The second typescript

[Page 15]

Ashbery: “The Skaters,” second typescript, page 15


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 the entrance to that side is closed.
The phosphorescent liquid is still heaving and boiling, however.
And what if this insane activity were itself a kind of drawing
Of April sidewalks, and young trees bursting into timid leaf
And dogs sniffing hydrants, the fury 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 disappears into the feathery, unborn leaves that suffocate its top.
A postman is coming up the walk, a letter held in its outstretched hand.dele
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 chap with a hat
Is about to walk into the path of a speeding hackney cabriolet. The line of lampposts
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 the poet's pen, yet it is the fire-demon
Who has created it, throwing it up on the dubious surface of a phosphorescent fountain
For all the world like a poet. But love can appreciate 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.
Not for long though. And now they too collapse,
Giving, as they pass away, the impression of a bluff,
Its craggy headlands outlined in sparks, its top crowned with a zigzag
Of grass and shrubs, pebbled beach at the bottom, with flat sea
Holding a few horizontal lines. Then this vision, too, passesXXXXXX fades slowly away.dele