Frank O’Hara made an appearance in Friday Food Writers last June, but somehow today as I sit at my desk and spring is busting out all over New York and people are grabbing sandwiches and iced coffee and lemonade and cookies and all manner of things to eat outside in the sunshine, I can’t think of anyone else who captures the mood of this moment better, so here he is again. Lunch Poems, a tiny little masterpiece of a book, was one of the first books of poetry I ever bought (it’s still available in the fantastically portable City Lights Pocket Poet Series edition that I have, which you can get to via the link above). Something about the size and shape of the book screams O’Hara to me–it’s jaunty and bright and filled with comedy and tragedy and street life. What better day than one like today to take a look at what people–including O’Hara, who has an endearing fondness for malteds– were eating for lunch all over the city in gorgeous weather in O’Hara’s day and are no doubt eating right now, too.
Without further ado…
A Step Away From Them
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.
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
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, e 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
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.