Ballad of the Skylight Diner

By on Sep 23, 2010 in Poetry

Diner sign

Frank O’Hara sat down in the booth at the
Skylight Diner at 34th and 9th and
Slid over to the wall
At first I was not sure it was him, alive again
After all these decades but
It was, I could tell from the way
The city radiated from his fingertips as he
Scribbled on a pad at the lunch hour
I was happy for him receiving a chance to
Write the things that remained
When that dune buggy ran him down on
Fire Island back in ’66
Imamu Amiri Baraka joined him before the
Waitress came to take down orders
Baraka was still Leroi Jones
When O’Hara died though the
Transformation was percolating
During the cold term
Between Malcolm and Martin
Recognition came slowly but surely
Smiles broke out. The first words
Were not yet spoken when the
Once and future Robert Zimmerman, esquire,
Guitar in hand filled in the opposite side of the booth
They made a trio that unlike others
Knew that change was inevitable
Death but a state of mind and
Creation the only tangible element
In the endless search
Zimmerman spoke of Garcia Lorca
And of the moon which rises and sets
And of the wind which does nothing but blow and howl
And of the sun which rises and sets as
Tides ebb and flow with the ripening of fruit
In the dead of winter
Women in blues walked by the table
Inspiring songs and poems with their forms and auras
It should please them to know they led to
Art that would surely immortalize them even
Not minding that their beauty was exaggerated
Their personas romanticized so why later
Would the women resent being undressed
In the minds of men and poets who would surely
Picture them flawless, more beautiful than they really were
The question still in the minds of those who cared when
All men and women
Poets and mortals rose and
Left the diner in search of Woody’s Promised Land

Heat Wave Contents


Lou Orfanella is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama including most recently The Sun Cannot Decide, Brief Encounters: Flash Fiction, and A Cabin in the Pines: A One Act Play. His work has appeared in publications including The New York Daily News, College Bound, English Journal, World Hunger Year Magazine, Discoveries, Teacher Magazine, and New York Teacher. He holds degrees from Columbia University and Fordham University and teaches writing at Western Connecticut State University. He has presented scores of public readings of his work and offers individual and group writing workshops.