The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday

three days after Bastille day, yes

it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine

because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton   

at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner

and I don’t know the people who will feed me


I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun   

and have a hamburger and a malted and buy

an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets   

in Ghana are doing these days

                                           I go on to the bank

and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)   

doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life   

and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine   

for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do   

think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or   

Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres

of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine

after practically going to sleep with quandariness


and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE

Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and   

then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue   

and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and   

casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton

of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it


and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of

leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT

while she whispered a song along the keyboard

to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Bibliographical info

Frank O’Hara, “The Day Lady Died” from Lunch Poems. Copyright © 1964 by City Lights Books. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books.

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