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Ash-Friday: Without Apology or Attack*

by Julie Adams

April 7, 2006

Like any devout poet I made today holy.
No pedestal, for he is a man, after all who blinks and limps with the burden of a full life, heavy on the lids and legs like my father, really… but for the whole poetry thing, and Paris, and his varnished truths and anti-School sentiment
but it is Ash-Friday, the first in fact, and I came to hear the meal of his words, I swallow like pre-chewed worms from his loaded tongue.
As I listen, I giggle and dive, like Alice into his burrowing verse weaving after each fluffy white tail highlighted with his faint blond wisps—
at his temples they kneel with me, peeking in to watch his thoughts travel in 3D, hop a paper plane with Ashbery to Paris or Guadalajara and back to Rochester, next stop: Harlem!
The gradual wealth procured there atop his skeletal stem, heavy aspiration like marrow, deepen his rippling coral mind caverns, to breed poems. His spine worn with time like a bible, opened and bent enough to crack comfort into it.
Toss the tools, the flashlight let me feel my way through let his Braille poetry massage the fingers of time days gone, stacked into the corner a dog-eared pile with today on top, paper still warm
a collection of imbued magnetic charges held within each page, orbiting a sophisticated jungle of swinging vines and flowering pathways that lead to no place in particular
but his poems beckon me further like a pack of wild future tenses they dig into me, and I dig into the him that’s never and always present on the page, omniscient almost a badger, caught on stage, eyes ablaze each it’s own constellation beyond the black hole
of the random and colossal he reads, glowing— between breaths and humor— despite the muddy paws of farm life
he walks between the trees and tribulations in varied subtleties, living on the outskirts, even amidst writers slash painters slash experimentalists his poets’-eye view swooping up the minute the flavorful the changing, like seasons or seasoned, like Hitchcock. His poetry has talons outstretched and curved on a limb that sways, not with the critic or year but with the wind of his heart’s content or lack years beyond his typewriter and the binding jackets of poems that fight to breathe freely; live their own life.
He wonders if it makes a difference... And I have to wonder at this.
Dramatic irony stands before me seventy-nine years young, shimmering in a gold-speckled tie that ducks beneath the tide of his lapping neck where poems sleep waiting, as we do, to see what he does next.
The cranes cry out bewitched by the moon calling back the setting sun.


Author's Note: * without...attack: plucked from the text of David Lehman's The Last Avant-Garde, an in depth look into the lives of the New York School poets.
This came to me as a response to attending the Ashbery Festival this weekend. I enjoyed his reading and I hope you enjoy my poetic response!

Posted on 04/10/2006
Copyright © 2021 Julie Adams

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 04/10/06 at 06:34 PM

I found this piece to be quite moving spiritually, eclectic in its humanity and place in the world. Kudos Jewels.

Posted by Olivia Martin on 04/10/06 at 08:06 PM

Amazing craft you have here! I love all the wonderful allusions, the imagery, the diction - this piece is just so rich and wonderful! Great job!

Posted by Lacy D Phillips on 04/11/06 at 03:04 PM

(Standing ovation!)

Posted by Charles E Minshall on 04/12/06 at 07:30 PM

I do enjoy the response Julie....Charlie

Posted by Mara Meade on 04/12/06 at 08:06 PM

This is like watching a web being spun - from here, to there, to over here, to another point and then back again... what incredible touchstones you use... and the finished product makes me ponder... Wow.

Posted by Gregory O'Neill on 04/12/06 at 09:57 PM

Lucky you, bet the Ashbery fete was great. This is eclectic, even Ashbery-esque. Great reading! Thanks.

Posted by Jim Benz on 04/12/06 at 10:34 PM

this poetic response is TREMENDOUS. you done good, very very good.

Posted by Michelle Angelini on 11/18/06 at 04:43 AM

Jewels, like Bernadette, I don't normally like long poems, but you have done such a masterful job with your words, images, form and theme that I was hooked. Indeed, your poem has "talons" to grab the reader and not let them go until the very last word. Voting for POTD!

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