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By Frank O'Hara

I wanted to be sure to reach you;

though my ship was on the way it got caught   

in some moorings. I am always tying up   

and then deciding to depart. In storms and   

at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide   

around my fathomless arms, I am unable   

to understand the forms of my vanity   

or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder   

in my hand and the sun sinking. To   

you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage   

of my will. The terrible channels where   

the wind drives me against the brown lips   

of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet   

I trust the sanity of my vessel; and   

if it sinks, it may well be in answer   

to the reasoning of the eternal voices,

the waves which have kept me from reaching you.

Frank O’Hara, “To the Harbormaster” from Meditations in an Emergency. Copyright © 1957 by Frank O’Hara. Reprinted with the permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.,

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

  • Love
  • Nature
  • Relationships

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. See More By This Poet

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