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John Ash, "To The City"


Found this online from Ash's newest collection which I haven't yet seen. It is, as all of Ash's work is, deceptively simple, seeming first off to simply present a scene in lineated prose, then the prosody makes its gentle presence felt, and finally matters of metaphysical import take possession of your consciousness.

As Peter Campion says in his lovely littel review of the poem:

"The poem blends absence and presence, dream image and naturalistic reality. Like those shoes at the doorway, Ash dwells (in this poem and in all his work) in a borderland. By living there he maintains a state of desire, an intensified engagement with feelings as fragile and surprising as the ghost of poplars he sees in the city towers. "

To the City

The village has come to the city.
In the narrow street, in the crowd
pressing down it, in the faces of tall buildings
we plainly see the shimmer of poplars
in the emptiness of the plateau, the huddle
of houses from which the voices of families,
and tribes before them, rise, reaching across
the sharp ridges of their displacement
to settle like smoke in the deepest hollows
of the city. They are very near to us, in the store
or the next apartment, in the shadow of the tower
yet are heard as distance, as ignorance,
and, in their echoes, the city seems to shudder
like something imagined from very far away—
glass city for those without windows. Their shoes
sit at the doorways as if begging for admission.
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