April 23, 2011

Mary Buchinger

SEE HOW FREE WE ARE!

from “On Seeing Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing
the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art”
            —Frank O’Hara

Reading War and Peace
led Larry Rivers to, as he put it,
“get into the ring with Tolstoy”

and paint “Washington
Crossing the Delaware”
which, in turn, led Frank O’Hara

who, incidentally,
wanted to sleep with Larry
but Larry didn’t love him that way,

to write the poem “On Seeing
Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing
the Delaware
at the Museum of Modern Art,”

which I read
because one of my favorite poets
admires O’Hara’s work.

On the other hand,
one of my favorite professors
hated Larry Rivers, calling him a bloody fraud

which is more or less what
both Rivers and O’Hara
seem to be saying about Washington

“with his nose
trembling like
a flag under fire”

or maybe about
the notion of
heroes in general

perhaps, in the same way
that Tolstoy said Napoleon
was a “slave of history”

which might also account
for the liberty
Rivers took in painting

a portrait of Napoleon
and calling it “The
Greatest Homosexual.”

Rivers liked to joke
but also found it odd
and noteworthy

that Napoleon liked to
bathe naked in front
of his officers

which, perhaps, he did
because he was, after all,
already so exposed

not unlike Washington
and Larry
and Frank

giving new meaning
to both ex nihilo
and free will.

from Rattle #25, Spring 2006