Having a Coke with You
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
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 yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
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
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
By Frank O’ Hara
Tracking the poem down online wasn’t at all difficult – much to my shame. I like to flatter myself as a well-read individual but obviously, I’m doing just that to have never before come across such a widely commented upon and well-loved, piece of pure beauty. Not only that, but to have come across such a wonderful piece of poetry in a mildly interesting, b +, teen chick flick – how uncultured, lol.
Oh well, no use pretending anyway!
There are literally hundreds of different analyses of this poem online and undoubtedly most of them were written by people much more capable than I, of ‘in depth’ analysis. But I just wanted to quickly say what I drew from it.
The poem seems to draw comparisons between the glamourous and the seemingly mundane to express the authors love for his partner.
This is particularly obvious in the third verse, where O’Hara comments on artists and their artwork (such as Italian sculptor Marino Marini, and his piece ‘Man On Horse’) indicating that their work was all but futile because none of them picked someone of importance to them to be their subject… or, maybe he was commenting that none of the subjects had anything real to offer anymore? Whether ugly, pretty, happy, sad, male or female they’re all dead now, so what was the point of painting them in the first place?
Or, maybe I’m overthinking it and he’s saying just what he seems to be saying: he’d rather be looking at the person he’s sharing a coke with than bearing witness to all those beautiful paintings and sculptures.
Of course with O’Hara being a known homosexual, the poem COULD have been intended as some sort of political protest: it’s fairly obvious from the first verse that O’Hara’s referring to a man, after all… and though homosexuality doesn’t raise many eyebrows today, in 1960 (when this poem was written) it was very much looked down upon.
Perhaps O’Hara was saying that he’s not ashamed to be sitting and enjoying a coke with his beloved ‘in the warm New York 4 o’clock light’, though society would undoubtedly have frowned on the notion.
Either way it doesn’t really matter. The romantic sentiment is clear whichever way you read it, and it’s that, that has made me fall in love with this poem!