On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art

Frank O'Hara

Now that our hero has come back to us
in his white pants and we know his nose
trembling like a flag under fire,
we see the calm cold river is supporting
our forces, the beautiful history.
To be more revolutionary than a nun
is our desire, to be secular and intimate
as, when sighting a redcoat, you smile
and pull the trigger. Anxieties
and animosities, flaming and feeding
on theoretical considerations and
the jealous spiritualities of the abstract
the robot? they're smoke, billows above
the physical event. They have burned up.
See how free we are! as a nation of persons.
Dear father of our country, so alive
you must have lied incessantly to be
immediate, here are your bones crossed
on my breast like a rusty flintlock,
a pirate's flag, bravely specific
and ever so light in the misty glare
of a crossing by water in winter to a shore
other than that the bridge reaches for.
Don't shoot until, the white of freedom glinting
on your gun barrel, you see the general fear.
From Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1957 by Frank O'Hara. Used by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Ave Maria by Frank O'Hara
Mothers of America
Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara
Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde
Personal Poem by Frank O'Hara
Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!] by Frank O'Hara
Lana Turner has collapsed!
The Day Lady Died by Frank O'Hara
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
To the Film Industry in Crisis by Frank O'Hara
Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals
Video: Having a Coke with You by Frank O'Hara

Further Reading

Poems about Heroes and Bravery
Alexander's Feast; or, the Power of Music
by John Dryden
Dead Brother Super Hero
by Michael Dickman
Heroisms, 4, 5
by Dan Beachy-Quick
My hero bares his nerves
by Dylan Thomas
by Joan Murray
Washington's Monument, February, 1885
by Walt Whitman
Poems about Historical Events
by Czeslaw Milosz
Cashel Man
by Sean Frederick Forbes
Daytime Begins with a Line by Anna Akhmatova
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Indian Stream Republic
by Stephen Burt
Longing to Commodious
by Rob Halpern
Matriot Acts, Act I [History of Mankind]
by Anne Waldman
Occasioned by General Washington's Arrival in Philadelphia, On His Way to His Residence in Virginia
by Philip Freneau
Oklahoma City: The Aftermath
by Ira Sadoff
On the Day of Nixon's Funeral
by Ira Sadoff
Paul Revere's Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Rouen, Place de la Pucelle
by Maria White Lowell
by Robert Pinsky
by Valzhyna Mort
Suicide of a Moderate Dictator
by Elizabeth Bishop
The Present Crisis
by James Russell Lowell
by David Keplinger
William Dawes
by Eileen Myles
Poems about Rebellion
How We Did It
by Muriel Rukeyser