When Eduard Raban, coming along the passage, walked into the
open doorway, he saw that it was raining. It was not raining much.
                                        KAFKA, Wedding Preparations in the Country

The concept is interesting: to see, as though reflected
In streaming windowpanes, the look of others through
Their own eyes. A digest of their correct impressions of
Their self-analytical attitudes overlaid by your
Ghostly transparent face. You in falbalas
Of some distant but not too distant era, the cosmetics,
The shoes perfectly pointed, drifting (how long you
Have been drifting; how long I have too for that matter)
Like a bottle-imp toward a surface which can never be
         approached,
Never pierced through into the timeless energy of a present
Which would have its own opinions on these matters,
Are an epistemological snapshot of the processes
That first mentioned your name at some crowded cocktail
Party long ago, and someone (not the person addressed)
Overheard it and carried that name around in his wallet
For years as the wallet crumbled and bills slid in
And out of it. I want that information very much today,

Can't have it, and this makes me angry.
I shall use my anger to build a bridge like that
Of Avignon, on which people may dance for the feeling
Of dancing on a bridge. I shall at last see my complete face
Reflected not in the water but in the worn stone floor of my bridge.

I shall keep to myself.
I shall not repeat others' comments about me.

Note to Poetry Out Loud students: This poem begins with an epigraph that must be recited. Omitting the epigraph will affect your accuracy score.
  • John Ashbery, "Wet Casements" from Houseboat Days, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 1987 by John Ashbery.  Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc..

  • Source: Houseboat Days (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I learned that I enjoyed poetry - a lot. I'm known as the "football guy" at my school and it surprised me, and others, that poetry would be a big part of my life. Also, I realized that I not bad at performing and public speaking."
Marquavious Moore
2017 TN POL Champion