
whatever they were going to be
confronted with a true feeling.
But I want him here. To hide
and mock us both. Some say to speak to a stranger we can turn around and go back. We could feel what is said. We are seldom invited by friends. Who cares anyway? I’m mad to care. The lake recedes. Somethings I remembered. All the way down to them. But the sunset sees its reflection. So it is I – lost cause – seem rustic. The trees keeps milling, no dirt anymore. Someone will take care of us. Leads them in a new state of mind. The prettiness merges far into the body. I would like to see how someone else might like to try to do it. Something inside these moments. An heir of commas. A satisfactory sex life – someone forgot it. The joy after all it drove away. What the fuck are we doing here? The Americans with a sigh shall hear blossoms.
How is it with you? As for others – freaks, weirdos, that’s what you thought. Then the war was postponed. The flower fields thriving. For a few years – shifting back to ourselves – a picture of water – drawn deep from the well – of which it must always be aware. The object keeps knowing itself to its own opinion – a runic market. It keeps the Mozart symphonies apart. It will end up on your doorstep if you don’t watch out. What kind of school is this? Our dogs are coming back. No resemblance to the entrance of the port – a tattered enzyme – it looked nice overhead – leaving the last man in a tropical island. No one’s attention anymore. We clarify everything. What is left? A traffic light turning green – watch out! Two, if consumed, no spleen. We have to take over. Well – have its day and disappear. Future – permanent hard-on. Fellow over here, I’m very pleased you were a secretary at first, then the black man replacing the headlights. No wonder so many of us get discouraged. Must not sit quietly. Such a line may exist. It is a wager, an emptiness, it has no idea of nourishment, or where if should go. Yet the originality, all our equations make us brittle to the ancestors. Earthy inadequacy. The essence that all love – we can’t bear it – stitches have been moved. For what – we knew what to do with it.
There is no need to approach closely.
A door, to curl upon, the map forever –
some other epoch.
For now it would have to do.
The right time in the right place.
There are no trade winds,
I can’t straighten it out.
It would be best though
to hang on to these words –
only that they mattered –
be released after a certain time.