I, Too

John Ashbery

Happy thoughts weren’t made to last,
but it is their compactness that eludes us.

The built-in obsolescence of every nanny, every pram,
is a force from God that issues from us.

How could we not like it, watching it emanate
like a breath of witch hazel
or a grayish-purple shroud?

Something has got to be done to the way we feel
before we get completely numb, like a colossus
floundering in its own wake.

See these hands?
Really we must make it up to them
or they’ll take credit for everything we've accomplished
which they will anyway.

And what’s-his-face can sit on his porch burping
uninterruptedly – propriety isn’t hardy in this zone,
but that's not his problem. In fact
he doesn’t have a problem. We, who see
around corners, into strongboxes, must wear
the guilt of our glancing. It’s another appurtenance,
like a birdhouse or dishwasher, that we came to terms with
eons ago, when a tsunami of slime collided
with our pink stucco skyscraper. We know so much we’ve
kept it all in. That may be changing.

John Ashbery was a poet whose many collections of poetry include Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Originally published:
October 1, 1995

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