Unpublished poems and fragments from the first typescript:

Cleopatra's Last Class


One typescript page, letter format. Undated. The typewriter is not the one used for most of the other poems.

According to John Ashbery (personal communication, June 21, 2012), this poem was written in collaboration with Kenneth Koch (whose typewriter appears to have been used). It is part of a series of poems based on formal constraints (here, for each line, a Shakespearian character, a food and the word “arithmetic”) — cf., in the same section, “Poem” for another example of constraint-based collaborative poem.

No corrections.

Ashbery: “The Skaters,” first typescript, “Cleopatra's Last Class”

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Bottom drank the arithmetic pastrami sandwich
While Romeo dined on couscous--actually, it was a double arithmetic sandwich,
A sandwich so enormous that Banquo turned from his arithmetic smorgasbord--
He whirled so hard he fell on arithmetic Rosalind eating spaghetti.
She was flattened to a crepe suzette near the arithmetic Iago,
Then sizzled away to nothing while Cymbeline solved arithmetic problems with chunks of ossi bucco
Which became so large that it was soon the turn of arithmetic halva Beatrice
To close Dogberry's arithmetic book as they became even more enormous.
Cordelia, drinking American coffee, found this the most wonderful arithmetic
In the universe of pressed duck. Macbeth glanced at his arithmetic;
But Goneril, gulping pineapple upside-down cake, stared even harder at the arithmetic
Until her eyes bored seven holes soon filled with kidney stew by Friar Lawrence who always threw up at the sight of arithmetic.
Baked alaska overflowed from the holes at the sound of Hotspur's arithmetic,
Inundating Dromio's potato pancake arithmetic hut
And washing it away to justify Mistress Quickly'a sharkfin soup arithmetic
Problem arrangements, and finally dissolving it into borscht, as Charles the Wrestler laughed at arithmetic--
He fainted with laughter. Cicero's sukiyaki arithmetic grew larger
In Celia's evening, which was bright with shishkabob, until it became too huge to be measured by arithmetic
And finally even huger than the arithmetic of Mustardseed's Virginia ham pyjamas,
Which were, if truth be told, an enormous arithmetic tent sheltering Timon of Athens who was dealing a hand of schav
Which gradually became several paella hands of Fleance arithmetic.
These hands were onion soup arms which held the Nurse in Arithmetic Penitentiary--
So tightly did they clasp her that Cassio swallowing gnocchi grew aware of his sister's arithmetic,
Which he soon had by heart. King John conquered arithmetic with a cannon of ham and eggs
Reducing it to a ruin of smoking watercress salad. Charmian's brother's wrist arithmetic
Now covered his entire body. Prospero's wienerschnitzel book on arithmetic
Is the definitive work on arithmetic. A cry of Guildenstern yogurt
Insisted that it was the definitive work on everything, and La Pucelle destroyed her almond cookie arithmetic,
Which was totally obliterated by the Thersites baked beans. An arithmetic drum
Was ten drums. Arithmetic lay sobbing. King Lear turned to raw fish.