Haiku on Dog Cloud Piano for Guitar and Voice

Dog Cloud

Press yes to play here the balls fall for free hear them drop and roll english orb orbit for texting eddies
no to go away in pool hall heaven chalk up your cue stick break like a big bang syllabicating
maybe to come back no need for quarters green felt of grass field consider the balls men who cut their tongues
some day some day soon 8 ball in corner in the universe across the table gaming without words
tonight not that moon pocket that was quick full of dandelions stars stripes black and cue ball white as the moon
semiquantitatively microdirectionally yet who can’t get no no no unsatisfactorily twisting down the back alley
sociodemographic ideologically seven syllable word count so what is the so what here pseudointellectual
imperceptibility suspicion grows this is all pseudopoetically irresponsibility what can I say you  reading
waxing then waning away autobiographical compartmentalization social media neither social nor mediational ideas
unsystematically superficiality huge lack of self confidence just give us the artifice we’ll know what to do with it
without rhyme or reasoned sense oversimplification he likes unconventional individuality cosmopolitanism
syllables all connected he seems influenced by John Cage and that explains anything we seem to be moving to microcommunication
We appeal to fruit the nature within seeds meat juice and skin figuratively and then the real fig
banana orange grape raisin ugli miracle passion fruit worms flies mildew self-preservation
and vegetables puritanism free love free fruit gloss dogs and cats and kids seal it with a kiss
cherry red pepper baked raspberry pie apple cloudberry running toward the surf rub it in your palm
garlic and onions coconut olive oils and buttery fat when it is cold now back to the sea

Press yes to play here                                                                                                the balls fall for free                                                                                                hear them drop and roll                                                                                                english orb orbit                                                                                                for texting eddies

no to go away                                                                                                in pool hall heaven                                                                                                chalk up your cue stick                                                                                                break like a big bang                                                                                                syllabicating

maybe to come back                                                                                                no need for quarters                                                                                                green felt of grass field                                                                                                consider the balls                                                                                                men who cut their tongues

some day some day soon                                                                                                8 ball in corner                                                                                                in the universe                                                                                                across the table                                                                                                gaming without words

tonight not that moon                                                                                                pocket that was quick                                                                                                full of dandelions                                                                                                stars stripes black and cue                                                                                                ball white as the moon

semiquantitatively                                                                                                microdirectionally                                                                                                yet who can’t get no no no                                                                                                unsatisfactorily                                                                                                twisting down the back alley

sociodemographic                                                                                                ideologically                                                                                                seven syllable word count                                                                                                so what is the so what here                                                                                                pseudointellectual

imperceptibility                                                                                                suspicion grows this is all                                                                                                pseudopoetically                                                                                                irresponsibility                                                                                                what can I say you are right

waxing then waning away                                                                                                autobiographical                                                                                                compartmentalization                                                                                                social media neither                                                                                                social nor mediational ideas

unsystematically                                                                                                superficiality                                                                                                huge lack of self confidence                                                                                                just give us the artifice                                                                                                we’ll know what to do with it

without rhyme or reasoned sense                                                                                                oversimplification                                                                                                he likes unconventional                                                                                                individuality                                                                                                cosmopolitanism

syllables all connected                                                                                                he seems influenced by John Cage                                                                                                and that explains anything                                                                                                we seem to be moving to                                                                                                microcommunication

We appeal to fruit                                                                                                the nature within                                                                                                seeds meat juice and skin                                                                                                figuratively                                                                                                and then the real fig

banana orange                                                                                                grape raisin ugli                                                                                                miracle passion                                                                                                fruit worms flies mildew                                                                                                self-preservation

and vegetables                                                                                                puritanism                                                                                                free love free fruit gloss                                                                                                dogs and cats and kids                                                                                                seal it with a kiss

cherry red pepper                                                                                                baked raspberry pie                                                                                                apple cloudberry                                                                                                running toward the surf                                                                                                rub it in your palm

garlic and onions                                                                                                coconut olive                                                                                                oils and buttery                                                                                                fat when it is cold                                                                                                now back to the sea

Press yes to play here the balls fall for free hear them drop and roll english orb orbit for texting eddies no to go away in pool hall heaven chalk up your cue stick break like a big bang syllabicating maybe to come back no need for quarters green felt of grass field consider the balls men who cut their tongues some day some day soon 8 ball in corner in the universe across the table gaming without words tonight not that moon pocket that was quick full of dandelions stars stripes black and cue ball white as the moon semiquantitatively microdirectionally yet who can’t get no no no unsatisfactorily twisting down the back alley sociodemographic ideologically seven syllable word count so what is the so what here pseudointellectual imperceptibility suspicion grows this is all pseudopoetically irresponsibility what can I say you are right waxing then waning away autobiographical compartmentalization social media neither social nor mediational ideas unsystematically superficiality huge lack of self confidence just give us the artifice we’ll know what to do with it without rhyme or reasoned sense oversimplification he likes unconventional individuality cosmopolitanism syllables all connected he seems influenced by John Cage and that explains anything we seem to be moving to microcommunication We appeal to fruit the nature within seeds meat juice and skin figuratively and then the real fig banana orange grape raisin ugli miracle passion fruit worms flies mildew self-preservation and vegetables puritanism free love free fruit gloss dogs and cats and kids seal it with a kiss cherry red pepper baked raspberry pie apple cloudberry running toward the surf rub it in your palm garlic and onions coconut olive oils and buttery fat when it is cold now back to the sea

One Night At Flobe’s Pizza Below Frye’s Apartment

Flobe’s Pizza below my friend Frye’s apartment one night last April was puzzlingly rowdy, so we climbed down to see what was up. The place was steaming, crowded, people sitting on the ceiling, hot cheese slipping, falling pepperoni pieces and mushrooms, while a string band fiddled. The open mic was live, with Pepper, Herb, and Fava’s trio in line on the sign-in sheet to perform Joe’s “Surf Surge.”

Frye and I occupied empty seats at the end of a rambunctious table in the corner, and Joe got in line to order some pizza and orange soda. The porthole sidewalk window next to our table was occluded with steam, the string band zipping, and a couple without a table was dancing, one with the pizza the other with the beer. Suddenly, Willa and Raymond took the stage with ukulele and tambourine.

They sang of an old photo of Joan Didion sitting in a Corvette, holding a cigarette. A young man riding a piebald pony rode up to the takeout bar and ordered a veggie pizza with extra garlic and sauce. His fed his pony a breadstick. Joe came with the orange soda and said the pizza was a forty-minute wait. He poured us each a glass from the pitcher, sparkling yellow, not as orange as we had expected.

Joe sat by the porthole orb. He saw flashing lights, paisley globes filled with silver and gold light. The bubbles flew like electrified parameciums escaping down the side of the window, along its tarnished curved brass edge. Big Dada announced Joe’s pizza would not be ready until September. By then no one would be reading poetry any longer than a tweet, and that before they realized what they were hearing.

By the time Joe’s name was called (“Pizza ready for Joe!”), he had grown a pony tail and Frye had gone bald. Pepper, Herb, and Fava were on tour somewhere in the Midwest. I had tired of waiting and moved back down to Southern California to be near the beach. Every day I ride my bicycle along the Strand, watching the surfers come and go without a thought for pizza or poetry.

Learning to Deconstruct Finally

Derrida seems satisfied if not happy with his contradictions, with having learned finally to live with them unencumbered by any implicit criticism. His primary concern in his last days appears to have been what comes after the final act of writing. After all, “there are, to be sure, many very good readers (a few dozen in the world perhaps, people who are also writer-thinkers, poets)” (34). Were he a blogger, would Derrida be thus assured of 36 followers? Jesus had only 12, but even they were not always reliable.

Can a writer ever finally trust any reader? Part of the problem seems to be that readers do have an unconditional freedom to read from their own particular singularity, always peculiar. It’s all they can do, as general readers, apart from the 36 carefully selected followers, who must leave their families behind. It’s not that whatever you say will automatically be misunderstood, but that conditions of freedom vary among individuals. But Derrida says at the same time, “You don’t just go and do anything with language; it preexists us and it survives us” (36). For Derrida, deconstruction was a form of “self-critique” (45). Before “learning to live finally,” one must deconstruct oneself.

In his idea of “The University Without Condition,” Derrida wants “absolute claim to an unconditional freedom to think, speak, and critique” (48). The presumption is there are conditions set by “political or religious power” (48). Kant’s solution that scholars be free to say whatever they want as long as they keep it in the University was not enough for Derrida. But the philosopher who leaves the University becomes an outsider, a blogger, as opposed to a scholar. Not that it matters, because

“…you do not know to whom you are speaking, you invent and create silhouettes, but in the end it no longer belongs to you. Spoken or written, all these gestures leave us and begin to act independently of us.” (32)

Jesus spoke to a general audience, asked for similar unconditional freedom wherever he happened to be located, but he was ready to give to political power what belongs to political power, while Christianity too often has turned into a University that, like the University of Kant’s that Derrida points out, is only free on its own grounds.

Any notion of finally can only be fantasy; life goes on with and without us. What happens finally is the words stop coming, we stop thinking with words, and must figure out some other way to deconstruct.

Learning to Live Finally: The Last Interview [with Jacques Derrida]. Melville House, 2007. 95 pages, including a 27 page selected bibliography of works by Derrida published in English.

On the Poem of Made and Unmade Beds

“Without grip or gripe, what bed thou hast, sleep in it, sleep, sleep, perchance to rest, for a sound bed is worth all the wine in France, all the beer in Germany, nay, all the ale in England.” (Polonius, The Collected Deleted Scenes of Shakespeare)

Introduction – the idea of the poem as an unmade bed:

Joe Linker on April 10, 2015 at 6:14 pm said
[in comment, having never heard of ‘My Bed’]:
But on the subject of Emin’s bed, which apparently last sold for $2.5 million, imagine a bed-selfie, and unmade at that, in such demand. But of course a made bed would never have fetched as much attention or money. People want to see unmade beds. In fairness, I suppose many poems are nothing more than unmade beds. But when did a poem, made or unmade, ever suck in $2.5 million in a single breath?
I may find myself later today attempting a bed poem.”

1: The Sonneteers

On the green barracks bunk,
a thin mattress on chain link
steel frame Army 30 foldable,
wrapped in ephemeral wool
as tight as a barnacle’s grip
against the red tide of sleep,
nothing personal save a letter
from Susan in the South Bay,
tossed into open foot locker,
touches the drab rolled socks,
no night light in the dull quiet
dark hall full of dunned boys,
roused by reveille’s mournful
made bed, hook up and wait.

2: The Makeshift Bed

“At Ease!
Thum that’s got ‘um, smoke ‘um.
In this next 30 minutes of instruction,
you will learn how to make a field bed.”

The sun crashed, and I climbed into the cab
of a deuce and a half, parked
in a field with a raw view
of the moon and the Pacific Ocean,
curled up in my fatigues
and fell asleep, my face to the canvas seat,
surrounded by coastal sage scrub
lit with a few Lord’s Candles.

3: The Water Bed

We drove down to Hermosa Beach and picked up one of the first
water beds, a giant surf mat. We took it home, put it on the floor
in the bedroom, and filled it with water from the garden hose
stuck through an open window. We went to sleep hushed
and soothed by one another’s jostle, canoeing over surf.
But early in the morning we awoke cold and colder.
The next day back at the water bed store, the guy told us,
“Yeah, you need a foam pad and a wood frame. If you sleep
on the bare mattress, you’ll wake up with hypothermia.”

4: The Money Bed

After the water bed experience,
whenever we needed a bed,
I made a frame out of 2×4’s,
upon which I nailed a sheet
of plywood, upon which we
plopped down the futon, a
bag of airy baffled cotton.

In bed, we are lodged in
one of two kinds of beds: one
easy to move, the other hard.
The hard ones cost much
more than the easy ones
and frequently must be
put asunder to move.

Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” now
takes several million dollars
to move, maybe so much
because the installers must
budge the bed without
disturbing the sleeper.
One might try making beds

for a living. People often seem
to prefer beds to poems.
Joyce sat in bed and wrote,
embedded in his spidery
notes and his family’s issues,
while McTeague’s Trina
slept solo on her bed of coins.

5: The Short-sheeted Bed

Some readers may feel
short-sheeted by this poem.
They probably would prefer
sleeping in their own bed
and writing their own poem.
Then again, someone may offer
forty winks for this poem.
Who will start the bidding?

The Lavish Land

“April is the cruelest month,” Eliot told
Pound all about it, Easter tide out,
but why brood on our days
unless we are made
of dry wood and worry,
each ring a memory of rain?
Does any month feel pity?

You called her a primrose,
your spiral spring shell.
The land tired of playing possum
opened in lavish blossom.
Meantime, you go from a funeral
to a game of chess?
No wonder you’re so depressed.

Hurry up! Indeed, it is time,
and there is no more time
for revisions of decisions and such.
Spit it out, that tooth that broke
on the hardtack bread.

Yes, the river, its currency
seems to bother you,
crossing the rough bar
in your tipsy canoe,
sipping sweet wine from a shoe.

Why do you drift so? Maybe
it’s time to seize the falling
yellow forsythia, catch and bundle
the candied pink camellia calling
a day a day alack-a-day day.

No, I won’t say we’re wasting time,
working up a dry thirst over an old city,
lamenting the past. We might have called
Big Dada and asked for a blessing,
a holy water sprinkling, and asked,
“Dada, how’s Nana?”
“Dada! Dada! Dada!”

Maybe we’ll see you in May.
Hopefully you’ll be feeling better,
and we can all spend a day
going a Maying,
if Corinna comes to town, everyone
looking forward to ordinary time,
the grassy bed spread with garlic greens.

Notes on “Big Cactus,” a Novel by Sylvia Wilkinson

In his third essay in Anatomy of Criticism, “Theory of Myths,” Northrop Frye places irony and satire in the “Mythos of Winter”:

As structure, the central principle of ironic myth is best approached as a parody of romance: the application of romantic mythical forms to a more realistic content which fits them in unexpected ways. No one in a romance, Don Quixote protests, ever asks who pays for the hero’s accommodation. (223)

But if someone does ask, tell them, “Aunt Lucy.”

The aging Lucy, accused of being at risk of not being able to take care of herself and forced into “the county home,” sweet-talks (in a manner of speaking) her teenage nephew, Benny, into a road trip in his pickup truck, a 1965 GMC. Lucy wants to satisfy her Holy Grail vision of seeing the Big Cactus at sunset, a quest suggested by something she’s seen in a magazine, Arizona Highways.

Benny is at risk of becoming a responsible adult and has dreams of someday becoming a NASCAR mechanic, but for now he’s stuck telling a story about his trip driving his Aunt Lucy and his dog, Polar, from North Carolina across the southern states to Arizona and back, a distance of some 4,000 miles of mixed terrain and worry in an old pickup, stopping in towns along the way, sleeping nights in motels and eating in restaurants, encountering a host of characters and trials of travel episodes. Benny falls for a waitress but must get back on the road, but Sue Faye is just a prelude to his own unrequited quest which develops on the run with Aunt Lucy, Polar, and the rich Tennessee, another road rescue.

In his This Year You Write Your Novel, Walter Mosley explains why aspiring authors might want to avoid a first person narrative their first time out. If you’ve ever tried ocean wave surfing, you probably know it’s best not to try to stand up on your first wave. Ride the foam to shore in the prone position, getting the feel of the surfboard on the water. But

I’ve tried to do a story in my mind about what happened to me (231),

Benny says, and besides, Sylvia Wilkinson knows what she’s doing when it comes to writing a novel. Big Cactus is her seventh, and she’s a master of the first person narrative.

Big Cactus features characters revealed through dialog and action. “What’s a body for?” Judith Butler asks in Astra Taylor’s film Examined Life. Big Cactus features comparisons and contrasts between wealth and poverty, the old and the young, their aspirations and problems, their ideas of love and the needs of the body, how they present themselves in public and to one another in private, how they communicate – “for better, for worse.”

Big Cactus is a kind of picaresque, quixotic novel, where two main characters play off one another as separate halves of a single protagonist. They get in one another’s way as opposites but share a symbiotic relationship in a shared endeavor as outsiders against some social antagonist. Think of Huck and Jim, or Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, of Estragon and Vladimir.

Sylvia’s new book is a marvel of vernacular. The wit and humor is layered with carefully constructed confusion between what the reader sees and what the characters see, between what one character thinks is happening and what their foil character thinks. In the end, it’s Benny’s story, another marvel – of opposites between first person narrator and author. But Benny is a close observer, and as he says of himself,

I say a bunch of things out loud I ought to just think. (125)

That might be a good definition of a novelist. Gifts are a theme throughout the book. Benny has the gift of storytelling, a gift presented by Sylvia to the reader.

Joe and the Peace Truck April 1970_4151572268_mNo, that’s not Benny and that’s not a 1965 GMC. That’s me and my 1949 Ford pickup truck that my Dad bought me for $200 from a nearby motor pool. In the photo, if you look close, you can see the white tip of my surfboard hanging over the tailgate. I’ve just returned from a rescue trip up to Zuma Beach, towing my friend’s old, tiny BMW back home. My memory isn’t perfect here, but I think it was a BMW 700 convertible. It broke down in Zuma and we drove up to tow it back, pulling it with a rope from Zuma down to the South Bay along the Pacific Coast Highway, a distance of about 30 miles, but towing with the rope was probably illegal, required someone to stay in the disabled BMW to brake it at stops, and a smooth clutch operator in the truck with its three-speed on the column. Certainly not a novel in that story, probably not even a short story, unless Benny had been along for the ride.

Give me my good old American truck any day of the year (89),

Benny says. Now there’s some irony ole Northrop Frye might have enjoyed.

Big Cactus, a novel by Silvia Wilkinson. 2014. Owl Canyon Press: Boulder, Colorado.

A Brief Statement on the Comma

San Juan Islands FerryThe comma, which gives one pause; the comma which does not give one pause; the comma, at which point one pauses; the comma, a cockroach in the corner of the closet after all the clothes are cleaned out and the conversations are forgotten, hollow and cold; the comma that defies erasure, the comma that sticks; the comma that permits addition but sometimes subtracts; the comma a foot soldier, a drone wearily drove, the first key to fade; the comma a banana peal only a curmudgeonly grammarian with scruples would slip on; the comma a red light where turning right on the red without stopping is ok; the commas lined up like cars waiting for the ferry to return to cross over to the islands:

,,; ,, ,,; ,, ,,; ,, ,,; ,, ,,;   .     .       .         .           .            .