John Ashbery’s new book of poems, Commotion of the Birds, will be published in November. (August 2016)


Be Careful What You Wish For,

John Ashbery: Promontory, 2010
exurb. What were you driving at (when you said): Used to joke I’m in the retirement business. The snow is beginning to fall again. I’m wondering whether I should go out. How can you give orders when nobody is listening? A friend and two boys. Here where love was quiet …

The Enthusiasts

That building has won over everything.
Here in high school opportunities are numerous,
but what are they for?
You could live like a girl of thirteen
in a single dream,
quash outside solicitations,
go back to sleep every time,
wherever your suns take you.

The Sponge of Sleep

Why waver? He won’t stab me for
when we sat down widely pixillated
between the horizon and the lice.
We’re off to the sea, someone said.
Let’s direct it to us
and our various enjoyment. I hate it when
we’re made of snot one
minute, stone so simple the next.

Pride of Place

Past the gaga experiments to ginger high school thriller days I wheel fragile issues: a fight on there, bulbous antennae, a herald carved alone in the archer position—sweet! We had a few people over to celebrate the monotony of the new place.

A Modern Instance

In the republic of other things when we live in a bathroom, weird issues short out what sense orders for us. Like a tired research assistant, you chose to flap around, prompted by hunger, not being sure that the crate of plums arrived.

After the Flood

No sooner had the notion of the Flood regained its composure,

Than a hare paused amid the gorse and trembling bellflowers and said its prayer to the rainbow through the spider’s web. Oh the precious stones that were hiding,—the flowers that were already peeking out. Stalls were erected in the dirty main street, and boats were towed toward the sea, which rose in layers above as in old engravings.