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


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


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


From Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O’Hara. City Lights Books. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


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.


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


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.


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


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
              "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.
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
        "Who are they?"
                                  Rising he said "Some
day you'll know. They're calling to you
too." Darkly he rose, and then I slept.


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


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.


From Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O’Hara. City Lights Books. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


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!


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


        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.


From Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O’Hara. City Lights Books. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


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


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