The first typescript

[Page 19]

Ashbery: “The Skaters,” first typescript, page 19


But how luminous the fountain! Its sparks seem to aspire to reach the sky!
And so much energy in those bubbles. A wise man could contemplate his face in them
With impunity, but fools would surely do better not to approach too close
Because any intense physical activity like that implies danger for the unwary and the uneducated. Great balls of fire!
In my day we used to make "fire designs",takeXXXX using a saturated solution of nitrate of potash.dele
Then we used to take a smooth stick, and using the solution as ink, draw with it on sheets of white tissue paper.
Once it was thoroughly dry, the writing would be invisible.
By means of a spark from a mouXXX smouldering match ignite the potassium nitrate at any part of the drawing,dele
First laying the paper on a plate or tray in a darkned room.
The fire will smoulder along the line of the invisible drawing until the design is complete.

Meanwhile the fire fountain is still smouldering and welling
Casting off a hellish stink and wild fumes of pitch
Acrid as jealousy. And it might be
That flame-writing might be visible right there, in the gaps in the smoke
Without going through the bother of the solution-writing.
A word here and there--"promised" or "beware"--you have to go the long way round before you find that the entrance to that side is closed.
The phorphorecent liquid is still heaving and boiling, however.
And what if this insane activity were akind of d XXXXXXXXXXX itself a kind of drawingdele

Of April sidewalks, and young trees bursting into timid leaf
And dogs sniffing hydrants, the fyry of spring beginning to back up along their veins?

Yonder stand a young boy and a girl leaning against a bicycle.
The iron lamppost next to them isXX disappear into the feathery, unborn leaves that suffocate its top.dele

A postman is coming up the walk, a letter held in his outstretched hand.
This is his first day on the new job, and he looks warily around
Alas not seeing the hideous bulldog bearing down on him like sixty, its hellish eyes fixed on the seat of his pants, jowls a-slaver.
Nearby a young woman is fixing her stocking. Watching her, a fellow chap with a hatdele
Is about to walk into the path of a speeding XX hackney cabriolet. The line of lamppostsdele
Marches up the street in strict array, but the lamp parts
Are lost in feathery bloom, in which hidden faces can be spotted, for this is a puzzle scene.
The sky is white, yet full of outlined stars--it must be night,
Or an early springtime evening, with just a hint of dampness and chill in the air
Memory of winter, hint of the autumn to come,
Yet the lovers congregate anyway, the lights twinkle slowly on.
Cars move steadily along the street.
It is a scene worthy of a poet's pen, yet it is the fire-demon
Who has created it, throwing it up on the dubious surface of a phosphorecent fountain
For all the world like a poet. But love can appropriate it,
Use or mis-use it for its own ends. Love is stronger than fire.

The proof of this is that already the heaving, sucking fountain is paling away
Yet the fire-lines of the lovers remain fixed, as if permanently, on the air of the lab.