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Corot, 1950

Corot, 1950
Pencil on paper
11 ¾ x 8 ¾ inches
All work courtesy Larry Rivers Foundation


Portrait (Back of Letter), circa 1950

Portrait (Back of Letter), circa 1950
Pencil on paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches


George Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1951–1953

George Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1951–1953
Pencil on paper
13 7/8 x 16 3/4 inches

Larry Rivers




An ape is in the bedroom.
Go to sleep.
Remove the oil from my mouth.
Please let me kiss you.
Your body is uneven.
If I die, will you always talk about me.
Only the soft can strain to please the river.

Once the loud night
Imagination anticipates.
At length the growling nation in one grand smasheroo gave birth to a hermit. It fed on green insects that were of no use and climbed daily a long spine belonging to the forest almost emptied of trees. One tree (no, two) remained, they were donated by a man who made money from singing and a girl who ate snakes in the city. Every day the nation watched over him. Never close enough to see him. One day he didn’t wish to eat or climb or live. He professed his intention to the entire people.

“My friends, the world is a righthanded one. The moon is marvelous. The sound of hungry cats and boats that survive assured the ears of their position. If an organ responds to its internal voice sleep is pure and felt. Yet music, color, ideas, (music falls like dandruff: ugly is the beggar in loud shreds, who hears when it rains) are dreary candles to point my days up. I smell to every beast. Flowers die as I approach on the path I understand. Fold me in your mouths. Or stamp my eyes out. No forest survives that stands in shade and if they do…I am not a forest. Nor a tree donated by the city.”



The head swings backwards to the past
shy in the swift sensibility bungling,
in wide promise to forget, the present’s
brushed-up decency. The word is just

forgot that will be said amid the dress’s
downward rustle and that will be
a past more worthy of tying in a bag
to blow up among the paws and presses.

And each new night before these nights
the city wears in newer style, since one
has plucked a rose for a lapel, will
in no way resemble the similar lights

as each today will fall and falls in
darkness of equal brilliance. Then there
was similar vowing to clean more distant
bedtimes in the mud and scour the sin.

For there will always be a past to range
the outskirts, prowling with the head down.
There need be no fear, though, with warm
weapons and if one stays in and strange.



Took love as cold
As cold fish.
With twisted intellect
Turned it to the ceiling.

Injures no more
Her tattered truth.
And gives the moment



That, “you are lovelier than death,” which
my friend
Frank O’Hara, (or Francis as he loves to be called)
wrote in a fury of excess
is untrue, is admitted

only as it mirrors nature.
In calling, like a pompous bugler,
the portion of imagination long dead
he brought us up
(we need bringing)

Truth was not HIS pot of gold.
Nor in the end is it excess.

LARRY RIVERS (1923–2002) began his career in 1940 as a jazz saxophonist and composer, changed his name and became an American icon to artists everywhere. A great figurative painter, Rivers is also acclaimed as a precursor of pop art; an artist with an unashamed interest in sexuality and the private moment, he is celebrated for bringing history back into contemporary painting.

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