Poems by Frank O'hara



If half of me is skewered
by grey crested birds
in the middle of the vines of my promise
and the very fact that I'm a poet
suffers my eyes
to be filled with vermilion tears


how much greater danger
from occasion and pain is my vitality
yielding like a tree on fire!--
for every day is another view
of the tentative past
grown secure in its foundry of shimmering
that's not even historical;it's just me.


And the other half
of me where I master the root
of my every idiosyncrasy
and fit my ribs like a glove


is that me who accepts betrayal
in the abstract as if it were insight?
and draws its knuckles
across the much-lined eyes
in the most knowing manner of our time?


The wind that smiles through the wires
isn't vague enough for an assertion
of a personal nature it's not for me


I'm not dead. Nothing remains let alone "to be said "
except that when I fall backwards
I am trying something new and shall succeed as in the past.


I know so much
about things I accept
so much it's like
vomiting. And I am
nourished by the
shabbiness of my
knowing so much
about others and what
they do and accepting
so much that I hate
as if I didn't know
what it is to me.
And what it is to
them I know and hate.


It's not so much
abstractions are available:
the lofty period of the mind
ending a sentence while the pain endures:
departures absences.

And you are still on the dock
the smoke hasn't cleared in The Narrows
At noon I sit in Jim's Place waiting for George
Who is mopping the stage up
While two girls cry in the last row.

I think they got laid last night.
But who didn't? it was a spring night.
Probably George did too.

And now the ship has gone
beyond come sheets windows streets telephones and noises:
to where I cannot go
not even a long distance swimmer like myself.

My heart

I'm not going to cry all the time
nor shall I laugh all the time
I don't prefer one "strain" to another
I'd have the immediacy of a bad movie
not just a sleeper but also the big
over-produced first-run kind. I want to be
at least as alive as the vulgar. And if
some aficionado of my mess says "That's
not like Frank!" all to the god! I
don't wear brown and grey suits all the time
do I? No I wear workshirts to the opera
often. I want my feet to be bare
I want my face to be shaven and my heart--
you can't plan on the heart but
the better part of it my poetry is open.

The Lover

He waits and it is not without
a great deal of trouble that he tickles
a nightingale with his guitar.

He would like to cry Andiamo!
but alas! no one has arrived
yet although the dew is perfect

for adieux. How bitterly he beats
his hairy chest! because he is
a man sitting out an indignity.

The mean moon is like a nasty
little lemon above the ubiquitous
snivelling fir trees and if there's

a swan within a radius of
twelve square miles let's
throttle it. We too are worried.

He is a man like us erect
in the cold dark night. Silence
handles his guitar as clumsily

as a wet pair of dungarees.
The grass if full of snakespit.
He alone is hot admist the stars.

If no one is racing towards him
down intriguingly hung stairways
towards the firm lamp of his thighs

we are indeed in trouble sprawling
feet upwards to the sun our faces
growing smaller in the colossal dark.


The clouds ache bleakly
and when they can manage it
crush someone's head in
without a sound of anger.
This is a brutal mystery.

We meet in the streets
with our hands in our pockets
and snarl guiltily at each other
as if we had flayed a cloud
or two in our salad days.

Lots of things do blame us;
and in moments when I forget
how cruel we really should be
I often have to bite my tongue
to keep from being guilty.

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