Hôtel Transylvanie

Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, 1571, Kimbell Art Museum



Hôtel Transylvanie

by Frank O’Hara



Shall we win at love or shall we lose
————————————————————can it be
that hurting and being hurt is a trick forcing the love
we want to appear, that the hurt is a card
and is it black? is it red? is it a paper, dry of tears
chevalier, change your expression! the wind is sweeping over
the gaming tables ruffling the cards/they are black and red
like a Futurist torture and how do you know it isn’t always there
waiting while doubt is the father that has you kidnapped by friends

———yet you will always live in a jealous society of accident
you will never know how beautiful you are or how beautiful
the other is, you will continue to refuse to die for yourself
you will continue to sing on trying to cheer everyone up
and the will know as the listen with excessive pleasure that you’re dead
———and they will not mind that they have let you entertain
at the expense of the only thing you want in the world/you are amusing
as a game is amusing when someone is forced to lose as in a game I must

——————————————oh hôtel, you should be merely a bed
surrounded by walls where two souls meet and do nothing but breathe
breathe in breathe out fuse illuminate confuse stick dissemble
but not as cheaters at cards have something to win/you have only to be
as you are being, as you must be, as you always are, as you shall be forever
no matter what fate deals you or the imagination discards like a tyrant
as the drums descend and summon the hatchet over the tinseled realities

you know that I am not here to fool around, that I must win or die
I expect you to do everything because it is of no consequence/no duel
you must rig the deck you must make me win at whatever cost to the reputation
of the establishment/sublime moment of dishonest hope/I must win
for if the floods of tears arrive they will wash it all away
—————————————————————————————and then
you will know what it is to want something, but you may not be allowed
to die as I have died, you may only be allowed to drift downstream
to another body of inimical attractions for which you will substitute/distrust
and I will have had my revenge on the black bitch of my nature which you
———————————————love as I have never loved myself
but I hold on/I am lyrical to a fault/I do not despair being too foolish
where will you find me, projective verse, since I will be gone?
for six seconds of your beautiful face I will sell the hotel and commit
an uninteresting suicide in Louisiana where it will take them a long time
to know who I am/why I came there/what and why I am and made to happen



“Hotel Transylvanie”, The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, Alfred A. Knopf, 1995


Eight of Hearts, with jottings by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
(One of the twenty-seven playing cards found with the unfinished manuscript of
Les Rêveries d’un promeneur solitaire at the death of Rousseau in 1778.)