Thursday, February 28, 2019


Pelican, a dance performance by Robert Rauschenberg.

Dear Curious,

Today, I am hoping to send you searching for a small piece of writing, a prose piece that I am mad for: see a smattering of it below.  You won't be able to read it on the big bad internet; I already tried to find it for you.  You will have to visit a bookshop, or library, and even then, you will probably have to special order it.

I got mine from this good place for getting things, in a collection of essays called On Dolls.

*  *  *  *

The Marionette Theatre
by Dennis Silk

Part One


"Shutters shut and open.  So do queens."
- Gertrude Stein.

The Japanese writer, Saikaku, has a tricky story about umbrellas.  Twenty of them hung outside the temple at Kwannon.  People borrowed them in bad weather.  In spring, 1649, an unlucky umbrella-borrower had it blown out of his hand by a divine wind.  Travelling further maybe than Saikaku, the umbrella landed in the village of Amazato.  No one there had seen an umbrella.  But from its ribs, numbering forty, and the unusual luminosity of its oil-paper, they knew the sungod had landed at Amazato.  They built a shrine to the umbrella.

Saikaku does not describe the landing of the umbrella.  But it must descend slowly on Amazato from up there, slowly and in considered spirals, as a god should.  After the vigorous theophany of its descent, it lies stranded in the market-square.  Yet everyone understands the umbrella is latent.  A farmer closes his fingers around its handle as around a staff-hook.  They travel gingerly up the limb of this god, they feel a metal obstruction then a yielding.  The umbrella shuts.  Deus absconditus.
But what shuts opens, like fingers.  Open shut.  This farmer becomes the attendant of the opening and shutting god.

*  *  *  *

For some footage of Pelican, and two other Rauschenberg performances, go to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Friday, February 22, 2019

A better time.

Dear Ones,

I am sorry to bother you again, with another thing I think you really must read.  Yesterday I read about the selection of an engagement calendar and I thought I'd have to come over and get you up out of bed it was so good, but I figured it could wait, maybe, until a better time.

Who knows when this better time will come, and we all know that it might not come at all.  I should have given that coffee boy the cobalt blue glass mug that he admired and now I cannot.  I have no mug, I have no coffee boy, I have no status for such an exchange at all.  What, you wonder, does that have to do with coming here and waking me up now?  It's just that it's that good, and that real, and that important that you read this little thing, this very short thing, that won't take hardly any of your time.

I have given you books and instructions and admonitions for reading Tove Jansson before; because she is an absolute favorite of mine.  I cannot understand at all why she isn't a Major Literary Figure.  She ought to be on the shelves with all those damned guys that you are supposed to read:  Melville, Faulkner, Joyce, Steinbeck, and a bunch of others that I don't even bother with at all.  The good news is that you, dear friend, are here, and so you can read this wonderful bit of writing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heart Broke

Untitled (Gossip), Jim Dine, 1970-71
collage, mixed media, 60" x 40"

Dear Broken Hearted,

This is your day, actually, because although we have promoted this fa├žade of celebrating love between two people, we must acknowledge the shadow side, the obverse, the un-love between two people.  In fact, I'd wager that Valentine's Day, on the individual level, is focused much more on the un-love, the end of love, and the love that never was, than whatever the other kind is.  Consider one of the messages in evidence:  Be mine.  This is really an entreaty, a statement of longing.

Still, you won't find me giving up on telling people that I love them; so this pair of songs for today is dedicated to the ones feeling the un-love, and I send it SWAK.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Anniversary 6

Hello Again World,

This day marks the anniversary of the (person that I used to be) first post.  It's been six years- what do you think of that?

It's the end of the 6th year, not the fifth, and this has bent my mind for decades- how many years has a baby who is 2 lived?  Two years.  Yes?  Seven days from today will be, what?  The 17th, or the 16th?  Do we count today, or only tomorrow?

I'll tell you what else is new, sometime along about the 4th year of trying to contact you here, coming twice a week to this empty booth, late at night, hoping you'll come in for a cup of coffee, I stopped really worrying about what I'd say to you if you did come in.  I started caring less and less if you read my messages, if you got my meaning, if you were listening at all.  Now, and it doesn't mean that I love you any less, but now, I want to write to you more for the writing than for the reading you may or may not do.  I think this is an improvement in our relationship, because it means that I have no expectations of you, that I give you all of this, and more, freely.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Near and The Far

Dear Readers,

I will now publish (in the blog post sense) the world's shortest novel for you, dear reader! 

You recall my project for this year of writing a novel, which came about from being inspired by the Novel in a Month folks.  I decided February was ideal for a month-long project, because it is short; the shortest, even. 

On February first, I began.  I typed into my computer for a good long time, trying not to judge my work, but unable to keep the promise of never hitting the delete or backspace key.  I just couldn't move on down the sentence with 'herad' there instead of 'heard.'  After a while of never going much of any place, as in following a line this way, then cutting it off, and heading down another path, I thought, yes, this is writing a novel and I can do it.  After more time, I thought I'd stop and review, just to see how many of the 2,000 daily words goal I had set down; surely something like 4,000 by now, I imagined.

522.  Yes.  I was done already, with only a quarter of the quota.  I think I am done in fact, with novel writing, but I give it to you anyway, unedited, but fairly deeply and perhaps too harshly criticized:

The Near and the Far

They came in plaid dresses, six of them. They came to tell of what they’d seen and heard. The first asked if they ought to begin. No one said a word

The far.  It was a long view.  The light was coming in low and slanting under clouds. The hills had taken on a furzy appearance, like a mist was rising up from them. They seemed blurred, warm, and giving. This was to be the place of The Telling.

The near.  As the women approached the hillside, they fidgeted with their cuffs, and straightened their hems. A few of the women were quite young, and wondered how The Telling would go. They asked each other questions and murmured encouragements. What did they have to tell that anyone would want to hear?

The far.  The walk had been long from the shore. They had met the boat, the ship, the birds that carried the messages. They wore plaid, because they’d made their dresses of old draperies that had been scavenged from abandoned seaside hotels. Simple sheaths, without sleeves, and wraps to cover their arms from the cold. Shoes were out of the question.

The near.  One was the daughter of an older one- she would hold her mother’s hand as they walked. The mother and the daughter would talk more than the others. They said: when you see a sad thing, you feel sad, but when you think a sad thing, your feelings pass along ridges in your mind, changing into a story, and then, what does it become? Is it sadness anymore? Are sad stories more true than the happy ones, she would ask her mother. The others would listen, but they said very little in response to this pair and their conversation at first. Later, the other four would come to contribute to their conversations.

The far.  It happened a long time ago, that the people moved away, most of them, to a far place that after a time, stopped sending messages back.  It’s an old story, some of the tribe heads off to find a better land, a better way. Sometimes they return, some of them. But many evaporate into time and space. The distances, really, even between two people standing quite close are astronomical. They can’t be measured at all. Distance isn’t very easy to fool, or shorten, or shrink, despite what you may read.

The near.  Sewing by hand, with dull needles, is slow. The space between where the needle slips under, and then back up again can be large or small, but if it is large, the wind can come through. So, they made the spaces small, and their fingers and hands would cramp and shake.

The far.  When things first began to look lonely, they’d tell each other not to worry, that the others would return. Then, they spoke less and less of it.

The near.  "When they come back, we will clear this debris, we will mend these things, and begin to organize.” They felt less and less like organizing, so they didn’t. They arranged rocks to make pathways, and lined up sticks in patterns. They wondered at their future and they made patterns. As before. The sticks had fallen from the trees for many years and they were of many lengths. Some would sort them by color, or texture. Many would arrange them by size.


Dear Little Darlings,

What you want, I daresay, is a big, poufy skirt!  I wore a black net petticoat the other day to the museum lecture of a photographer.  It was a boughten one, from Sock Dreams.  At the lecture, I wore it with boots, a knit top, a windowpane plaid scarf, and a striped wool skirt.  Last January, in London, I wore it over tights, without a skirt, because in London a girl can dress that way, and that's why I love London.  California loves a bare midriff, but they still don't know what to make of under wear as outer wear; it's sad and conformist really, but there isn't much of a dialog about the politics of exposure in women's wear right now.

Here is a little history of the crinoline as the successor to the petticoat.  The terms are used a bit indiscriminately nowadays.  Because the crinoline was named for the stiff horsehair fabric of the same name, I call my stiffer underskirts crinolines and the softer ones petticoats.

I made a nice petticoat of silk and vintage lace from this fine pattern for a crinoline, from Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing.  Voluminous, 100 yard, square dance petticoats can be found on Ebay, or Petticoat Junction, and another place to buy underskirts of varying pouf, is Unique Vintage.