Poem: March 2020

Poem: Provincetown August 16, 2018

Provincetown August 16, 2018

after Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died” (1964)


Afternoon at Land’s End

boys everywhere

stopping and shopping

picking up charcoal

filling cars with gas

lining up for ice cream

flying through town

on clunky bicycles, dressed only in



Good night, Mom, a bass voice called to me

from a porch the night before

Good night.


I go for a swim alone at

Race Point, my friends want to

eat lobster,

buy t-shirts in town

The water, the ocean, 

cold but calm and I

can float with my toes

in the air like I always

do, unaware of the 

Great White Shark, 

who waits until tomorrow 

to make the news


In the car hot from the sun,

I plug in my phone and read







in town, on Commercial, friends found,

a sea-glittery float in the 

Carnival Parade passes, two bearded mermaids

dancing, their speakers blaring


And we dance, too.


@Susan Thomsen 2021


Photo by Susan Thomsen. Carnival parade, Provincetown, Mass., 2018.


"The Day Lady Died," by Frank O'Hara, at the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Friday roundup for July 16, 2021, will take place at the blog Nix the comfort zone.

"[Photographer] Joel Meyerowitz Reflects on the Magic of Provincetown," at Aperture


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Your poem is ripe with summer images and the specific details you include evoke such a sense of place. I've been to Provincetown once and it's quite a place! I'm looking forward to checking out the link you shared. Thanks for stopping by!

Such a rich and wonderful poem, bittersweet and hopeful. - Thank you for sharing!

This poem transports me to a summer's day in another place with such vivid detail. Reading it I feel immersed in the experience. Thanks for sharing this!

Susan, your poem is filled with such vivid details about a town rich in history. Provincetown has such an amazing backstory of all different types of people who have passed through or lived there. Walking through your poem transported me to a summer's day years ago on the college tour trail. The Little Italy section came alive ton that summer day.

Oh my. You have captured (and conveyed) so much through the sweep of this poem, Susan. Such an ordinary, extraordinary day.

What everyone else said -- I am right there with you throughout the day. My favorite part is in the middle, where you float,

"unaware of the

Great White Shark,

who waits until tomorrow

to make the news"

It reminds us that the ordinary and the life-changing are forever intertwined.

Your poem with specificity becomes the universal as we travel with you and read the news of the day. Love that photo. What a fun experience!

Strangely, my favorite stanza is the "Good night, Mom" one--I think because it places you there among the boys, the waves, the parade somehow. Off to read Frank's poem now...

I absolutely love this poem. It is so filled with small summer images that paint a beautiful picture. Thanks for sharing!

This line stuck out for me:
a sea-glittery float in the

Carnival Parade passes, two bearded mermaids

You have painted a great picture of this summer day filled with fun and yet the sadness of Aretha passing.

Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing all your comments. I have really been enjoying my return to Poetry Friday and reading your poems. In preparation for posting the poem here, I rewatched the YouTube of Aretha Franklin singing "Natural Woman" at the Carole King tribute at Kennedy Center. OMG, that talent. What a gift that she was with us until 2018.

I was hesitant to put "Provincetown" in the title, wanting the poem to speak for itself; the previous title was "Lady Soul August 16, 2018." (Lady Soul was one of Aretha's nicknames.) Now I'm pretty happy with it; my—er, the speaker's—experience feels like it couldn't have happened anywhere else!

Susan, I've been fascinated here for some time now with the poem about Frank O'Hara's poem about Billie Holliday's death. You used that mentor so well to create your own poem in the same tone and detail. Love this phrase: "a sea-glittery float"

I just stopped to listen to Lady Soul sing at Obama's inauguration.

Denise, that's such a good way of looking at "The Day Lady Died": as a mentor poem! I hadn't really thought of it that way, but of course it is. O'Hara's poem makes me want to cry, hang out in a jazz club, and smoke a cigarette all at once. I just love it.

Such powerful contrasts!

Thanks, Marilyn! You're right; I had not thought of the contrasts. I enjoyed writing this poem. The "stopping and shopping" part is a nod to the Stop & Shop supermarket chain in the Northeast.

As your poem unfolds Susan, the imagery continues to blossom and shine through. It is a clear insight into a summer moment and it is in the specificity of your words that your poem finds its strength. I love the focus on the near world and the subtle intrusion of news from beyond.

Thanks so much, Alan. I really do like Frank O'Hara's work, and reading "Lady Day" reminded me of the passing of Lady Soul. Years ago I saw her in concert at Radio City Music Hall. What an incredible talent.

You have perfectly captured the P-Town vibe that anyone who has ever visited will recall. The Cape-ness juxtaposed with the camp-ness. Perfect!

Christie, thanks so much! The parade was so fun and so crazy, and we kept bumping into a drag Melania Trump.

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