On Seeing Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art
Now that our hero has come back to us in his white pants and we know his nose trembling like a flag under fire, we see the calm cold river is supporting our forces, the beautiful history. To be more revolutionary than a nun is our desire, to be secular and intimate as, when sighting a redcoat, you smile and pull the trigger. Anxieties and animosities, flaming and feeding on theoretical considerations and the jealous spiritualities of the abstract the robot? they’re smoke, billows above the physical event. They have burned up. See how free we are! as a nation of persons. Dear father of our country, so alive you must have lied incessantly to be immediate, here are your bones crossed on my breast like a rusty flintlock, a pirate’s flag, bravely specific and ever so light in the misty glare of a crossing by water in winter to a shore other than that the bridge reaches for. Don’t shoot until, the white of freedom glinting on your gun barrel, you see the general fear.
From Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1957 by Frank O'Hara. Used by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved.