Ocean Park #17, 1968: Homage to Diebenkorn

By Larry Levis 1946–1996 Larry Levis
What I remember is a carhop on Pico hurrying
Toward a blue Chevy,

A crucifix dangling from its rearview mirror
That jiggled as the driver brushed

A revolver against it, in passing, before tucking it
Behind his back & beginning to joke with her.

What I remember
Is the smooth arc the gun made & the way

Jesus shimmied to the rhythm.

Someday I’ll go back to the place depicted
By the painting, boarded over by the layers of paint

And abandoned,

And beneath the pastel yellows I’ll find
The Bayside Motel & the little room

With the thin, rumpled coverlet,

And sit down, drinking nothing but the night air
By the window, & wait for her to finish

Dressing, one earring, then another,

And wait until the objects in the room take back
Their shapes in the dawn,

And wait until

Each rumpled crease in the sheets & pillowcase
Is as clear as a gift again, & wait — 

At a certain moment, that room, then all the rooms
Of the empty Bayside,

Will turn completely into light.

I place a cup on the sill & listen for the faint
Tock of china on wood, & ...

That moment of light is already this one — 
Sweet, fickle, oblivious, & gone:

My hand hurrying across the page to get there
On time, that place

Of  undoing — 

Where the shriek of  the carhop’s laugh,
And the complete faith of the martyr, as he spins & shimmies in the light,

And the inextricable candor of doubt by which Diebenkorn,
One afternoon, made his presence known

In the yellow pastels, then wiped his knuckles with a rag — 

             Are one — are the salt, the nowhere & the cold — 

The entwined limbs of  lovers & the cold wave’s sprawl.

Source: Poetry (February 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2014
 Larry  Levis


Poet Larry Levis, whose collection The Afterlife won the Lamont Poetry Prize, often employed an imagist or surrealist approach in his work. As Diane Wakoski wrote in Contemporary Poets, Levis's "work is best when the poems are short and are shaped by his imagist instincts or his gestures towards surrealism. He is a master of the brief moment of recognition where the personal is embedded in the generic . . . and the least . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture

Poetic Terms Ekphrasis, Series/Sequence

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