when cold time frost slips
cross moon & sun
snivels buff’s hug mist

yr fingers & toes fixed
to warm grass high
above buttered beach

swells swirled since
our first buss this
dovetail tally recalls

slips & falls
shorts & talls
sols wherewithal

tetherball pole wrap
round & round we

Look Inside “Coconut Oil”

“Coconut Oil” is ready, the “look inside” feature enabled, paperback and e-version.

Forty years have passed since the close of “Penina’s Letters,” and Penina and Salty return to Refugio, a fictional beach town on Santa Monica Bay, in “Coconut Oil,” a sequel to “Penina’s Letters.” 

Salty is again our first person narrator, and “Coconut Oil” continues an experimental narrative form – as Sal hands the mic off to several other characters and we are brought up to date on Refugio.

The themes of “Coconut Oil” include aging, housing and homelessness, gentrification, and how we occupy ourselves over time.

The style is experimental in a way a common reader might enjoy. And there is music! Songs, dancing, and some funky text features!

The back cover photo for “Coconut Oil” was taken from the northbound Coast Starlight train as it passed by the point at Refugio Beach, California, a campground 26 miles north of Santa Barbara, in the late 70’s. The front cover photo, more recent, shows the author’s shadow over a tree hollow holding mushrooms that look like bird eggs (where his heart should be).

Refugio from Coast Starlight

Refugio Beach from Coast Starlight Special

Coconut Oil – A Novel Book Launch

Salty and Penina, the war torn, young couple from “Penina’s Letters,” return to Refugio in “Coconut Oil,” a sequel.

They come home to Refugio (the fictional beach town located north of El Porto and south of Grand on Santa Monica Bay) in an attempt to retire a bit early. So forty or so years have passed since the close of “Penina’s Letters.”

Salty is again our first person narrator. But “Coconut Oil” continues an experimental narrative form, and Sal hands the mic off to several other characters as we are brought up to date on Refugio.

The themes of “Coconut Oil” include aging, housing and homelessness, gentrification, and how we occupy ourselves over time. The form is experimental in a way a common reader might enjoy.

The paperback version of “Coconut Oil” is available now, and the electronic version should be up next week.

The back cover photo for “Coconut Oil” was taken from the northbound Coast Starlight train as it passed by the point at Refugio Beach, California, a campground about 26 miles north of Santa Barbara. The photo was taken sometime in the late 70’s.

Refugio from Coast Starlight

Refugio from Coast Starlight Special


Penina’s Letters: Excerpt at Berfrois

A short excerpt from the “Separation” chapter of “Penina’s Letters” appeared on Berfrois this morning. Swim on over and have a look.

Below, some pics from the period and locale of the book’s setting:

Penina’s Letters, a Novel by Joe Linker

Ocean Surfing Love Letters War Epistolary Bildungsroman Santa Monica Bay Beach Cities School Work Family Friendship Self-deception Literary Fiction Folk Song Narrative…

“Penina’s Letters” takes place in the beach cities along Santa Monica Bay, with a fictionalized beach town named Refugio squeezed in between El Porto and Grand Avenue. The town of Refugio takes the place of the iconic towers and power plant between the water and the dunes of El Segundo.

The style includes epistolary writing, bildungsroman, and satire and irony. The time of the setting is not explicitly stated, nor is the war involved given a specific name, but readers may argue the story takes place in the 1960s and the early 1970s – in any case, it’s not a history book.

The main characters include Salvador (Sal or Salty) Persequi, the first person narrator, just returned from the war; his girlfriend, Penina Seablouse; and their two friends Puck Malone and Henry Killknot – all of whom have known one another since high school, and in the present time of the story are in their twenties.

“Penina’s Letters” is intended to be literary fiction, however off it might fall for some readers of that target.

The paperback version of “Penina’s Letters” is 290 pages (around 70,000 words) in length. It was designed for publication using the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform – that means I self-published it.

Draft segments of “Penina’s Letters” appeared in The Boulevard (Summer 2012), a publication of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters. Parts of the “How to Surf” chapter appeared in different form on Berfrois on September 29, 2015.

“Penina’s Letters” is now available in e-copy or paperback.

Errata: The proofreading eye often sees only what it expects to see. I tried reading the whole thing backwards, to avoid that phenom, but soon got pretty dizzy, so it didn’t seem to help much. Of course, some changes will simply never suggest themselves until you hit the send button. It’s like some mistakes hide back, waiting in the shadows, and as soon as you hit the send button, they jump out and scare you, yelling, “Ha, ha! You missed me! You missed me!” If one scares you, or anything seems amiss, please let me know! Meantime, I hope you enjoy “Penina’s Letters.”

My beautiful picture

At typewriter at Susan’s place, mid 70s.

Cold Reading

“Yr lines, sunny boy,
bingy, not calm,
head busy jabots,”

read Madame Fraus,
by the tide that rips
rocks thru yr palms.

“Saline swim,
bit sweet lit life,
palms stage aligned,

neck aflame, hair
shorn horizon
frizzled smile.

Silverfish whitecaps
aquiline wings smack
& bay across draft brow.

Paddle out, palms
cupped, plod, slog,
moil, & no sloom.”

No sleep, steep crag
to pine green palms,
in line for clay water.

Around another point,
the persuasive ocean
spreads open palms.

“I’ll see you next week,”
Madame Fraus said.
“Leave the door open.”

Cold Reading

El Porto, 1969

Santa Monica Bay, water like lead

ladled from a plumber’s melting pot.

Fog spills oily blue

foam fills with air, pulls some green under.

Close in, swells steam and foam, a salty dough of seaweed.

Waterers wax boards, paddle out north end at 45th Street, first smoky light, shadows of refinery plant, dunes still in shade, covered in olive drab.

The surfers paddle out, into the surf.
They work the waves like fishermen,
air full of flush, gush, white hissing bass horns,
trembling treble flourish finish.



like a whale sounding, in a long lull,
     water like coffee with milk and honey
          where the waves churn the sandy bottom.

A surfer trio returns to the beach, short paddle from small waves now high tide,

rolled waves rope caulked and cold chisel hammered.

The surfers lift their boards into a truck, laughing in wet trunks, salted muscle, and tussled hair. The surfers never grow weary of waves, dancing drones under a lemon yellow flower. The waves open blue, break lime green, fall white

in simple declarative sentences
of plumbed gist, of easy escape.

“The strand and the waves exist no more,

the summer is dead,” Samuel Beckett said.

Los Angeles, South Santa Monica Bay, beach city surf, Strand cruise Hermosa to El Porto, royal blue bicycle paddling along, waves closed out bass lines, high spring tide, full moon.

Angel’s eyes perpetually open,
losing particles of neon green light,
Mister Jama quick walking Chaplinesque,
black dressed for snow, Silence caged in his palms.

Swells slumber under mounds of silver paint,
disheveled waves chiseled from lead cakes,
grunion running in surf fanning the beach
full of lustrous flickers in the moon glow.

The surfer girls come and go, come and go,
singing of clothes in forget-me-not lingo,
walking the beach in blue and gold.


At night they tape their hair to their cheeks
to hold the curl, the surfer boys
long to know, long to know.

The Strand bars net the last generation, inside, drinking beer, surfboards against the wall, bleached parasols, a few surf waves still, but figuratively, as if one finds waves in some oceanic dictionary, listening for the mermaid’s music in books.

The surfer hears the buzz of his own skeg humming
across the pages, heavy sets, far out.
Turning right on the corona’s shoulder
the surfer grows a little older, the water somewhat colder.

Flour soup brushes up the dusty beach after the sun falls.
First light the beach dustless after all night off shore blow,
the water glassed off, air clear to Malibu north,
Palos Verdes south.

A bloom of waves spills and flows over the beach,

foaming across the bleached sand as the tide rises,

smooth after the offshore wind blowing all night long,

the morning water crystal, waves flapping like sheets,

an airy fuss slapping movement then a quick flip,

and the rush of fish smell mixed with wax and salt and hair and skin.

Surfers like a swarm of dragonflies crowd the waves,

empty at first light, then three California pelicans

swooping low in a line over the edge of the break,

blessing surfers believing in waves,

sitting on their boards just outside the break.

One takes off on a gray-blue glossy pearl,

but this surfer should be somewhere else,

sees an expressionless ocean,
does not believe in waves,
upside-down in the surf,
carving and cutting too hard,
this surfer rides this wave
like it’s not the wave he wants,
so he throws it away,a discarded piece of waste paper.
He bolts the wave to chalk
flounces about, his board flotsam.
This surfer flouts about
and scorns the sea.

He does not truly believe in the ocean.

He does not flower with the waves,

and a dark brack rises

and takes him away.

And the Summer dies.

The strand and waves exist no more,

the summer is dead,”

Samuel Beckett said,

and the surfer believed him.

The dead sun did not matter.

He lost his surfboard, lost the path to the beach, what waves there far beyond his reach. Wave peepers came and pushed him away. He slept in ditches. They even took his bicycle. No technology could save him anyway.

He sat at an intersection,
with a cardboard sign that read,
“Won’t you please help
a surfer with no wave?”

A woman stopped, rolled down her window,
and blew him a kiss that fizzed like a wave,
and to thank her, he wrote this:

  1. Nothing makes sense
  2. in a waveless universe,
  3. where surfers ride beams of light
  4. on virtual surfboards.

    Many anecdotes followed.

This one’s about a surfer who stuck with it, tried glass and glue but tossed all that, painted houses in the afternoons, surfed mornings and evenings. This surfer had a feel for boards, loved the way the resin and glass felt watery smooth and clean, bright surf shop stickers buried beneath wax. This surfer believed in waves, was a generous local, too,

didn’t want to fight, was easily satisfied with a simple sea, lived a slow life, long days, in the bowl of Santa Monica Bay, loved the sun, water, salt beaches, the surf songs The Waves sang.

The Waves were a beach band, paddled out brittle surf songs on metallico Teles and Jazzmaster bass, drums the speed of breaking waves.

That’s it, not much more.
The surfer got drafted,
went away to war
came back, went into Insurance,

said he would never forget

the last wave he ever surfed,

after which he felt he’d never grow old,

then he left the beach for the rain and cold.

“Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar,” Wallace Stevens said.

The surfer placed a board in Los Angeles,
and long it was, upon a wave,
it made the disheveled surf
array in dressed lines.

The surf surrounded him,
the board glassed upon the wave
like a poem,
like Apollinaire.

It seemed all cool but absurd,
breathless, and dead,
not like a bird or a fish,
like nothing else in Los Angeles.

Then he added something more,
a man upon the board,
and filled the waves with bicycles,

The waves grew somber, the beach cold,
the surfboard a splinter in the wave’s skin.
The surfer fell, it was Fall after all,
and found himself alone at the end of a pier.

He was free to swim to shore,
yet felt a curious fatigue engulf him,
a surfer’s anxiety,
for from the beach the waves lacked this intensity.

He paddled toward shore,
but a riptide pulled him away and away.
He treaded water, drifting.
He lost sight of land.

The sun fell, and no moon rose.
The waves met the night.
They broke in the sky
and rained down a dark salt.

The surfer clung to his board,
flotsam and jetsam floated by,
old rusted bicycle parts,
useless in the waves.

There were no fish, no birds,
no beach, no palms.
The surfer drifted in the inky night sea
below a blue black salt lick night sky.

He thought he saw a light, the light rose,
rose or fell, he was not sure,
if he floated in water or in air.
His surfboard disappeared.

Storm surf flushed chaos across the beach.
I waited for the surfer to return,
I went to work shaping and glassing a new surfboard.
Every evening, I walk down to the water

and watch the waves for his dancing legs,
his leaning stretch, his tumbling shadow,
his crouch, his ocean filled gills.