Street Musicians

By John Ashbery b. 1927 John Ashbery
One died, and the soul was wrenched out   
Of the other in life, who, walking the streets   
Wrapped in an identity like a coat, sees on and on   
The same corners, volumetrics, shadows   
Under trees. Farther than anyone was ever   
Called, through increasingly suburban airs   
And ways, with autumn falling over everything:   
The plush leaves the chattels in barrels   
Of an obscure family being evicted
Into the way it was, and is. The other beached   
Glimpses of what the other was up to:
Revelations at last. So they grew to hate and forget each other.

So I cradle this average violin that knows   
Only forgotten showtunes, but argues
The possibility of free declamation anchored
To a dull refrain, the year turning over on itself   
In November, with the spaces among the days   
More literal, the meat more visible on the bone.   
Our question of a place of origin hangs
Like smoke: how we picnicked in pine forests,
In coves with the water always seeping up, and left   
Our trash, sperm and excrement everywhere, smeared   
On the landscape, to make of us what we could.

John Ashbery, “Street Musicians” from Houseboat Days. Copyright © 1987, 1979 by John Ashbery. Reprinted with the permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc. on behalf of the author.

Source: Houseboat Days (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1977)

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Poet John Ashbery b. 1927

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Music, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 John  Ashbery

Biography

John Ashbery is recognized as one of the greatest twentieth-century American poets. He has won nearly every major American award for poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Yale Younger Poets Prize, the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Griffin International Award, and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Ashbery's poetry challenges its readers to discard all presumptions about the aims, themes, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Music, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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