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
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
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 solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front
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
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
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 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
This is from The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara, edited by Donald Allen, published by Vintage Books, 1974.
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.