Tanaquil LeClercq, 1947 photograph by Irving Penn


smiling through my own memories of painful excitement your wide eyes

stare

and narrow like a lost forest of childhood stolen from gypsies

two eyes that are the sunset of


two knees


two wrists


two minds


and the extended philosophical column, when they conducted the dialogues


in distant Athens, rests on your two ribbon-wrapped hearts, white


credibly agile

flashing

scimitars of a city-state

 

where in the innocence of my watching had those ribbons become entangled

dragging me upward into lilac-colored ozone where I gasped

and you continued to smile as you dropped the bloody scarf of my life

from way up there, my neck hurt

 

you were always changing into something else

and always will be

always plumage, perfection's broken heart, wings

 

and wide eyes in which everything you do

repeats yourself simultaneously and simply

as a window "gives" on something

 

it seems sometimes as if you were only breathing

and everything happened around you

 

because when you disappeared in the wings nothing was there

but the motion of some extraordinary happening I hadn't understood

the superb arc of a question, of a decision about death

 

because you are beautiful you are hunted

and with the courage of a vase

you refuse to become a deer or a tree

and the world holds its breath

to see if you are there, and safe

 

are you?

 

FRANK O'HARA, 1960