“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
Anne Waldman, “A Phonecall from Frank O’Hara” from Helping the Dreamer: Selected Poems, 1966-1988.
Copyright © 1989 by Anne Waldman. Reprinted with the permission of Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, www.coffeehousepress.com.
Source: Helping the Dreamer: Selected Poems 1966-1988 (Coffee House Press, 1989)