On John Ashbery’s “As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat”

So hopefully you have read yesterday’s post
“As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat” by John Ashbery (click here to read it)
as today I post my response to his poem…

On John Ashbery’s “As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat”

Dear Astrid, You told me it was going to be difficult. Not to expect too much.
A cacophony of unrelated sights and sounds, and
I found smells too, and other things, which as I read
I knew what you had meant was true.
And if I had not
Been recommended to him by you,
I might have passed him up. But somewhere in his swirls
Of words and snippets of invitations and curls of whey,
I heard a lilting in the night, a tilting of a lance,
A jousting, a meeting, and a disambiguation in his words,
A pas d’armes, I fought to cross the bridge and through his lines,
But there, in the last pass, were those words you said that I might find,
That I could feel, and could speak to me and make it all worthwhile.
And those, those last two verses, were the ones that made me hurt,
That took away my breath, even after all that fighting that we did,
And impelled me to read the poem, aloud, a second time,
Enjoying now its bounce and pace and cadences, but only after reading,
“The summer demands and takes away too much,
But night, the reserved, the reticent, gives more than it takes.”

And so I thought to try these words out on my wife
And daughter, when they returned from shopping, and
Telling me how much they saved
By coming home sipping only two coolatas, and
Looking at discounted $200 pocketbooks which they did not buy,
And how much they loved them, and how proud I should be
That I have two so very disciplined women in my life who
Could be so thrifty, and after complimenting them and acting proud,
And all of us giggling like bunch of silly girls, I asked if this could be
A time for them to tell me what they thought of John’s poem,
Which I offered to read aloud for them, because the beauty’s in the sound of it,
And they, being so disciplined and thrifty, reservedly,
And reticently, said yes, and
Halfway through the poem my wife laughed and laughed
Heartily, and my daughter crept around me
To see how much more there was to read
and I knew that Ashbery was not for them.
I wished I had my cell phone close to me to tape
Their laughter and annoyance. I’d show it to the class
And all of us would laugh along with them.
I said, I know how difficult the poem is, but what about
Those great last lines? To which they said that they were nice, but
What the hell was the rest of it about? Because you can’t
Write a poem that long for two good lines,
Nobody will listen. To which my wife chuckled again saying that
You lost me halfway through.
But what about those two last lines? I asked again.
And she said that they were good. And I asked,
What if those lines were
The entire poem? And my daughter said, that’d be silly,
You’d need to expand on it more.
And now was my turn to laugh, saying that,
He had.

Randy Mazie


2 thoughts on “On John Ashbery’s “As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat”

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