I don’t remember seeing it at night. It would look like
the groom at a wedding, in his black tuxedo
with only a crest of foaming shirtfront.
Of course when I lived just a block away from the ocean
in Laguna Beach, or in Solano Beach, California
I must have seen it often
at night. But I have a hard time
pulling the image to my eyes, the way
when someone you love dies,
your husband, your father,
you suddenly realize you can’t remember
It panics you, it frightens you, it
most of all
makes you sad, then angry:
what is the matter with your mind,
your mind that was once like a history book
filled with everything that had ever been recorded?
Night is when you stayed away, if you
were going to
Night is when the oranges rolled out the door.
or the spoons rattled in the drawer. Night
is when the cup emptied itself, night is when
books broke their leather bindings, and toothbrushes
At night, the ocean swallowed everything
until the whole word was invisible. At night,
my father betrayed my mother, my husband slept with
and I could only look at the ocean and be fearful
that nothing in it was an orange, a rose,
a glove, a book, or
anything I could count on to take care
of me. Not even the white crests of groom’s -shirt waves, so
imagine in Classical literature as horses. No
white horse, or even a surfer on an old board, coming
out of those waves to carry me
to safety. No I can’t
remember what the ocean looked like
at night, though I do think
of the ocean
all the time.
Diane Wakoski was born in Whittier, CA in 1937 and studied at UC Berkeley. She is among the deep image and beat poets of the 1960’s, citing Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams as two of her influences.