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By John Ashbery

Alone with our madness and favorite flower

We see that there really is nothing left to write about.

Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things

In the same way, repeating the same things over and over

For love to continue and be gradually different.


Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally

And the color of the day put in

Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter

For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic

Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.


Only then can the chronic inattention

Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory

And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows

That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge

Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.


John Ashbery, "Late Echo" from As We Know. Copyright © 1979 by John Ashbery. Reprinted with the permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc. for the author.

Source: As We Know (Viking Press, 1979)

Poet Bio

Born and raised in upstate New York, John Ashbery became one of the most innovative poets of his generation. Influenced by W.H. Auden and surrealist painters, Ashbery’s verse is full of daring experimentation. The author of over 40 collections of poetry, Ashbery received an abundance of praise for his work including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize: perhaps the most recognized and influential poet since the Vietnam War. He died in 2017.

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