The power of one word

FrankO'Hara

The power of one word

I have a mental picture
           of the poet Frank O’Hara sitting
in his apartment
           on a glorious New York summer’s day
He’s wearing a crisp
           white shirt and new sneakers
and is nervously tapping his fingers
           on his desk in time
to a phrase from Rachmaninoff
           that has been running
through his head
           ever since he woke

Through an open window
           he can also hear the city making
its usual cacophonous dust
           he also has an eye on the clock
: the friend who is giving him
           the ride to the beach is late
and he has so been
           looking forward to the trip

Just then the doorbell rings
           and at once
he is overcome
           by the sudden surge of love
in his heart and struggles
           to get to his feet
fearing he might drown
           in the emotion

John Lyons

 

Advertisements

I too have lain under trees

I too have lain under trees

 It’s our duty
      to be attentive
consciousness
      that sets us apart
that brings us
      together
not just in times
      of emergency
but as we gaze
      into a pair
of pale blue
or green 
      or hazel eyes
and whisper

      words of love

Where would
      the universe be
without us ?

John Lyons

 

 

I sometimes paint

I sometimes paint

I’m a poet and a patriot
            but I sometimes paint
though I make no claims
            for my artistic skills
I simply try to lay down
            the colours and shapes
of the words I carry around
            in my head along with
whatever energies
            I can bring to bear

If I was a painter
            I would strive to be
a de Kooning or
            a Jackson Pollock
or wherever the action is
            but there’s no hope
of that so relax
            it’s Saturday
and my mind’s on
            the walk we are about
to take over the river to Spitalfields
            to try a Philadelphia
cheese steak sandwich
            and on Sunday
I will be watching the Superbowl
            and cheering on the Eagles
even though I have
            only the vaguest
understanding of the game :
            it’s just not my game

John Lyons

Digression

Digression

When I was a child
           all the talk was of
how to grow the best roses
           and what types of soil
make for a better lawn

I remember those roses
           with their savage thorns
their soft petals
           dripping with morning dew
but nobody told me
           anything about the challenges
I would face in later life

I was not a sickly child
           and I learned most things
with relative ease
           I played out on the streets
my feet dragging home the dust
           only when the sun set

Life seemed in those days
           to be administered
by perfect hands and reality
           was representational
Had someone shown me
           a Jackson Pollock
I might have had an inkling
            of what was to come

No I am not ill today
           or any other day
not even tired
           simply perplexed
by the mystery of the stars
           scintillating above
an empty ocean

and yet I know exactly
           what I need to make
a perfect day and so do you
           so why don’t we ?

John Lyons

Plus ça change

O'Hara_de Kooning.jpg
Frank O’Hara, by Elaine de Kooning (1962)

Plus ça change

Being lost for words
             and being speechless
is not the same
             nothing is ever the same
things are or they are not
             but they’re never the same
similes are absurd
             as no one thing
is like another
             Gertrude Stein taught us
that not even repetitions
             are the same
a rose is a rose is a rose
             is an equilateral triangle
of competing energies
             each rose qualifying
the other ones
             one after another

When Elaine de Kooning
             portrayed Frank O’Hara
standing in her studio
             first she painted
the structure of the face
             above the tall lean body
and when she had finished
             she wiped out the face
so that the portrait
              would more closely
resemble the subject
             the portrait and the subject
were not the same
             nothing is ever the same

John Lyons

The last clean shirt

The last clean shirt

So Monday morning
             I look into the closet
and there it is
             hanging there
the last clean shirt
             and it’s ironed
and ready to wear
             but it’s the last clean shirt
and I have a whole week
             ahead of me

It’s a white shirt
             and for some reason
I think of Othello and Shakespeare
             and wonder if he
was ever in this situation
             or Walt Whitman or John Donne
or any of the other metaphysicals
             for that matter —not that I would ever
compare myself to any of them
             it’s just a thought
but who did wash and iron
             their shirts for them ?

and so I watch the short film
             by Alfred Leslie with subtitles
written by Frank O’Hara
             and I discover that
the last clean shirt
             is a metaphor
for ashes to ashes
             and dust to dust
and please see that my grave
             is kept clean

John Lyons