Paradoxes and Oxymorons

By John Ashbery

 

 

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.

Look at it talking to you. You look out a window

Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you donít have it.

You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

 

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.

Whatís a plain level? It is that and other things,

Bringing a system of them into play. Play?

Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

 

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,

As in the division of grace these long August days

Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know

It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

 

It has been played once more. I think you exist only

To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you arenít there

Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem

Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

 

 

 

 

"Paradoxes and Oxymorons" from Shadow Train by John Ashbery. Copyright © 1980, 1981 by John A