June 29, 2012  |  Events & Programs
Our Favorite Lunch Poems

Stefania Heim reads at the June 8, 2012, Modern Poets event. Photo: Sarah Kennedy

You may have seen on your computer screen or heard in MoMA’s sunny Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden the lunch poem challenges offered by poets Stefania Heim and Wayne Koestenbaum earlier this month. They were based on the lunch poems that poet and former MoMA curator Frank O’Hara wrote when he worked here at the Museum in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sixteen people submitted their musings on subjects ranging from love, literature, and New York legends, to their encounters on sidewalks and subways, over lunch (or breakfast), and with people that rush by in a frenzy. Heim and Koestenbaum chose their favorites, and we’ve reprinted them below. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone for writing!

Wayne Koestenbaum reads at the June 15, 2012, Modern Poets event. Photo: Paula Court


Exquisite Corpse
by Gabriel Kruis and Patrick Gaughan</b>

We only have one pen
to draw O’hara’s nose in profile,
it’s black, so the violet lip’s no good,
not for violent fingertips touching their own hard-boiled-firm
eye: making spots—rouge & blue—which dis-
figures figures,
which form a toe in the tree trunk, a grin on the moon.

I can’t help but feel there’s something misanthropic a-
foot—I don’t understand
myself these days, but I do feel
what it means to be a body and forget
my surroundings. Did you also forget
them? The white walls, seersucker shorts
of an afternoon not spent inside
my head, but inside my movements—
my leg resting across its
leg. The body

listens to itself.
The wave of syntax across the brow on 53rd St.
like the spilled cream coffee on the subway,
shuttling fluidly back & forth in its own runnel like an O’-
Hara line—all the art is worth doing. A hand-
shake, & Erica, the woman sitting next to us tells us
to be ourself, “like water,” she says, “like ice
becomes vapor but is always

Though we disagree whether the E or F is faster home,
and the street smells of kabob and Brooks Brothers—

The “&s” are mine, the “ands” are yours—
as if you needed an anatomy lesson.

& everything reminds me of something else today—
I just finished “Orlando”—& I can’t tell the difference
between art & our conversation,
or if the curator’s a collaborator, this exhibit
a collage collage
of our interpretations and that woman’s
(I smiled when she called mine “correct”).
But let’s go dial-a-poem!

You get Cage, I get Zappa, you get Brainard, I get Coolidge,
saying, “saying saying saying” & saying,
“saying saying…”
& so on, but then I’m lucky enough to get Frank,
actual Frank—
reading “Naptha”—then the old-fashioned dial-tone.


by Deborah Long</b>

I finally, after probably a year of trying [scrubbing/soaking], got
the ring of dirt around the inside of my bathtub to disappear.

Listening to Klaus Nomi’s “Lightning Strikes”, side by side with a
dear friend at the Brooklyn Museum.

And we realized (on the G train) that maybe we don’t have to stay in
the same place forever.

The Future
by Justin Sherwood

I got nailed
by a pram
on Broadway working
my way to Prince
where I discovered
the toilets aren’t
what they used
to be. The stalls
are impossibly
small. I wanted
something sticky
and permanent, all
I got is this
bruise. We have
no fight left, traded
in for license
and luck. Let me
remind you it was
on this corner
that John Giorno
fucked Keith Haring
before they were
famous. Only John
survived which
should temper my
desire but I’m
furious and bored
who’s with me?
Let’s fuck for
posterity. Take
a spit test
if it turns out
blue I will know
it was you.

If I only had a clear destination
by Gaia Temin

A plastic bag, chapstick, money, a tank top, my keys, my id and my library id, are in my bag, but I am not leaving

So I take cough drops, even though I don´t have a cough

E os dias de chuva me dão preguiça

As the leaves dance to the sound of rain

But it is noon, in a Monday, so they stop for lunch—a piece of the hiding sun

It is a rainy day, I don’t like it,

But how can it define me?

The guy next door reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald, even though I never met him, I guess it is the 20s charm he has, reminds me of Gatsby. I hope he doesn’t die in the end.

He could be kissing me now, that would be nice, but would it be love?

And love, is it all you need? I guess not, just a big part of it.