Rhapsody

By Frank O'Hara 1926–1966 Frank O'Hara
515 Madison Avenue   
door to heaven? portal
stopped realities and eternal licentiousness
or at least the jungle of impossible eagerness
your marble is bronze and your lianas elevator cables   
swinging from the myth of ascending
I would join
or declining the challenge of racial attractions
they zing on (into the lynch, dear friends)
while everywhere love is breathing draftily
like a doorway linking 53rd with 54th
the east-bound with the west-bound traffic by 8,000,000s   
o midtown tunnels and the tunnels, too, of Holland

where is the summit where all aims are clear   
the pin-point light upon a fear of lust
as agony’s needlework grows up around the unicorn   
and fences him for milk- and yoghurt-work
when I see Gianni I know he’s thinking of John Ericson   
playing the Rachmaninoff 2nd or Elizabeth Taylor   
taking sleeping-pills and Jane thinks of Manderley   
and Irkutsk while I cough lightly in the smog of desire   
and my eyes water achingly imitating the true blue

a sight of Manahatta in the towering needle
multi-faceted insight of the fly in the stringless labyrinth   
Canada plans a higher place than the Empire State Building   
I am getting into a cab at 9th Street and 1st Avenue   
and the Negro driver tells me about a $120 apartment   
“where you can’t walk across the floor after 10 at night   
not even to pee, cause it keeps them awake downstairs”
no, I don’t like that “well, I didn’t take it”
perfect in the hot humid morning on my way to work   
a little supper-club conversation for the mill of the gods

you were there always and you know all about these things   
as indifferent as an encyclopedia with your calm brown eyes   
it isn’t enough to smile when you run the gauntlet
you’ve got to spit like Niagara Falls on everybody or
Victoria Falls or at least the beautiful urban fountains of Madrid   
as the Niger joins the Gulf of Guinea near the Menemsha Bar
that is what you learn in the early morning passing Madison Avenue   
where you’ve never spent any time and stores eat up light

I have always wanted to be near it
though the day is long (and I don’t mean Madison Avenue)   
lying in a hammock on St. Mark’s Place sorting my poems   
in the rancid nourishment of this mountainous island   
they are coming and we holy ones must go
is Tibet historically a part of China? as I historically   
belong to the enormous bliss of American death

Frank O’Hara, “Rhapsody” 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 Love, Relationships, Desire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 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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SUBJECT Love, Relationships, Desire

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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