Having a Coke with You
by Frank O'Hara
At the risk of stating the obvious, our speaker is in love. Big time. With you. Well, he's in love with "you," the addressee in this poem, not you personally. Still, that makes a big difference to us as readers, doesn't it? Most people, when they're in love, make us want to stab knitting needles into our eyes. (There's a reason we call y'all Shmoopers, and not Shmoopie.) Really, we're happy for 'em and all, but it's… just… so… nauseating. Luckily, our speaker's not that way. Well, he is that way to a degree, in that he's totally, head-over-heels in love. At the same time, though, he's in love with "you," not with "my honey."
Swoony, But Real
Think about it: if you were to replace the "you" in this poem with someone's name, would it be as effective. Even though we know that the speaker is not addressing us personally, we can't help but feel some appreciation for his feelings by being directly addressed with the poem's use of "you." After all, we're witnessing a private conversation here. We're flies on the wall, and lucky us. There's no showmanship, no grand gestures. Just swoony-but-real talk.
So our speaker is in love, but not in a nauseating way. He's in love in the kind of way that makes him reflective. That's unusual, too. They say that love is blindness, but our speaker is acutely aware that he's in love. It's as if being in love has heightened his senses to a new reality, one in which trees "[breathe] through [their] spectacles" (10). That may sound like a drug-induced hallucination, but, for our speaker, it's a "marvelous experience" (24), a chance to embrace a side of life that is full of joy and wonder that "is not going to go wasted on" him (25).
This love-struck appreciation isn't all lollipops and high-fives, though. This new state of bliss has taught the speaker something, a lesson about the futility of art. He's a sharp guy, and he knows his way around a museum or two, like the Frick (15). Still, all that art is now somehow dissatisfying to him when compared with the wonder of the person with whom he is in love. He comes to believe that the joy and insight that art provides really just pales with the experience of being in love. While being in love tends to reduce most people to a kind of goofy stupor, our speaker seems to be more insightful, and more reflective, for the experience.