More the mood today.
More the mood today. RS

Since it's mask day on the blog, I had grand ambitions of writing about William Butler Yeats and his freaky-ass mask theory, which, if I'm remembering my lessons correctly, has something to do with the self and the anti-self, how the self we present is actually the opposite of our true self, and how this idea emerged from Yeats's obsession with the occult and with his other theory of "gyres," but then I took a couple phone calls, the sun went away, and the only thing I wanted to read and write about, however briefly, was Frank O'Hara's "Animals," which you can find in his Collected Poems, edited by Donald Allen.

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The collected, which is available at local bookstores, is an absolute mess of charmingly bad poems because it's nearly all the poems O'Hara ever wrote or casually sent to his friends—which he did a lot—but one of the great joys of my twenties was paging through it at random and finding gems. "Animals" was one of them.

A few notes:

• I abandoned Yeats for "Animals" today, I think, because O'Hara's poem better fit the mood the masks evoke within me—a sign of the changing times, the feeling that life's trajectory has altered so completely for so many people. Over the weekend I walked down to Pike Place, rolled my eyes at a couple sticking gum to the Gum Wall in the middle of a pandemic (life hasn't changed for some tourists, I guess), headed down to the water, looked at the still and silent Seattle Great Wheel, and thought about the pre-COVID era. The opening lines of O'Hara's poem floated into my brain: "Have you forgotten what we were like then / when we were still first rate / and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth."

• Though it may seem a little random, the poem is pretty simple: the speaker is thinking back to a time when the scrappy energy of youth blunted the pain of scarcity—"we could manage cocktails out of ice and water"— and when that youthful energy seemed infinite—"we didn't need speedometers." But now, because distance separates him from the person he had all that fun with, he's realizing his yearning to be "faster / or greener" is really just a yearning to be closer to that person he loved, probably his longtime boyfriend, Vincent Warren.

• I think O'Hara gets away with that self-consciously Romantic ending—"O you / were the best of all my days"—almost entirely because of that final line break. As he often does in other poems, O'Hara gains great velocity via run-on sentences, and at the end of this poem he basically interrupts himself with that Romantic "O," as if the mere thought of his long love suddenly overcame him, lending him some of that youthful speed and energy. I mean, here's what the poem would look like if he broke the penultimate line on "me:"

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me
O you were the best of all my days

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Disgusting Instagram poetry. Delete your account, Frank!!! But with the original break, my heart's a bird:

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

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