Tide Music

John Ashbery

Again in the autumn there is a case for it,
The tastelessness that just curls up and sometimes dies
At the edge of certain thoughtful, uneventful sidewalks.
In the afternoon you can hear what you can’t see, all around,

The patterns of distress settling into rings
Of warm self-satisfaction and disbelief. It’s as though
The whole surface of the air and the morrow were scored
Over and over with a nail as heavy rains

Pounded the area, until underneath all was revealed as mild,
Transient shining, the way a cloud dissolves
Around the light that is of its own making, hard as it is
To believe, and as though the welcoming host in you had

For some reason left the door to the street open and all
Kinds of amiable boors had taken advantage of it, though the mat
Isn’t out. All the sky, each ragged leaf, have been thoroughly
       gone over
And every inch is accounted for in the tune, the wallpaper
       of dreams.

John Ashbery (1927–2017) 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:
January 1, 1981

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