Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Ashleigh Young’s ‘Jeremy’


I need to write to this guy Jeremy, a poet who I met in New York.
Every six months or so Jeremy writes to say hello and provide an update
on his latest book which, to be honest, I don’t want to hear about
but that’s beside the point; I liked Jeremy and I will get a copy.

I need to write to my other friend, my old friend, who I have not
written or spoken to for a long time.

Whenever I hear from Jeremy I think about this poetry reading
we both did in Brooklyn, October 2017.
At the reading, a mania seized me and I went on for too long.
Maybe I wouldn’t remember this now if it weren’t for the fact
that the great American poet Eileen Myles
was waiting for me to finish reading so that they could read,
and when I finally finished and sat down, they stood up
and cleared their throat and set a timer on their phone.

Whenever I hear from Jeremy I think of that reading
and my arms and legs spasm in shame, as if
I’ve been hit by an arrow.
It was an outdoor event
with rows of those white marquees
that undulate violently when the wind blows.
People were walking, walking,
all through the afternoon, in that miraculous way
that people just walk around on the other side of the planet.

Why did I read so long?
Why didn’t Jeremy stop me?

If I had stopped reading sooner,
there would be more time in the world.

Those three to four minutes would be snowballing
off in some other direction
accumulating whole hours, days.
Maybe my friend and I would still be talking.

The days might be growing longer, not shorter.
And all of a sudden we’ve made it through winter together.
From the apartment we look down onto the street
and decide there is enough light left to go out walking.

Ashleigh Young

Ashleigh Young’s most recent book is How I Get Ready (Victoria University Press, 2019).

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