munching on frank o’hara’s “lines for the fortune cookies”

“It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time.” ~ Frank O’Hara

via PopSugar

It’s always fun, after a delicious Chinese meal of won ton soup, spring rolls, lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork, Peking duck, steamed sea bass, and beef chow fun, to take that last sip of jasmine tea and crack open your fortune cookie.

Oh, the anticipation as you hope for something positive: “You will meet a tall British actor whose last name rhymes with ‘girth,'” “You will write the next picture book bestseller,” or, “You will travel to a foreign land and have many exciting adventures.” ๐Ÿ™‚

For those few seconds before I remove that little slip of paper, anything is possible. I hold my breath as I read, “I cannot help you. I am just a cookie,” or, “You will be hungry again in 30 minutes.” On a really good day, I’ll get “You have rice in your teeth.”

Nothing that helps the digestion more than a cheeky cookie.

I’ve always wondered about the people who write these fortunes. Seems like it would be a blast. You have the power to determine destiny . . . or, at the very least, make someone feel good. If you’re a poet, you can take fortune cookie fortunes to the next level. If you’re Frank O’Hara, you can create food for thought that is thoroughly charming and delightful.



by Frank O’Hara

I think you’re wonderful and so does everyone else.

Just as Jackie Kennedy has a baby boy, so will you – even bigger.

You will meet a tall beautiful blonde stranger, and you will not say hello.

You will take a long trip and you will be very happy, though alone.

You will marry the first person who tells you your eyes are like scrambled eggs.

In the beginning there was YOU – there will always be YOU, I guess.

You will write a great play and it will run for three performances.

Please phone The Village Voice immediately: they want to interview you.

Roger L. Stevens and Kermit Bloomgarden have their eyes on you.

Relax a little; one of your most celebrated nervous tics will be your undoing.

Your first volume of poetry will be published as soon as you finish it.

You may be a hit uptown, but downtown you’re legendary!

Your walk has a musical quality which will bring you fame and fortune.

You will eat cake.

Who do you think you are, anyway? Jo Van Fleet?

You think your life is like Pirandello, but it’s really like O’Neill.

A few dance lessons with James Waring and who knows? Maybe something will happen.

That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s a hand on your leg.

I realize you’ve lived in France, but that doesn’t mean you know EVERYTHING!

You should wear white more often – it becomes you.

The next person to speak to you will have a very intriguing proposal to make.

A lot of people in this room wish they were you.

Have you been to Mike Goldberg’s show? Al Leslie’s? Lee Krasner’s?

At times, your disinterestedness may seem insincere, to strangers.

Now that the election’s over, what are you going to do with yourself?

You are a prisoner in a croissant factory and you love it.

You eat meat. Why do you eat meat?

Beyond the horizon there is a vale of gloom.

You too could be Premier of France, if only … if only…

~ from The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, edited by Donald Allen (University of California Press, 1995)


“Fortune CooKISS” by Shu-Chang Kung (Treasure Hill Artist Village, Taipei)


I love that I will eat cake and I love thinking about being a prisoner in a croissant factory. But alas, the prophetic, “Now that the election is over, what are you going to do with yourself?” gave me pause. More like, what is this country going to do? Alas, we are already seeing that vale of gloom beyond the horizon . . .

I do love me a good Frank O’Hara poem, though. His light, conversational tone and the ease with which he invites himself into your consciousness and makes himself comfortable are irresistible. He’s someone you’d like to talk to at a party.

Does this poem make you want to write your own fortunes? If so, please have a go in the comments. ๐Ÿ™‚


Heidi Mordhorst is hosting the Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe. Scamper over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week.


“I have, for my own projected works and ideas, only the silliest and dewiest of hopes; no matter what, I am romantic enough or sentimental enough to wish to contribute something to life’s fabric, to the world’s beauty . . . Simply to live does not justify existence, for life is a mere gesture on the surface of the earth, and death a return to that from which we had never been wholly separated; but oh, to leave a trace, no matter how faint, of that brief gesture! For someone, some day, may find it beautiful!” ~ Frank O’Hara

Copyright ยฉ 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.










43 thoughts on “munching on frank o’hara’s “lines for the fortune cookies”

  1. Great, fun, poem! Too bad it takes a turn with “Beyond the horizon there is a vale of gloom.”

    I had a co-worker whose parents lived near a fortune cookie factory. She used to bring in big bags of “factory seconds” broken cookies, but alas, no fortunes were included.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the vale of gloom has descended upon us — we didn’t need a fortune cookie to tell us that unfortunately.

      Cool to live near a fortune cookie factory. I imagine those seconds tasted good even though they lacked the flavor of suspense . . .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I could have read only the first quote and had enough to last me a week–reminding me that Frank O’Hara may be my poetry spirit animal. Indeed it is he who taught me not to eschew exclamation marks, that showing your heat could be cooler than playing it cool. I didn’t know the fortune cookie poem, and yes, it makes me want to write one.


  3. Oh, this is just the best. I will definitely be writing a fortune cookie poem. Ruth,


  4. May the ‘firth’ be with you, Jama! I imagine some “just joined the workforce” lowly worker set to write those fortunes, awash in words meant to please, or not. The poem shows retorts that lighten spirits who take themselves too seriously-so wonderful! Here’s one: “You might find who’s around the corner if you only turn it.” Thanks for all!


  5. Great post, Jama! “You will eat cake.” – this is the only fortune that 100% always comes true. Love O’Hara’s poem – interesting perspective on what constitutes a fortune. My 13 y/o thinks that the ‘fortunes’ in the cookies are just advice. I will always take the advice to eat cake. =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right — 100% true about eating cake. Interesting that your 13-year-old thinks of fortunes as advice. No one has or will ever have to advise me to eat cake. ๐Ÿ˜€


  6. Some fortunes for you:
    You will find something delightful on Etsy today.
    A tall dark stranger will inhabit your next movie viewing.
    You will never fail to look pretty in pink.

    Do you think I could be a fortune teller??

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I got a Fallin’ Girth fortune yesterday, but it didn’t mention a rhyming actor… I love so many of those O’Hara’s lines, but many others, no idea of the in-joke I’m missing. It’ll have to be annotated for me to get it. How sad am I? Ah well, happy in my ignorance for another day. Have a great weekend, Jama!


  8. I just gave a sigh of contentment: the idea of Collin Firth will do it every time. Just want to tell you of a People story re Meg Tilly. She had only nice things to say about her ex & said that he pops up regularly with his wife to celebrate family events w/ his and Meg’s children. What a man!


  9. Oh, the first line of this poem. What a way to begin! My favorite fortune cookie story: I went to summer camp as a teen and we made our own fortune cookies to have with dinner one night. When I opened mine, it said, “You will be pregnant in two weeks.” Still laughing about that one. The author must have read Frank O’Hara’s poem.


    1. LOL. What a fortune! It’s interesting how we react to these fortunes too — the ones that seem ludicrous we laugh off, and the ones that promise good things we want, gives us hope.


  10. These were fabulous, as were the ones in the comments. On sunny today, after a string of cool, damp June days, I would welcome the cookie that told me: “Summer will last past the weekend.”


  11. “Pleas phone the Village Voice,” great line as are so many of these from Frank Oโ€™Hara’s poem! I’ve always loved fortune cookies, they’re another little piece of magic we can grasp at or laugh with. Here’s a fortune
    Your trace in history is secure, just take it!
    And reading all the comments was a delight too, thanks Jamaโ€“levity is important especially today!


  12. Many years ago in San Francisco, my love and I were walking home from dinner in China Town. We took a short cut through a little street and passed by the open back door of a restaurant. I’ll never forget the scene. Seated on a low stool in the passageway to the door, was a very old Chinese woman. Before her, on trays, were hundreds of folded fortune cookies. Beside her, on a wheel attached to the counter, was a roll of fortunes, printed on paper. She would place an open cookie in front of her, cut a fortune from the wheel with scissors, place the little strip of paper on the cookie, fold it up and place it on the tray. Then, she’d do it again. She wasn’t fast, but every cookie looked identical. That was her contribution to the family business. To us, in our youth, it was an “Aha” moment (so THAT’s how they do it!). Love your blog. Don’t get to read every week, so have to play catch up. I so agree about Mr. Firth. Swoon.


    1. Glad you liked the poem. Fortune cookies are a lot of fun. We tend to agree with the good fortune and discount the ones we don’t like as much.


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