Remembering the Pacific by Diane Wakoski

Diane at MOMA
Diane at MOMA

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

his face.

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

stay away.

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.

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