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21 April 2008 @ 09:00 pm
Frank O'Hara Part Deux.  

From Odes

Ode to Joy

We shall have everything we want and there’ll be no more dying

            on the pretty plains or in the supper clubs

for our symbol we’ll acknowledge vulgar materialistic laughter

            over an insatiable sexual appetite

and the streets will be filled with racing forms

and the photographs of murderers and narcissists and movie stars

            will swell from the walls and books alive in steaming rooms

            to press against our burning flesh not once but interminably

as water flows down hill into the full-lipped basin

and the adder dives for the ultimate ostrich egg

and the feather cushion preens beneath a reclining monolith

            that’s sweating with post-exertion visibility and sweetness

            near the grave of love

                                                No more dying


We shall see the grave of love as a lovely sight and temporary

            near the elm that spells the lovers’ names in roots

and there’ll be no more music but the ears in lips and no more wit

            but tongues in ears and no more drums but ears to thighs

as evening signals nudities unknown to ancestors’ imaginations

and the imagination itself will stagger like a tired paramour of ivory

            under the sculptural necessities of lust that never falters

            like a six-mile runner from Sweden or Liberia covered with gold

as lava flows up and over the far-down somnolent city’s abdication

and the hermit always wanting to be lone is lone at last

and the weight of external heat crushes the heat-hating Puritan

            whose self-defeating vice becomes a proper sepulcher at last

            that love may live


Buildings will go up into the dizzy air as love itself goes in

            and up the reeling life that it has chosen for once or all

while in the sky a feeling of intemperate fondness will excite the birds

            to swoop and veer like flies crawling across absorbed limbs

that weep a pearly perspiration on the sheets of brief attention

and the hairs dry out that summon anxious declaration of the organs

            as they rise like buildings to the needs of temporary neighbors

            pouring hunger through the heart to feed desire in intravenous ways

like the ways of gods with humans in the innocent combination of light

and flesh or as the legends ride their heroes through the dark to found

great cities where all life is possible to maintain as long as time

            which wants us to remain for cocktails in a bar and after dinner

            lets us live with it

                                                No more dying

From Meditations in an Emergency


To the Harbormaster


I wanted to be sure to reach you;

though my ship was on the way it got caught

in some moorings. I am always tying up

and then deciding to depart. In storms and

at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide

around my fathomless arms, I am unable

to understand the forms of my vanity

or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder

in my hand and the sun sinking. To

you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage

of my will. The terrible channels where

the wind drives me against the brown lips

of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet

I trust the sanity of my vessel; and

if it sinks, it may well be in answer

to the reasoning of the eternal voices,

the waves which have kept me from reaching you.






Yipee! she is shooting in the harbor! he is jumping

up to the maelstrom! she is leaning over the giant’s

cart of tears which like a lava cone let fall to fly

from the cross-eyed tantrum-tousled ninth grader’s

splayed fist is freezing on the cement! he is throwing

up his arms in heavenly desperation, spacious Y of his

tumultuous love-nerves flailing like a poinsettia in

its own nailish storm against the glass door of the

cumulus which is withholding her from these divine

pastures she has filled with the flesh of men as stones!

O fatal eagerness!




O boy, their childhood was like so many oatmeal cookies.

I need you, you need me, yum, yum.  Anon it became





like someone always losing something and never

            knowing what.

Always so.  They were so fond of eating bread and

            butter and

sugar, they were slobs, the mice used to lick the floorboards

after they went to bed, rolling their light tails against

the rattling marbles of granulation.  Vivo! the dextrose

those children consumed, lavished, smoked, in their knobby

candy bars. Such pimples! such hardons! Such moody loves.

And thus they grew like giggling fir trees. 




Whole days would go by, and later their years,
While I thought of nothing but its darkness
Drifting like a bridge against the sky.
Day after day I dreamily sought its melancholy,
Its searchings, its soft banks enfolded me,
And upon my lengthening neck its kiss
Was murmuring like a wound. My very life
Became the inhalation of its weedy ponderings
And sometimes in the sunlight my eyes,
Walled in water, would glimpse the pathway
To the green sea. For it was there I was being borne.
Then for a moment my strengthening arms
Would cry out upon the leafy crest of air
Like whitecaps, and lightning, swift as pain,
Would go through me on its way to the forest,
And I’d sink back upon the brutal tenderness
That bore me on, that held me like a slave
In its liquid distances of eyes, and one day,
Though weeping for my caresses, would abandon me,
Moment of infinitely salty air! Sun fluttering
Like a signal! Upon the open flesh of the world


Sleeping on the Wing


 Perhaps it is to avoid some great sadness,
 as in a Restoration tragedy the hero cries "Sleep!
 O for a long sound sleep and so forget it!"
 that one flies, soaring above the shoreless city,
 veering upward from the pavement as a pigeon
 does when a car honks or a door slams, the door
 of dreams, life perpetuated in parti-colored loves
 and beautiful lies all in different languages.
 Fear drops away too, like the cement, and you
 are over the Atlantic. Where is Spain? where is
 who? The Civil War was fought to free the slaves,
 was it? A sudden down-draught reminds you of gravity
 and your position in respect to human love. But
 here is where the gods are, speculating, bemused.
 Once you are helpless, you are free, can you believe
 that? Never to waken to the sad struggle of a face?
 to travel always over some impersonal vastness,
 to be out of, forever, neither in nor for!
 The eyes roll asleep as if turned by the wind
 and the lids flutter open slightly like a wing.
 The world is an iceberg, so much is invisible!
 and was and is, and yet the form, it may be sleeping
 too. Those features etched in the ice of someone
 loved who died, you are a sculptor dreaming of space
 and speed, your hand alone could have done this.
 Curiosity, the passionate hand of desire. Dead,
 or sleeping? Is there speed enough? And, swooping,
 you relinquish all that you have made your own,
 the kingdom of your self sailing, for you must awake

 and breathe your warmth in this beloved image
 whether it's dead or merely disappearing,
 as space is disappearing and your singularity.
My heart's aflutter!

I am standing in the bath tub

crying. Mother, mother

who am I? If he

will just come back once

and kiss me on the face

his coarse hair brush

my temple, it's throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes

I guess, and walk the streets.


I love you. I love you,

but I'm turning to my verses

and my heart is closing

like a fist.

Words! be

sick as I am sick, swoon,

roll back your eyes, a pool,

and I'll stare down

at my wounded beauty

which at best is only a talent

for poetry.

Cannot please, cannot charm or win

what a poet!

and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.

I embraced a cloud,

but when I soared

it rained.


That's funny! there's blood on my chest

oh yes, I've been carrying bricks

what a funny place to rupture!

and now it is raining on the ailanthus

as I step out onto the window ledge

the tracks below me are smoky

and glistening with a passion for running

I leap into the leaves, green like the sea


Now I am quietly waiting for

the catastrophe of my personality

to seem beautiful again,

and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and

brown and white in trees,

snows and skies of laughter

always diminishing, less funny

not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of

the year, what does he think of

that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,

perhaps I am myself again.



From Lunch Poems

A Step away from Them


It’s my lunch hour, so I go

for a walk among the hum-colored

cabs. First, down the sidewalk

where laborers feed their dirty

glistening torsos sandwiches

and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets

on. They protect them from falling

bricks, I guess. Then onto the

avenue where skirts are flipping

above heels and blow up over

grates. The sun is hot, but the

cabs stir up the air. I look

at bargains in wristwatches. There

are cats playing in sawdust.


to Times Square, where the sign

blows smoke over my head, and higher

the waterfall pours lightly. A

Negro stands in a doorway with a

toothpick, languorously agitating.

A blonde chorus girl clicks: he

smiles and rubs his chin. Everything

suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of

a Thursday.

Neon in daylight is a

great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would

write, as are light bulbs in daylight.

I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET’S

CORNER. Giulietta Masina, wife of

Federico Fellini, è bell’ attrice.


And chocolate malted. A lady in

foxes on such a day puts her poodle

in a cab.

There are several Puerto

Ricans on the avenue today, which

makes it beautiful and warm. First

Bunny died, then John Latouche,

then Jackson Pollock. But is the

earth as full as life was full, of them?

And one has eaten and one walks,

past the magazines with nudes

and the posters for BULLFIGHT and

the Manhattan Storage Warehouse,

which they’ll soon tear down. I

used to think they had the Armory

Show there.

A glass of papaya juice

and back to work. My heart is in my

pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.


On Rachmaninoff’s Birthday


Quick! a last poem before I go
off my rocker. Oh Rachmaninoff!
Onset, Massachusetts. Is it the fig-newton
playing the horn? Thundering windows
of hell, will your tubes ever break
into powder? Oh my palace of oranges,
junk shop, staples, umber, basalt;
I'm a child again when I was really
miserable, a grope pizzicato. My pocket
of rhinestone, yoyo, carpenter's pencil,
amethyst, hypo, campaign button,
is the room full of smoke? Shit
on the soup, let it burn. So it's back.
You'll never be mentally sober.




Wouldn’t it be funny

if The Finger had designed us

to shit just once a week?


            all week long we’d get fatter

            and fatter and then on Sunday morning

            while everyone’s in church





515 Madison Avenue

door to heaven? portal

stopped realities and eternal licentiousness

or at least the jungle of impossible eagerness

your marble is bronze and your lianas elevator cables

swinging from the myth of ascending

I would join

or declining the challenge of racial attractions

they zing on (into the lynch, dear friends)

while everywhere love is breathing draftily

like a doorway linking 53rd with 54th

the east-bound with the west-bound traffic by 8,000,000s

o midtown tunnels and the tunnels, too, of Holland


where is the summit where all aims are clear

the pin-point light upon a fear of lust

as agony’s needlework grows up around the unicorn

and fences him for milk- and yoghurt-work

when I see Gianni I know he’s thinking of John Ericson

playing the Rachmaninoff 2nd or Elizabeth Taylor

taking sleeping-pills and Jane thinks of Manderley

and Irkutsk while I cough lightly in the smog of desire

and my eyes water achingly imitating the true blue


a sight of Manahatta in the towering needle

multi-faceted insight of the fly in the stringless labyrinth

Canada plans a higher place than the Empire State Building

I am getting into a cab at 9th Street and 1st Avenue

and the Negro driver tells me about a $120 apartment

“where you can’t walk across the floor after 10 at night

not even to pee, cause it keeps them awake downstairs”

no, I don’t like that “well, I didn’t take it”

perfect in the hot humid morning on my way to work

a little supper-club conversation for the mill of the gods


you were there always and you know all about these things

as indifferent as an encyclopedia with your calm brown eyes

it isn’t enough to smile when you run the gauntlet

you’ve got to spit like Niagara Falls on everybody or

Victoria Falls or at least the beautiful urban fountains of Madrid

as the Niger joins the Gulf of Guinea near the Menemsha Bar

that is what you learn in the early morning passing Madison Avenue

where you’ve never spent any time and stores eat up light


I have always wanted to be near it

though the day is long (and I don’t mean Madison Avenue)

lying in a hammock on St. Mark’s Place sorting my poems

in the rancid nourishment of this mountainous island

they are coming and we holy ones must go

is Tibet historically a part of China? as I historically

belong to the enormous bliss of American death


Other Works


I know so much
about things, I accept
so much, it's like
vomiting. And I am
nourished by the
shabbiness of my
knowing so much
about others and what
they do, and accepting
so much that I hate
as if I didn't know
what it is, to me.
And what it is to
them I know, and hate.


I've got to tell you
how I love you always
I think of it on grey
mornings with death

in my mouth the tea
is never hot enough
then and the cigarette
dry the maroon robe

chills me I need you
and look out the window
at the noiseless snow

At night on the dock
the buses glow like
clouds and I am lonely
thinking of flutes

I miss you always
when I go to the beach
the sand is wet with
tears that seem mine

although I never weep
and hold you in my
heart with a very real
humor you'd be proud of

the parking lot is
crowded and I stand
rattling my keys the car
is empty as a bicycle

what are you doing now
where did you eat your
lunch and were there
lots of anchovies it

is difficult to think
of you without me in
the sentence you depress
me when you are alone

Last night the stars
were numerous and today
snow is their calling
card I'll not be cordial

there is nothing that
distracts me music is
only a crossword puzzle
do you know how it is

when you are the only
passenger if there is a
place further from me
I beg you do not go


Links to other resources online

Here: The official Frank O'Hara website where you can find audio and visual clips of Frank reading his / talking about poetry
Here: Art Reviews that Frank O'Hara wrote between 1953-1955
Here and Here: for links to his poems that are direct responses to art by Larry Rivers and Joseph Cornell, respectively.  The poem called "Joseph Cornell" is supposed to depict his art, which is framed in boxes. 
Here: Frank O'Hara reads "Having a Coke with You"
Here: for more biography

Thank You,
and buy tight pants! 

wawiscut on April 8th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
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merwinunako on October 31st, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
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