Senior Citizens at the Retirement Center Discuss John Ashbery’s “More Reluctant” by Faith Paulsen

I was doing okay until I got to the
wake-up call part. Is he famous, this
Ashbery? Rambling on about
nobody knows what –
That’s what
he’s doing. Is all his poetry like this?
I thought there were going to be snacks.
What’s that word ‘spalls?’ Did anyone bring a
dictionary? Maybe it’s a typo.

I think he’s talking about a dream.
I like the part about out of control
but mature.
Sometimes I feel that way.
Don’t we all? What’s that noise?
Lummox? What lummox? It’s just Al,
winding the clock. No, I mean

in the poem. How old is this Ashbery guy?
I like the part where he says,
When I was young, I thought of myself as
Maybe he’s visiting his home town
after being away. He says it’s changed.
observe customs of the spruce of the year—
It must be Christmas. Why’s he talking about pee
all of a sudden? What’s an
awful leaf and how is it congruent?

You brought it– You explain it.

Maybe it’s not that
I’m stupid; maybe he’s just a bad poet.
Maybe this is one of his rejects.
It was in the New Yorker. It must be good.
Who says? Wait. Do you think– maybe you’re supposed to
not analyze it, just kind of
feel it, like
In the last line – it’s not easy
for the poet either.

A few years ago my mother invited me to accompany her to a class on American Poetry being taught by a retired teacher at her retirement center. I was impressed with the quality of the discussion on Yeats and other poets, but when it came to John Ashbery, even the teacher was confused. I simply took notes on the discussion, finding them perceptive, bright, poignant and delightfully honest.

Faith Paulsen

Faith Paulsen

Faith Paulsen works full-time as all of the following: mom, wife, pet lover, insurance customer service rep, volunteer and writer — and possibly more, depending on the day of the week, not necessarily in that order. Her work has appeared in journals and collections including, Apiary, Wild River Review, Literary Mama, Blast Furnace, Musehouse Journal, three Cup of Comfort collections, and four Chicken Soup for the Soul books including the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenting on the Spectrum. She lives in Norristown, PA.

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