It all happened long ago --
a murky milky precipitate
of certain years then drawing to a close,
like a storm sewer upheavel. Road rage had burst its flanks;
all was uncertain on the Via Negativa
except the certainty of return, return
to the approximate.

Night and morning a horn sounded,
summoning the faithful to prayer, the unfaithful to pleasure.
In that unseemly alley I first exhaled
a jest to your comic, crumb-crusted lips:
What if we were all ignorant of all that happened to us,
the song starting up at midnight,
the dream later, of lamb's lettuce and moss
near where the Acheron used to flow?

But it's only me now, I came because you cried and I had to.
Plaited bark muffles the knocker, but the doorbell
penetrates deep into the brain of one who has lived here.
O brackish clouds and dangerous,
the moon is unambiguous.

John Ashbery
A Worldly Country: New Poems
Ecco, 2007

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