new york with frank o'hara - ephemeral / by Dahlia Dandashi

i was polluting my lungs with coffee and cigarette air in new york city

when i saw frank o'hara.

he, too, was imbibing black coffee and digesting cigarette butts 

faster than he could digest his blueberry pancakes. 

"what are you doing here?" 

it was 1963 and kennedy was just assassinated. o'hara was reading the paper like a machine. 

"oh god it's wonderful

to get out of bed

and drink too much coffee

and smoke too many cigarettes

and love you so much"

he did not look up at me.

he was like the new york subway, 

 known to me only through passing,

 eclectic and electric,

eating the secrets of mothers and daughters

and strangers and artists

and dejected wall street executives as they walked by.

it was 1963. he was an anachronistic anomaly to me, but unheeded by everyone else.

"tell me how to write like you."

he tapped the table with the tip of his pencil

and moved the chair just enough for me to sit.

he shifted a coke bottle toward me 

before writing and reciting "Having a coke with you."

 

and then i understood.

 

i continued to pollute my lungs with coffee and cigarette air,

sedentary but attentive,

eating the secrets of mothers and daughters

and strangers and artists

and dejected wall street executives as they walked by.