Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

John McCullough

READING FRANK O’HARA ON THE BRIGHTON EXPRESS

READING FRANK O’HARA ON THE BRIGHTON EXPRESS

READING FRANK O’HARA ON THE BRIGHTON EXPRESS

I could believe we are stationary;
it’s only everything out there kindly
hurtling past – the grey verticals of Clapham revealed
as bars of a song. I could cock my ear
to catch cirrus chit-chat then touch
down at Gatwick and watch parked cars kiss
in tidy rows. Which reminds me to sort
my manners out, to raise a hand to waving trees
whizzing backwards, plastic bags in their branches
brilliant flags announcing carnivals
in Balcombe, Wivelsfield, Hassocks.

I could trill like a starling myself, bless everything outside
and within this case of human fireworks –
the silver-chained lads probing Burger King bags
like lucky dips; the tannoy woman who is Our Lady, surely,
with a mobile altar of Ribena and Coke;
the suits with Guardians hiding Heat magazine.

I could realise Brighton doesn’t exist,
is being invented for our arrival,
the shops plugged in, the prom laid down,
the smiles carved in random pebbles there
where buses have names so we can
get knocked down by Dusty Springfield.

I could conjure up crowds auditioning for the North Laine –
all dreadlocks and posturing, giros and big schemes
with different kinds of queen walking
different kinds of dog; all the clutter that dashes
or repairs Brighton dreams, that brings gloom or hope
for that pier swaying over the surf.

It all glides on towards Bauble houses
and the united panes of Betjeman’s station
though it’s not him but you, Frank, that I picture
in the station café, coughing your lungs out
above a latte as you eye up the black waiter.

In just a moment I shall pass the gates
of heaven and find you,
all memories of travel left in the ticket machine
as we stroll out down Queens Road,
the sun on our skin, the sea shining so whitely
that we stop and stare and cannot look away.
Close

READING FRANK O’HARA ON THE BRIGHTON EXPRESS

I could believe we are stationary;
it’s only everything out there kindly
hurtling past – the grey verticals of Clapham revealed
as bars of a song. I could cock my ear
to catch cirrus chit-chat then touch
down at Gatwick and watch parked cars kiss
in tidy rows. Which reminds me to sort
my manners out, to raise a hand to waving trees
whizzing backwards, plastic bags in their branches
brilliant flags announcing carnivals
in Balcombe, Wivelsfield, Hassocks.

I could trill like a starling myself, bless everything outside
and within this case of human fireworks –
the silver-chained lads probing Burger King bags
like lucky dips; the tannoy woman who is Our Lady, surely,
with a mobile altar of Ribena and Coke;
the suits with Guardians hiding Heat magazine.

I could realise Brighton doesn’t exist,
is being invented for our arrival,
the shops plugged in, the prom laid down,
the smiles carved in random pebbles there
where buses have names so we can
get knocked down by Dusty Springfield.

I could conjure up crowds auditioning for the North Laine –
all dreadlocks and posturing, giros and big schemes
with different kinds of queen walking
different kinds of dog; all the clutter that dashes
or repairs Brighton dreams, that brings gloom or hope
for that pier swaying over the surf.

It all glides on towards Bauble houses
and the united panes of Betjeman’s station
though it’s not him but you, Frank, that I picture
in the station café, coughing your lungs out
above a latte as you eye up the black waiter.

In just a moment I shall pass the gates
of heaven and find you,
all memories of travel left in the ticket machine
as we stroll out down Queens Road,
the sun on our skin, the sea shining so whitely
that we stop and stare and cannot look away.

READING FRANK O’HARA ON THE BRIGHTON EXPRESS

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
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