augury doggerel

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Yak Hair

To my taste, the very best blogs are the ones that talk mainly about the blog � this is a blog and I don't have nuffin to say today but I cannot stop because this is so important and so this is a blog, like � or of course about pets. Or the writer's fascinating dreams. Or cute little kiddy stories. Slices of life. Or links to pictures of monkeys drinking their own pee.

Last night I had a bad dream that would please the Junior Freudian League to prattle about, so I got up and put the kettle on, but the cat, who had been pushing me out of the bed all night, woke up and started yelling to get out but then changed her mind and ran for her bowl and began yelling for food, so I started to get some food out for the cat, but then the kid started crying, so I sat on her bed and told her it was only a terrible dream and reassured her that I'm not really her father and switched the subject to what a pig that cat was being in the middle of the night, and then the woman, unaware of any of this, woke up and stuffed a cheese sandwich down her throat and began talking about the price of refrigerators. All in two minutes. It was as if a ghost had flown through the apartment and upset everyone's sleep at once. Household spiders were probably falling out of their webs.

But you want to know what the dream was, right? Or, you don't want to know, not really, but now that I've mentioned the damned dream twice, you feel it your duty to feign curiosity. That's it, isn't it? Well. My mother intentionally cut the index and middle finger off my right hand in some sort of DIY job for some purpose I had agreed to. I stood patiently through the amputation, which she somehow did remotely from the kitchen with her sewing machine while I stood in the living room and looked at the curtains, but after the fingers were gone I began to realize how foolish I had been. It wasn't the loss of the fingers that was bad, but that the job was so obviously a botched DIY job. What bothered me, I mean, was not that I was missing important fingers, but that I would be humiliated by the shoddy workmanship. Then I woke up and found that I had been sleeping on that hand and that those two fingers were numb.

So I drank a large refreshing glass of monkey urine.

Saturday, June 29, 2002


Where I work, all but three of the 150 employees (if you don't count secretaries and accountants, most of whom were taken long ago) are male software and hardware engineers. The company next-door does multimedia and is awash with female writers, editors, photographers, artists, musicians, and who knows what else. And yesterday, a sunny Friday afternoon, for the first time since we found ourselves neighbors out in this otherwise empty place, we all met for a picnic and games on the grass behind our buildings. Expectations were high is some quarters, very often, I'm afraid, in hindquarters.

Food, drink, a football game, tug of war, a live "Irish" fiddly-diddly band, a DJ. Even, said the official plan, dancing, which is � someone here looked it up � to move one's feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, esp. to the accompaniment of music. Perhaps even with women. I didn't stay late enough to see whether this fantasy of dancing could be true. I'm content to imagine. But I can affirm that eyes were boggling at the sight of young women actually prancing and laughing where once only male coders roamed. And though it's raining hard again today, summer is young.

Friday, June 28, 2002


The sun is still catching the orange building across the street, over the tram tracks, and a pigeon inspects each brick with its toes. I'm thinking about Daisy Miller and A Midsummer Night's Dream. On the bus to and from work and between minutes, I'm reading them both, drop by drop, mixing them like drinks. There's fine weather.

Two girls out together have just skirted through this place and made me put down my pen for a minute. They're gone now and never saw me, like birds through a window, but here I am still thinking about them. If you were ever a girl, think of this, of how new and smooth you were, and of how you were often there without knowing it.

It must be evening, but there's still light. The sun grabs its hat and makes for the door these days without ever quite leaving. It's never dark enough to make a guy go home, never dark enough to sleep anymore. The bartender is fixing another keg to the taps, crack and hiss and stop.

My left arm aches and I'm full of pub poisons, and work digs a beak into my entrails and pulls, but if I kicked now, this would be almost enough. I feel my face warm, and maybe I'll go home soon, but my leg has pins and needles from sitting and there's smoke whirling and still somehow there's orange sun on the wall just across the street.

And isn't pastiche something you spread on crackers?

Thursday, June 27, 2002


The woman has just come in from a night submerged. It's dawn, but it's always dawn after midnight now, and I'm lying with my face in the pillow and pretending I'm asleep so I don't have to move or speak.

There's the rattle and clang of the air lock opening and closing, and it seems she has worn her lead-weighted diving boots home. And that must be the sound of the ballast tanks draining from her one-woman submersible. Hoisting a diving bell with a crane and maneuvering it through a small apartment at dawn is not easy, so it's understandable, all this banging into walls and clattering of gear. But did she have to bring home the giant octopus? It curls its tentacles around me, squeezes the breath from me, and attaches one wet sucker to my face before I pass out.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002


Last night in the sky, the swallows reenacted the Battle of Britain, and the trees were dangerous with magpie gangs. And on our quiet street, a fine surprise: a hedgehog in the middle of the street, stopped but unhurt, sitting still, nose to the cobbles, paused between front gardens on the right and a stretch of grass on the left.

The woman picked the thorny hedgehog up on a magazine and kept it at careful arm's length � every hedgehog runs a private circus of dancing fleas � then slid it on to the lawn. The hedgehog waited until we were out of the way, then slipped its belly through the cool grass to, of course, a hedge where fat snails, some of which have spent the night at our place, come out at night to slide over the walk.

We didn't wait for the crack of shells and the suck of fresh escargot. We had our own mushrooms to fry and tomatoes to slice, our own night and day to consume.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002


In the woods, the kid picked up a grasshopper shorter than the width of my fingernail and said she was taking it home. She cupped her right hand over her left, opened an air hole between two fingers, and walked.

We tried the usual explanations for why a grasshopper would be happier in the woods: there's nothing for a grasshopper to eat at home, the cat would eat the grasshopper, the grasshopper would be lonely, the grass is the place for a grasshopper. But she wanted it home.

We came to a meadow, a wide spread of long green blades. This, we swore, was grasshopper paradise, full of friends and food, with lots of grass to hop.

So she lifted one hand away from the other, and there the grasshopper sat on her open palm. And looked. Did it wonder? It gave three quick kicks to its right cheek with a forefoot, scratched the smallest itch. And waited.

Monday, June 24, 2002


A woman who may as well be Iris Murdoch has gray hair grown out and wears a brown sleeveless vest over a brown sweater, blue slacks, and brown house slippers open at the back. Every day she patrols the sidewalk, corner to corner and back and away again, scowling, self-consumed.

Remembering the name Iris Murdoch just now was two steps further off than it should have been. And what was it she wrote?

Sunday, June 23, 2002


I was the only customer in the pub, outnumbered three to one by the staff, until a few minutes ago. The entire rugby team has come to swallow all the space around my stool and force me to hunch over my reading and writing and guard my seat. They are out to be manly men in force, so I poke back at them with my pen (no, not literally) and try not to giggle like a boy.

There are at least twenty, no, thirty shorn heads mounted like gun turrets on batterable bodies, all sucking off the tops of pints, sharing plates of gravied beef, moving shoulder to shoulder with big arms hung around one another's neckless necks. If any one of them could read English, this would be my suicide note:

I like to grab and ground a sweaty man
And fist my flesh to his and hear him gasp
And bunch his shorts around his swollen span
And make him take the pleasure of my grasp.

But they can't read English or you wouldn't be reading this, because I don't know how to write dead. And now I can get back to my reading.

And more gibberish.

Saturday, June 22, 2002


At the small grocery on the corner, a stocky man with bristly white hair who looks nearly sixty does the heavy work and drives a van. A small, thin woman with a lined faced and dyed brown hair, also about sixty, stays behind the counter. At night when the drunks line up for last bottles, she and the man run the cash register together while an older woman sits in a doorway, halfway out of a back room, and says a word or two to them while she drinks coffee. They live back there, vaguely alike, quietly familiar, bound somehow, though I can't tell how by looking at them. Brother and sister and mother, or husband and wife and mother and mother-in-law, or husband and wife and sister, or brother and sisters. They're tired, workhorses standing still between tasks. No one reads. No radio plays. No fan moves the air.

Last night, I left work late and the pub still later, after ten. It was dark and everything was closed when I got off the bus near home. As I passed the dark grocery, I saw movement inside. I stopped for a second. Two children, a boy and a girl maybe eight or nine years old, were playing in the front room where we customers gather during the day and which was now lit only by light from the street outside and from a light coming through the door into the back. They wore only shorts, no shirts. The girl's hair hung far down her back and shook all over as she played. Otherwise, they were two of the same skinny kid. I could almost see their ribs stand out when they stretched for the ball. They were thin and smooth and laughing and jumping and happy, bouncing a large plastic ball, trying to keep it in the air and away from each other. Then one of them saw me, and they disappeared into the cracks like ghosts.

Friday, June 21, 2002


Three swallows are flying in and out of the storeroom door at the back of the delicatessen here. They appear to be carrying away little pieces of meat.

Can it be that the swallows come back to cop pastrami?

Thursday, June 20, 2002


I am chopping hands through our cat this morning, separating extra flesh from bone, peeling pelt from neck to tail, splaying her toes and watching mechanical claws emerge, pulling back gums and imitating growl and hiss, pumping her lungs and working a purr if I hold her neck just so and squeeze. This is how I roll her gray third eyelids from sleep and crawl under fur. She loves me for this, squints reptilian, then bites and lets blood when she�s had enough. The woman is next. Here are her toes separating.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002


Now it�s warm here. People on the streets are down to skin and a bit of civil cotton. Forgotten legs and breasts and bellies of every bulge are out reminding us of the people under the clothes. The innies are out. You will worship the sun or stand in her shadow.

So write a story for children. Under the grass, you find a door to winter frosting up through the heat, and a slide of ice to a lake frozen like glass and lit from beneath by the moon. Look through the lake to the stars on the other side, constellations in reverse, in blue. And fish swim through, cool and smooth, looking up at you. You remember your feet are bare and you shiver but you find hanging in an old tree a pair of skates, two soft fur boots on bright crescent moons. You put them on and carve in the ice your name, your face, with each stride on the lake. The fish move beneath your fast feet, swirling between you and the moon on the other side. Hang the skates back in the tree and, when no one is looking, return up through the warm grass with a white spray of ice in your hair, and close the door secretly behind you.

Chickadee report: the people at the animal shelter say the chickadee has already recovered and flown off.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002


This morning among the poppies and the wet grass, stepping carefully over and around snails, I found two funnel spiders (Agelena labyrinthica) in their lairs, one looking out expectantly, the other face first in her retreat, enjoying breakfast in a sunny nook.

And I got a call at work from the woman. She was sipping a coffee in a sunny cafe and chatting to a friend when a baby bird slipped out of a tree next to her. So she ate it. No. It was a stunned chickadee fledgling suddenly on a busy sidewalk and no mother, no mother, no mother. So the woman tucked the quiet thing in her jacket pocket, where it shat its way to the nearby hospital for wild birds. And they fed it to a hawk. No. All is well. But watch your step.

Monday, June 17, 2002


The woman smiled and warned me of houseguests: two spiders had moved in under the toilet.

When I clicked on the light in the smallest room, one of our inch-long guests, as if resting on the wrong side of a hammock, was hanging upside down on a very low-slung web between the wall and the base of the toilet. In a second, it stepped forward, just two or three quick spider strides, clenched on something suspended and small, and stepped quickly out of sight under the toilet. I don�t know whether the unexpected light had given it up to its quarry and forced it to pounce just then, or whether it was just snatching up its lunch and running inside from an interrupted picnic.

The spider's hammock was (and is) about where an orangutan�s right hand would hang if a very relaxed orangutan were to drop in to use the toilet. But the hammock was empty now. And where was our other guest? Ah.

I didn�t really have to go.

Sunday, June 16, 2002


In the morning, the kid and the woman and I drank tea in the only sunny corner in the place. They had pancakes and jam and sweet tea. I had eaten toast long before they crawled out of bed, so I attended the table and pawed the cat on the sill.

Afterward, we had a walk to turkey town, listened to crowing roosters down the road, then found real fowl, dirty birds, and the old blinking woman showing the kid a fistful of peepers, four in her left clutch, while she kept the nervous mother stuffed under her right arm.

But between breakfast and birds, I�d almost forgotten, the kid played the piano for me, first the formal etudes she learned from her grandmother, then something she called Seventh Heaven, a slow piece she had written. Better than anything, this bare monkey wondering out her own music in the morning.

And more gibberish.

Saturday, June 15, 2002


She was there again two days ago. We must have shared the bus dozens of times. Someone on the bus, always in the front and never looking back, keeps her sweatshirt hood up. I have never seen her face. She must work in the next building. We get off the bus at the same stop, but she stays ahead on the shortcut over the grass and is still walking just ahead when I turn into work, into worker.

Does she appear only in wet weather? Do I look for her only when it rains? Does she become someone else without the hood? Is she invisible? I see what I take to be hands, but I suppose they could be thin, perfect gloves. I see clothes, a dark blue hooded sweatshirt, simple jeans, simple shoes. The next time, I�ll try to remember to watch for footprints.

On mornings when I would crumple down if I once let up the tensing between bone and opposed bone, when I�m working cat�s cradle figures on my skeleton just to get up and walk, I watch her and she drags me forward. With no face, without even the back of a head and some hair to focus on, she leaves me watching where she would be. She moves, revolution and counterrevolution, over the soft green.

Friday, June 14, 2002


The kid woke up near midnight screaming and staring and screaming and pushing us away. When it left her, she sat looking at us and wondering. Her face was red and wet from crying and pocked all down one side from having slept on soft skin.

I asked her if she would read to me and she agreed. Mama went back to bed while I selected a book at random, a volume from her children�s encyclopedia, and lay on the bed next to the kid.

With her finger under every word, she carefully read to me all about the process of desalination and the production of salt. It turns out that salt comes from the sea. If you wait, all the water floats away into the air and there�s nothing left but � kiss one eye, then the other � a little salt.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Slow Night

She�s supposed to be working but there�s nothing to do. There is music and she dances where she stands. She�s unembarrassable and light in windows and mirrors. She likes the way she moves her loose dress and the way her hair shakes the place down. She�s blue and soft now and it doesn�t matter that you�re the only other one there.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002


I am wet halfway up my shins with dew from taking the grassy route to work. In the long grass along the edge of the railway, the trampoline traps of the funnel weavers are also wet. Each spider�s central retreat is a black spot against the dew grown on the web. Eventually an unlucky intruder will catch an ankle or three and tumble down the funnel into the dark deep center. At the bottom, invisible, the builder waits on points, keeping its eight shins carefully dry.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002


Last night: quiet at the pub. A few million local men had just been awakened from their recurrent football dream and you could hear it. Little paper banners, Mundial 2002, were still hanging over the bar and up around the doorframes, but the wall chart showing scheduled matches had already been markered in, 4-0, and the streets were not full of shirtless cheering drunks and understanding policemen. A few men with nowhere else to be were almost half watching the sports on television and more than half drinking. The stereo was off. I was reading in my usual seat, with my back to the television, and wishing for rain. A street-sweeper truck went slowly along the curb, brushes spinning and hissing. The tram went by, always the same squeal on the corner, and, when the air is thick, the same blue spark.

This morning: rain.

Monday, June 10, 2002


The poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are out along the edges, where the earth has been disturbed. At the bus stop early this morning, the poppies one by one across the grassy slope bowed as the bees, hairy legged and vibrating, landed and did their work and bounced away again from the wide red springboards.

Sunday, June 09, 2002


This morning while the sun was coming through the kitchen window, the kid and I sat in two chairs with our backs warming in the sunlight. She thumbed Pikachu around a toodly Game Boy while I read Ahab back down to the bottom of the ocean. The cat lay on the sill in the direct light and eventually burst into flame. When the woman got up, there wasn�t enough sun left for her.

This afternoon, though, at her annual company picnic, there was more than enough sun for all. I sipped beer under a tree and watched people whirl around the grass and gobble politic sausage.

Saturday, June 08, 2002


Just that, one croak, one tone, one tone, on one pond. There is just one invisible frog saying "see me" in the cattails and rushes.

"See me."

And bubbles coming up from the bottom as the sun warms the muck to a boil.

I, too, will croak soon by the feel of things. Maybe I'll go write some gibberish.

Friday, June 07, 2002


It's only a walk, but couples come down to the water, toeing shells through the sand, the surf through the sound underneath.

Thursday, June 06, 2002


My lowercase god, it's summer and I cannot stop watching girls (women, then, fine, and I'm not really dirty or old, but girls, Elvis, girls, stirring drinks and twirling umbrellas). No, that's not it: I can stop looking, or how would I write this? But I cannot stop knowing. They're still there, where I'm almost looking, just off to my left, where their voices topple off the table and roll lightly up to the tip of my boot. But I won't look up. Their coupled chuckles are for each other and not for uncle propped in a corner and smelling the slices of orange they bite. They hummingbird colors I would not taste. Their lips pucker and launch puffs of smoke. I home to home, secretly shifting myself.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002


A flying spy ship of antennae came in through our balcony door. The burst of navigator at its helm found itself nowhere, in a place of impossible white surfaces that could not be flown through, and so flew into the sun. The merciful false gods of the place cupped the craft in terrifying hands and released it back into the night of life, the life of night.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002


Two boys and two girls in one tent on the lawn behind a house in summer � beware, gentle householder, breeder of teens � and much young flesh pressed to flesh. And a kind of love, though immediately doused with warm rain and forgotten until much later. There�s a fence and a tree and another kiss and the dark and clutching, then escaping bicyclists, whirling spokes spinning water at four in the morning down the middle of empty roads, no hands, all rain.

Monday, June 03, 2002


Last night, a gasoline generator and pneumatic jackhammer and powerful spotlights eliminated all light and sound around a hole cut down through the avenue, down into the earth, where they had sliced a piece from the cake.

Surrounded by a toy fence, in a yellow plastic safety jacket and yellow plastic helmet, illuminated and voiceless like an old movie star, a bewildered man dragged out of his bed at night stood up to his neck in Prussians and Mongols and Turks and Swedes and Prussians and Russians and Austrians and Germans and Russians and Americans. Down in the hole, the ground was the rust orange of sewerage broken open, of ceramic and iron and mud, of things burst and repaired and sealed over again and again.

By this morning, someone had piled soil and gravel and cobblestones back in and pressed asphalt over the hole and touched up the paint on another boundary across the surface of the earth.

Sunday, June 02, 2002


At evening here when the air is a standing pool of blue and hopeful insects come out to wine and dine abob cool space, the swallows curl and scree through the still. We stand below and see only the whirling outlines of bird and bird weaving. What the swallow sees makes it scream and dive: soft insects, in delicate courtship, fanning transparent wings over thin feelers and long legs. They know only one, then two, then one, then nought.

Saturday, June 01, 2002


Last night after midnight, when no one could sleep, I rubbed the woman�s back with one hand and sipped tea with the other. The cat stood at the foot of the bed and watched out the window. Something moved outside and then we heard the stutter of a magpie. One had settled in the tree just outside our window.

The cat sat and stared at the magpie. The magpie sat and stared back. They were still staring when we fell asleep. I believe a grudge is being held.