Frank O’Hara: “The Day Lady Died”


It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille Day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
                                       I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking
of leaning on the john door in the FIVE SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keybord
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing


Frank O’Hara


~ by matt on 17 July 2008.

6 Responses to “Frank O’Hara: “The Day Lady Died””

  1. Enjoyed your story. Nice pic of Billie. I have a question. I recently listed a Billie Holiday album on ebay and I noticed her name was mispelled on the back cover (last name spelled with 2 “L”s) I thought this very odd that,of all the people involved in the process of designing and producing a record album, no one caught this blatant mistake. Do you know any Billie “experts” who might be able to help me determine a value of this piece? If it in fact has any unique value.

  2. Thought you might want to take a look. Here is a link to the listing.

  3. Don’t know about the album, Bob, sorry.

  4. This is one of the great poems of the 20th c. and I am glad to see you spreading it around. But you need to proofread it again (Hesiold, stink, form?).

  5. Thank you, Blake, for so tactfully pointing out the absolutely unforgivable errors in the original post. I’ve proofed the correction to Mark Ford’s selected. How will I ever make this up to Frank?

  6. Dante 515 Solved…

    […]Frank O’Hara: “The Day Lady Died” « golempoem[…]…

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Natalie E. Illum...

is a poet, performer and disability activist. Bring her stumbling to your city.

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