Everything can be explained, probably, by Nebraska. "The plainness of the plains." [Mandelstam] A different landscape of emotional perception offered by small Midwestern towns & farms - different from the jazzy coasts, or the steamy South. The near & the far, the vast & the small, interpenetrate. Time slows down. Childhood is another country.

Kees was an only child, maybe a happy one. Some of the bitterness could stem from exorcised nostalgia. Look at this poem:


The porchlight coming on again,
Early November, the dead leaves
Raked in piles, the wicker swing
Creaking. Across the lots
A phonograph is playing Ja-Da.

An orange moon. I see the lives
Of neighbors, mapped and marred
Like all the wars ahead, and R.
Insane, B. with his throat cut,
Fifteen years from now, in Omaha.

I did not know them then.
My airedale scratches at the door.
And I am back from seeing Milton Sills
And Doris Kenyon. Twelve years old.
The porchlight coming on again.

Milton & Doris were movie stars of the time. Childhood another country. How doesn't this terse, somber poem shed a certain slant on the art & life of Frank O'Hara? (& on Tate, Ashbery, & all the permanent children of American poetry? Myself included!)

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