Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reading O'Hara

How Roses Get Black

by Frank O'Hara

First you took Arthur's porcelain
pony from the mantel! and! dashed
it against the radiator! Oh it was

vile! we were listening to Sibelius.
And then with lighter fluid you wet
each pretty floored rose, tossed

your leonine head, set them on fire.
Laughing maniacally from the bath-
room. Talk about burning bushes! I

who can cut with a word, was quite
amused. Upon reflection I am not.
Send me your head to soak in tallow!

You are no myth unless I choose to
speak. I breathed those ashes secretly.
Heroes alone destroy, as I destroy

you. Know now that I am the roses
and it is of them I choose to speak.


(From The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara, University of California Press, 1995.)


The book is thick, so I'll probably be reading O'Hara for some time to come. That line "talk about burning bushes!" kills me. And the punctuation/capitalization is intriguing. After reading Frank Bidart I'm thinking much more about how to convey the voice to the page. So many ways. And Frank Stanford, who didn't punctuate a darn thing in The Battlefield, and still the incredible voice singing through. Jeez Louise, where did all these Franks come from? Maybe I should change my name for luck.

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