Strawberries, Fireberries, Ashberries

Mélancolie hermétique, Giorgio de Chirico

The rumors that an Ashbery app will go on writing his
poems long into the next century are as scurrilous as the
accusation that the app is writing his poems now.
—William Logan

All hell didn’t break loose . . .
—John Ashbery

One bright summer day, it was a dark and stormy night.
Little did he know he knew too much. Then it hit him—
an out-of-control ambulance—but did no more than knock
loose a loogie the moment he’d least expectorated it.
Meanwhile, she stewed, had her suspicions over for lunch,
entertained them all afternoon, served stew. One was
involved in some real funny business, he was an agent
for stand-up comedians and boasted he hustled twice as hard
as anyone in Show Biz, he was practically a double agent,
which, admittedly, sounded suspicious. And then there was
Rudolfo, the triple-A-outfielder-slash-dog-attack-victim—
a minor player with a bit part. For years, he’d been dating
an anesthesiologist, a real knockout, a pretty little number
who made him not feel things he’d never not felt before.
As for the original her, the ur-her as it were, she never stood
a chance, he could see she was lying languidly on a chaise longue,
or longingly on a chaise languide, or maybe just flat on a piano,
and already something was terribly rung—a malfunctioning
doorbell. He pressed on: “Now of all the toes on all the feet
in all the shoes on all the dames in all the rooms in all the world,
I had to step on yours,” he said, raising an eyebrow, the question,
the bar, a ruckus, the stakes, and his glass. And just like that,
she offered to show him her vintage Holstein figurine collection,
but he’d seen her kine before and didn’t plan on sleeping
with the fishes: like, literally, she kept a flotilla of aquariums
in her bedroom, and they put him in mind of his watery Graves,
the copy of The White Goddess he lost on a yacht stakeout,
plopped right in the drink in an ad hoc swan dive reminiscent
of when he stopped outside that pawnshop in search of a stolen
pocket watch and smelled a roast beef on rye so robust he lost
his Proust. She lifted her highball, he lowered his lowball,
the cocktails remained middling, and as for the muddling,
it was just peachy, but as Mr. Larkin said, “I prefer strawberry.”
At first, he didn’t buy it; later, he wasn’t sold; later still,
over a few mojitos and her, he could no longer remember
whether she was unforgettable. Suddenly, without warning,
someone fired a warning shot. Nothing would ever be the same,
but after that, things went back to normal; before long, years
passed, and this was no exception, except he never saw it
coming, his glaucoma, and one blurry night, it all grew clear,
he saw his contacts lying in their solution and knew the solution
lay in his contacts, yet he couldn’t believe his eyes: it was her
all along, all Anglo, all gal—no, all nag. Lo,
it was raining. A little too raining.