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.


Washington Crossing the Delaware (1953) by Larry Rivers, 
Oil on canvas, approximately 7 feet x 9 feet. 
The Museum of Modern Art, New York City. 

***Both the peom and the painting are from "Paintings & Poems," a course in The Department of English at Emory University
 back to   Frank O'Hara