Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Step Away From Them

In honor of National Poetry Month, and in anticipation of the April 7 Tenement Talk with poet Stephen Wolf, we're posting some of our favorite poems from his New York-centric collection I Speak of the City.

By Frank O'Hara (1926 - 1966)

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 flapping
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, langorously agitating.
A blonde chorus girls clicks he
smiles and rubs his chin. Everthing
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, e 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 Pollack. But is the
earth as full as life was full, of them?
And one has eaten, and one walks,
past the magazines and 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 of Pierre Reverdy.

Frank O'Hara

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