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Nathan Nicolau

Lunch with Frank O’Hara at the Mexican Cantina:
Selected and Abridged

Two Figures in an Interior by Arshile Gorky

A quick poem while he’s eating—
I passed Frank the napkin and
he only wrote a few words:

            .                                    what a life

Whitman wrote the same thing last week—
Frank didn’t laugh.
We shared the chips and salsa.
It wasn’t hot enough.
We’d drink it like our 3rd cup of coffee this morning.
The senorita in the white blouse gave
him the eye. Frank laughed. I turned
his pages.
Lana Turner?

He’s about to speak to me again.
I grabbed the napkin.
Kerouac? Don’t bother.
You need a beat for jazz but not a Beat for poetry.

.                                                                                                                 I see you,
.                                                                                                               I hear your
.                                                                                                            I think about
whenever I take a dump at church as you told me.
I’d take you with, but they told me you’re no good.
What do they know? Those old ladies are gonna pass on a Sunday anyway.
.                            (This burrito is gonna go right through me.)

Lana brought the check.
She eyes my Frank again.
They share a smile after a glance,
talking about which place in New York City is
the best to catch a concert and a smoke.
I’ve been under the city lights with Frank
and I can’t come close to the way his
flamenco-tinged language gave the night
to a lady named Day.

I’d love to just grab a cigarette,
light it, and burn it off on a white
page as he does. But I need my lungs
to vent, to love, to dance to bebop.
If I read the O’Hara Monogatari,
would I even recognize it? Would
others recognize me?

I looked at the napkin. You’re right, Frank.
See you at 12 p.m. You forgot your leftovers.


About the writer:
Nathan Nicolau is a writer/poet based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since his published debut in 2019, his work has been featured on multiple websites and magazines. He is also the owner and Editor-in-Chief of New Note Poetry, an indie poetry magazine.

Image: Two Figures in an Interior by Arshile Gorky (1904-1948). Graphite on unspecified medium. No size specified. Between 1946 & 1947. Public domain.

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