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]

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Lunchtimes in Bloomsbury: Gordon Square

I20160509_122052 cross the very busy road at the zebra crossing at the top of Tavistock Square and as I walk the streets get quieter. Crossing onto a quieter corner, I’m in Gordon Square. The gardens here are like a wild meadow, overrun with long grass and flowers. Parts are roped off from the public and allowed to grow tall.

Today is a lovely warm day, with a breeze and I eat my lunch watching the people wandering about. The gardens are full of students sprawled on the grass, stressed out academics (who bring their mugs from their offices into the park) and men who for whatever reason need to sleep in the shade of the trees here. It’s the quietest square in Bloomsbury I know.

Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group met in a town house in the square, now a part of the Birkbeck’s School of Arts. These days the basement of the building is the university creche.

 

There are two statues in the gardens, one to the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and another to the incredible Noor Inayat Khan, who was posthumously awarded the George’s Cross and the Croix de Guerre for her work with the French resistence in the Second World War.

After finishing my sandwich, I follow the meandering path around the square. By the cute kiosk which sells hot drinks, I notice a bench with a plaque which reads:

 

“Here beats the happy heart of

our emotional geography

Jack & Rachel

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