(Im)perfectly Frank …

Not having time, sadly, to hang around after the Lunch Poems readings referred to in my previous post, I missed out on a discussion of Frank O’Hara’s fascination with the movies plus the chance to hear some of those assembled reading their own poems with an O’Hara connection. Had I still been there, I’d have read this, from Out of Silence


(In Imitation of Frank OHara)

The rain is falling,
the way it did for Frank
when he stepped onto the sidewalk
that would take him to St. Mark’s Place;
Camels, two packs, in his pockets,
notebook, pen, a little cash,
nothing more on his mind
than a quick espresso on Bleecker or MacDougal,
meeting maybe Grace or Jane to talk of painting:
who was in and who was out, who was caught
with their hand up someone’s skirt in the Cedar Tavern,
who punched out who’s lights –
who was playing that night at the Five Spot,
Monk, perhaps, and Coltrane –
all this talk before moving on
to the bookstores on Fourth Avenue
in search of some hidden gem,
then, lunch hour over, heading back
to the office at MOMA where he works.

And here, meanwhile, the rain is still falling
and I’m wondering what another espresso
would do to my metabolism,
remembering that morning on my way back
from shooting the breeze with Norbert Hirschhorn –
health hero, friend, and grand poet of the Lebanon –
when, after downing two double-shot lattes
in quick succession, I left him at the bus stop
and this pain, like a giant foot, stepped down on my heart
and, winded, I stopped in my tracks,
sweating and fearful at the thought of it all ending here,
so close to where we used to catch,
my daughter and I, the C11 bus to the library,
but then, as I rested, the pain began to fade
and with it my fears and so with scarcely a wave
in whatever direction Bert had taken,
I continued home to where I am now,
sitting at the window, waiting for the rain to cease
so that I can go out for my morning walk
and wondering, in the meantime,
should I listen again to the Berg Violin Concerto
that has just stopped playing or simply sit
and leaf through this beautiful little Tibor de Nagy edition
of O’Hara’s poems – you know, the one with Larry River’s drawings
and Grace Hartigan’s gorgeous painting of Oranges?

How my heart leapt
that morning not so long ago
when I walked into the poetry room at Foyles
and saw it there, face out, among the new acquisitions,
just begging me to buy it, take it home,
even though the poems themselves are already on my shelves
but not like this, and besides, who wouldn’t
take a little more of O’Hara’s insouciance,
his seemingly careless brilliance,
to help them through their day?

The rain has stopped, and the cat,
who, moments before, would deign only
to swivel round and present her more
than elegant backside to the world,
is outside, studiously ignoring the blackbird
digging its orange beak into the earth
at the end of the garden,
and picking up the book of poems,
I consign Berg to another day
and set off in search of my coat and shoes.

Come on! Let’s go!

Author: John Harvey


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