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Having a Coke with You by Frank O’Hara

Dinner with some friends and the conversation turned to art (oh god here we go). As usual, I kept my mouth shut, because, well, what do I know really? I just like standing in front of big windows and looking at paintings, feeling everything at once, but trying to school my expression because people are walking about, and I’m not comfortable letting them know that I was so moved.

At least, that’s how my life is lately—I am nineteen, and I cut classes to go to art galleries. (Note to self in the future: I want to say that this wasn’t a waste, that it was lovely and good, and I was glad to do it.)

You never tired of it?, they asked me. Apparently I have volunteered that information, speaking under my breath, not knowing anybody heard. Well, everybody heard, and now the attention is on me.

No, I said. I hesitated. Pressed on: I was always lost. Still am. Looking at art feels like finding a part of me sometimes. Or knowing something that I haven’t known about myself before.

We stared at our bottles and people nodded in agreement. Then P. said, well except if you’re looking at Duchamp’s bike, in which case, let’s just all go home. Laughter, but L. wasn’t amused, and soon it became a heated discussion (oh dear), and so I was content to retreat to myself.

Home now, and thinking of Duchamp still. I am pleasantly buzzed and there are tangents in my head. L. wanted me to join the “debate,” but I told him a writer cannot swim amongst all that tonight. He said, yes you can, there’s an overlap, there’s Andrew Lord’s Duchamp x O’Hara piece, there’s your entry, but I refused, and held on to my beer for dear life. Sigh. My friends are weird and lovely. Why don’t I see them all the time? (You know why. This is why.)

I lie here in bed and remember a poem. Ah, my dear L., I wish I could’ve told you that this is my overlap:

Having a Coke with You
Frank O’Hara

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz,
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier
     St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything
     as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front
     of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in
     the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s
     in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together
     the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care
     of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that
     used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when
     the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider
     as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you
     about it

This is from The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara, edited by Donald Allen, published by Vintage Books, 1974.

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Updated on 24 February 2013, to reflect the actual journal entry that I wrote for that night. The one posted previously was shortened for personal reasons that do not matter now. Also, because line cuts are precious: here.

Comments (138)

  • I found it extremly calming to have read that and actually know the pain put into it. It was passionate, and real.♥

  • Schwinn

    Yeah, Duchamp’s bike is a piece of crap

  • Tony Menezes

    It is really the best. Como é maravilhoso ter alguém para dividir momentos simples. Quando li pela primeira vez nos anos 70 não tinha a imagem de uma mulher definida em minha cabeça. Hoje relendo “having aa coke with you” …. vem a imagem de minha mulher Anízia …. acho até que ela é mais bonita do que o retrato do piloto polonês …. (Tony – Rio de Janeiro – Brasil)

  • […] Having a Coke with You by Frank O’Hara […]

  • daphne

    i love it my boyfriend told it to me oneday

  • giordanella

    i find this poem a little too pretententious for my taste. the poet seems overly concerned with showing off how much he knows about art rather than how much he loves his friend.this is so typical of the so called new york school.they always need everyone to know how damn sophisticated they gertrude says to polonius : more matter with less art.

    • Austin

      I believe that’s the comment he’s trying to make: our culture is so wrapped up in “cultural icons” that they’re more concerned of their knowledge of these icons than acual life. I think in the poem, he’s playing the role of the upper middle class consumerist/ elitist asshole who somehow things that to know all these artist makes him a “better person than others.” That’s why it sounds so pretentious: he’s trying to make us see how ridiculous it is to try and define ourselves in these ways. This isn’t how he actually feels, He’s making a caricature of the modern middle class consumer.

  • mAsS-iloW

    wow this poem is breathe taking. I have no wordz describe how this poem Having a coke with you has opened ma eyes about loving. I love how frank has made a good use of poetic devices which really outline how he feels. I must say its gr8 work!

  • I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!

    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future. All the best

  • chicky garcia

    I’ve been reading this for 10 times but i love it. 🙂

  • melissa

    Love how he expresses what he feels…good work…

  • Who else watched Beastly and read the poem’s title and realized that it’s been ages and the title has been shouting for further research, and finally there they are in this page right now? 🙂

    • Dvane

      Love experessed at it’s best

    • Inaara Kalani

      Haha… Honestly I am.

  • shaylin singh

    Good poem loved the feeling behind it real
    good piece of work

  • B.

    Oh God, I thought I was reading something that I wrote. I’m 19 as well and just returned from a museum when I should be in class. I love this poem.

  • […] Having A Coke With You by Frank O’Hara […]


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