Our theme for the month of February is “color.”

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

~ excerpt from “Why I Am Not a Painter” by Frank O’Hara

 

I

I’ve dug my thumbs in now,
juice dripping off my elbow,
skin coiled beside me.
I stare at the curved, even
segments and wonder:
where is the right place to begin?

II

You gasped across the tiles
of the piso’s little kitchen
as I reached for the mandarina.
“¡Gabriel! ¡Es tu postre!”
Will I ever cleanse my palette
enough to no longer reach for
forbidden fruits?

III

You knew my jacket
like my name. If only
you had known
as I sang in chapel
that I wanted you
to descend upon
my shoulder,
that I was kindling
aching for a flame.

IV

I think of the hot New York afternoons
I’ve perched on the small black fence
to visit your old red door that may
or may not have been red
when it was yours. 

I want to confess: “I like reading poetry
less than the idea of reading poetry.”

How many things do I love only
the idea of? Visiting the door of a poet
may be one of them, and yet

here I am again.

V

I live beside the Space Needle, and I’m happy.
I run past the spinning ampersand & corralled
sailboats with Ari and Linus and Ryan
and think of you and Bridget and Joe
sleeping over at Joan’s.

Are we living the same life
across coasts and centuries?

Is happiness writing your life
in such a way
that it will be a joy to remember?

VI

I wear the hat.
I see you spinning, the yarn
you chose
not
yet
cut,
the knots concentric as you
spin in yarn
you chose that
itches, but I choose
to wear it though my head
spins beneath it with concentric
thoughts, and sometimes
I think of the Faroe Islands—green
rocks and yellow grass—and you
spin and choose and spin and
sometimes I’m sorry I was not
all green and yellow lights.

VII

Sometimes I worry
I only want to turn
you into poetry.

VIII

Why is life never apples to apples?
Why figs to lemons
and forests to trees?

I grow so tired of deciding when to enjamb that some days I want to write right off the page until my words end up on tables in coffee shops and sidewalks where others can choose what to do with them.

You said you once destroyed a man’s idea of himself to have him.
I’d gladly give myself for the murmur of a samovar
and a cup of Earl Grey.

IX

The sky framed by the windshield
is an oil painting someone set on fire—blue sky
transfigured into floral snarls of smoke,
curling above the driftwood sheds of Waitsburg.

I think of the merciful rain
held in place by our sweeping Parisian window
and the steady march of snowflakes fixed
in the stove-toasted panes
of the cabin kitchen,
our heads clinking together
like glasses.

I ponder how cruel and inspired our world is
to send fires after floods
and how heartened I am to weather them
with you.

X

Your noses in jessamine
and eyes reclining in the roses of Venezuela,
and I marvel that from our separate winters—
tethered like mittens
by a string of asphalt—
a memory of bromeliads and
chocolate trees
reunites us.

XI

I must be
plunged into the marbled heat of Italy to see
you, hip out like David, upholding
a leaning tower of tortilla.

And the patatas bravas remain
sweet with paprika
on the counter all day—
consumed between pages flipped
and stainless steel slipped back into place,
and I imagine a world covered with tapas:
plates of eggplant topping fire hydrants and
croquettes balanced on mailboxes, and
we would all carry forks in our back pockets.

Oh, to live in the world that you cater!

XII 

Can one love something
solely on the grounds of precedence?
The pillowcase that remains
in my closet only for the years
of tears and laughter added
to its thread count?
Do I choose the terror or
has it chosen me?
Do I decide the white
sweater is clean when I replace it
on the shelf? Do I deem
the day well-lived, the life
fulfilled, you beloved?

If so, I say, “It is too much!”

And when
I get into the beach taxi,
do I tell the driver where to go?
Is there no end to pain-
staking my destiny?

And yet
I revel in the better part
of so many hearts—
and attempt to live
the poetry

3 Comments

  1. Katerina Parsons

    I love how many senses this poem activates – the colors, smells, tastes, memories. I read it and immediately wanted to read it again.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Oh, Gabe. You astound me again and again.

    Reply
  3. Kyric Koning

    VI and VIII. Especially beautiful. Some nice lines here. Sometimes the idea of reading poetry is better than reading poetry. And sometimes, we get this. Thanks, Gabe.

    Reply

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