I just like living,
          only like living.

                   —John Ashbery

I’d think he think there were a
joke he planted about reading
these lines, his words, after he
was gone. But then, I really do

not know. I’ve grown quite ac
quainted with what I think of as
his humor, which was generally,
or more often than not, pretty

bleak. A funny thing, certainly,
to be able, with some feeling of
authority, think of him at all as
if I have even a general idea of

what he was doing all along, with
the sidewalks of words he built as
he walked. Sometimes someone
else might pour a bit of concrete

or lay down a square set of nailed
planks into which to pour this salad.
I project this upon the man who wrote
a grand sum of these sidewalk collages.

From which I glean clear stories from
endless angles, or become hard-set
on how absolute the narrative of some
of the “stories.” You might think him

my favorite poet, but he’s not. Frank’s
snacks, Jimmy’s elevated lines of obser
vation, these are more my cups of tea.
Although I don’t drink tea much, unless

chilled with Splenda. Lately, I’ve wanted
to put in some lemon juice, so I just this
moment took a break to ask Alexa to add
lemon juice to my grocery list. Maybe I

should switch it to fresh lemons, but there’s
no need to involve my new roommate in
that idea. I need to take an inventory of
what books of his I have yet to read. Even

as I poopoo his my-cup-of-tea-worthiness,
each next time I read one of his poems or
one of his books, it gets better. And there
are hardly that many memorable poems

(though endless memorable moments).
That’s heresy to no small few of you, or of
those who read him anywhere near as much
as I do. But what I was going to say is that

even if for me his tomes don’t hold what I
would consider my favorite poems of those
of his spare and problematic ‘school’ – which
of course I’ll admit has had the most profound

and expansive—over any other group’s or school’s
or cotery’s influence—on ME and what I present
in this multitude of virtual pages, and elsewhere—
save for perhaps my own personal poem-swap

compatriots (I so miss you all, from my elders
in Jamaica Plain to my colleagues on those many
weekend mornings at Anza Vista to my the swaps
at my short-term bachelor pad on Bush to the decade

plus of regular swap-meets up the block and catty-
corner at Pine and Mason—and how could I mean
these many important diversion to not only divert
from what I’m trying to say but muddy it up, this

truth I feel I am divulging, to cast doubt on it, but
that would be silly of me to do, wouldn’t it? Esp
ecially since John Ashbery’s bricolage of stanzas
and sentences DO, surely, more than anyone or

anything else, catalyze so many of these that I
fold up into little paper airplanes for which to
bombard you with such regularity. Which is a
bit of a sullen if not just downright offensive

metaphor, I suppose. My pieces as airplanes
that crash somewhere onto your body. Enough
so that you can feel it, so that it makes an impact.
There would be casualties, then. Let’s make a pact

that those who don’t survive the impact are just meta-
metaphors, like the worse lines that I happen to write.
Don’t kill them all off, please. Well, how nice it would 

be to have given you a little of me or at least some 

thing that is somewhat real, that you might keep— 
if for no other reason than to remember me by.

something to remember me by

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