Frank O’Hara’s poetry collection “Lunch Poems,” first published in 1964, is celebrating its 50-year anniversary.
I own a small used paperback copy of “Lunch Poems” that I bought two years ago. I had heard that O’Hara wrote many of these poems during his lunch breaks while working at the Museum of Modern Art, so I thought I might occasionally read a poem or two during my own museum-job lunch breaks.
Here’s the first stanza of “A Step Away from Them,” written in 1956. It’s a vintage slice of New York in summertime.
It’s my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk amongst the hum-colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then onto the
avenue where skirts are flipping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look
at bargains in wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.
To read the entire poem, click here.
To read a short New York Times article about the anniversary of “Lunch Poems,” click here.
Image: Leonard Freed, Wall Street, 1956.