The first typescript

[Page 40]

Ashbery: “The Skaters,” first typescript, page 40

The wind has dropped, but the magnolia blossoms still
Fall with a plop onto the dry, spongy earth.
The evening air is pestiferous with gnats. (midges)dele
We walk back to the house taking our time about it
Because there is nothing for dinner
Only hot water and a couple of shit-smeared eggs.

There is only one way to complete the puzzle:
By finding a roof-shaped peaceXXXXX piece that is lime-green fading to buff at one edge side.dele

I had thought of announcing my engagement to you
The day of the first full moon of X month.

Though it is only the beginning of March, a few
Russet and yellow wall flowers are blooming in the border
Protected by some moss-grown, fragmentary masonry.
Termites are at work in the long central roof-beam.

One morning you appear at breakfast
Dressed, as for a voyage, in your worst suit of clothes.
And over a pot of coffee, or, more accurately, rusted water
Announce your intention of leaving me alone in this cistern-like house.
In your own best interests I think I shall decide not to believe you.

A curious wooden vehicle you have, neither cart nor sled.
The wooden runners swish quite merrily over the oozy grass.
You had thought it only big enough for one but in reality it holds two quite comfortably.

In the distance, academic spires.
We are approaching M, a sub-prefecture of Z province.           (lively)dele
Here we shall find food, a night's lodging, and, if we are lucky, intelligent conversation.

"Hard-boiled eggs and honey
Have ever been my principal sustenance.
A little water taken at dawn, in the evening some seaweed-broth
And someXXXXXXXX With perhaps some corn-sugar crystals on special feast-daysdele
Are enough for the sage. Cinder-block cushions on a granite couch
He finds Are too soft for him; he and weeps with gentle rage."dele
The tiresome old man is telling us his life story.
He was born, it seems, long ago, near the frontiers of D district
In the heart of the famous pitch-pine forests there. A lifetime ofXX among treesdele
Has made him sallow and listless; his heart is like a fungus
Deep in the heart of some dismal wood.dele
"At thirty-two I came up to take my examinations at X university.
The W U wax factory, it seemed, wanted a new general manager.dele
I was the sole applicant for the job, but it was refused me.
So I have preferred to finish my life
In the quietude of this floral retreat."