1. On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City

    The white woman across the aisle from me says ‘Look,
    look at all the history, that house
    on the hill there is over two hundred years old, ‘
    as she points out the window past me

    into what she has been taught. I have learned
    little more about American history during my few days
    back East than what I expected and far less
    of what we should all know of the tribal stories

    whose architecture is 15,000 years older
    than the corners of the house that sits
    museumed on the hill. ‘Walden Pond, ‘
    the woman on the train asks, ‘Did you see Walden Pond? ‘

    and I don’t have a cruel enough heart to break
    her own by telling her there are five Walden Ponds
    on my little reservation out West
    and at least a hundred more surrounding Spokane,

    the city I pretended to call my home. ‘Listen, ‘
    I could have told her. ‘I don’t give a shit
    about Walden. I know the Indians were living stories
    around that pond before Walden’s grandparents were born

    and before his grandparents’ grandparents were born.
    I’m tired of hearing about Don-fucking-Henley saving it, too,
    because that’s redundant. If Don Henley’s brothers and sisters
    and mothers and father hadn’t come here in the first place

    then nothing would need to be saved.’
    But I didn’t say a word to the woman about Walden
    Pond because she smiled so much and seemed delighted
    that I thought to bring her an orange juice

    back from the food car. I respect elders
    of every color. All I really did was eat
    my tasteless sandwich, drink my Diet Pepsi
    and nod my head whenever the woman pointed out

    another little piece of her country’s history
    while I, as all Indians have done
    since this war began, made plans
    for what I would do and say the next time

    somebody from the enemy thought I was one of their own.

    By Sherman Alexie.

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    By Allen Ginsberg.

  3. Steps

    How funny you are today New York
    like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
    and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to the left

    here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
    (I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still
    accepts me foolish and free
    all I want is a room up there
    and you in it
    and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
    for people to rub up against each other
    and when their surgical appliances lock
    they stay together
    for the rest of the day (what a day)
    I go by to check a slide and I say
    that painting’s not so blue

    where’s Lana Turner
    she’s out eating
    and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
    everyone’s taking their coat off
    so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers
    and the park’s full of dancers with their tights and shoes
    in little bags
    who are often mistaken for worker-outers at the West Side Y
    why not
    the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won
    and in a sense we’re all winning
    we’re alive

    the apartment was vacated by a gay couple
    who moved to the country for fun
    they moved a day too soon
    even the stabbings are helping the population explosion
    though in the wrong country
    and all those liars have left the UN
    the Seagram Building’s no longer rivalled in interest
    not that we need liquor (we just like it)

    and the little box is out on the sidewalk
    next to the delicatessen
    so the old man can sit on it and drink beer
    and get knocked off it by his wife later in the day
    while the sun is still shining

    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

    By Frank O’Hara.

  4. Mannahatta

    I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
    Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.

    Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane,
    unruly, musical, self-sufficient,
    I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
    Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays,
    Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and
    steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
    Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender,
    strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,
    Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
    The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining
    islands, the heights, the villas,
    The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters,
    the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model’d,
    The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business, the
    houses of business of the ship-merchants and money-
    brokers, the river-streets,
    Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,
    The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses,
    the brown-faced sailors,
    The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing
    clouds aloft,
    The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the
    river, passing along up or down with the flood-tide or
    The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d,
    beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
    Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the
    shops and shows,
    A million people—manners free and superb—open voices—
    hospitality—the most courageous and friendly young
    City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts!
    City nested in bays! my city!

    by Walt Whitman.

  5. Getting Where We’re Going

    Surfeit of distance and the wracked mind waiting,
    nipping at itself, snarling inwardly at strangers.
    If I had a car in this town I’d
    rig it up with a rear bumper horn,
    something to blast back at the jackasses
    who honk the second the light turns green.
    If you could gather up all the hornhonks
    of just one day in New York City,
    tie them together in a big brassy knot
    high above the city and honk
    them all at once it would shiver
    the skyscrapers to nothingness, as if
    they were made of sand, and usher
    in the Second Coming. Christ would descend
    from the sky wincing with his fingers
    in his ears and judge us all
    insane. Who’d want people like us
    up there yelling at each other, trashing
    the cloudy, angelic streets with our
    candywrappers and newspapers and coffeecups?
    Besides, we’d still be waiting for
    the next thing to happen in Heaven,
    the next violin concerto or cotton candy
    festival or breathtaking vista to open
    beneath our feet, and thinking this place
    isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be,
    and why in hell does everybody
    want to get here? We’d still be
    waiting for someone else to come
    and make us happy, staring
    through whatever’s in front of us,
    cursing the light that never seems to change.

    By John Brehm.

  6. Why I Am Not A Painter

    I am not a painter, I am a poet.
    Why? I think I would rather be
    a painter, but I am not. Well,

    for instance, Mike Goldberg
    is starting a painting. I drop in.
    “Sit down and have a drink” he
    says. I drink; we drink. I look
    up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
    “Yes, it needed something there.”
    “Oh.” I go and the days go by
    and I drop in again. The painting
    is going on, and I go, and the days
    go by. I drop in. The painting is
    finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
    All that’s left is just
    letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

    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.

    By Frank O’Hara

  7. "The Commuter’s Lament" installation in the Times Square subway station is restored, thank goodness!

  8. Summer Night, Riverside

    In the wild soft summer darkness
    How many and many a night we two together
    Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
    Wearing her lights like golden spangles
    Glinting on black satin.
    The rail along the curving pathway
    Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
    And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
    Sheltered us,
    While your kisses and the flowers,
    Falling, falling,
    Tangled in my hair….

    The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky.

    And now, far off
    In the fragrant darkness
    The tree is tremulous again with bloom
    For June comes back.

    To-night what girl
    Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair
    This year’s blossoms, clinging to its coils?

    By Sara Teasdale

  9. A Phonecall from Frank O’Hara

    “That all these dyings may be life in death”

    I was living in San Francisco
    My heart was in Manhattan
    It made no sense, no reference point
    Hearing the sad horns at night,
    fragile evocations of female stuff
    The 3 tones (the last most resonant)
    were like warnings, haiku-muezzins at dawn
    The call came in the afternoon
    “Frank, is that really you?”

    I’d awake chilled at dawn
    in the wooden house like an old ship
    Stay bundled through the day
    sitting on the stoop to catch the sun
    I lived near the park whose deep green
    over my shoulder made life cooler
    Was my spirit faltering, grown duller?
    I want to be free of poetry’s ornaments,
    its duty, free of constant irritation,
    me in it, what was grander reason
    for being? Do it, why? (Why, Frank?)
    To make the energies dance etc.

    My coat a cape of horrors
    I’d walk through town or
    impending earthquake. Was that it?
    Ominous days. Street shiny with
    hallucinatory light on sad dogs,
    too many religious people, or a woman
    startled me by her look of indecision
    near the empty stadium
    I walked back spooked by
    my own darkness
    Then Frank called to say
    “What? Not done complaining yet?
    Can’t you smell the eucalyptus,
    have you never neared the Pacific?
    ‘While frank and free/call for
    musick while your veins swell’”
    he sang, quoting a metaphysician
    “Don’t you know the secret, how to
    wake up and see you don’t exist, but
    that does, don’t you see phenomena
    is so much more important than this?
    I always love that.”
    “Always?” I cried, wanting to believe him
    “Yes.” “But say more! How can you if
    it’s sad & dead?” “But that’s just it!
    If! It isn’t. It doesn’t want to be
    Do you want to be?” He was warming to his song
    “Of course I don’t have to put up with as
    much as you do these days. These years.
    But I do miss the color, the architecture,
    the talk. You know, it was the life!
    And dying is such an insult. After all
    I was in love with breath and I loved
    embracing those others, the lovers,
    with my body.” He sighed & laughed
    He wasn’t quite as I’d remembered him
    Not less generous, but more abstract
    Did he even have a voice now, I wondered
    or did I think it up in the middle
    of this long day, phone in hand now
    dialing Manhattan

    By Anne Waldman

  10. Having a Coke with You

    is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
    or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
    partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
    partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
    partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
    partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
    it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
    as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
    in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
    between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

    and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
    you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
    I look
    at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
    except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
    which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
    and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
    just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
    at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
    and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
    when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
    or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
    as the horse
    it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
    which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

    by Frank O’hara