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MEDITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY (Excerpt)
by Frank O’Hara (1926-1966)

 Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were French? 

          Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth. 

          Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change? 

          I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love. 

          Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves. 

          However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It is more important to affirm the least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and even they continue to pass. Do they know what they’re missing? Uh huh. 

Read the rest of the poem at poetryfoundation.org.

“Meditations in an Emergency” is found in Frank O’Hara’s 1957 poetry collection of the same name. The 52-page book, reissued by Grove Press in 1996, is available at Amazon.com.

In the above photo, MAD MEN’s Don Draper (Jon Hamm) peruses a copy of MEDITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY during Season 2 of the series.

AUTHOR BIO FROM THE POETRY FOUNDATION: Frank O’Hara (born in 1926) was a dynamic leader of the “New York School” of poets, a group that included John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. From the beginning, O’Hara’s poetry was engaged with the worlds of music, dance, and painting. In that complex of associations, he devised an idea of poetic form that allowed the inclusion of many kinds of events, including everyday conversations and notes about New York advertising signs. Since his death in 1966 at age forty, the depth and richness of his achievements as a poet and art critic have been recognized by an international audience. As the painter Alex Katz remarked, “Frank’s business was being an active intellectual.” He was that. His articulate intelligence made new proposals for poetic form possible in American poetry.