The beginning of dizain 3 of John Ashbery’s “Fragment” expresses the paradox of poetic edges: “This page is the end of nothing / To the top of that other” (Ashbery 78). The poem was written in a systematic fashion after the death of his father in 1964: two dizains a day over, theoretically at least, 25 days, each dizain restricted to, I believe, a page. Thus each dizain begins at the top of the page and ends at the bottom. Each page is the “end of nothing:” literally not the end, except for the opening and closing dizains for which anyway critics argue special status, an interim, temporary end afforded by the gap between one dizain/page and the next, and finally the end of the nothing separating this dizain from the previous one. Each dizain further directs attention to the “top of that other,” the dizain which is not this dizain, which allows for this dizain by not being this dizain, a kind of trace-dizain that is allowed within the network of dizains. This dizain does not exist, not as such, is not specifically dizain 2 or 4, for here dizain 3 is acting as a meta-stanzaic commentator, expressing in the situation between it and its local others the general situation between on closed poetic form and its other. The top of that other is the edge between the presence of the ten-line dizain stanzaic form, and the absent space surrounding which marks out the distinctive poem blocks that make up the whole block of the poem.
“Fragment” begins by closing, “The last block is closed in April” (Ashbery 78). and closes with a trope of opening up: “words like disjointed beaches / Brown under the advancing signs of air” (Ashbery 94). These signs of air are the dizain blocks, reduced to sign status due to the peculiar logic of stanzaic presence and absence broached at the start of dizain 3. This is the central logic of elegiac poetic language, that language is predicated on an investigation of signification through absence over presence.