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A Favorite Snippet of John Ashbery

 

from John Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

 

How many people came and stayed a certain time,
Uttered light or dark speech that became part of you
Like light behind windblown fog and sand,
Filtered and influenced by it, until no part
Remains that is surely you.

 

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When I was first introduced to this poem, it was this exact segment, and it was recited… I wrote the lines down in a notebook I had with me and based the line breaks on how the poem was recited. Admittedly, I read the segment this way for so long that I became incredibly partial to it and still struggle when reading the segment in its proper context!

 

My version:

How many people came and stayed a certain time,
Uttered light and dark speech
that became a part of you,
filtered and influenced by it
like light behind wind-blown sand and fog
until no part that remains is surely you.

 

 

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