How the Potato Chip Was Invented
poetry by Daniel M. Shapiro

"Brian Wilson Begins to Compose 'Good Vibrations' outside Dripping Cave, Calif., 1966"

Every spring, he chastises Mike Love for bringing him here. They have it all wrong, Wilson says. It’s always wrong. He points out the flawed harmonies, atonalities, how the olive warbler’s two-note ambulance phrase belongs elsewhere, separated from that of the towhee, a monotone specialist like that newcomer Nico but an octave higher. He would make the marsh wren sit out, its CHICK chick-a-cha-KAH chicken scratch a bit too James Brown for the setting. He waits for sage thrashers to rest a measure as they prattle like old ladies under hair dryers. Only the kingbird, with its metallic treble, approximates adequacy. But wait: Amid a drumroll trill of wings, a star emerges in the hermit thrush, which Wilson hadn’t identified on previous visits. He likens himself to Hammond uncovering Holiday, basking in that untapped ache, that signature phrasing. Wilson now cries out, commanding the singing to start over, to open with a hush of hermit thrushes—four of them. Then the kingbirds must come in, with purple finches on background vocals. You’re still not getting it, Mike, Wilson whines while unfolding a crumpled piece of staff paper, eyeing five lines on which to color the pictures of birds.