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 35c, 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.
Frank O'Hara, 1958 by Harry Redl
O’Hara remains my favorites of the Beats. His Collected Poems and Lunch Poems are essential additions to any library.
He was known for writing poems in an instinctive and reactive manner, improvising on the spot, not caring anything for traditional form or structure, and for later disregarding or even discarding the final product. Shoving them into his desk drawer to be forgotten was the best that could be hoped for and Garrison Keillor wrote that “Some of his poems only survive because friends copied them down and sent the copies to each other in letters.”
I don’t believe in rhythm, assonance, [any] of that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, ‘Give it up! I was a track star.’
It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time.