Ode to Willem de Kooning

Beyond the sunrise
where the black begins
an enormous city
is sending up its shutters
and just before the last lapse of nerve which I am already sorry for, that friends describe as “just this once” in a temporary hell, I hope
I try to seize upon greatness
which is available to me
through generosity and
lavishness of spirit, yours
not to be inimitably weak
and picturesque, my self
but to be standing clearly
alone in the orange wind
while our days tumble and rant through Gotham and the Easter narrows and I have not the courage to convict myself of cowardice or care
for now a long history slinks over the sill, or the patent absurdities and fathomless miseries of a small person upset by personality
and I look to the flags
in your eyes as they go up
on the enormous walls
as the brave must always ascend
into the air, always the musts
like banderillas dangling
and jingling jewellike amidst the red drops on the shoulders of men who lead us not forward or backward, but on as we must go on
out into the mesmerized world
of inanimate voices like traffic
noises, hewing a clearing
in the crowded abyss of the West
Stars of all passing sights
language, thought and reality,
“I am assuming that one knows
what it is to be ashamed”
and that the light we seek
is broad and pure, not winking
and that the evil inside us
now and then strolls into a field
and sits down like a forgotten rock
while we walk on to a horizon
line that’s beautifully keen,
precarious and doesn’t sag
beneath our variable weight
In this dawn as in the first
it’s the Homeric rose, its scent
that leads us up the rocky path
into the pass where death
can disappear or where the face
of future senses may appear
in a white night that opens
after the embattled hours of day
And the wind tears up the rose
fountains of prehistoric light
falling upon the blinded heroes
who did not see enough or were not
mad enough or felt too little
when the blood began to pour down
the rocky slopes into pink seas
Dawn must always recur
to blot out stars and the terrible systems
of belief
Dawn, which dries out the web so the wind can blow it,
spider and all, away
erasing blindness from an eye inflamed,
reaching for its
morning cigarette in Promethean inflection
after the blames
and desperate conclusions of the dark
where messages were intercepted
by an ignorant horde of thoughts
and all simplicities perished in desire
A bus crashes into a milk truck
and the girl goes skating up the avenue with streaming hair
roaring through fluttering newspapers
and their Athenian contradictions
for democracy is joined
with stunning collapsible savages, all natural and relaxed and free
as the day zooms into space and only darkness lights our lives
with few flags flaming, imperishable courage and the gentle will
which is the individual dawn of genius rising from its bed
“maybe they’re wounds, but maybe they are rubies”
each painful as a sun

-Frank O’Hara