Oxydoxes and Paramorons
(From the collected poems of Ogden Nashbery)
This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level——
Just straightforward words without boustrophedon, picot edging, or bevel.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
and see yourself mirrored as a hippopotamus, a slender gazelle, or a thin doe,
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don't have it.
It's both in and out of your reach like a lifeboat hanging from a davit.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.
And pretty soon everybody is missing everybody else and his great-great-grandmother.
The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
It wishes you were its loving parent instead of the one by whom it has already been begot.
What's a plain level? It is that and other things,
a bubble in the middle of a two-dimensional collection of concentric rings,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
No, I don't want to. Go away.
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be
any activity where the person who makes the rules is me.
A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
(I've always wanted to pretend to eat my children, like Saturn)
As in the division of grace these long August days
when most of it goes to everybody else and leaves me with nothing but malaise,
Without proof. Open ended. And before you know
with what psychobabble to address the threatened wave of post-structuralist overflow,
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters,
coopted into the maundering drivel of dunderheaded hypewriters.
It has been played once more. I think you exist only
in hopes of getting the whole world thrashing about in the gutter, supinely or pronely;
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren't there
but are off mingling with the bon ton, pretending to be debonair
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem,
which is full of lines which I don't know whether to scan ‛em, snort ‛em or toe ‛em,
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.
See, I can pretend to be debonair too.
[Italicized lines: "Paradoxes and Oxymorons" by John Ashbery]
Esther Greenleaf Murer has been writing poetry all her life and got serious about learning the craft when she turned 70. She published her first collection, Unglobed Fruit, in 2011. Links to many of her poems published online may be found on her blog. She lives in Philadelphia.