A Phonecall from Frank O’Hara

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“That all these dyings may be life in death”
I was living in San Francisco 
My heart was in Manhattan
It made no sense, no reference point 
Hearing the sad horns at night, 
fragile evocations of female stuff 
The 3 tones (the last most resonant)
were like warnings, haiku-muezzins at dawn
The call came in the afternoon 
“Frank, is that really you?”

I'd awake chilled at dawn
in the wooden house like an old ship 
Stay bundled through the day
sitting on the stoop to catch the sun
I lived near the park whose deep green 
over my shoulder made life cooler 
Was my spirit faltering, grown duller?
I want to be free of poetry's ornaments, 
its duty, free of constant irritation, 
me in it, what was grander reason 
for being? Do it, why? (Why, Frank?) 
To make the energies dance etc.

My coat a cape of horrors
I'd walk through town or
impending earthquake. Was that it? 
Ominous days. Street shiny with 
hallucinatory light on sad dogs,
too many religious people, or a woman 
startled me by her look of indecision 
near the empty stadium
I walked back spooked by
my own darkness
Then Frank called to say
“What? Not done complaining yet? 
Can't you smell the eucalyptus,
have you never neared the Pacific? 
‘While frank and free/call for
musick while your veins swell’” 
he sang, quoting a metaphysician 
"Don't you know the secret, how to 
wake up and see you don't exist, but 
that does, don't you see phenomena 
is so much more important than this? 
I always love that.”
“Always?” I cried, wanting to believe him 
“Yes.” “But say more! How can you if 
it's sad & dead?” “But that's just it! 
If! It isn't. It doesn't want to be
Do you want to be?” He was warming to his song 
“Of course I don't have to put up with as 
much as you do these days. These years. 
But I do miss the color, the architecture, 
the talk. You know, it was the life! 
And dying is such an insult. After all 
I was in love with breath and I loved 
embracing those others, the lovers, 
with my body.” He sighed & laughed 
He wasn't quite as I'd remembered him 
Not less generous, but more abstract 
Did he even have a voice now, I wondered 
or did I think it up in the middle 
of this long day, phone in hand now 
dialing Manhattan

© Anne Waldman