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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)

  • lauren eckblad

    beautiful poem from beastley!!!!! 🙂

  • oyanu

    The first time I heard the poem wad in beastly and I just had to google it! It was so beautiful I had tears in my eyes.
    ‘I would rather look at you than all the potraits in the world’ .just lovely.
    I could marry anyone who reads it to me.

    • dave

      Marry me and it would be what you wake up to in the morning and your lullaby at night

  • Yudith

    I love this poem so much that it touch my heart and I saw the movie beaslty and I wish that a boy can read to me and really mean it! 🙂

  • Alfred BALOYI

    I did nt knw the poem bt aftr i hv seen the movie beastly i jst had to google it and read the whole poem nd i like ths poem whr thy say “i rathr look at you thn all the potraits in the world “

    • jay-z

      it’s the most beautiful poem in the hole world and any one would die to read this poem………

  • madeliene

    very nice poem…actually at first when i heard this poem from a movie BEASTLY..which i am so addicted to it…i thought that this poem wasn’t really real..and after i googled it..that’s when i realized that this poem is real and i’m sure that the author of this poem is very happy because his poem was chosen.. 🙂

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

  • dave

    Why don’t I be your hunter and read it to you and you my lynda

  • samantha avigael

    amazing poem ever!!!

  • xie ane

    whoa! this is just a very cute poem which i googled when Hunter and Lindy read it at the movie Beastly..that was my favorite movie evr..this poem is very romantic..i hope someone might read it to me someday..:)

  • Lola

    I don’t think it’s that great. I’m not very impressed with the style or with the way this was written. Just because PARTS of a poem was featured in a movie does not mean that the piece is good.

    • janae

      i think it is that good its different and i think thats why people love it so much its a person telling another person that they love them more than all these things that have been to or have done its true love. i have been alot of places and seen alot of things when i went to rome by myself i loved it then i went with my husband and all i could do is look at him staring at things and then i understood i rather look at him then all the paintings in the world than all the things that i did love because he is my love those things are great but my love for him will last more than any Michelangelo arts morre than any paintings. i think in the movie it was a good choice because he finally saw what she saw he finally started to care about something more than himself and thats what love does it starts to change in a way when you stop thinking about yourself and about the person you love the most and whatever they wear or do you still love them no matter what i am not trying to fight with you or anything i was just saying you dont have to read it but this is my thought about it

  • a longtime reader of this website

    Damn, this poem is still the most read? C’mon you guys, there are absolutely A LOT of fantastic poems here on this site that will change your life. Expand a little. And just in case you want to know what the owner of this blog thinks about the response to this poem, I invite you all to read the post here:

  • Storm

    The poem is written wonderfully. Yes, it was featured in Beastly. A great movie and book. But I find this poem romantic and unique by it’s style. Some enjoy and some don’t. We all have our own opinion. Don’t criticize others opinions because it differs from your own.

    • Carl Seyde

      well said…well said…

  • Shannon-Bree

    Not that anyone will read this but in the event you do and wish to reply..
    Can anyone reccomend any poems that are of this quality?

    • K

      I’d highly suggest javan. 4 lil books. Simple but meaningful.

  • Amy Kay

    This poem is best depicted for thy true everlasting love. If anyone else is looking to express their undying affection to someone look under Modern Poetry by using Google or Bing search engines. You tube offers nice videos as well. Good luck and I wish everyone true and everlasting love..

  • Sweetie

    wasnt this the play mentioned in the movie/book Beastly?

    • Caress

      yep 🙂

  • I like poetry vry gud

  • jayrry

    Lovely poem….

  • The first time i heard this poem, it wss read to me as “Having a cook with you” not coke.

  • […] This poem is one of my absolute favorites. […]


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