Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Olive came hurtling through the window; its geraniums scratched
Her long thigh. "I have news!" she gasped. "Popeye, forced as you know to flee the country
- "Olive" – Popeye's love interest, Olive Oyl – jumps through the window. Or, rather, she "hurtles" over the flowerbed like an Olympic track star. But she doesn't make it through unscathed: her "long thigh" gets scratched by, of all things, a flower.
- Olive declares that she has news, but first she recaps the back-story that everyone in the room already knows: Popeye was forced to leave the country. In this case, we think she means "country" as in "nation."
- The image of Olive jumping through a window is hilarious, especially if you've seen an image of her. First, her legs are as skinny as twigs. Second, she wears a long, frumpy skirt. Third, she has on boots! She right up there with Marge Simpson in the list of most unlikely cartoon heroines.
One musty gusty evening, by the schemes of his wizened, duplicate father, jealous of the apartment
And all that it contains, myself and spinach
- You'll only find phrases like "musty gusty evening" in an Ashbery poem – that's why we love 'em.
- Anyway, Olive continues telling the story of Popeye's exile. One windy night, he was forced to leave the country because of some scheme of his thought up by his wrinkly-looking ("wizened") father, who looks like Popeye's "duplicate," except older.
- In the cartoon series, Popeye's father really did look exactly like him; he was an unsavory character who liked to smoke a lot, and he was named – we're not joking, unfortunately – "Poopdeck Pappy." That's Poopdeck Pappy, folks.
- Here the structure of Olive's sentence gets complex. We think she means to say that Popeye's father was jealous of Popeye's apartment, what with its amazing stock of spinach and herself, Olive Oyl. Somehow he got Popeye booted from the country to keep his son from these things.
In particular, heaves bolts of loving thunder
At his own astonished becoming, rupturing the pleasant
- Popeye, of course, is not happy about getting kicked out of his apartment...and the country. Where will he get spinach now? So he throws "bolts of loving thunder" from afar at what his life has become, "his own astonished becoming." The bolts are "loving," we assume, because he loves Olive.
- These lines are confusing, but the important thing to take away is that Popeye is the one creating the thunder. He is like Zeus, the Ancient Greek god who was thought to be responsible for throwing lightning bolts out of the sky. Popeye has god-like powers.
- The last line of the stanza is broken off in the middle: Popeye's lightning bolts have ruptured something pleasant, but to find out what it is we have to go to the next section...