Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara: 1. Music

 

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Grilled Halloumi Wrap from Leon & Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems

 

“I am naked as a tablecloth, my nerves humming”

 

I walk up and down Tottenham Court Road finding lunch options slim. I discover when I arrive at a usually dependable last resort lunch spot that the whole shop has been gutted, emptied, even the sign taken off the outside. Peering inside, I press my face to the glass like a nosy child. I see empty chairs stacked up in the corner, nothing left of the counter or the coffee machines, even the huge coolers which once held sandwiches have been taken away (a reusable asset?) I wonder about music as I listen to the same Patrick Wolf song over and over (“The Days”) this was brought delicately into my mind by seeing the film God’s Own Country recently. I think about Frank, having bough Lunch Poems at Gay’s The Word the other day. I think about acting on this idea: reading a lunch poem every now and again at lunch and writing about what happened. I see a fire engine get stuck negotiating the sharp corner of Keppel and Malet street.

The afternoon is hot. I left my jacket in the office. I write this in pencil.

“Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear”  

 

1. MUSIC – Frank O’Hara 

      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 tablecloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35¢, 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.

[1954]

Poem: Behind the British Museum

Behind the British Museum

The road is closed on Montague Place
and a mobile crane has been engaged
to sift through the contents of the lorry
and hoist up particular blondewood boxes.
Anonymous, they sail upward with a slow spin
steadied by the neon orange safety straps.
Bodies inside bandages inside caskets
inside boxes, the artefacts return.

 

 

 

Poem: Things I Miss

Things I Miss

I
The tug of another planet

and that fraught approach
across the empty.

II
Just when each thing
has an equal answer

and forces rest
on a fair zero.

III
Being earthbound
and whispering
to him

the secret
to the science
of falling.

Poem: why I’m scared to let go of the papers

why I’m scared to let go of the papers

A folded boarding card from a flight long completed.
The train ticket from the airport into Stockholm central station
a stream of small print in Swedish. Suddenly:
the clacking of the departure boards. How the American
came up to me pointing in his guidebook
and I watched him smile as I told him
directions to Sergels Torg in English.

If I forget the morning brightness
of his laughter, the particularity
of his kiss,

at least I’ve kept these papers.

A till receipt from fika,
the entrance tickets
to Skansen,
his old email
address
in his
curling
hand
-writing.

This poem appeared in issue 19 of Under the Radar Magazine

Poem: The Way Queenie Smokes

The Way Queenie Smokes

Bunched up in the front of the white van
he smirks tapping the cigarette,
loosening ash out of the slit
in the window, onto the road.

Smoking is his excuse for delicacy.
His long fingers are allowed extension,
his wrists can move with grace. Still stained
from the day on site.

He sits dishing the goss about Alan’s failed affair
and Stevo’s dodgy brother. As Pav sits in the middle
with The Sun, absentmindedly singing along to the radio.

The way Queenie smokes is why they call him Queenie,
ballet-poise along his whole arm out to his held fingers.
Long sensuous drawing up of the smoke into his lungs,
a gentle letting forth of smoke from his mouth.

The rasp to his laugh rattles his belly
squashed tight into his stained t-shirt.

This Poem appeared in issue 19 of Under the Radar magazine