Sleeping on the wing

Schnee im Central Park, New York, 1984
        

 Perhaps it is to avoid some great sadness,
 as in a Restoration tragedy the hero cries "Sleep!
 O for a long sound sleep and so forget it!"
 that one flies, soaring above the shoreless city,
 veering upward from the pavement as a pigeon
 does when a car honks or a door slams, the door
 of dreams, life perpetuated in parti-colored loves
 and beautiful lies all in different languages.

 Fear drops away too, like the cement, and you
 are over the Atlantic. Where is Spain? where is
 who? The Civil War was fought to free the slaves,
 was it? A sudden down-draught reminds you of gravity
 and your position in respect to human love. But
 here is where the gods are, speculating, bemused.
 Once you are helpless, you are free, can you believe
 that? Never to waken to the sad struggle of a face?
 to travel always over some impersonal vastness,
 to be out of, forever, neither in nor for!

 The eyes roll asleep as if turned by the wind
 and the lids flutter open slightly like a wing.
 The world is an iceberg, so much is invisible!
 and was and is, and yet the form, it may be sleeping
 too. Those features etched in the ice of someone
 loved who died, you are a sculptor dreaming of space
 and speed, your hand alone could have done this.
 Curiosity, the passionate hand of desire. Dead,
 or sleeping? Is there speed enough? And, swooping,
 you relinquish all that you have made your own,
 the kingdom of your self sailing, for you must awake
 and breathe your warmth in this beloved image
 whether it's dead or merely disappearing,
 as space is disappearing and your singularity.

Frank O'Hara

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