Poet John Ashbery died late Sunday, at the age of 90. In honor of the polarizing poet, we present his 1979 poem, “Late Echo”:
Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.
Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.
Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.
And Ashbery was antsy to the end. An excerpt from his 2016 poem, “Sitting at the Table”:
It wasn’t always this way.
Somewhere, ants were taking control
of earth’s blistered pulse.
Peanuts were jettisoned from the nacelle
of the montgolfière, all moyenâgeux and thrifty
as it came to be about. I ask only for staples
for my staple gun.