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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)

  • Sara

    I look
    at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world

  • James

    Sounds to me like the sort of thing a single man writes for his date, or a married man for his wife. The married man would write something like this at work after his wife reminds him that they are going out for dinner for their anniversary that night so to come home immediately after work to get ready because their dinner reservations are at 6:00, and he realizes that he had completely forgotten that it was their anniversary so he has no gift for her. And of course the goal of the single man in writing something like this for his date is to get in her pants.

    • Lj


  • “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” – I don’t blame him, the Polish Rider is astounding.

  • Brittany Oliver

    When i heard this poem on my favorite movie Beastly I had to read it all and it has captured my heart! One of the best poems ever!!!!

  • So glad i stumbled across this site. Thank you i consider this a gift.

  • kubura

    nice poem. very innocent, the poet is oblivious of the world around him when he is with his lover. Makes you realize the most beautiful moments in life are the moments spent with a loved one, even if you do the most ordinary things together.

  • nice poem !

  • Teresa Monroe

    I first learned of “Having A Coke With You”, while watching the movie, Beastly. Although the entire poem wasn’t used, it caught my interest, especially the way “Kyle & “Lindy” read it to each other. I love it! Well written, & paints such vivid pictures in my mind.

    • ramya

      me too. I too feel the same way. I saw the movie long b4 bt i concentrated on the poem jus now

  • It’s an awe-inspiring poem. Thanks to the movie “Beastly”, Ive discovered such a marvelous work.. 🙂

  • Allodavis18

    I love this poem I first heard it on the movie Beastly

    • david

      me two

    • Paige123

      me too, i just watched it a few minutes ago for the first time . thats the reason that lead me to this website. its gotten me into poetry , starting with this. 🙂

  • Paige123

    This poem is beautiful . only a 20 minutes ago, i finished watching Beastly for the very FIRST time . not only am i now in love with Kyle’s actor (Alex), but i am now inlove with this poem. Beautiful <3 :')

  • i heard about this poem before i watched the movie beasly and yes it is romantic if you can just imagine beauty as one of the things that drives a person to see the wonders and potential of others and beauty is the thing in a person and not just the outside of them

  • DaPapa

    I have escaped into a world of poetry since childhood…it was both sanctuary and peace and an escape from a terrible reality. I am 61 now and have no regrets for having spent so many years in such a beautiful garden laced with fantasy and freedom. Thank you for sharing this wonderful poem with me…I will cherish it always.

  • JACK


  • Lj

    I adore this poem. New to me as well because of the movie. I google it as they were reading it. Now bookmarked. It is so sensuous…beautiful. It can almost bring tears…

  • Thank you for posting it

  • Yami

    Felt it in my heart…felt envious! To have someone express themselves with such passion for another individual…loved it!!!!


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