Today is John Ashbery’s birthday. One of my favorite of his poems is “Just Walking Around.” I especially like the last stanza, the image of the orange particularly.
Just Walking Around
What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is not name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them. Just walking around,
An object of curiosity to some,
But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much and wander around,
Smiling to yourself and others.
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting.
Counterproductive, as you realize once again
That the longest way is the most efficient way,
The one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
And now that the end is near
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there and mystery and food.
Come see it.
Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.
The language of the poem is quite simple, and the enjambment from stanza to stanza (although it is complicated by the capitalization) draws the reader through the poem, giving the rhythm of walking around. I would like to hope that I can see life as swinging open like an orange – “there is light in there and mystery and food./Come see it. ” That is an invitation we all should consider.
If you want to write:
1. Use Ashbery’s title, “Just Walking Around” and write your own poem that features a smudge and a piece of fruit.
2. Use the line “the longest way is the most efficient way” either as a title or epigraph.