Frank O’Hara’s Golden Gondola


by Andrea Cohen

It never really belonged
To Frank, or should I say,
Mr. O’Hara. He stashed it
In the pocket of his white
Linen jacket after bantering, after
Buying the trinket from a merchant
Of gilded kitsch on the Rialto,
And presented it, not
To his lover, Bill, but to
His young friend Lise, as the three
Drifted in a larger golden gondola
Beneath the Bridge of Sighs. She
Was the daughter of a painter
Frank was not. Like her father,
She liked Frank a lot, but more
Than Frank, she adored Bill, his lover, and held
Out hope that Frank’s gift beneath
The Bridge of Sighs signified a rift
Between Bill and Frank, a narrows
Through which she and Bill might
Slip into Venetian bliss. A girl,
At ten, dreams like this. She considers
Everything, the way Frank O’Hara did
In his lunchtime walks, in “The Day Lady Died.”
While Lise and Bill and Frank, guided
By a lithe gondolier making eyes
At Frank and Bill, drifted down
The canal, Frank would have mentioned
Byron, how he coined the phrase,
The Bridge of Sighs, imagining the convicts,
Prison-led, getting their last glimpse
Of the City of Masks. In fact,
Venice was visible from the prison, which
Must have tormented the prisoners more,
The way it’s torture to ride in a gondola
With your secret love nuzzling his lover.
The girl of ten lugged the golden gondola
Across the years of rooms until a roommate
In Key West pilfered it, and the gondola
With its flaking, gold paint got passed
Like a party girl from stranger to stranger,
Enlisted as paper weight, as door stop, as
The blunt instrument a memento
Of the City of Bridges, cast out, becomes.

About the Author:

Andrea Cohen’s most recent books are Furs Not Mine (Four Way Books 2015) and Kentucky Derby (Salmon Poetry, 2011). Four Way will publish her fifth poetry collection in 2017. Cohen directs the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, MA and the Writers House at Merrimack College.