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John Latta

Elogio di Frank O’Hara

Now that I am up here in the sky I can see
The mare di San Tommaso is a puddle of ink,
A hierarchy of imperial blue tints, tempting
The way order often is. No stranger's foot
Weighs on my heart and the earth today, howsoever
Cloud-begrudged and fickle, is turning
Itself "to" the unbudging sun though we're slow
To end our geocentric habits of three meddlesome centuries
Of science leading us by the dirty hand and do not desist
In saying the sun "rises," inexpert with the language
That exists merely to placate our sensibilities,
Troubled by the evacuations of art, how it leaves
Adamant puddles in the landscape that go to work
On the imaginations of stragglers like you and me.
You got through it all through pure charm,
Like a little grinning quark, knowing bravado
To be as specious as any other absolute, dashing
Naked into the night-stormy ocean, the only man awake
On earth and nobody left up to play with.
If we make our own suspicious amusements up and leave
Too many things undone it's because life is a work-
In-progress like any work is, always open and remaining so.
So it transpires that we must needs fill somebody's shoes
With feet of clay, feet broken off a statue
We've been lugging around on our shoulders
For a number of decades now not knowing
Exactly where to put it, in the kitchen or out
In the dreary afternoons of Vaughan Williams and rain
And a caravansary of words all leaking largesse, ambassadors
Of a perception that arrives in pieces, the way
A walk up along the ridge above Fiesole
Makes the path drop away, invisible
As the angels, the spectators, the sky-
Borne millions though we see now how the path continues
As descent and know it and we and they and you are there.

O'Hara's gravestone

Photo of O’Hara’s gravestone courtesy August Kleinzahler

This poem first appeared in The Paris Review, #149, Spring 1998.

You can read another poem by John Latta in Jacket # 8.

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