THESE LACUSTRINE CITIES.

These lacustrine cities grew out of loathing
Into something forgetful, although angry with history.
They are the product of an idea: that man is horrible, for instance,
Though this is only one example.
They emerged until a tower
Controlled the sky, and with artifice dipped back
Into the past for swans and tapering branches,
Burning, until all that hate was transformed into useless love.
Then you are left with an idea of yourself
And the feeling of ascending emptiness of the afternoon
Which must be charged to the embarrassment of others
Who fly by you like beacons.
The night is a sentinel.
Much of your time has been occupied by creative game
Until now, but we have all-inclusive plans for you.
We had thought, for instance, of sending you to the middle of the desert,
To a violent sea, or of having the closeness of the others be air
To you, pressing you back into a startled dream
As sea-breezes greet a child’s face.
But the past is already here, and you are nursing some private project.
The worst is not over, yet I know
You will be happy here. Because of the logic
Of your situation, which is something no climate can outsmart.
Tender and insouciant by turns, you see
You have built a mountain of something,
Thoughtfully pouring all your energy into this single monument,
Whose wind is desire starching a petal,
Whose disappointment broke into a rainbow of tears.
    —John Ashbery, from Rivers and Mountains (1966)


(Via wood s lot.)

Comments

  1. Outcast Manufacturer says:

    One of my favorite Ashbery poems, I had this pinned to my door in college, when I used to live in a converted garage my pals and I called a “garagalo”.
    Now that I live within walking distance from Echo Lake, the poem should be that much more meaningful, all lakes in Los Angeles being perfectly artificial.

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