Thoughts at Frank O'Hara's
City Poet Party, 6/9/93

Hal Fondren was there, and Bobby Fizdale,
John Gruen and Jane -- Wilson, that is,
Morris Golde, and a number of others
who were already highly visible on the scene
when I appeared in the background, as a young poet, thirty
years ago this spring. "How are you?" is the question I kept hearing
from the members of this senior contingent
as I milled about in the clinical orchards of sociability.
How am I? Feeling old, I wanted to say,
as a birthday approached from the end of the week,
but these people had ten to fifteen years on methen,
and of course, as is the mathematical way, still did;
and on the other hand there were these clumps of stylish young men
who obviously weren't even born when Frank died. Which was more depressing?
It's a push, as a bookie would say, from his bit part in Guys and Dolls.
And Frank's sister Maureen was there, of course;
I don't remember if I ever told her that my first "serious" girlfriend,
in the third grade, was an Irish girl named Maureen, but I guess
I'm telling her now, after a fashion, and this way everybody else
gets to listen in and be bored, too.
And I guess I could have told Brad Gooch
that in World War II all destroyers were called "tin cans,"
not just the type Frank served on,
and the battleship Missouri was called "The Mighty Mo," not "The Old Mo,"
but I suppose I'm telling him now, etcetera.
It's the first unpleasantly humid day in June,
that's partly why I feel neglected and out of it,
no longer involved with the art and poetry world
that still buzzes with participants in Philip Taaffe's
huge and strangely elegant space. On the terrace,
I notice the motif of pairs of human-headed winged bulls
that face each other in banded strips on the office building next door.
The Assyrian Building, I think, an opportunity for Julius Knipl,
Real Estate Photographer, although he's as fictional
as I feel uncomfortably real. I wonder what kind of business
is transacted there, I continue on to myself,
since I don't feel like talking to anyone else. Listen,
Frank cuts in, what's all this Assyrian baloney? Wingedbulls?
Winged bull-you-know-what! And how can anybody possibly feeltoo real?
Why don't you trim the fat off your no-moss mind and try to be at least
as entertaining as you used tothinkyou were? God knows
Icertainly wouldn't miss that kind of opportunity.
That's not fair, I answer, your just showing up right now
would be entertainment enough,
you wouldn't have to say a word.
Well, I could take their minds offthatpretty quick
by showing an interest intheirexistence. The best way
to keep from feeling sorry for yourself is to get interested
in someone else; you know that.Icertainly still know that,
in fact it's exactly what I'm doing right now.
Yes, of course you're right, but I just don't seem to be in the mood.
Don't be truculent, you're not young enough anymore --
in fact you're thirteen years older than I am, so act it. Now there's
John Ashbery, go over and say Hello. It's thirty years later
and I'mstillgetting you invited to parties, but this
is thelast time.You're on your own for the rest of this saga, baby,
as Siegfried said to Brunhilde on the way up to Valhalla,
I'm going to get a drink!

The East Village Poetry Web
Tony Towle