My office is being moved, I’m hungry, my ankle hurts
Bicycling down Second Avenue approaching 34th Street
I see the T-shirted backsides of a couple
Not very athletic looking backsides, let’s say
Matching dark blue Yankee T-shirts
One has the name and number of a star pitcher
The other has the name and number of the star shortstop
Continuing up the hill by the cinemaplex
I think of the “lazy river” at the Grand Hotel in Las Vegas
My son and I spent some time there last summer
It was full of hefty young people, lots of young men
Standing in clusters in the water drinking beer
And not doing much else
I had had a not very friendly thought that this put war in another light
Rather than standing in this lazy river in the middle of a desert drinking beer out of plastic bottles
These young men might as well . . . Well, best not say exactly what I thought
I suppose lack of love for one’s fellow man begins with lack of love for oneself
Among other things I wished the river weren’t so crowded, wished there were room to swim
I had the sense the water contained more than its fair share of spilled beer and other waste products
This summer Jonah and I are going to visit battle sites around Belgium
We have been reading about the Great War, the war to end all wars —
The trenches and gas, the futility and incompetence
Soldiers mowed down by machine guns and drowning in the mud
Trying to get wounded, hit in the chest or arms rather than the head.
This is the next thing I think of after the lazy river — the trenches —
Trying to push the analogy I wonder if the twists and turns of the hotel water park
Could in any way be compared to the salients, traverses, redoubts, the rain and the mud.
I think not and turn right on 21st Street and ride past the 13th Precinct, Gramercy Park
Over to Giorgio’s where I have been lunching for years — table 40 in the back corner —
“Good to see you!” says Sasha, the manager, as she always does.
There was a year when Sasha introduced me to her dad and we almost went to the movies together
I touch her back in greeting and say something about the hot and humid weather
The air-conditioning, roast chicken and mashed potatoes begin to take effect
I don’t have any more savage thoughts, I am writing this poem on my netbook.
The Day Lady Died, by Frank O’Hara, available in Lunch Poems (City Lights reissue, 2001). Btw: Lady Day, Billie Holiday, died on 17 July 1959.
[…] The two ink drawings are also by William Eaton, working from a Van Gogh self-portrait and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Portrait de monsieur Bertin. Other Montaigbahktinian posts under the influence of Frank O’Hara: This is my poem for Terminal B (yet more influenced by Langston Hughes) and Lunch Poem (with such apologies as may be due to Frank O’Hara and “The Day Lady Died”). […]