These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Some comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Place in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defense.

John Ashbery

I came late to John Ashbery (as to Cecil Taylor); for years I read him impatiently when I came across his work, convinced he was putting something over on everyone. The older I get, the more I appreciate his light touch, his circuitous paths, his refusal to pander to our craving for the obvious. I am told by wood s lot that it’s his birthday, so: happy birthday, John Ashbery, and thanks for all the reticence.


  1. I’ve always enjoyed the way Ashbery’s poems simultaneously read like transcripts of a very particular inner monologue and, at the same time, invite the readers to bring their own associations to the reading. There’s something very generous about all that reticence.

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