Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Having a Coke with You"

For the last several months or so, several poems have been stuck in my head like songs. I can't really say that this has happened to me before. I much prefer the sheer expanse of a book. Somehow poetry always seemed too... bare. I dissected them, just like any other Humanities student, and moved on with my life. Some were meaningful, yes, but they simply weren't the type of things that I brooded over. Then I heard "Having a Coke with You" by Frank O'Hara.

Where I heard the poem is irrelevant. It may have been read in a movie geared toward teenagers that I may have forced several friends to watch with me once. Hypothetically. I have no comment about that point in my life. Regardless, the poem reads:

Having a Coke with You
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, IrĂșn, 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

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
Frank O’Hara

This poem reminds me of so many beautiful moments in my life. While I never remember the exact words of those memories, I'll always remember the smells. Starbucks and hot peppermint tea. A few images surface: tracing my finger around the rim of my hot chocolate while I tried to impress a high school date; watching Kristen never fully finish her tea because she was telling me about her European adventures; sitting in a cold English kitchen with a cup of peppermint tea, laughing over jokes with Kris; and shaking with Rachel as we drank our way through 6 packets of hot chocolate.

Somehow this poem encapsulates all of those memories. It captures those beautiful moments where you just babble on like a fool because there is so much you wish you could say to this person. Most of all, it tells of the moments when you just sit and smile at the person across the table from you. Knowing that somehow being "here"? It is somehow more beautiful than Scotland, England, Wales, Paris, and Chicago.

Because I am with you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The "Other"

In the liberal arts we spend a lot of time talking about the "Other". The "Other" can be seen in many forms: a different culture, unacceptable behavior in individuals, a 'simple' person. To the outside observer this person becomes unworthy of notice.

In our current culture we spend a lot of time observing the seemingly perfect. Their lives seem to be worth our every glance. They are the beautiful, the glamorous, the popular. To the outside observer this person's life is so much simpler than our own. We watch them eagerly, hoping to pick up on the secret of this life of bliss. But in a way they themselves become the "Other" as well. They are different, there is a line between them and us that seems unscalable.

The fact is is that the conception of the "Other" a concept made up by us. Each person on this Earth is infinite. They have strengths we may not see, trials we cannot comprehend, and something that they can offer to humanity. When we judge others as semingly simple or so different from ourselves we betray our own humanity.

Last week I walked out to my car to go to church and found it completely jammed into the spot. The window was literally one inch from a van that had blocked in both me and the car on the other side. I sat looking at the situation and made a horrid decision. I chose to be incredibly angry. How could he be so incredibly selfish? What was so important about his stupid, large car that allowed him to take advantage of me?

Do you see my mistake? Suddenly I was the perfect victim who was completely unwilling to understand his circumstances while he obviously went out of his way to annoy me. As I caught a ride to church I compiled in my head all the mean things that I was going to say to him. While at church I read a book that my older brother gave me that he got from Anasazi. I thought I'd share the words.

"I say, 'This person doesn't help me.'
Interesting how important fairness has suddenly become to me.
I say, 'This person is too dependent on others.'
Interesting how important her growth has suddenly become to me.
I say, 'This person is not as busy as I am.'
Interesting how my personal productivity is suddenly so important to me.

I sat there and realized how frighteningly important I had suddenly become. My wants had suddenly eclipsed the behavior and feelings of others. He had become the other- simple, different, incapable of understanding.

Anger is not strength. Compassion is not soft. It is a courageous choice that allows us to see others as they are meant to be seen: as individuals of value.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason...

I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason bringing something we must learn...and we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return. Well, I don't know if I believe that's true but I know I'm who I am today because I knew you

I's not a Sunday. But this post is for someone who is leaving for the MTC today- Sister Rachel Ashby. As long as I've known Rachel, about 2 years, I've known that she has wanted to go on a mission and today is the day! Where is she going, my friends? Moscow, Russia.

I met Rachel two years ago. I had just gotten into the England and Literature study abroad program and, before you know it, there I was talking with this girl about Belle. I didn't know it then but I had just met one of my dearest friends in the world. Before I had met her I had felt very much alone in many ways. Yet every day since I met her she has filled my life with love, laughter, and insight. I am so grateful that Rachel came into my life when I needed her the most. So while it's hard to see her go, as I hugged her for the last time for 1 1/2 years I realized something. There are people out there waiting for her, feeling just as alone as I was. And she will help them just as much as she helped me.

So this post is dedicated to the Rachels in our lives- the people who come into our lives and shed such glorious light and love on our days. Sister Ashby, and all of my dear friends out there, thank you for changing me for good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


One of the best classes I have ever had at college was in my Shakespeare class. The class itself seemed rather random. We had been studying a play, maybe Hamlet, when he took an entire period off to discuss language.

"Language cannot purely be classified as merely English or French or German. Language is communication. Thus each person that we meet has their own particular language. The goal of our lives will be to learn the languages of others so we can communicate back."

This comment changed my life. I felt like I had always had a rather healthy relationship with language. I taught myself how to read, I loved studying characters within musicals, and more importantly I loved coming to know others. Yet this comment struck me. How much do I listen with my own language instead of learning theirs?

Just the other day my roommate Rachel and I were talking about the relationships in our lives, romantic and platonic, when she mentioned a thought that went along nicely with this particular language idea. Rachel mentioned that within the world of love there are 5 languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

I often find it difficult to trust others. I wish, selfishly, that people would speak my language in our relationship instead of learning to recognize, appreciate, and use the two unique languages that we both possess.

This is my goal for the new year. I wish to be a better listener, a more giving friend. I am going to seek to appreciate and recognize the love that others give me instead of merely seeing what I myself communicate.