Friday, March 27, 2020

Four poems for Frank O’Hara’s birthday


Cold, dishwater wind. The snow is not alive,
but sleeps. A blade of grass.

Happy birthday. You claimed to be
the least difficult of men. The shadows of culture, sex,

and the Museum of Modern Art.

How different might be the movie version of your life
against the video game. Or Frank O’Hara On Ice,

sweeping Toller Cranston loops of Lady, Lady.

There were years I thought “On Ice”
the logical endpoint

to Michael Turner’s Hard Core Logo: poetry book,
novel, film adaptation, graphic novel adaptation,

stage production, unwatched sequel,

a screenwriter’s diary of the original. Now I realize
that nothing ends, or dies: it all



Beaudelaire’s casual observance. I did this,
and this

and that. One walks: I hardly ever think of March 27, 1926,
or most dates, really. A hierarchy

of moments, pinpoints, recollections. The question
of whether we are writing poems

as a sequence of promissory notes: to time, the living and
the endless dead; to echoes, reached out and dismantled, across

a wide variety of interactions.

I miss you, David W. McFadden. Ken Norris, retired,
has woken from a lengthy silence. Meredith Quartermain

walks the western rail and fault, line
after seacoast line.

There is a twitter account I follow, self-christened
Is Today Ted Danson’s

Birthday? Daily tweets, informing all

who wish to know. Most days are not,
but by December 29:



In the absence of matter, a baseline

curvature. I can say anything. A heartvein, throbs
beneath the skin of every sidewalk,

lyric, casemate. You hear the sun. Francis Russell
“Frank” O’Hara: one hundred years,

give or take,

since you arrived. We calculate direction, skin,
soft tissue. The least difficult of men: a claim

I also make, but reaps

such skepticism. Scrutiny, I ask,
can any poem stand? Who said a work of art

is not a living thing? The triple axel,
spun in furor, sleek

and nigh impossible. Joe Dick throws the mic stand
down the ice, flips tavern tables. All I want, he wrote,

is a subway handy. All I want

is boundless love.


If your eyes were vague blue, mine might be
a smoky grey. Dead poets walking. A germ theory

of contagion. It doesn’t matter

when your birthday was. Although I
track mine with an attention

bordering on fervor. The whole of your life,
unaware your parents displaced your delivery

three full months, reassigned to cover up
a pre-wedding conception: a stigma scandalous

to their Irish-Catholic fetters. And so,
they lied. Does this gift you neither birthday, faux-Cancer,

displaced Aries? Or two? As Artie Gold wrote, O’Hara
died like Christ, and baby Jesus, too, a birthday

fluid at the edge of orthodoxies. I step outside,
I make a shape inside the figure

of a word. Is this for real?

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