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Embrace All Your Selves. Digital Collage. August 16,2011.

Embrace All Your Selves, Exhale. Digital Collage. August 16,2011.


 

The title of the book began as a very sophisticated literary joke, an allusion to John Donne’s “Meditations on Emergent Occasions.” But as sometimes happened in O’Hara’s poetry, the joke turned out to have a surplus of meaning. His poems are meditations — but not the kind that comes after hours of quiet thought; they proceed from the heart of noise; they are written on the run, in a hurry, on a lunch break, in a perennial emergency. O’Hara’s poems perfectly capture the pace of a New York day in 1962. He is a master of the art of gentle self-laceration: “Now I am quietly waiting for / the catastrophe of my personality / to seem beautiful again, / and interesting, and modern.”


Meditations in an Emergency

Frank O’Hara 1926–1966

Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were
French?

Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the
same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days
there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.

Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a
change?

I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m
just like a pile of leaves.

However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of pastoral life, nor
with nostalgia for an innocent past of perverted acts in pastures. No. One need
never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can’t
even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record
store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It is
more important to affirm the least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as
it is and even they continue to pass. Do they know what they’re missing? Uh
huh.

My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time; they are
indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal, so that no one
trusts me. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me
up. It makes me restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them
still. If only i had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I would stay at
home and do something. It’s not that I’m curious. On the contrary, I am bored
but it’s my duty to be attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above
the earth. And lately, so great has their anxiety become, I can spare
myself little sleep.

Now there is only one man I like to kiss when he is unshaven.
Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How best discourage her?)

St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness which is like
midnight in Dostoevsky. How I am to become a legend, my dear? I’ve tried love,
but that hides you in the bosom of another and I am always springing forth from
it like the lotus—the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must not be
distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, “to keep the filth of life away,” yes,
there, even in the heart, where the filth is pumped in and slanders and pollutes
and determines. I will my will, though I may become famous for a mysterious
vacancy in that department, that greenhouse.

Destroy yourself, if you don’t know!

It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I admire you,
beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It’s like a final chapter no one reads because
the plot is over.

“Fanny Brown is run away—scampered off with a Cornet of Horse; I do love that
little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho’ She has vexed me by this Exploit
a little too.—Poor silly Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her.—I wish She
had a good Whipping and 10,000 pounds.”—Mrs. Thrale.

I’ve got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my dirtiest
suntans. I’ll be back, I’ll re-emerge, defeated, from the valley; you don’t want
me to go where you go, so I go where you don’t want me to. It’s only afternoon,
there’s a lot ahead. There won’t be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in the
lock and the knob turns.

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