Sunday, July 25, 2010

Poem of the Week: "Mayakovsky," by Frank O'Hara

Tonight is the fourth season premiere of my favorite TV show, Mad Men. I love Mad Men because of its slow and deliberate construction of character and story. Everything about it feels more like a novel than a television show. In fact, I tend to think of the show as more of a literary work than a visual media product (although, the show is very pleasing to the eye as well). So to celebrate all things Mad Men, I am presenting a poem that was once read aloud by it's main character.

In the show's second season, the protagonist - the mysterious Don Draper - reads from Frank O'Hara's book, Meditations in an Emergency. In one episode, Draper (played by Jon Hamm) reads the last section of the poem "Mayakovsky," and it works perfectly. So imagine this wonderful poem being read by the soothing and seductive voice of Don Draper. Enjoy!

Mayakovsky, by Frank O'Hara

My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.

I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.

Words! be
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,

and I’ll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
for poetry.

Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.
I embrace a cloud,
but when I soared
it rained.

That’s funny! there’s blood on my chest
oh yes, I’ve been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

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