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Lunch Poems

lunch poems frank o'hara | download free pdf
LUNCH POEMS Expanded 50th Anniversary Edition Frank O’Hara The Pocket Poets Series : Number 19 CITY LIGHTS BOOKS San FranciscoCONTENTS Preface by John Ashbery ix Music 1 Alma 2 On Rachmaninoff’s Birthday 5 Poem (I watched an armory combing its bronze bricks) 6 On the Way to the San Remo 8 2 Poems from the Ohara Monogatari 10 A Step Away from Them 12 Cambridge 14 Poem (Instant coffee with slightly sour cream) 15 Three Airs 16 Image of the Buddha Preaching 18 Song (Is it dirty) 20 The Day Lady Died 21 Poem (Wouldn’t it be funny) 22 Poem (Khrushchev is coming on the right day) 23 Naphtha 25 Personal Poem 27 Adieu to Norman, Bon Jour to Joan and JeanPaul 29 Rhapsody 31Hôtel Particulier 33 Cornkind 34 How To Get There 36 A Little Travel Diary 38 Five Poems 40 Ave Maria 42 Pistachio Tree at Château Noir 44 At Kamin’s Dance Bookshop 45 Steps 46 Mary Desti’s Ass 48 St. Paul and All That 51 Memoir of Sergei O. . . . 53 Yesterday Down at the Canal 55 Poem en Forme de Saw 56 For the Chinese New Year for Bill Berkson 58 Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed) 64 Galanta 65 Fantasy 67 A Word about This Edition by Lawrence Ferlinghetti 71 Selected Correspondence: Ferlinghetti/O’Hara 73PREFACE It’s hard to believe that almost fifty years have passed since Lunch Poems exploded on the literary scene. Re reading them, I remembered how conservative and formal most contemporary American poetry was at the time, except for the Beats, who had only recently ar rived (the book, in fact, ends with a poem dedicated to Allen Ginsberg). No other poetry collection of the ’60s did more to shatter the congealed surface of contempo rary academic poetry. Freed from his MoMA desk job for an hour or so at lunchtime, O’Hara wanders the streets of midtown, freeassociating about trips he has taken, including a re cent one to Spain on MoMA business, on which I accom panied him, and to Paris, where he has many friends: “I wish I were reeling around Paris/ instead of reeling around New York/ I wish I weren’t reeling at all/ it is Spring the ice has melted the Ricard is being poured,” or places he never went to at all: Singapore, Tokyo, Harbin, in “Mary Desti’s Ass,” a title whose meaning I discovered accidentally in a bookstore, namely a book called Isadora Duncan’s End by Mary Desti. Most people wouldn’t have known that reference and it doesn’t matter. Frank’s disabused enthusiasm carries the reader to a marvelous halffictive universe where we bump elbows with Lana Turner, Billie Holiday, Rachmaninoff, and the Mothers of America, whom he urges: “let your kids go to the movies . . . They may even be grateful to you/ for their first sexual experience.” Horrors To compound this unthinkable suggestion, O’Hara even gets away with using the word “fuck” more than once, and yet he’s no macho spewer of hard truths, but a kind, inquiring, deeply curious and attractive youngish man, passing a few minutes of speculative rumination before heading back to the office, like all of us. —John Ashbery viiiALMA “Estelle almee . . . aux premieres heures bleues Se detruiratelle comme les fleurs feues. . . .” — Rimbaud. 1 The sun, perhaps three of them, one black one red, you know, and her dancing all the time, fanning the purple sky getting purple, her fancy white skin quite unoriental to the dirty child ren’s round eyes standing in circles munching muffins, the cock roaches like nuggets half hid in the bran. Boy how are you, Prester John the smile of the river, so searching, so enamelled. 2 What mention of the King the spinning wheel still turns, the apples rot to the singing, Alceste on winter sojourns is nice at Nice. Wander, my dear sacred Pontiff, do dare to murder minutely and ponder what is the bloody affair inside the heart of the weak dancer, whose one toe is worth inestimable, the gang, the cheek of it it’s too dear, her birth amidst the acorns with nails stuck through them by passionate 2parents, castanets Caucasian tales their prodigality proportionate: “Sacred Heart, oh Heart so sick, make Detroit more wholly thine, all with greeds and scabs so thick that Judas Priest must make a sign.” Thus he to bed and we to rise and Alma singing like a loon. Her dancing toenails in her eyes. Her pa was dead on the River Gaboon. 3 Detroit was founded on the great near waterways next to Canada which was friendly and immediately gained for herself the appel lation “the Detroit of Thermopylaes,” a name which has stuck to this day wherever ballroom dancing is held in proper esteem. Let me remind you of that great wrist movement, the enjambement schizophrene, a particularly satisfying variation of which may be made by adding a little tomato paste. Great success. While in Detroit accused of starting the Chicago fire. Millions of roses from Russians. Alma had come a long way, she opened a jewelry shop, her name became a household word, she’d invented an archsupporter. How often she thought of her father the castle, the kitchen garden, the hollihocks and the mill stream beyond curving gently as a parenthesis. Many a bitter tear was shed by her on the boards of this theatre as she pondered the inscrutable meagerness of divine Providence, always humming, always shifting a little, never missing a beat. She guested one season at the height of her nostalgia with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in Salammbô; her 3father seemed very close in all that oriental splendor of bamboo and hotel palms and stale sweat and bracelets, an engagement of tears. In the snow, in her white fox fur wraps, how more beauti ful than Mary Garden 4 Onward to the West. “Where I came from, where I’m going. Indian country.” Gold. Oh say can you see Alma. The darling of Them. All her friends were artists. They alone have memories. They alone love flowers. They alone give parties and die. Poor Alma. They alone. She died, and it was as if all the jewels in the world had heaved a sigh. The seismograph at Fordham University registered, for once, a spiritual note. How like a sliver in her own short fat muscular foot. She loved the Western World, though there are some who say she isn’t really dead. 1953 4ON RACHMANINOFFS BIRTHDAY Quick a last poem before I go off my rocker. Oh Rachmaninoff Onset, Massachusetts. Is it the fignewton playing the horn Thundering windows of hell, will your tubes ever break into powder Oh my palace of oranges, junk shop, staples, umber, basalt; I’m a child again when I was really miserable, a grope pizzicato. My pocket of rhinestone, yoyo, carpenter’s pencil, amethyst, hypo, campaign button, is the room full of smoke Shit on the soup, let it burn. So it’s back. You’ll never be mentally sober. 1953 5POEM I watched an armory combing its bronze bricks and in the sky there were glistening rails of milk. Where had the swan gone, the one with the lame back Now mounting the steps I enter my new home full of grey radiators and glass ashtrays full of wool. Against the winter I must get a samovar embroidered with basil leaves and Ukranian mottos to the distant sound of wings, painfully antiwind, a little bit of the blue summer air will come back as the steam chuckles in the monster’s steamy attack and I’ll be happy here and happy there, full of tea and tears. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get to Italy, but I have the terrible tundra at least. My new home will be full of wood, roots and the like, while I pace in a turtleneck sweater, repairing my bike. I watched the palisades shivering in the snow of my face, which had grown preternaturally pure. Once I destroyed a man’s idea of himself to have him. 6If I’d had a samovar then I’d have made him tea and as hyacinths grow from a pot he would love me and my charming room of tea cosies full of dirt which is why I must travel, to collect the leaves. O my enormous piano, you are not like being outdoors though it is cold and you are made of fire and wood I lift your lid and mountains return, that I am good. The stars blink like a hairnet that was dropped on a seat and now it is lying in the alley behind the theater where my play is echoed by dying voices. I am really a woodcarver and my words are love which willfully parades in its room, refusing to move. 1954 7ON THE WAY TO THE SAN REMO The black ghinkos snarl their way up the moon growls at each blinking window the apartment houses climb deafeningly into the purple A bat hisses northwards the perilous steps lead to a grate suddenly the heat is bearable The crosseyed dog scratches a worn patch of pavement his right front leg is maimed in the shape of a V there’s no trace of his nails on the street a woman cajoles She is very old and dirty she whistles her filthy hope that it will rain tonight The 6th Avenue bus trunklumbers sideways it is full of fat people who cough as at a movie they eat each other’s dandruff in the flickering glare The moon passes into clouds so hurt by the street lights of your glance oh my heart The act of love is also passing like a subway bison through the paperlittered arches of the express tracks the sailor sobers he feeds pennies to the peanut machines Though others are in the night far away lips upon a dusty armpit the nostrils are full of tears 8High fidelity reposed in a box a hand on the windowpane the sweet calm the violin strings tie a young man’s hair the bright black eyes pin far away their smudged curiosity Yes you are foolish smoking the bars are for rabbits who wish to outlive the men 1954 92 POEMS FROM THE OHARA MONOGATARI l My love is coming in a glass the blood of the Bourbons saxophone or cornet qu’importe où green of glass flowers dans le Kentucky and always the same handkerchief at the same nose of damask turning up my extravagant collar tossing my scarf about my neck the Baudelaire of Kyoto’s neverending pureness is he cracked in the head 2 After a long trip to a shrine in wooden clogs so hard on the muscles the tea is bitter and the breasts are hard so much terrace for one evening there is no longer no ocean I don’t see the ocean under my stilts as I poke along 10hands on ankles feet on wrists naked in thought like a whip made from sheerest stockings the radio is on the cigarette is puffed upon by the pleasures of rolling in a bog some call the Milky Way in farfetched Occidental lands above the trees where dwell the amusing skulls 1954 11A STEP AWAY FROM THEM It’s my lunch hour, so I go for a walk among the humcolored cabs. First, down the sidewalk where laborers feed their dirty glistening torsos sandwiches and CocaCola, 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. 12And 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 13CAMBRIDGE It is still raining and the yellowgreen cotton fruit looks silly round a window giving out on winter trees with only three drab leaves left. The hot plate works, it is the sole heat on earth, and instant coffee. I put on my warm corduroy pants, a heavy maroon sweater, and wrap myself in my old maroon bathrobe. Just like Pasternak in Marburg (they say Italy and France are colder, but I’m sure that Germany’s at least as cold as this) and, lacking the Master’s inspiration, I may freeze to death before I can get out into the white rain. I could have left the window closed last night But that’s where health comes from His breath from the Urals, drawing me into flame like a forgotten cigarette. Burn this is not negligible, being poetic, and not feeble, since it’s sponsored by the greatest living Russian poet at incalculable cost. Across the street there is a house under construction, abandoned to the rain. Secretly, I shall go to work on it. 1956 14POEM Instant coffee with slightly sour cream in it, and a phone call to the beyond which doesn’t seem to be coming any nearer. “Ah daddy, I wanna stay drunk many days” on the poetry of a new friend my life held precariously in the seeing hands of others, their and my impossibilities. Is this love, now that the first love has finally died, where there were no impossibilities 1956 15THREE AIRS to Norman Bluhm 1 So many things in the air soot, elephant balls, a Chinese cloud which is entirely collapsed, a cat swung by its tail and the senses of the dead which are banging about inside my tired red eyes 2 In the deeps there is a little bird and it only hums, it hums of fortitude and temperance, it is managing a foundry how firmly it must grasp things tear them out of the slime and then, alas it mischievously drops them into the cauldron of hideousness there is already a sunset naming the poplars which see only, watery, themselves 163 Oh to be an angel (if there were any), and go straight up into the sky and look around and then come down not to be covered with steel and aluminum glaringly ugly in the pure distances and clattering and buckling, wheezing but to be part of the treetops and the blueness, invisible, the iridescent darknesses beyond, silent, listening to the air becoming no air becoming air again 1958 17
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