shot glass
"... brevity is the soul of wit ..."
- William Shakespeare

Rodd Whelpley

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Reading after Reading John Ashbery

I know these words, most of them,
at least laid them down in orders not like
this syntax without cartography – like the braille
dance of the 20/20 when the substation blows,

the house a sudden obsidian land, and
I discover I hadn't gotten memorized
the surface, length or depth
of all these walls. Mother said, when in doubt

sound it out: i before e and something
about two vowels walking, the first talking.
But this? I'm kept after, while you,
you I can see through the window

volleying with trees in the schoolyard.
The teacher, dagger eyes and spearhead nails,
slides the paper across the desk to me,
saying: How much of this work is really yours?