National Poetry Month: Excerpt from “Poems Retrieved” by Frank O’Hara

from Poems Retrieved

Bill’s Body Shop

Oh snows of only two months ago!
when will you fall back up into the sky
and fall down again like an airplane?

I put my passengers onto the plane
and then drove back to Palisades in the car,
the Palisades all hoary with the tears,

and left a check with a note, Bill
being out, “Fix up the car and fix up
my heart, the thirty dollars is for that,”

but the mechanics couldn’t find the
trouble, so how could they fix it up? Oh
saffron snows! leaves tumbling, two months!

and I never saw that car again, No,
I don’t remember the license number either.
I remember the elephants passing, and snow.


Water flow strongly 0 clouds
0 heavy coursing of my blood
which is like a powerful intellectuality
of words lost in the sea’s crashing

And then faster and faster
the saline gushes of knowledge

To be alone
is the meaning of meaning 0 sand
the single mouth howling
its simple moonlike pain
until it too is crushed and filled
with the all-encompassing passions
which know everything

To Bobby

On your head a white plant sits of thought
and you nag your beast of freshness still
sitting on the prong of a trapeze in the aisle
taming and yet mawling the elevated night.

Cars surround the cinders and freezes
the bravos have failed to relieve you, my dear,
and like a tulip your bed repossesses you where
my surging airiness no longer tumbles

Accustomed to what impulsive caress
do your limbs quicken against the hot statues
course to you like a wave in bondage
and arrive to emblazon you with my tongue

Passion of Alps and surmounting azure
and the revelations of tumultuous forests
their fire is merely the sweat of my knees
for I am your spring I am who you drink

[New York, November 1953]

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poemsretrievedcoverOriginally published under Donald Allen’s classic Grey Fox Press imprint, Poems Retrieved is a substantial part of Frank O’Hara’s oeuvre, containing over 200 pages of previously unpublished poetry discovered after the publication of his posthumous Collected Poems in 1971. Featuring a new introduction by O’Hara expert and friend, poet and art critic Bill Berkson, Poems Retrieved has been completely reformatted and is essential for any reader of twentieth century poetry. As Berkson writes, “The breadth of what Frank O’Hara took to be poetry is reflected in the many kinds of poems he wrote. . . . Turning the pages of any of his collections, you wonder what he didn’t turn his hand to, what variety of poem he left untried or didn’t, in some cases, as if in passing, anticipate.”

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