Page 2 of 3

Hep Cats and Restless Nights of Dog Days

Hep Cats in Love: Valentine’s Day Comics

The Assumption: A Graphic Post

We’re in primary school art class, where the students have been told to draw a picture of a house.

Francine draws this:

Sun Over House by Francine

“What’s this?” Missus Portmanteau, Francine’s art teacher, asks, pointing to the big red circle in the sky. “It looks like a big rock is about to fall on your house.”

Francine is nonplussed in the face of a teacher who doesn’t recognize the sun.

“The sun,” Francine explains.

“The sun isn’t that big,” Missus Portmanteau says, and enters a note in her red book.

The following week in art class, Francine draws this:

110820141928“What’s that?” Missus Portmanteau asks Francine, pointing at the orange and red circles over Francine’s house.

“Mister Sapidot [science teacher] said the sun spins,” Francine answers.

“Your sun is too big, your house too small.”

Francine feels like the rock has fallen on her house.

110820141929

“Now what?” Missus Portmanteau asks.

“Someone is taking a nap,” Francine says.

Missus Portmanteau doesn’t say anything, but she makes a firm mark in her red book with a red pen.

It’s the final art class before summer vacation. Francine’s father has promised a special surprise if her report card looks good. This week, she nails the art project.

110820141930

Francine has learned that to do good in school and please her father she must conform to her teacher’s view of reality.

Chatterbox

IMG_2356 BoxesChattering swing of ratchet wrench
Hatted on hexed nut box bolt head
Alloy heat threaded hatchet hoax
Treat tears time tender torpid box
Tightly drawn reach of technical
Entity rat tatting chattel
Rat a tach tech teacher hat chat
By the stunned thwacked beach
Or far inland brine dry valleys
Xylophone loops accordingly roll.

IMG_2358 All the World's a Box

Badges

Hanging from their necks,
belts, or ties, with photo,
they come from somewhere,
and have some place to go.

She sees them bouncing up and down
the streets, swagging vigor to and fro.
Sometimes they meet and talk,
badge to badge, boar to sow.

She doesn’t get what they say.
Normally, they just proceed,
prancing days, romping nights,
round and round they gambol

through tunnels of sun
sounding golden horns,
steeds indeed, lit up
in glorious gowns a glut.

She had one once, but let go,
repeating the hollow phrase,
preferring not to be badgered,
“And that has made all the difference.”

Badge

A Lot Ado About Nothing

The Myth of Syllabus

I once spent a lot of time going to a lot of meetings where I took a lot of notes but also doodled a lot. Sometimes my neighbors showed an interest in my doodles, but not often. Over time I developed a disregard for the term a lot. A lot is used a lot as support for an argument, but a lot of the time a lot is too imprecise to properly fund a decision. Nevertheless, a lot of people got away with using the term a lot a lot.

Apart from its imprecision, a lot is unpalatable. A lot lifts off the tongue but cuts itself short, unlike alas, aloof, or aloft, which all seem more complete and satisfying. A lot carries no drift.

A lot of people think a lot is one word: alot. What’s a word? Speech flows, a syllable stream, often alotadoo about nothing. Punctuation helps, but punctuation is a kind of stop animation. A lot of the time, punctuation can only approximate the real speed of speech. Writing is divorced from speech. We are taught from a young age to separate our tongues from our eyes, the quicker to read. Poems often use stop animation technique to slow readers down, to get the reader to mouth the words, to taste the words, chew them. Words become salt water taffy in the poet’s mouth. A lot of poets suffer bad teeth, yet poetry is not fast food. A lot of poets are poor.

A lot tells an amount, but how much is it? Lots and lots. Compared to what? A lot of the time a lot is used with the time: a lot of the time. There seems to be some connection between a lot and time. A lot of the time the meaning of a lot is understood from context. It rains a lot in Portland, but still, there are a lot of different kinds of rain. A lot of the time, I think it’s raining, but it’s not wet outside. Those are good days to get a lot of yard work done.

What’s the opposite of a lot? Is there an antonym for alot? Alittle. In “Silence,” John Cage’s book that I come back to a lot, there’s a little story about a couple who live in Alaska. Someone asks them if it was very cold last winter. Not too cold, they respond, only a couple of days, they explain, did they have to stay in bed all day to keep warm.

Then again, a lot of the time, memories go awry, amiss, askew. While I read a lot in “Silence,” I had not recently read the little story about how cold the winter was, so I thought I’d better look it up. I glanced through “Silence” a few times, but I couldn’t find it. I then thought it might be in John Cage’s book “A Year From Monday,” and it is, on page 138, but there’s no mention of Alaska, and there’s no couple, just “a woman who lived in the country,” and there were more than a couple of days, “three or four days,” she says, but she does say “we had to stay in bed all day to keep warm,” so maybe that’s where I got the idea there was a couple. It’s a very short story: 44 words total.

Not a lot, but sometimes (maybe that’s the antonym) a lot is allot, as in allotment. I’ve reached the number of words allotted for this post. Not a lot.

On Words

City Life

“Overrated and abused, underrated and reused, hyperbolized and underused, understated and overstated, restated and retracted, excused and double-downed, drowned and rusticated, nailed to a wall and drawn on a scroll, ignored and explored, welcomed and turned away, painted and scrawled, yelled and whispered, tattooed and erased, written down and written up, spelled out in the bottom of a tea cup.”

The above quote is from the comment stream to a previous post: “Bob Dylan & Clarice Lispector: Bewildering, Transfigured & Redeemed.”

The drawing above I made years ago, the paper now yellowing. I wanted to title the drawing “Leaving the City,” or something like that, “City Life,” but the drawing might somehow be appropriately titled “Words,” for the city is constantly in commute, the exchange made with words; our world is filled with words, sounds rising, mixing in the froths and foams – the city yeasts of ambition and commerce, change and exchange, the city a sea of words that act like yeasts, fermenting. Inside each car a radio no doubt adds to the mix, each car an oven full of baking words.

At night, a bread of crusted quiet rises, the din below softening, words breaking apart and falling like shreds of unintelligible graffiti, night words. From a distance, animals contemplate the city scene.

Walking with another in the country, on a path, words spoken have a pronounced different quality than words spoken walking on a sidewalk on a busy city day.

The characters in the foreground of the drawing might be workers in an urban call center. The fellows in the bottom right might be stumbling or sneaking home from a local pub.

“Words are overrated,” the commenter had said to the Dylan & Lispector post. No doubt, I thought, but more, and replied with the comment quoted above, to which the commenter then replied, “Ja, just so.” And, there you have it. Talk on.