Jack Skelley: “Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson”

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Author, Jack Skelley. Photo by Gary Leonard

Jack Skelley speaks about his new book, “Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson,” and the bad Beach Boy’s intersection with a serial killer. Skelley says he is interested in pop archetypes—when popular culture merges with mythology. Not a straight narrative, his chapbook exists in poetry and dream-like states. He reads the last section, a Beach Boys villanelle, and discusses what a villanelle is. This is poetry that takes place in the real world, with illustrations by Brian Walsby.

Prose excerpt from Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson


December 28, 1983. Basin C-1100, Marina del Rey.

Three weeks after his 39th birthday, on a blue afternoon, at the end of a skinny pier, Dennis stands in his cut-offs. His beard and hair are knotted. Just another Venice burn-out. This is where his yacht Harmony docked before repossession two years prior. Couch surfing has washed him to the Marina, to longtime friend Bill Oster, whose boat is docked next to Harmony’s empty slip.

He’d been cursing himself for days. But now, he’s upbeat, animated, as if the cloudless air has cleared all remorse, all fear.

“I’m going in again, Bill. Look, I found this picture frame!”

It once contained a wedding photo he had hurled overboard years ago.

“There’s more treasure down there!! Look, a string of pearls!”

He dives into the dark.

Reverb floods his hearing and a kick-drum sound-checks his heart.

Pump. Pump. Pump. Pump.

From the bottom, the blue – always inside too but faded – now grows and domes the sun. It shimmers into the shape of one pretty saint, one with the eyes of all the women. Then all the women emerge and a whirlpool of faces surge. The circles of their lips overlap and eyes glow round under cascades of hair, then blur back into one.

Now she presses closer. She is radiant in total presence. Her breath and pulse sync with his.

Wombed in warmth, in awe of the grace and beauty of her face, he reaches to stroke her cheek. She responds.

An embrace. A smile.

Excerpt from Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson are copyright © Fred & Barney Press. All rights reserved.