John Ashbery, ‘Worsening Situation’ (1975)

Like a rainstorm, he said, the braided colors
Wash over me and are no help. Or like one
At a feast who eats not, for he cannot choose
From among the smoking dishes. This severed hand
Stands for life, and wander as it will,
East or west, north or south, it is ever
A stranger who walks beside me. O seasons,
Booths, chaleur, dark-hatted charlatans
On the outskirts of some rural fete,
The name you drop and never say is mine, mine!
Some day I’ll claim to you how all used up
I am because of you but in the meantime the ride
Continues. Everyone is along for the ride,
It seems. Besides, what else is there?
The annual games? True, there are occasions
For white uniforms and a special language
Kept secret from the others. The limes
Are duly sliced. I know all this
But can’t seem to keep it from affecting me,
Every day, all day. I’ve tried recreation,
Reading until late at night, train rides
And romance.

One day a man called while I was out
And left this message: “You got the whole thing wrong
From start to finish. Luckily, there’s still time
To correct the situation, but you must act fast.
See me at your earliest convenience. And please
Tell no one of this. Much besides your life depends on it.”
I’ve been looking at old-fashioned plaids, fingering
Starched white collars, wondering whether there’s a way
To get them really white again. My wife
Thinks I’m in Oslo—Oslo, France, that is.

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~ by ohkrapp on February 22, 2010.

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