ANIMALS
                
                
       Have you forgotten what we were like then
       when we were still first rate
       and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
      
       it's no use worrying about Time
       but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
       and turned some sharp corners
      
       the whole pasture looked like our meal
       we didn't need speedometers
       we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
      
       I wouldn't want to be faster
       or greener than now if you were with me O you
       were the best of all my days
       
                             
       [1950]
From The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1971 by Maureen Granville-Smith. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

   AVE MARIA
   

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 seeing movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young
          [1960]
From Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. City Lights Books. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

   TODAY
                         
                         
   Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
   You really are beautiful! Pearls,
   harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
   the stuff they've always talked about
                       
   still makes a poem a surprise!
   These things are with us every day
   even on beachheads and biers. They
   do have meaning. They're strong as rocks.
[1950]
From The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1971 by Maureen Granville-Smith. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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. [1957]
From Meditations in an Emergency. Copyright © 1957 by Frank O'Hara. Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A TRUE ACCOUNT OF TALKING TO THE SUN AT FIRE ISLAND
   

The Sun woke me this morning loud and clear, saying "Hey! I've been trying to wake you up for fifteen minutes. Don't be so rude, you are only the second poet I've ever chosen to speak to personally so why aren't you more attentive? If I could burn you through the window I would to wake you up. I can't hang around here all day." "Sorry, Sun, I stayed up late last night talking to Hal." "When I woke up Mayakovsky he was a lot more prompt" the Sun said petulantly. "Most people are up already waiting to see if I'm going to put in an appearance." I tried to apologize "I missed you yesterday." "That's better" he said. "I didn't know you'd come out." "You may be wondering why I've come so close?" "Yes" I said beginning to feel hot wondering if maybe he wasn't burning me anyway. "Frankly I wanted to tell you I like your poetry. I see a lot on my rounds and you're okay. You may not be the greatest thing on earth, but you're different. Now, I've heard some say you're crazy, they being excessively calm themselves to my mind, and other crazy poets think that you're a boring reactionary. Not me. Just keep on like I do and pay no attention. You'll find that people always will complain about the atmosphere, either too hot or too cold too bright or too dark, days too short or too long. If you don't appear at all one day they think you're lazy or dead. Just keep right on, I like it. And don't worry about your lineage poetic or natural. The Sun shines on the jungle, you know, on the tundra the sea, the ghetto. Wherever you were I knew it and saw you moving. I was waiting for you to get to work. And now that you are making your own days, so to speak, even if no one reads you but me you won't be depressed. Not everyone can look up, even at me. It hurts their eyes." "Oh Sun, I'm so grateful to you!" "Thanks and remember I'm watching. It's easier for me to speak to you out here. I don't have to slide down between buildings to get your ear. I know you love Manhattan, but you ought to look up more often. And always embrace things, people earth sky stars, as I do, freely and with the appropriate sense of space. That is your inclination, known in the heavens and you should follow it to hell, if necessary, which I doubt. Maybe we'll speak again in Africa, of which I too am specially fond. Go back to sleep now Frank, and I may leave a tiny poem in that brain of yours as my farewell." "Sun, don't go!" I was awake at last. "No, go I must, they're calling me." "Who are they?" Rising he said "Some day you'll know. They're calling to you too." Darkly he rose, and then I slept. [1958]
From The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1971 by Maureen Granville-Smith. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


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. On 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. [1956]
From Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. City Lights Books. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

SONG
            
            
I'm going to New York!
(what a lark! what a song!)
where the tough Rocky's eaves
hit the sea. Where th'Acro-
polis is functional, the trains
that run and shout! the books
that have trousers and sleeves!


I'm going to New York!
(quel voyage! jamais plus!)
far from Ypsilanti and Flint!
where Goodman rules the Empire
and the sunlight's eschato-
logy upon the wizard's bridges
and the galleries of print!


I'm going to New York!
(to my friends! mes semblables!)
I suppose I'll walk back West.
But for now I'm gone forever!
the city's hung with flashlights!
the Ferry's unbuttoning its vest!


[1951]
From Poems Retrieved. Copyright © 1977 by Maureen Granville-Smith. Grey Fox Press. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

MUSIC          



        If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf's
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35¢, it's so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
      I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
      of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting, up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
      But no more fountains and no more rain,
      and the stores stay open terribly late.



[1954]
From Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. City Lights Books. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

   SONG
           
           
   I am stuck in traffic in a taxicab
   which is typical
   and not just of modern life
             
   mud clambers up the trellis of my nerves
   must lovers of Eros end up with Venus
   muss es sein? es muss nicht sein, I tell you
   
   how I hate disease, it's like worrying
   that comes true
   and it simply must not be able to happen
   
   in a world where you are possible
   my love
   nothing can go wrong for us, tell me


   [1960]
From The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1971 by Maureen Granville-Smith. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.