The Path to the White Moon

There were little farmhouses there they
Looked like farmhouses yes without very much land
And trees, too many trees and a mistake
Built into each thing rather charmingly
But once you have seen a thing you have to move on

You have to lie in the grass
And play with your hair, scratch yourself
And then the space of this behavior, the air,
Has suddenly doubled
And you have grown to fill the extra place
Looking back at the small, fallen shelter that was

If a stream winds through all this
Alongside an abandoned knitting mill it will not
Say where it has been
The time unfolds like music trapped on the page
Unable to tell the story again

Where the winters grew white we went outside
To look at things again, putting on more clothes
This too an attempt to define
How we were being in all the surroundings
Big ones sleepy ones
Underwear and hats speak to us
As though we were cats

Dependent and independent
There were shouted instructions
Grayed in the morning

Keep track of us
It gets to be so exciting but so big too
And we have ways to define but not terms
We know what is coming, that we are moving
Dangerously and gracefully
Toward the resolution of time
Blurred but alive with many separate meanings
Inside this conversation

John Ashbery

2 Replies to “The Path to the White Moon”

  1. I, too, found that this poem is beautiful when read aloud. I stumbled over the punctuation and/or lack thereof the first time. Just last night I read it aloud again, and found Ashbery’s voice, his meaning, his allegory. Actually, I think I’m going to read it aloud again tonight.


  2. I’ve been trying to get into John Ashbery. Mostly, I need to do it in little fits and starts. It helps to read his work out loud. It feels, most of the time, that he is in some different universe than I am, and he provides neither a map nor an inspiration for me to get there. However, poems like this one, keep drawing me in. Perhaps, I’m doing what Collins calls “feeling the walls for a light switch.” Thank you for this one and for brightening my understanding a bit more.


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