December 28, 1964

The stranded gulch
           below Grand Central
the gentle purr of cab tires in snow
and hidden stars
          tears on the windshield
torn inexorably away in whining motion
and the dark thoughts which surround neon

in Union Square I see you for a moment
red green yellow searchlights cutting through
falling flakes, head bent to the wind
wet and frowning, melancholy, trying

I know perfectly well where you walk to
and that we’ll meet in even greater darkness
later and will be warm
             so our cross
of paths will not be just muddy footprints
in the morning
         not like celestial bodies’
yearly passes, nothing pushes us away
from each other
         even now I can lean
forward across the square and see
your surprised grey look become greener
as I wipe the city’s moisture from
your face
      and you shake the snow
off onto my shoulder, light as a breath
where the quarrels and vices of
estranged companions weighed so bitterly
and accidentally
         before, I saw you on
the floor of my life walking slowly
that time in summer rain stranger and
    to become a way of feeling
that is not painful casual or diffuse
and seems to explore some peculiar insight
of the heavens for its favorite bodies
in the mixed-up air

This article is part of The Nation’s 150th Anniversary Special Issue. Download a free PDF of the issue, with articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn and many more, here.

This poem by Frank O’Hara (1926–1966) was published the same year his collection Lunch Poems brought him to fame.