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Angel Hair feature

John Ashbery:

The Hod Carrier


Cover of Angel Hair anthology

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You have been declining the land’s
Breakable extensions, median whose face is half my face.
Your curved visor’s the supposition that unites us.

                                                       I’ve been thinking about you

After a dry summer, fucking in the autumn,
Reflecting among arabesques of speech that arise
The certain anomaly, the wise smile
Of winter fitted over the land
And your activity disappears in mist, or translates too easily
Into a general puree, someone’s aura or idea of games —
The stone you cannot perfect, the sharp iron blade you cannot prevent.

But this new way we are, the melon head
Half-mirrored, the way sentences suddenly spurt up like gas
Or sting and jab, is it that we accepted each complication
As it came along, and are therefore happy with the result?
Or was it as a condition of seeing
That we vouchsafed aid and comfort to the seasons

                                                       As each came begging

And the present, so flat in its belief, so ‘outside it’
As it maintains, becomes the blind side of
The fulfillment of that condition; and work, ripeness
And tired but resolute standing up for one’s rights
Means leaning toward the stars

                                                       The way a tree leans toward the sun

Not meaning to get close

                                                       And the bird walked right up that tree.

You have reached the point closest to your destination

                                                       O tired beacon
                                                       Dominating the plain
                                                       Yet all but visible

To the holy mind surrounding your purpose

You are totally subsumed
The good abstracted, squandered, thrown away
As it was in the lean time.
Are these floorboards, to be stared at
In moments of guilt, as wallpaper can stream away and yet

                                                       You cannot declare it?

Each wasp meant to look the way it did
And the sorrowing whole also
Although influenced by particulars
Suspended in the near distance
So that you say, that’s a pretty one

                                                       I’d forgotten about that one

Then each breath is a redeeming feature
Resolving in alteration
The insanity of flowers into perfect conditions
That their mildness can only postpone, not change.

And surveying the hundredfold record of the summer
The shapely witness at last declares herself
Content with the result:
Whitecaps wincing at every point of the compass
The justified demands of commerce, difficult departures and all
Into a hemisphere where no credit is expected
And the shipping is rendered into its own terms

                                                       It is what keeps itself
                                                       From going blind

All aging is perpetual chatter
On these buff planes, protuberances
And you are in the wind at night

                                                       And so it is an even darker night

And death is the prevention of which the cure’s
Metal polish and sawdust

                                                       Light grinding into your heels.

from Angel Hair 3, Summer 1967


Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery




Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery
New York, November 1953


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