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By Frank O'Hara

The white chocolate jar full of petals

swills odds and ends around in a dizzying eye   

of four o’clocks now and to come. The tiger,   

marvellously striped and irritable, leaps   

on the table and without disturbing a hair   

of the flowers’ breathless attention, pisses   

into the pot, right down its delicate spout.

A whisper of steam goes up from that porcelain   

urethra. “Saint-Saëns!” it seems to be whispering,   

curling unerringly around the furry nuts   

of the terrible puss, who is mentally flexing.   

Ah be with me always, spirit of noisy   

contemplation in the studio, the Garden   

of Zoos, the eternally fixed afternoons!   

There, while music scratches its scrofulous   

stomach, the brute beast emerges and stands,   

clear and careful, knowing always the exact peril   

at this moment caressing his fangs with   

a tongue given wholly to luxurious usages;   

which only a moment before dropped aspirin   

in this sunset of roses, and now throws a chair   

in the air to aggravate the truly menacing.


Frank O’Hara, “Chez Jane” from Meditations in an Emergency. Copyright © 1957 by Frank O’Hara. Reprinted with the permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc., www.groveatlantic.com.

Source: The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1995)

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Poet Bio

Frank O'Hara
Frank O'Hara brought a refreshing new casualness and spontaneity to poetry, making deliriously funny and surprisingly moving verse out of everyday activities recounted in conversational tones. (What he called his “I do this I do that” poems often featured glimpses of his adored New York City or anecdotes about friends—most of whom were themselves poets or painters.) His brilliant career as a writer and art curator was cut tragically short by a freak dune buggy accident on Fire Island in New York.

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