You Have It But You Don’t Have It

by Dean Rader

                John Ashbery, in Memoriam 1927-2017

The poet has returned once more
to an empty piece of paper

on the desk. The poet imagines
you in your house or at work

about to arrive at the poem
that has not yet begunto be,

the poem this paper is there
for, the poem the emptiness

is set to receive. You are tired. You
don’t feel like attending to a poem,

and yet here you are reading these
words written for you. The poet

cannot believe their poem will have
traveled so far into the future

to find you. For the poet it is still
the past but for you time is always

the present and you have become
the poem’s new author, writing it

into the book that is your life. You hate it.
You love it. You read your own lines to the

darkness that has become the brightness
this poem was written for you to be.

Published on May 9, 2023

First published in Harvard Review 60.