The Dumbarton

by Mykle Hansen and Jed Hartman


  1. Jed and Mykle talk of writing.
  2. Mykle picks a form of rhyme.
  3. A weekend passes unexciting.
  4. Nothing much—it’s Filler Time!
  5. Chance will govern what comes next:
  6. Jed draws Swords as choice of text—
  7. Starts a tale which Mykle spurns.
  8. Round and round the Earth still turns.
  9. A card with which God won’t shoot craps.
  10. On matters dark and grim we brood.
  11. More talk of holidays and food.
  12. One describes; the other naps.
  13. Updating Jed’s biography.
  14. Mykle’s Christmas Shopping Spree.

When Mykle heard that SWAPA soon

Would be assembled out in Mass.,

He turned and said, “This afternoon,

Let’s write a ’zine together. (Pass

The eggplant)”—he and Jed were eating

Eggplant Parmesan, reheating

Arthur’s food from night before.

“To write with me would be a bore,”

Jed grumped. “My mind’s completely skewed;

I’m sick of every ’zine I start

Before I reach the middle part.

I just can’t seem to get the mood.

I never think of things to write,

Although I sieve my brain each night.”

But Mykle grinned and said, “Now, wait!

You see this book from Arthur’s shelf,

By Vikram Seth, called Golden Gate?

I wish I’d written it myself.

But now’s our chance; like Seth, let’s try

To write a bunch of sonnets. By

The time they’re done, we’ll figure out

Just what we want to write about.”

“I haven’t read that book,” mused Jed,

“But someday soon I will. It could

Be fun to do that—but a good

Sonnet’s hard to write.” Myk said,

“This kind is easier because it’s lined

With iambs of the tetrametric kind.”

Errands followed, brunches two

(Mykle’s held in Santa Cruz;

Jed’s took place in Mountain View),

While great ideas sat unused.

Not ’til Sunday, 10 P.M.,

Did Mykle call to say, “Ahem!

I know I said I’d be available,

But other plans were un-derailable.

(This unemployment makes me frantic.)

Anyway I’m back in town,

Do we have time to verse around?”

Jed sighed. “Wasn’t this last week’s antic?

I’m booked at one A.M.,” he said.

“With whom?” asked Mykle. “With my bed.”

Up soon thereafter Mykle showed.

(Though “soon” for some is relative.)

And when Jed’s tired fingers slowed,

Like slothful slugs grown gelative,

Mykle tapped out stanza three.

“I’ve found a plot!” he yelped, with glee.

“We’ll ... actually ... um ... never mind!”

A good mandate proved hard to find.

A quartz clock in the corner ticked.

The backspace clacked; the hard disk hummed,

Seth’s book grew more intensely thumbed,

The flame roared down Time’s candlestick.

“Time’s what?” asked Jed, just slightly piquedly.

“Teh prolbem,” he went on Bhadrikadly,

“Is how we best can tell a story

In the time that still remains.

Not too sappy, not too gory,

Nothing injured, nothing stained.”

Jed frowned, and tossed his gaze around

His cluttered floor, where Mykle found

A lovely Crowley’s Thoth Tarot

In unison they yelped “We know!

Like P. K. Dick’s I Ching technique,

We’ll draw from this unbroken deck

(Shuffling first for full effect)

And let the random pasteboards speak

On subjects of a Swapish bent,

Stiff rudders for our beached intent.”

(And Jed was quick to add a note

That this idea owed a lot

To something that Calvino wrote.)

At last the two had found a plot!

With care—and, too, with trepidation—

Mykle shuffled inspirations;

Jed tugged loose one painted card,

Then flexed his fingers, like a bard

Preparing for a lyrical

Performance, sat before his Mac,

Stretched his arms and aching back,

And prayed there’d be a miracle.

The Knight of Swords, the card he’d drawn,

Showed armored man with beanie on,

Propelled by wind, atop his horse.

Jed muttered to himself, and gnashed

His teeth, and cursed, then said, “Of course!

I’ll tell of when I nearly bashed

My head in once while parasailing!

A dashing tale indeed! Or, failing

That, of how I thought I’d fancy

Trying the sport, were it less chancy.”

But Mykle frowned. To him, the plate

Depicted the unsettling stress

Attached to chronic fundlessness.

“But so does everything of late.

This Knave I’d instantly remit

For something with more Coins in it.”

Jed snickered, though he knew the feeling,

And pointed out that in this pack

Disks instead of Coins go wheeling

Around that endless curving track

That we call Life; at which point Mykle

Cut him off. “A motorcycle

Is more my speed. Let’s keep this moving.”

Jed glared at Mykle, disapproving:

“I need more time. I want to note a

Qabbalistic curiosity:

That (if you first remove the final ‘T’)

‘Tarot’ revolves, becoming ‘rota.’

This fact moved Mykle to extract

‘The Universe’ from Crowley’s pack..

The card portrays a maiden fair,

Entangled in an astral serpent,

Clothed in naught but conch-shaped hair.

At each corner, like a cur pent

Up in doghouse like a cage,

A Kerub snorts and growls in rage,

While in the background turns the Wheel

Of Life—this card’s a real big deal.

“But what’s a Kerub?” pondered Jed.

“It’s something like a Caribou,”

Guessed Mykle, “but distorted through

The ’lipsoid lens of Crowley’s head.

It brings to mind my car insurance—

If I don’t pay, I’ll be in durance

Vile.” “But everything reminds you

Of your bloody car insurance,”

Jed said peevishly. “It’s true,

And this card stands for all-referrance.

Pain, Death, Taxes, Sadness, Fear,

the DMV, they’re all right here.

And that reminds me, did you have

A good Thanksgiving?” “Nothing lav-

Ish; actually, to tell no lie,

I had no dinner,” Jed replied,

“But that’s okay. No turkeys died

To make my meal; no pumpkin pie,

Nor cranberries, nor bits of scrapple

Fed me—I was off at Apple,

Working, since I’d taken Tuesday

Off. So how was your Thanksgiving?”

“Okay. I cooked, I ate. I used a

Recipe from Meat-Free Living

For vegetarian casserole—

So good I nearly downed it whole!

But moving right along, here, try

another card.” So, by and by

Jed plucked The Priestess, second Trump,

From Mykle’s fanned-out hand, then took

A gander at the little book

Explaining all the cards. He slumped

Back in his chair and read aloud:

“The Priestess, with her veil of cloud,

Portrays a gracious influence

Which promises a happy change;

But watch for overconfidence—

Fluctuation through a range

Demands you strike a compromise,

A balance ...” Soon poor Mykle’s eyes

Grew heavy from o’erwhelming boredom.

He slinked into the kitchen, poured him-

Self some coffee, cooked a waffle,

And resting, offered up a toast:

“To Seth! To whom I now could boast:

‘I used to want to write your novel!’

Two cantos left—we’re running late!

It seems Her Grace will have to wait.”

Before we go, we’ll have to say

A little on our current lives.

Jed’s learned that there is hell to pay

From juggling torches (also knives).

“Though boring jobs are just no fun,

I guess it beats not having one:

I’m still employed (at least, ’til March).

I’m playing games and eating starch;

Not writing much (and thus, no sales);

Seeing friends I haven’t seen

In year—not since I was a teen;

Watching movies; reading tales.

With that I think I’ll hand the keys

To Mykle.” “And the mouse too, please.”

Mykle’s Christmas shopping tips:

“Chase away those yuletide blues

As caused by excess charge-card slips;

Give the gift of I. O. U.s!

Or, barring that, consider wax;

Though compact disks have bonus tracks,

A record’s clearly much more PC—

In fact, it’s an endangered species.”

With this, our narrarators twain

Endeavored to fill out the closing

Lines, so they might set to dozing

With sonnet-embolismized brains.


Our revels here at last are ended;

Now it’s time that this be sended.


This was written for SWAPA sometime in ’91 or ’92 (and Webbed by Jed on 10/12/95). It contains several SWAPA in-jokes, but I think it might be reasonably entertaining even to non-SWAPAns. It’s of course inspired (if that’s the right word) by Vikram Seth’s novel-in-sonnets The Golden Gate; the Dumbarton Bridge is a lesser-known bridge that spans San Francisco Bay.

For added fun, try to figure out who wrote which lines. (I was there, and even I can’t tell with a lot of it.) Toward the end we got a little punchy and started giving each other challenges by ending a line with a difficult-to-rhyme word...