Crossroads in the Past

By John Ashbery b. 1927 John Ashbery
That night the wind stirred in the forsythia bushes,
but it was a wrong one, blowing in the wrong direction.
“That’s silly. How can there be a wrong direction?
‘It bloweth where it listeth,’ as you know, just as we do
when we make love or do something else there are no rules for.”

I tell you, something went wrong there a while back.
Just don’t ask me what it was. Pretend I’ve dropped the subject.
No, now you’ve got me interested, I want to know
exactly what seems wrong to you, how something could

seem wrong to you. In what way do things get to be wrong?
I’m sitting here dialing my cellphone
with one hand, digging at some obscure pebbles with my shovel
with the other. And then something like braids will stand out,

on horsehair cushions. That armchair is really too lugubrious.
We’ve got to change all the furniture, fumigate the house,
talk our relationship back to its beginnings. Say, you know
that’s probably what’s wrong—the beginnings concept, I mean.
I aver there are no beginnings, though there were perhaps some
sometime. We’d stopped, to look at the poster the movie theater

had placed freestanding on the sidewalk. The lobby cards
drew us in. It was afternoon, we found ourselves
sitting at the end of a row in the balcony; the theater was unexpectedly
crowded. That was the day we first realized we didn’t fully
know our names, yours or mine, and we left quietly
amid the gray snow falling. Twilight had already set in.

“Crossroads in the Past” from Your Name Here by John Ashbery. © 2000 by John Ashbery. Used by permission of George Borchardt, Inc., on behalf of the author. All rights reserved.

Source: Your Name Here (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2000)

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Poet John Ashbery b. 1927

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

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 Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

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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