Your Poem of the Evening [Kenneth Koch]

This evening we’re going with Kenneth Koch, because even though he spent his last days in New York, he was very well loved by San Franciscans.

TO “YES”

You are always the member of a team,
Accompanied by a question–
If this is the way the world ends, is it really going to?
No. Are you a Buddhist? Maybe. A monsoon? Yes.
I have been delighted by you even in the basement
When asking if I could have some coal lumps and the answer was yes.
Yes to the finality of the brightness
And to the enduring qualities of the lark
She sings at heaven’s gate. But is it unbolted? Bolted? Yes.
Which, though, is which? To which the answer cannot be yes
So reverse question. Pamela bending before the grate
Turns round rapidly to say Yes! I will meet you in Boston
At five after nine, if my Irishness is still working
And the global hamadryads, wood nymphs of my “yes.”
But what, Pamela, what does that mean? Am I a yes
To be posed in the face of a negative alternative?
Or has the sky taken away from me its ultimate guess
About how probably everything is going to be eventually terrible
Which is something we knew all along, but modified by a yes
When what we want is obvious but has a brilliantly shining trail
Of stars. Or are those asterisks? Yes. What is at the bottom
Of the most overt question? Do we die? Yes. Does that
Always come later than now? Yes.
I love your development
From the answer to a simple query to a state of peace
That has the world by the throat. Am I lying? Yes.
Are you smiling? Yes. I’ll follow you, yes? No reply.

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