Thursday, May 22, 2008

The breathless exhuberance that is Frank O'Hara (An Inflorescence but not on Friday)

In-flo-res-cence - from the Latin inflorescere - to begin to blossom. 1. the producing of blossoms; flowering; 2. the arrangement of flowers on a stem or axis; 3. a flower cluster on a common axis; 4. flowers collectively; 5. a solitary flower, regarded as a reduced cluster.

Helen Vendler's recent review in The New Republic of Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems introduces me to some I had never read before.

The exuberance of this one is like the breathless laughter provoked by playing as a child.


Yippee! she is shooting in the harbor! he is jumping
up to the maelstrom! she is leaning over the giant's
cart of tears which like a lava cone let fall to fly
from the cross-eyed tantrum-tousled ninth grader's
splayed fist is freezing on the cement! he is throwing
up his arms in heavenly desperation, spacious Y of his
tumultuous love-nerves flailing like a poinsettia in
its own nailish storm against the glass door of the
cumulus which is withholding her from these divine
pastures she has filled with the flesh of men as stones!
O fatal eagerness!

O boy, their childhood was like so many oatmeal cookies.
I need you, you need me, yum, yum. Anon it became suddenly

like someone always losing something and never knowing what.
Always so. They were so fond of eating bread and butter and
sugar, they were slobs, the mice used to lick the floorboards
after they went to bed, rolling their light tails against
the rattling marbles of granulations. Vivo! the dextrose
those children consumed, lavished, smoked, in their knobbly
candy bars. Such pimples! such hardons! such moody loves.
And thus they grew like giggling fir trees.

Even in his dark moments, O'Hara can't resist word play which, in this case, does double duty as philosophical play on the subject and object interplay between the lover and the loved.

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.

No comments: