Wasn’t there some way in which you too understood
About being there in the time as it was then?
A golden moment, full of life and health?
Why can’t this moment be enough for us as we have become?
Is it because it was mostly made up of understanding
How the future would behave when we had moved on
To other lands, other suns, to say all there is time for
Because time is just what this instant is?
Even at the beginning the manner of the hourglass
Was all-severing, weaning of that delicious thread
That comes down even to us, “Bénédiction de Dieu dans la Solitude”
Sand shaper, whistler of affectionate destinies, flames and fruit.
And now you are this thing that is outside me,
And how I in token of it am like you is
In place. In between are the bits of information
That circulate around you, all that ancient stuff,
Brought here, reassembled, carted off again
Into the back yard of your dream. If we are closer
To anything, it is in this sense that doesn’t count,
Like the last few blank pages of a book.
This is why I look at you
With the eyes you once liked so much in animals:
When, in that sense, is it to be?
An ultimate warm day of the year
With the light unapproachable on the beaches?
In which case you return to the fork in the road
Doubtless to take the same path again? The second-time knowledge
Gives it fluency, makes it less of a choice
As you are older and in a dream touch bottom.
The laburnum darkened, denser at the deserted lake;
Mountain ash mindlessly dropping berries: to whom is all this?
I tell you, we are being called back
For having forgotten these names
For forgetting our proper names, for falling like nameless things
On unfamiliar slopes. To be seen again, churlishly into life,
Returning, as to the scene of a crime.
That is how the singer spoke,
In vague terms, but with an eternity of thirst
To end with a small tumbler of water
Or a single pink, leaning against the window frame in the bubble evening,
The mind of our birth. It was all sad and real.
They slept together at the commercial school.
The binding of a book made a tall V, like undone hair,
“To say all there was never time for.”
It is no triumph to point out
That no accounting was ever asked.
The land lies flat under the umbrella
Of anxiety perpetually smoothed over
As though some token were required of how each
Arrived early for the appointment in different cities.
The least suspicion would have crumbled,
Positive, but in the end you were right to
Pillage and obstruct. And she
Stared at her toes. The argument
Can be brought back intact to the point
Of summarizing how it’s just a cheap way
Of letting you off, and finally
How blue objects protruded out of the
Potential, dying and recoiling, returning as you meet them
Touching forever, water lifted out of the sea.
© John Ashbery