augury doggerel

Wednesday, July 31, 2002


Evenings, I write on scrap with a pen, wet then dry, soaking in smell.

I have long descending strokes and oversized capitals, an A like a large safety pin loosed from its hasp, a B like a 3 sliced through. (Acquired in counterfeiting the signature of a teacher. B for Bruce, 3 slash ruse.) I can write any C word so you'd like it and ask for more. My I is too fancy, a Jehovah's J with a personal kink. My Z comes like something Byzantine. All are disjoint. I failed cursive writing decades ago and still have clumsy boyish curls in my lowercase b and d.

In the morning, I transcribe from the scratch and smoke to weightless keyboard taps, then feed the originals into the company shredder.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002


A bubble burst and my fish looked up through the cool, and she sang in perfect circles, sang where the sand was smooth.

Sleep and I'll sing through our dreams, sleep and we'll be here together when we wake from our soft cool dream, sleep, love, sleep and sleep and sleep.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Ding Dong Hang Sing Gone Dung

The woman and I went out early Sunday � the kid is with her grandmother � and walked up into the wooded hills around here.

Just into the trees, on the lower trail, old people wearing their good clothes walked alone, one by one, along the smooth cool dirt between the trees toward the church bell. There's an overgrown graveyard in there, neglected and so probably German, but I haven't climbed about in it yet.

We went up the hill. Where the sun came through, insects hung still. Blackbirds hopped in the leaves, looking for food or just kicking up leaves and enjoying themselves. One blackbird wearing an orange beak sat on a branch and made a faint noise like a rubber duck with its whistle full of pudding, a tweet with the edges rubbed smooth. In the leaves, the abandoned homes of snails were chalky white and crumbling, their dangerous spiral staircases open to the wind. And dung beetles. They have fluffy-spiny legs and shining blue-black shells. We watched fifteen or twenty that had converged on an oasis of wet soil and were rolling in the mud like hippos at a watering hole. The ground was heaving with them.

(Notes for a children's story.)

I caught a fish in my net, just a little thing, but she could speak.

"Put me back and I will teach you the words to my song."

I slipped her back into the water and watched her curl around the plants and drink the air of the stream. And when she had caught her breath and composed herself, she came to the surface, where fish kiss the light and the bugs dance like magicians in the sun. She sang to me:

"I love you, cool water on my skin. I love you, dropping rain on my cheek. I love you, cold in winter under ice. I love you, warm from sun to soft smooth sand. If you, my seven seas, blew away with the wind, I would cry you back again."

And she swam away.

The sun went down and the moon looked in my window and I slept without dreaming.

In the morning, I went down to the water, where the fish kiss the light and the bugs dance like magicians in the sun.


Sunday, July 28, 2002


I'm reading Hemingway again, the bulls and fishing and fine days and saucers at cafes. Eventually he blows his face off with a shotgun on a fine day in Idaho. He hooks a fat toe around the trigger, don't you think, and paints the wall some fine day.

Saturday, July 27, 2002


I had plenty of aunt. She had delicate bird wallpaper and real birds on feeders hopping light and vanishing. Little dogs running and leaping and doing tricks. Windowsills lined with bright crystal figurines. We sipped tea and nibbled biscuits at her white lacy table. She laughed like something wild in the woods. She once crushed an aluminum lawn chair flat enough for recycling, somehow without spilling her tea. We won't mention the monkey in the basement. That part is still not clear.

Friday, July 26, 2002


There's only one seat on the bus tonight, so I sit thigh to thigh with a blonde girl and take out my book and read two pages before I remember that Lolita, printed at the top of each page for the curious onlooker, has become an international word, so I tuck my book away and watch the scenery. The asphalt is sticky black licorice and the traffic lights pulse to a blind man's marching tune. I close my eyes and wait for the rumble of tram tracks.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Half-Priced Tickets

At the bus stop this morning, a man of about sixty-five, thin and gray but solid and with good eyes, was waiting for a bus to take him to the edge of some lake. He wore a comfortable jacket, a hat good for sun or rain, and lovely green wellies. He carried a simple tackle box and had a fishing rod in a good bag slung over his shoulder. It looks like rain today, but that would be good on the edge of a quiet lake.

And on the bus, in the seat just in front of me, was a boy, big but no more than eighteen or twenty. I watched his fluffy blonde bedhead roll left and right on the back of the seat. At his stop, half asleep, he fell more than rose from his seat but he untangled his legs and kept moving and smiled, too groggy to be up. He's probably going to a summer job at the garden center or furniture store near where he got off.

I don't know which I would rather be. But I'd rather.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002


I walked past the cemetery early Sunday morning when the church bells were banging and counted six flower stands, seven sellers of candles in colored glass, four stonecutters, and many holes between the paving stones where ants had shoved up from below. Wax and weed and noise and dirt and stone. Still, a rooster was up and scratching his balls and chortling about the night before, and magpies were firing into the air. I led two old snails to the other side of the road and turned a coin in my pocket. That's good enough.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002


Hobgoblins have come in the night and cut down all the flowers. (They weave garlands for lost girls.) A cluster of snails clings to the wreckage of stems.

And more of this silliness.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Black and White and Gray

My window has been a picture of blue all day and green. Just now, from the right, a mass of gray clouds is blowing in. And from the left, a black and white stork has just flown into the wind, gliding up the oncoming air, and disappeared somewhere against the gray clouds.

The Wonderful Day

Just kidding.

But I'll tell you this: nothing is prettier than this glass of flowers on my desk. I thought I would look them up, but instead I smell them, a purple, a white, a white, a blue, each with a different smell, in the cool clear water of a drinking glass.

Sunday, July 21, 2002


I haven't walked into anything; the red spot on my forehead is just from holding my head up. I am full of the common drugs and the drug of the day: daylight without sun, thick air, and this terrible slow breeze shifting warm from here to here. My blood has nowhere to go.

Maybe you want to see beautiful women? So sit and have a drink. I'll try to keep my eyes open and watch for them for you, but I don't think they'll come. People hate their clothes on a day like today, but no one wants to move and no one falls in love on a day like today.

The guy with the stiff baboon legs and ass who walks in and out of the door and talks into the air is full of the self-importance of wearing shiny shoes and talking to someone only he can see. There's the whirr of a girl on a bike, but she's gone. A trio of female � child, mother, and grandmother � pacing out the ages of woman from shop to home. A pack of bored boys in premature hunch. Four washed cars with balloons and blowing horns from a sweaty wedding. I know where they're going. And Leonard bloody Cohen on the radio. What is it with this country and LbC? If I broke a bottle on the bar, no one would look up.

Saturday, July 20, 2002


The woman and her friend, a receptionist from work, went out to see the strippers in Sopot. They watched the show, danced, drank too much, then went out and ate half a chicken each. Then at three in the morning they walked out on to the pier, where a big baby cormorant was sitting alone on a bench, sick or abandoned or just waiting for mama to come back with food. They sat next to it and stroked its feathers. All this I heard while I stroked her back this morning and then left her to sleep it off.

Friday, July 19, 2002


Butterflies all day try the windows as if they want in out of the sun or into the sun in the mirror. And this morning, still early, a wagtail who must have missed dinner last night is already out and walking our sill, looking sidelong up the glass, neither at nor through, for breakfast in silhouette. And I look out. Work bores, cuts into me with a dose of painkiller.

Thursday, July 18, 2002


It rained hard. People are looking both ways before coming out doors, stepping carefully and watching the air as if it might happen again, might sneak up on them. They want to be ready for it this time. Inside, the bartender and the cook watch bad old television. The bartender's jest, pursing his lips and warbling like a musical saw, has reminded me my father could whistle a fine melody and had a deep lovely singing voice. I whistle like a drafty door and not half as emotively, and my singing voice has wandered up and up through the years to a sad tenor. It's as if I wouldn't compete and had settled for a different register. But that's just the way it came out.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002


With heavy baskets of berries, people fifty and sixty and almost seventy get on the bus, my bus from work to home, where it comes through the woods and stops near the gardens. The driver gives them five seconds to find a seat, then pushes the gear handle and lets in the clutch. Those left standing grab at rails. Watch the veins in their hands, their deflated arms. They wait for the bus to reach speed.

Beautiful teenagers don't stand for them. Boys are slung brown over the bars and the backs of chairs. They grin like magnificent apes. I admire with them a girl's long legs, plump and muscled, stretched out and just crossed at the ankles, and the engine's vibration working up through her brown breasts (unless it's my eyes). I use the chance to give my seat to a sweating man with too many currants, and stand over a lovely reading TV news all the way through the woods and down the hill into the town.

Monday, July 15, 2002


The poppies are mostly gone from the slope near the bus stop, but two kinds of yellow flower are out, one with very small four-petaled bells of yellow bloom, the other more like a very long-stemmed dandelion with a burst of yellow firework (the force that through the green fuse) at the end. And on the stalks of the four-petaled flowers, like monkeys sleeping in trees, are clusters of little snails sleeping off the night.

Sunday, July 14, 2002


Only after I had come inside and put the kettle on did I realize I had just been a wild-eyed unshaven man in a blue t-shirt and white socks and red underwear standing on a balcony with the only morning glory among the window-boxed violets and yelling in a foreign tongue at two screaming cats, one of them mine, to stop fighting. At least 20 windows just across the small courtyard face my balcony, but I didn't look up at the time.

There is an annual police review of all foreigners living in town. A uniformed officer goes around and interviews a few of the locals to see if there's anything they would like to tell the police about this foreigner living next to them. If the subject of this morning comes up at all, I hope that they at least exaggerate a bit. These things have a way of following one through the paperwork.

Saturday, July 13, 2002


My father was an ironworker up with the Indians in the air. I can't imagine what he did up there with swinging girders and rivets and welding machines and other props I have seen only on TV, as he has no idea what I do here with a keyboard and a screen and bits of electricity. But we came to the same. I've inherited his body and live in it. I greet him in the morning shower and wonder with him how he ever got to sleep. When it goes wrong in the wrong country, I know that much about him, too. He's figuring out dying now, something I'm not looking for yet, but I'll know how it came out if I catch up with him and the Indians in the air.

And I'm messing about.

Friday, July 12, 2002


Almost at midnight last night, the lights went out. Blackouts excite me. I gave up trying to see, closed my eyes, and dressed like a blind man. I took whisky in a mug disguise and cigarettes and went out to be in the quiet.

It is much cooler now and the sky is still clear. The cat appeared, running ahead and behind as if she owned the dark. And there were stars over the city. I walked up the middle of the street, looking up and stumbling on cobblestones, pointing to constellations and saying their names to no one.

Thursday, July 11, 2002


It's so hot, they've banned trucks during the day because highways are melting and trucks are rutting, pressing deep grooves into asphalt like heavy carts on dirt roads. Women have melted into woman for sorrowful glad men like me watching their marvelous animal forms, legs smooth-stroked, breasts unprintable under thin cotton, faces shining with heat. All is unlaced, unbuttoned, I did not know so many had been undone, and there is nothing to be done.

The woman, no doubt wearing next to nothing next to nothing somewhere in the south, will not return for a week. I'll go home and talk to the cat in a hairy tongue and we'll curl apart in the shade and wait for clouds.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002


After work last night, after eight and just getting out, I sat on a concrete post at the bus stop and listened. Toy crickets idled and creaked in the grass, light coiled watch springs winding on bent grass. We warmed ourselves in the half sun, crickets and I, storing up for the night, and then we went.

Monday, July 08, 2002


Every inch of street suddenly a cup of raindrop blown upward against itself, and a pair of screaming young women running hard to get away from the bad hair and wet t-shirt contest. Cool air curls in through the place. I'm standing in the wooden doorway and feeling the splatter on my shins and sipping a shot of what tastes like cherry cough medicine to kill the taste and smell of cheap beer. Where was this burst when I needed an excuse?

But then it's quiet, just the shushing of cars on the rainy street, and the first customer of the night (excluding residents) camel-toes in with her pet boy.

Eating an Elephant

I'm writing with a SOFTFeel Jumbo pen. Never forget, Jumbo was a real elephant. There used to be one born every minute.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Land Without Women

The kid and her mother and her mother's mother are off to the sunny south. Fish swallows fish swallows fish. I have been left home with an unsexed cat, an allowance of eight dollars a day, and several emergency numbers in case, I suppose, I run out of numbers.

At work, as always, there are no women. The place is skimmed, watery, bluish.

And money is tight at the pub. The waitresses, being women, were the first to go. The bartender theoretically waits tables � working it out on paper, tracing arcs from kitchen to table to kitchen, writing fresh greetings and practicing them to himself � but he sits in a corner with the cook and watches television. Yesterday, for a change, they sat outside and watched women. None came in.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Revenge of the Cat

Last night, the woman goes out and leaves the cat inside. She forgets to leave the door open to the WC, where the litter box lurks next to the toilet and the household spiders.

We come home late. The woman takes off her shoes and stands in a puddle of pee on the bathroom floor. A little later, after she has washed her feet and just climbed into her side of the bed, I am standing at the foot of the bed and still chortling obnoxiously about it, saying that at least the cat was nice enough to do it somewhere easy to clean.

Just then, the woman smells something funny. Something funny about the blanket she's under. She flips the blanket off and a cat turd rolls out on to the floor.

Tea time.

Monday, July 01, 2002

The Jig

There is little I like less than having to do a jigsaw puzzle. It is not an incomplete scattering of pottery shards that could reveal something of the past. It is not a good crossword with wit hidden in the pieces. It is not a bit of good luck making things fall out right from everything wrong before. I have enjoyed archaeology and crosswords and the luck of the draw.

A jigsaw puzzle has an exact number of pieces. The pieces all fit together in exactly one way no matter how many times you do the puzzle. The aim is to make the pieces in the box look like the picture on the box. It is a picture I do not admire, sliced into pieces. I would leave it that way. There is little I like less than having to do a jigsaw puzzle.

I got a jigsaw puzzle from the kid. We built it last night. Oh, look at that little red fox.