Poetry Mixtape 28: A Birthday Walk

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.

OR

2.  Use the line “the longest way is the most efficient way” either as a title or epigraph.

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5 thoughts on “Poetry Mixtape 28: A Birthday Walk

  1. Funny, I was just writing a poem about “life”. This one is much better. LOL

    I really like this poem, and am totally in love with, “secret smudge in the back of your soul”, but you are right, using the image of the orange segments is really great. Actually, there are so many great things in this poem. One of those that gets better and better the more you think about it.

    So now I’ll go back to my little poem, but I have some tweaks in mind now that you’ve made the suggestion of using the line “the longest way is the most efficient way” as an epigraph.

  2. Pingback: the longest way is the most efficient way « lost in translation

  3. Pingback: TUESDAY’S POETRY FROM PROMPT « NAKED.

    • I like the conversation approach. I feel the same way about many of Ashbery’s poems, but “Just Walking Around” is a favorite that doesn’t beat around the bush. And the fact that you just started writing three years ago and are so knowledgeable is impressive.

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