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Frank O’Hara: In Poem, in Paint



  • The dead hunting

and the alive, ahunted.

  •       My father, my uncle,
  • my grand-uncle and the several aunts. My
  • grand-aunt dying for me, like a talisman, in the war,
  • before I had even gone to Borneo
  • her blood vessels rushed to the surface
  • and burst like rockets over the wrinkled
  • invasion of the Australians, her eyes aslant
  • like the invaded, but blue like mine.

An atmosphere of supreme lucidity,

  •                   humanism,

the mere existence of emphasis,

  •                   a rusted barge
  • painted orange against the sea
  • full of Marines reciting the Arabian ideas
  • which are a proof in themselves of seasickness
  • which is a proof in itself of being hunted.

A hit? ergo swim.

  •                   My 10           my 19,

my 9,         and the several years. My

  • 12 years since they all died, philosophically speaking.
  • And now the coolness of a mind
  • like a shuttered suite in the Grand Hotel

where mail arrives for my incognito,

  •                   whose façade
  • has been slipping into the Grand Canal for centuries;

rockets splay over a sposalizio,

  •                   fleeing into night
  • from their Chinese memories, and it is a celebration,
  • the trying desperately to count them as they die.
  • But who will stay to be these numbers

when all the lights are dead?

Excerpted from In Memory of My Feelings: A Selection of Poems. Edited by Bill Berkson. Museum of Modern Art; New York, 1967.

Jasper Johns, illustration for "In Memory of My Feelings," from In Memory of My Feelings: A Selection of Poems, 1967