Comma Splices

If I wanted to use one,
I’d use two, one for me
and one for you, 4 to a
bar, 5 to a fence.

Comma connotes pause,
like a cat’s paw does,
when lifted midair.

Pick up your comma poops,
put in scoop bags,
and place in the trash can.

The Once and Future Comma Queen
will return to Gramarye.

Pause, and enjoy, an ice
cold comma, tonight.

Harmonic Bohemian Comma Scale:
lunula moon, clipped ring finger
nail, crow talon, gypsy jazz plastic
guitar pick, muddy udder rudder,
silent scythe, silver clacker spoon.

There is no substitute
for a comma, either
you use one or you don’t.

Comma rules form
a book of spells,
a Grimoire.

Comma Toes

Where to step a comma , 
to tiptoe haltingly ,
without readers tripping over it ,
losing their way.

A comma pirate drops his
offshore ,
as if it had a special purpose ,
a bouncing buoy ringing a bell ,
a porpoise out all alone.

The comma critic , well-versed
in elementary particularity ,
vacuums up all the fallen commas ,
the mote dust off a linoleum floor.

The exclamation point shouts ,
a telephone pole poised atop
a bowling ball !

While the ear shaped question
mark asks the obvious ,
ad nauseam ,
comatose.
“Why all the questions!” “Why are you always shouting?”

Comma and Anti-comma

Is the comma in danger of extinction? Here at the The Coming of the Toads commas have fallen out of favor as we have begun to eschew the common comma, not all commas, and the comma in writing (where else is it used?) still remains an effective tool for the common reader, but sometimes the right word in the right place creates its own pause and nothing more is needed by way of punctuation, for the common reader or the anti-reader. Of course commas are used for more than to create pause. The comma used to separate items in a series, red white and blue, for example, often punctuated as red, white, and blue, keeps the colors from running together. The comma evolved from the colon and suggested something cut out but today the comma is used to add on, to amplify, to continue, to ramble on, sometimes unmercifully, the end nowhere near, the sentence a structure of lean-tos, each clause flipping about like a butterfly which may look to the common reader indecisive. Then there is the comma butterfly, also called angelwing, and what writer would want to eliminate angel wings from their writing, not us. Whoops, that’s anglewing, not angel wing, a mistake no comma can rescue. Still, the happy discovery that commas may suggest angel wings gives us a lift.

The Apostrophe of Waiting

You took away the source, but it was some graffiti, as I recall, but now in the grog of morning’s woke fog, I forget what it said, but one of the words was missing an apostrophe, crowds, I think, should have been crowd’s. The crowd is awaiting its apostrophe. So something is missing, the elemental that connects. That’s the meaning of apostrophe – an elision, but more, to turn, to turn away (from), even as things merge, as in a crowd. The apostrophe, like a stray bird, lands in the nest of merged things, its meld. The crowd is awaiting its possession, what it wants, its melt and weld. Also, the apostrophe that is an address to a missing person, one who has been turned away, or is turning away from another, as the crowd disperses. Waiting’s apostrophe. Waiting for the bird that has flown to return. As the crowd scatters, like birds, each one turning away from their neighbor, coming apart, each now a new apostrophe looking for a new gathering, a new mustering, a levy of birds, where they can drop into place to satisfy the whole. And today’s crowd of words is punctuated by the police, steel pot helmeted commas out to enforce the gravity of grammar, but they seem unable to put a stop to the run-on sentences.

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:

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

Two Hep Cats and the Cool Comma

Punctuation Marks on Beach Trip Holiday

Scamble: I met a comma at the bus stop this morning. … Did you hear what I said? I said, I met a comma, at the bus stop, this morning.

Cramble: Be wary of commas. They’ll be on you like fleas.

-Did you know the apostrophe is the feminine form of comma?

-Band of punctuation pirates, the lot of them. Some witch of an exclamation point once hexed me into a pair of parentheses.

-Yes, life is hard enough without being labeled a parenthetical expression.

-Imagine impossible to break away from the vice grip of your parents.

-The bus stop comma seemed a cool enough little fellow.

-What was he up to?

-Just pausing, to say hello.

-I once dated an apostrophe, a beach volleyball aficionado, as I recall.

-Cool comma wasn’t going to the end of the line, Line 15, though, where the periods have apparently gentrified the neighborhood, the so-called Pearl District.

-No more comma splices. A few fragments, still.

-What’s the point of periods, anyway? We never really stop we get up and go again. He got off at the very next stop, the cool comma did.

-Why I prefer the express bus no all of that stop and go busyness biz.

Punctuation implies patience.

A Few Salient Notes on the Point of Punctuation

Nail Punches and HammersWhat is the point of punctuation? When can we be sure our marks are correctly selected and placed, knowing our readers will often think otherwise! Or worse, won’t care :( `

No. Shouldn’t punctuation be like a trip to a good dentist who pulls your tooth but you don’t feel a thing? Later, you feel for the point of that missing tooth with your proofreading tongue. Say goodbye to sunflower seeds, those single quote marks that helped along slow reads at the center of summer late inning baseball games. (Who is you, by the way? – but we should save that issue for a later post, because it has nothing to do with punctuation, but with person.)

The narrator of J. D. Salinger’s Seymour – An Introduction [when do we place titles in italics or “surround them with quote marks” and omit italics?], Buddy Glass, one of Seymour’s brothers, offers his reader a punctuation gift:

“…this unpretentious bouquet of early-blooming parentheses (((( )))).”

But he then suggests the “bouquet” more accurately portrays his “bowlegged…state of mind and body….” Buddy speaks to you as if the general reader is a good old buddy, one who does not pack a red-pen mentality correcting as he goes like a noisy street sweeper the debris of punctuation through streets littered with pot holes and broken gutters with missing horse rings.

Salinger’s narrator’s bouquet has always suggested to me an Army sergeant at rest, as indeed J. D. was.

Is placing letters or words in italics a form of punctuation?

What is ` used for?

What are {/} {/} but no worries this is not a test but a post on punctuation.

From Adverbial Beach (by Joe Linker):

Gently the blousy wordiness finally quiet down not but up again and continually.

Usually superlatively long only this hour lately awake before four too early darkly to call this morning while lately too late to hope for a verbly sleep.

The apostrophe is a comma that evolved from the sea and learned to fly away. Bring an apostrophe down to earth and you’ve got a nice crowbar.

The best punctuation works like the nailing in a tongue and groove hardwood floor; you don’t see the nails. For side edged, top nailed floors, keep a nail punch and hammer close at hand for countersinking punctuation marks that will otherwise trip up readers dancing and sliding by in socks.

Punctuation is such a trip, hipsters in the 60’s used to say, but members of that particular generation of hipsters, pockets full of commas, are beginning to reach their final ellipses.

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.