A Step Away from Them

By Frank O'Hara 1926–1966 Frank O'Hara
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 flipping   
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.
                                          On
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, languorously agitating.   
A blonde chorus girl clicks: he   
smiles and rubs his chin. Everything   
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, è 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 Pollock. But is the   
earth as full as life was full, of them?   
And one has eaten and one walks,   
past the magazines with 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 by Pierre Reverdy.

Frank O’Hara, “A Step Away from Them” from Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O’Hara. Reprinted with the permission of City Lights Books, www.citylights.com/CLpub.html.

Source: The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1995)

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Poet Frank O'Hara 1926–1966

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

 Frank  O'Hara

Biography

Frank O'Hara was a dynamic leader of the "New York School" of poets, a group that included John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. The Abstract Expressionist painters in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s used the title, but the poets borrowed it. From the beginning O'Hara's poetry was engaged with the worlds of music, dance, and painting. In that complex of associations he devised an idea of poetic . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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