Steps, by Frank O’Hara

1 May 2013

How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to the left

here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
(I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still
accepts me foolish and free
all I want is a room up there
and you in it
and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
for people to rub up against each other
and when their surgical appliances lock
they stay together
for the rest of the day (what a day)
I go by to check a slide and I say
that painting’s not so blue

where’s Lana Turner
she’s out eating
and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
everyone’s taking their coat off
so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers
and the park’s full of dancers with their tights and shoes
in little bags
who are often mistaken for worker-outers at the West Side Y
why not
the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won
and in a sense we’re all winning
we’re alive

the apartment was vacated by a gay couple
who moved to the country for fun
they moved a day too soon
even the stabbings are helping the population explosion
though in the wrong country
and all those liars have left the UN
the Seagram Building’s no longer rivalled in interest
not that we need liquor (we just like it)

and the little box is out on the sidewalk
next to the delicatessen
so the old man can sit on it and drink beer
and get knocked off it by his wife later in the day
while the sun is still shining

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much


O’Hara must be deeply rooted in my head now. When I first read this, six years ago or so, the last lines read like a personal litany from a Sarah Kane play – Crave, for example – but from a parallel reality where she was full of optimism, not sorrow… But now it’s O’Hara who is my reference point, as these lines were recalled to me by ‘absolute’ by Arthur Yap, which I’ll post next, and I had to turn back to O’Hara to remind myself which poems they were from, and to love it.

[Read in The New York Poets: An Anthology, edited by Mark Ford (who introduced me to the poem) and published by Carcanet. Ripped from]


One Response to “Steps, by Frank O’Hara”

  1. […] here is the Arthur Yap poem, the ending of which led me to posting O’Hara’s ‘Steps’ the other day. (While the start, with its late sun, is a scenic inverse of O’Hara’s […]

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