The second typescript

[Page 3]

Ashbery: “The Skaters,” second typescript, page 3


Through a hole in the half-full cardboard case, the skaters can be seen.dele
At this stage everything depends on a special bottledele
Covered by its tin case, and a second glass beneathdele
The bottle in its position, or two bottles instead.dele
Again, the cases are put over the bottles, and again theydele
Are raised, nipping the special bottle with itsdele
Two linings, and the space for the glass to stand within itsdele
Dumb patina. There are many false starts, and you candele
Choose among them. Obliged to play with two or more, youdele
May not know the skaters' false chips, in the night of turnsdele
Coming back once again the anchor of morning. Now your only chance is to begin over.dele
Secretly dip the point of the glass rod in oil of vitriol, and touch the mass.dele

Few of them were present on that occasion:dele
The teacher, and a few friends. It is necessary to trace each letterdele
Of the alphabet quite a few times to get them right.dele
The "c's" and "i's" can resemble each other quite a lot.dele
Now loosen the writing a little, and presently it will spreaddele
On the farm landscape. The squares are called "White" and "Black" whatever their actual color may be.dele
For invisible writing, dip a quill in some goose grease and writedele
On the pad. Then dust some powdered charcoal over the surfacedele
And the magic writing will appear.dele
For plain writingdele
Try beginning with an easy word, such as "neck."dele

We children are ashamed of our bodies
But we laugh and, demanded, talk of sex again
And all is well. The waves of morning harshness
Float away like coal-gas into the sky.
But how much survives? How much of any one of us survives?
The articles we'd collect--stamps of the colonies
With greasy cancellation marks, mauve, magenta and chocolate,
Or funny looking dogs we'd see in the street, or bright remarks.
One collects bullets. An Indianapolis, Indiana man collects slingshots of all epochs, and so on.

Subtracted from our collections, though, these go on a little while, collecting aimlessly. We still support them.
But so little energy they have! And up the swollen sands
Staggers the darkness fiend, with the storm fiend close behind him!
True, melodious tolling does go on in that awful pandemonium,
Certain resonances are not utterly displeasing to the terrified eardrum.
Some paroxysms are dinning of tambourine, others suggest piano room or organ loft
For the most dissonant night charms us, even after death. This, after all, may be happiness: tuba notes awash on the great flood, ruptures of xylophone, violins, limpets, grace-notes, the musical instrument called serpent, viola da gambas, aeolian harps, clavicles, pinball machines, electric drills, que sais-je encore!
The performance has rapidly reached your ear; silent and tear-stained, in the postmortem shock, you stand listening, awash