A Perfect Stanza

Just took out Houseboat Days by John Ashbery for no particular reason, and stumbled onto the opening stanza of “Melodic Trains.” It’s so perfect I had to share it:


A little girl with scarlet enameled fingernails
Asks me what time it is–evidently that’s a toy wristwatch
She’s wearing, for fun. And it is fun to wear other
Odd things, like this briar pipe and tweed coat

The whole poem’s wonderful, as is the whole book, but that stanza just took my breath away. Sometimes I forget what an incredible poet Ashbery is.


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