Wednesday, 3 April 2013


      Francis Russell O'Hara's Poetry. 

(June 27, 1926 – July 25, 1966)

 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.....

   Mothers of America
                                   let your kids go to the movies!
   get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
   it's true that fresh air is good for the body
                                                                 but what about the soul
   that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
   and when you grow old as grow old you must
                                                                   they won't hate you
   they won't criticize you they won't know
                                                                they'll be in some glamorous country
   they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey

   they may even be grateful to you
                                                     for their first sexual experience
   which only cost you a quarter
                                                 and didn't upset the peaceful home
   they will know where candy bars come from
                                                                       and gratuitous bags of popcorn
   as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over
   with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
   near the Williamsburg Bridge
                                                oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
   so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies
   they won't know the difference
                                                  and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy
   and they'll have been truly entertained either way
   instead of hanging around the yard
                                                        or up in their room
                                                                                      hating you
   prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly mean yet
   except keeping them from the darker joys
                                                                   it's unforgivable the latter
   so don't blame me if you won't take this advice
                                                                          and the family breaks up
   and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
   movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young..

                                  Having a Coke with You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne

or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona

partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian 

partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt 

partly because of the fluoresent orange tulips around the birches 

partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary 

it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still 

as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it 

in the warm New York 4 o'clock light we are drifting back and forth 

between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles 

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint 

you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

                                                                                             I look

at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world 

except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it's in the Frick 

which thank heavens you haven't gone to yet so we can go together the first time 

and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism 

just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or 

at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me 

and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them 

when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank 

or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn't pick the rider as carefully 

as the horse, it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience 

which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it.

It is 12:20 in Ne York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton   
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun   
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets   
in Ghana are doing these days
                                           I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)   
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life   
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine   
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do   
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or   
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and   
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue   
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and   
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing





 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.

USA: Poetry, Frank O'Hara (1966)


How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to the left

here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
(I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still
accepts me foolish and free
all I want is a room up there
and you in it
and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
for people to rub up against each other
and when their surgical appliances lock
they stay together
for the rest of the day (what a day)
I go by to check a slide and I say
that painting’s not so blue

where’s Lana Turner
she’s out eating
and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
everyone’s taking their coat off
so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers
and the park’s full of dancers with their tights and shoes
in little bags
who are often mistaken for worker-outers at the West Side Y
why not
the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won
and in a sense we’re all winning
we’re alive

the apartment was vacated by a gay couple
who moved to the country for fun
they moved a day too soon
even the stabbings are helping the population explosion
though in the wrong country
and all those liars have left the UN
the Seagram Building’s no longer rivalled in interest
not that we need liquor (we just like it)

and the little box is out on the sidewalk
next to the delicatessen
so the old man can sit on it and drink beer
and get knocked off it by his wife later in the day
while the sun is still shining

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much 

My Sad Self

(Allen Ginsberg & Frank O’Hara)

To Frank O’Hara

Sometimes when my eyes are red
I go up on top of the RCA Building
and gaze at my world, Manhattan—
my buildings, streets I’ve done feats in,
lofts, beds, coldwater flats
—on Fifth Ave below which I also bear in mind,
its ant cars, little yellow taxis, men
walking the size of specks of wool—
Panorama of the bridges, sunrise over Brooklyn machine,
sun go down over New Jersey where I was born
& Paterson where I played with ants—
my later loves on 15th Street,
my greater loves of Lower East Side,
my once fabulous amours in the Bronx
paths crossing in these hidden streets,
my history summed up, my absences
and ecstasies in Harlem—
—sun shining down on all I own
in one eyeblink to the horizon
in my last eternity—
matter is water.

I take the elevator and go
down, pondering,
and walk on the pavements staring into all man’s
plateglass, faces,
questioning after who loves,
and stop, bemused
in front of an automobile shopwindow
standing lost in calm thought,
traffic moving up & down 5th Avenue blocks behind me
waiting for a moment when ...

Time to go home & cook supper & listen to
the romantic war news on the radio
... all movement stops
& I walk in the timeless sadness of existence,
tenderness flowing thru the buildings,
my fingertips touching reality’s face,
my own face streaked with tears in the mirror
of some window—at dusk—
where I have no desire—
for bonbons—or to own the dresses or Japanese
lampshades of intellection—

Confused by the spectacle around me,
Man struggling up the street
with packages, newspapers,
ties, beautiful suits
toward his desire
Man, woman, streaming over the pavements
red lights clocking hurried watches &
movements at the curb—

And all these streets leading
so crosswise, honking, lengthily,
by avenues
stalked by high buildings or crusted into slums
thru such halting traffic
screaming cars and engines
so painfully to this
countryside, this graveyard
this stillness
on deathbed or mountain
once seen
never regained or desired
in the mind to come
where all Manhattan that I’ve seen must disappear. 

Post a Comment