Rat Chow

1 November 2016

Reconstituted from selected chunks of John Ashbery’s Flow Chart

“… the top
of the volcano has been successfully glued back on, and who is to say we
aren’t invited?” — Flow Chart, p. 167

1.
The incubus awoke from a long, refreshing sleep.
I suppose it does congeal slowly. And the river
threaded its way as best it could, neither conscious
nor uncaring
, awash with sentiments in which
the Almighty once saw Himself,
and wept
.
Quick—the medication.
And while the fire-mind tries out its images on us
at some charm school in hell, and we can’t avoid
our reflection in these, come speak with me behind
the screen. I’ve been at this stand for years,
a thread of breath: that’s all
almost magical now, almost beyond belief. Just so,
some argue, nothing further remains to be done except
the higher echelons where the view is distant.
Not that I think for a moment …

2.
Here a man carries bags, I ask you. Ask, rather, why the clock
slows down. Smell it yourself he said my gosh. A dream from nowhere
mumbling the litany, unaware that the parallel daintiness
of the lives of the rich mentioned in the Bible
worked, like fish in an ocean
whose bottom is dotted
. Now both of us were attracted.
Tomorrow beckoned, and today would soon be then.
Hours,
years later, we were divided up among several participants,
and all that mythology of broken tracks, who make up
the electorate? Each day the ball was in its court. “You’re a grown
man now, but must sit in a tub, on a comfortable income and a few
puddles of camel-stale, jotting down seemingly unrelated
random characteristics.” Leave me here,
if that’s going to help. Always on the rim of some fleshpot,
if he is willing to exchange me for a hostage.

3.
In the real world
one is always setting out from, having in the meantime forgotten
this battle of stupid titans, things keep arriving from the florist’s.
And I in greater depths than he,” I suppose, know enough
not to insist, to keep sifting a mountain of detritus

like a shuttle. Something else, it says here,
will break fruitfully into oblivion. Another time I was just sitting,
universally misconstrued
in one’s lap, like a sandwich.
The ads didn’t tell you this. You see it is part of your plan,
to realise that sex has very little to do with any of it,
what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to like it.
I am prepared now for the drone that submerges
and always turns out to be rather nice.
We must be patient if we are to live that far, deposited
over there, not out of sight.

4.
I wanted to cry back at her: “Yes!
I feel their aura, Mother,
it shall fall into our hands and seem what
disingenuous? Maybe
only a small, other way of living
as one. And when a shining thing approaches,
symmetry is death. Try sleeping on it. And then
we’d have a nice
lumbering, tumbrel-like
progress across edifices.
Any day now you must
start something in the sky. And we’re supposed to get on
with
the logic these lines always left space for,
the grotty little amusement park one is
horrified at the prospect
of being immured in: mud and cosmetics.
Different forms of address. This stable or retiring room
or whatever you want to call it. You can feel it when the lake is up:
he’s ready to talk business. Yet one’s ego, for a time at least,
must be drugged or convinced with seabirds’ feathers,
and a smart-looking interior
. Meanwhile I have
received your postcard. It likes me the way I am,
baling others of us together like straw, for the speed
of light is far away
, and whatever is not glue
may be pressed into service as such.”
A kettle boiled happily.

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