WHEN HALF THE TIME THEY DON'T KNOW THEMSELVES...
by John Ashbery
Old cathedrals, old markets, good and firm things
And old streets, one always feels intercepted
As they walk quickly past, no nonsense, cabbages
And turnips, the way they get put into songs:
One needn't feel offended
Or shut out just because the slow purpose
Under it is evident,
Because someone is simply there.
Yet it's a relief to look up
To the moist, imprecise sky,
Thrashing about in loneliness,
There has to be a heart to this.
The words are there already.
Just because the river looks like it's flowing backwards
Doesn't mean that motion doesn't mean something,
That it's incorrect as a metaphor.
And the way stones sink,
Doesn't rob them of the dignity
Of their cantankerous gravity.
They are what they are and what they seem.
Maybe our not getting closer to them
Puts some kind of shine on us
We didn't consent to,
As though we were someone's car:
Large, animated, calm.