Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Mayakovsky by Frank O'Hara

The following poem was part of Frank O'Hara's 1957 collection Meditations in an Emergency. O'Hara was a central figure in the New York art scene of the early 60s, before his death at the age of 40 in 1966.

Keen viewers of the 60s-based series Mad Men might recognise the volume as one of the books that Don Draper reads. Considering that Draper's character is detached to the point of being a virtual stranger to his own wife, one would have to imagine that the poems from Meditations..., which describe anxiety and alienation, would resonate with him.

My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.

I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.

Words! be
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,

and I’ll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
for poetry.

Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.
I embrace a cloud,
but when I soared
it rained.

That’s funny! there’s blood on my chest
oh yes, I’ve been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

Frank O'Hara, erstwhile curator at Museum of Modern Art and unofficial poet laurette of New York City

No comments:

Post a Comment