John Ashbery called me after he died
So you can imagine my excitement
When in his droll hyper-nasalated
Timbre quite undiminished by death
He chatted on about the bowls of
Pitted cherries provided as snack-food
In the upper worlds and of afternoons
Climbing trees with Edna Millay to read
Comic books with her in the branches.
Then his voice dropped two octaves
And he spoke solemnly of Jack Benny:
‘You can say funny things or say things
Funny but silence was the punchline
For Jack Benny.’ And he was gone.
Mitch Sisskind is the author of Collected Poems 2005–2020. His work appears in the Best American Poetry anthologies for 2009, 2013, and 2023.