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On the occasion of JA's 80th birthday

For John Ashbery, July 28, 2007

Send for the boys who do not care,
The rude birds that avoid the air,
The girls who shave off all their hair,
Flyers that crash down for a dare –

Send for the scribes who are impure;
Let them serve up sherbet and maize,
Warmest Florida days, a dance craze
Started in Harlem, and nothing in place,

See, there are no shoes to win this race –
Blessed are those who fail to justify
The ways in which they select high
And low manners of making desire sigh,

Flung off to deny, belie, codify, luxuries
Broadly open to all cavorting stylish eyes;
Mania belongs to the song of songs sung
With thrusters burning, all wheels swung

Wide to glide like butter or ice going across
A pan, out to the sea which cannot adjudicate
Between a well-turned ankle and a sharp skate
But glistens like a flustered many-glozed affair

That happens in every apartment where
Lovers cavort without scruple or design,
Or rather, have designed scruples that provide
All the pleasures of the moon, the day, denied

Them in the avenues of arbitrage, sad caverns
Of any deluded parvenu; spread out perfumed
Cockatoo feathers on pillows of the Lord Mayor
And break all his windows that refrain from air!


poem by Todd Swift
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