by John Ashbery
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.
We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
You are not even here.
John Ashbery, “This Room” from Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems. Copyright © 2007 by John Ashbery
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I have a half an hour of quiet left: I squandered my other two and a half hours of quiet by laying on my bed thinking about a bird call I cannot identify—and then in a flurry of guilt—by placing an order online for a bunch of household items in need of replacement. I also worried about my kindergartener who reportedly fell hard on the way to school—both hands deep in his pockets, no doubt fingering some crusty piece of Manhattan schist. Maybe too I wiped the breakfast crumbs from the table, reheated my coffee; I surely browsed amber necklaces on Etsy for twenty minutes.
In a few minutes I will make my way a few blocks north, toward the park, and into the cloistered stone walls that surround the Catholic school where my daughter goes to preschool. I will stand a little away from it all, the mothers and teachers and nannies, feeling both pride and dread by small degrees. But mostly responsibility: the vague anxiety of being a mother heightened by the vigilance of a small business owner. Always ready for things to go awry.
But for a moment I have this quiet. And a poem by Ashbery that reminds me of a less earnest Rilke. Something shimmers, something is hushed up.