Adaptations: Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems

Coffee Poem

If only I really had the time to “have” lunch

so that I could write a “lunch poem”

but sadly I don’t

So instead I resort to hauling my short legs

as fast as they’ll go across campus,

from one building to the next

in hopes of a cup of coffee between classes

I’m sweating,

It’s dripping down the small of my back

right between me and my too- big- for- my- body backpack

There’s a gust of wind that hits

that makes me chilly

and sweaty to boot, which is a horrible combination

when you’re wearing  a sundress and have too much to do

I think I hear someone calling my name

Could be “Wandy”, or “Andy” or even “Baby”,

honestly not too sure, I have somewhere to be in fifteen minutes

Haven’t even reached the building yet

I whip around, hair blowing in my face

stand on my tip- toes and wave

screaming “hey” at someone, but probably at no one

most likely at no one

They say that if you think someone’s calling

your name when there’s really nobody calling,

it’s a sign of a healthy mind


Me? I think maybe I’m crazy,

Maybe I think about myself too much

Maybe I’m paranoid

Maybe I’m over- worked

Maybe I definitely need that coffee

But, there’s a line for coffee

There’s always a line for coffee


In truth, that’s probably how I’ll die

waiting in line for something or someone

that by the time I’m finally at the front,

it’s too late and it’s too cold and I don’t want it anymore

And maybe it doesn’t want me anymore either


God I dunno

But time is money and money is time

But what good are time and money

when your coffee is cold, you sweat in your sundress

you’re late and you move so fast

that you don’t even know who you’re talking to


I thought about Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, and tried to re- read some of his entries while thinking about what it is that I would write about if it were my lunch break and the kind of experiences that I would have in that short half hour- hour of time out of my day. In his writing, he manages to ponder his relationships to other people and things in such a short period of time. I took Personal Poem as my inspiration for my own interpretation- what resonated with me most in Personal Poem was his mention of the “one person out of the 8,000,000”(33). When put into the context of the poem, O’Hara takes his individual and more intimate, private self apart from this mass of New Yorkers and wonders how he matters- how that which is unique to him allows him to fit into the public world. I feel that the travel to class and throughout the school day is often an impersonal blur, one that doesn’t allow for us to stop and connect with or appreciate ourselves in relation to others, as we are so bent up on getting to the next class or event or meeting- sometimes you don’t even have the time for lunch. O’Hara writes in the same fashion, as things occur one after the other with “I did this… I did that”. New York is like that too, in that sometimes it all moves so quickly that you lose sight of yourself and of everything around you. I found the emotional tone that Frank O’Hara sets in Personal Poem to be one of lament over one’s place in society, and in a way, I felt that too as I was writing my own adaptation.

Works Cited

O’Hara, Frank. Lunch Poems. San Francisco: City Lights, 1964. 33. Print.


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