KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Tanka Prose:
538 words

Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #67 (1973)

by Charles D. Tarlton

Ocean Park #67: painting by Richard Diebenkorn

Ocean Park #67 (1973)1
Oil on canvas painting (100"x81")
Copyrighted © by The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

...My eye was caught with the glimpse of something shining
in the bottom of the ditch. ...I reached my hand down and
picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold.

—John W. Marshall2


Of course, it is not gold, but a cascade of sunshine (no, not that, either), the sky at sunset (no), an odd-angled beam of light reflected off a skein of yellow silk. Well, that last one’s better; as silk it might have been stretched up there and not painted on at all. But it is, in fact, just yellow paint, laid on thicker here, thinner there, a bit of orange or red blended in one part, over a structure of half-remembered lines, likely the originating marks.

keep talking, will you?
let me feast on all that gold
till it reaches the edge
and all I can do then is
wonder, faintly straight-edged

filled-in blue and green
stop! stop! describing drawing
you know you want it
to mean something, to represent
even everything not present

There is another pattern here (from the structure of the studio window above perhaps) of a simple big bottom of the canvas, worked a little but not much, and a complicated discourse at the top, of shapes and colors, fading in and out, a geometry of mirrors.

what is he saying?
drawn like sun rays out of clouds
but it’s really only
sharp straight lines, some wash brushed on
makes you think sunny thoughts

it’s all relations
in a complicated skein
of straight lines drawn
and over-drawn out of which
soft geometry emerges

And that is the thing, the allure’s there in the geometry, the little squares and triangles in many colors, one on top of another, like jars and bottles down a barber’s mirror. Your eye takes a shape, a form, and loves it, watches it change its hue, then bend under another. It is a strange magical music of the eye.

no two jazz drummers
hit two and four exactly
the same. The upbeat
determines amount of swing
improvising in a string of notes

what is the secret
of these colored bars and angles
each one the same
in disparate combinations
red here, gold, pink, and faded blue

Draw parallels and perpendiculars looking the other way; think about something else and let the fingers fly! Hook a diagonal here (a small one), make long ones all the way across and arbitrarily cross them, whack! whack! whack! Don’t stop to think, I told you, at least not yet. After a while just slow enough to see what you’ve done, what you’ve let evolve.

it is exhausting
pulling words from the patterned
tiling, thinking
in colors, trying to find
what gold, orange, and gray say

can’t know what it means
as it arises from impulses
that extend
in phantom gestures far beyond
the moment he stopped painting


this gold comes lately
in the process, after molding
once the gold’s been rolled
into a ribbon and then pounded
ever flatter and thinner

gold so thin you can
almost see through it, wrapped
around a sculpted
eye, tucked in between an ivory
cheek bone and a marble brow


Publisher’s Notes:

1. Ocean Park #67 (1973) (oil on canvas, 100"x81") by Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993) is held in the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art:, and appears above with kind permission from The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.

2. Epigraph is from Marshall’s account of his discovery of gold in January 1848, quoted in The California Gold Country: Highway 49 Revisited by Elliot H. Koeppel (Malakoff & Company, La Habra, California; second printing, 1999).

3. Translated: “chryselephantine,” from the Greek khryselephantinos.

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