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Waiting for the Light

      for Frank O'Hara


Frank, we have become an urban species
     at this moment many millions of humans are
           standing on some corner waiting like me

for a signal permitting us to go,
     a signal depicting a small pale pedestrian
           to be followed by a sea-green light

we do not use this opportunity
     to tune in to eternity
           we bounce upon our toes impatiently

It is a Thursday morning, Frank, and I feel
     rather acutely alive but I need a thing of beauty
           or a theory of beauty to reconcile me

to the lumps of garbage I cannot love enclosed
     in these tough shiny black plastic bags
           heaped along the curb of 97th Street, my street—

like a hideous reminder of the fate we all expect
     letting the bulky slimy truth of waste
           attack our aesthetic sense and joie de vivre

reliably every Thursday. Let me scan the handsome amber
     columned and corniced dwellings
           reflected in rear windows of parked cars, let me wish

luck to their hives of intimacies, people
     in kitchens finishing a morning coffee
           saying see you later to the ones they live with

Let me raise my eyes to the blue veil adrift
     between and above the artifice of buildings
           and at last I am slipping through a flaw in time

where the string of white headlights approaching, the string
     of red taillights departing, seem as if
           they carry some kind of message

perhaps the message is that one block west
     Riverside Park extends its length
           at the edge of Manhattan like the downy arm

of a tender, amusing, beautiful lover,
     and after that is the deathless river
           but waiting for the light feels like forever


Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Waiting for the Light
University of Pittsburgh Press


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