John Ashbery, "If You Said You Would Come With Me"
(a poem published in the New York Times on Christmas Day, 1999)

In town it was very urban but in the country cows were covering the 
The clouds were near and very moist. I was walking along the pavement with 
Anna, enjoying the scattered scenery. Suddenly a sound like a deep 
bell came 
from behind us. We both turned to look. "It's the words you spoke in 
the past, 
coming back to haunt you," Anna explained. "They always do, you 

Indeed I did. Many times this deep bell-like tone had intruded itself 
on my 
thoughts, scrambling them at first, then rearranging them in apple-pie
"Two crows," the voice seemed to say, "were sitting on a sundial in the
sunlight. Then one flew away." 

"Yes . . . and then?" I wanted to ask, but I kept silent. We turned 
into a 
courtyard and walked up several flights of stairs to the roof, where a
was in progress. "This is my friend Hans," Anna said by way of
No one paid much attention and several guests moved away to the 
to admire the view of orchards and vineyards, approaching their 
glory. One of the women however came to greet us in a friendly 
manner. I 
was wondering if this was a "harvest home," a phrase I had often
heard but 
never understood. 

"Welcome to my home . . . well, to our home," the woman said 
gaily. "As 
you can see, the grapes are being harvested." It seemed she could 
read my 
mind. "They say this year's vintage will be a mediocre one, but the 
sight is 
lovely, nonetheless. Don't you agree, Mr. . ."

"Hans," I replied curtly. The prospect was indeed a lovely one, but I 
wanted to leave. Making some excuse I guided Anna by the elbow
toward the 
stairs and we left. 

"That wasn't polite of you," she said dryly. 

"Honey, I've had enough of people who can read your mind. When I 
it done I'll go to a mind reader." 

"I happen to be one and I can tell you what you're thinking is false.
to what the big bell says: 'We are strangers on our own turf, 
in our 
own time.' 
You should have paid attention. Now adjustments will have to be