This is how it was: his shipwreck
of a house, beached on green lawn.
He held a wet paintbrush in his
paint-flecked hand. But Dennis
says: there was no paintbrush.
Splattered overalls, spiked white
hair shooting out, he seemed dazed,
rambled on about the visitors.
So many visitors: a boy from Holland
seeking advice. McCartney, Jagger
scouting for good investments.
We’d been invited for dinner,
but the planked table stood empty
as we stood awkwardly chatting
until Elaine breezed through the door,
grabbed Bill’s arm and whisked
him away. Our good-byes slipped
onto the polished floor. “Well,” I said.
“Come see the studio,” the assistant
suggested, so we trooped upstairs
to a long, deck-like space, examined
the work-in-progress. Yellow splotches
splashed over ceiling high canvas.
“I could easily do that!” I blurted out.
“Ah, but you don’t,” Dennis retorted.
The assistant told me to sit down
in de Kooning’s chair and from his chair
I saw a yellow field, full and wild,
as specks of fresh, black paint spotted
a jacket I’d borrowed from my sister.
“She’s gonna kill me,” I whined. We left
then, went to Il Monestero’s for pasta
and wine. We toasted de Kooning, joked
about asking him to autograph the jacket,
the millions it might fetch at auction.
My sister didn’t speak to me for weeks,
but, years later, she gave me that jacket
with its dime-sized dab of de Kooning’s paint.
Whenever I wear it, I think of that night and
Dennis…and Willem de Kooning, paintbrush
clenched in his hand, bright yellow paint dripping.
Dianne taught grades K-3 in Los Angeles for many years. She now writes poetry and picture books for kids. Her latest, HEY, LITTLE BEACHCOMBER, was released in Nov. 2019 from Big Belly Book Co. She is a frequent contributor to the Highlights magazines.