augury doggerel

Friday, February 28, 2003


I, agony aunt to lone drinkers, wasted my evening trying to convince the old colonial to go back to Africa. Sure, it's wrong to urge a rude white man to return to Kenya and to bossing the locals around in rough Swahili, but a man needs time to count bubbles.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Tlusty Czwartek

Say twoosty chfartek. That's Fat Thursday to you and doughnuts to me. Lots and lots of doughnuts today, which is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, the day a priest marks the believer's forehead with the ashes of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year, and which is the seventh Wednesday before Easter, which is the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox, approximately March 21, when day is again as long as night and the sun crosses the celestial equator moving northward, when the sun rises exactly in the east and traverses the sky for exactly twelve hours and sets exactly in the west, when spring returns.

But Ye shall know this Day by the myriad Dough-nuts.


A retired beauty walks into a bar. Now she's jaw, someone's hair, the back of her lovely. Risen, golded. Good eyes. Unblushable bone.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


I'll doubt it until I see it, but I'm told I have a permanent residency card waiting for me. It works like a green card, but in reverse.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


All the animals I see waiting for the bus. Seven rusty chickens in a gravel driveway. Forty ducks on the drainage pond eating bread pitched by boys. One small dog loose, one large dog fenced, listening to me sing, looking at each other, forgetting to bark. A dachshund jumping into the lap of a no-legged man for a ride.

Monday, February 24, 2003


The sun is out. Puffs of cattail seed are floating by my window. The first heron (Ardea cinerea, Czapla siwa) of the year just glided over. There's still snow on the ground, but it's almost March.

And now my friend the heron is back and strolling the grounds.

Sunday, February 23, 2003


A shock of solarium and permanent comes through the door followed closely by her male attendant. He expertly grasps behind her head, skins her quickly from her neck down, and leaves the coat steaming on a hook. She slumps into the only space. But look: the skinner is half-swollen already at the thought of dressing her. Ankles tied under the table, strokes of the knife, lips bubbling.

At the other end of the couch sits the small nervous woman who always sits alone with a wine and cackles back to the barkeep. She feels more alone now and older.

Saturday, February 22, 2003


The kid, who watches us when we�re not looking, is playing with the toys of self-importance this morning. She spent a few minutes putting a capital letter at the top of each page in a blank book, then ages trying to think of people and numbers to put in it. She excitedly took possession of my old key chain, then returned to ask whether I had any keys I don�t need. And just now, she found an old identity badge from my job to hang about her neck.

I read, write, drink tea, and hope for no bells.

The cat lies in the sun.

Friday, February 21, 2003


I'm watching the old man who lives next door. He comes over the snow with a shovel and an old dog and scoops up a heap of bare soil left by the moles at night. He looks out at the horizon as if thinking of things more important, then walks away as casually as an old man can walk with a shovelful of pilfered molehill. Two minutes later, he and dog are back.

Are they working with the moles?

Ground Control

All is winter mist. Trees and grass are frost-furred. Puddles are frozen and cracked and refrozen. The old army building near the bus stop is a red brick castle with two round turrets and conical green roofs with ornate lightning rods. On one of the lightning rods, a crow sits and caws. Over him, other crows fly out of the mist and into the mist.

Thursday, February 20, 2003


This morning early, while the roads were empty and most people sleeping, the circus sneaked into town. Boxes of animals wanting out.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003


And I do see a boar when I go out alone in the morning with a cup of tea into the woods. A branch breaks. I leave my cup on the path. Circle. Try to tiptoe while running in boots in snow on an uneven trail. My hard toes and his hard toes now thumping together. Then we're just a few paces apart and running in parallel. The boar looks at least my weight and has a huge roll of back. He looks like this.

And then he's gone and the pit band plays ta da and I'm his lovely assistant with the skimpy clothes.

Oh. My tea. Where is my tea?

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


Just before I escape to work, I deliver coffee and a sweet roll to the woman, who is still lying in bed and smiling and mumbling. "I wish you could have seen me. Galloping so fast around the corner. He just took off." And out the door.

Monday, February 17, 2003


I nearly forgot this word.

To be without a feeling for art is no disaster. A person can live in peace without reading Proust or listening to Schubert. But the misomusist does not live in peace. He feels humiliated by the existence of something that is beyond him, and he hates it. There is a popular misomusy just as there is a popular anti-Semitism. The fascist and Communist regimes made use of it when they declared war on modern art. But there is an intellectual, sophisticated misomusy as well: it takes revenge on art by forcing it to a purpose beyond the aesthetic. The doctrine of engage art: art as an instrument of politics. The professors for whom a work of art is merely the retext for deploying a method (psychoanalytic, semiological, sociological, etc.). The apocalypse of art: the misomusists will themselves take on the making of art; thus will their historic vengeance be done.

Stolen from Kundera's The Art of the Novel.


The young bartender, owner's boyfriend, pulls at his new goatee and scans the newspaper ads. He is not here by choice this or any other afternoon.

The cook has no one to cook for here but four children at home. He watches a movie made for American TV and dubbed for Polish and laughs and wonders what will happen. I bet he doesn't smile like this at home.

The only customer flips through a stack of useless paper at the bar and watches them.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Psalm I Palm

I stole a Bible, maybe. What�s the protocol for using a Gideon�s* Bible? Can you just take it, like a mint on a pillow or a little bottle of shampoo? Or is it like stealing the towels? For in the middle of an infernal summer in some crummy hotel in some crummy US state that may have been Virginia just after dealing with cretins in Richmond who robbed us of 54 dollars and our patience and made us want to leave Virginia, just when I was feeling most proud, covetous, lustful, angry, gluttonous, envious, and slothful, just then I found a KJV in the bedside table. And I snatched it.

Only now am I getting around to reading it. Lines of Psalm 22 are very good poetry.

1: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2: O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3: But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4: Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5: They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6: But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7: All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying,
8: He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9: But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
10: I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
11: Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12: Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13: They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15: My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16: For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17: I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18: They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
19: But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20: Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21: Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22: I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23: Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24: For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25: My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26: The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27: All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28: For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations.
29: All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
30: A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31: They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

Speaking of poetry, please recommend something to me. Or look at the list to the right and tell me which of it not to buy.

* Is "Gideon's Bible" or "Gideons Bible" the proper way to describe a Bible left by The Gideons International in a hotel room? And now that I've confessed, will a team of Gideon's (or Gideons) Kneecappers come looking for me?

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Galax�as Kyklos, Via Lactea

At night I lie back on the snow and listen to the coins falling out of my pocket. And look up.

There�s Orion, hunter, my clutch of nameable winter stars, starting with glowing red Betelgeuse. The Pleiades, seven daughters of Atlas pursued by Orion. I see them by looking away. Cassiopeia, where Tycho�s Nova burst open back when Shakespeare was eight. Ursa Major, bear, dipper, wagon, pointer to Polaris, the North Star, in Ursa Minor. And only out here, away from the city, the mist of stars.

The kid comes out and lies on me, her grumbly but warmish couch in the snow. I show her the cloud that is no cloud and explain the Droga Mleczna, the Milky Way, billions of stars far, far away. She finds a fish and a little man, but no Pikachu.

Pushing her luck with the gods, she sees a falling star and makes a wish that has to be secret or it won�t come true. I discover the secret later, a drawing of a falling star and a written plea for a kitten that will love her and like to be picked up and petted. Bloody hell.

The next morning, the kid goes out and finds the change in my splodged angel.

Friday, February 14, 2003


Elbow to elbow around the kitchen table, we ate ram's belly soup, honeycombed flesh on our spoons. As I finished my bowl, ram was declared the best sort of sheep's stomach, so I bared my teeth and asked for seconds. Six Alsations ate from six pots on the kitchen floor. Tufts of dog hair kicked under my feet.

Through the glass door to the step outside, two dozen yellowhammers and sparrows picked up seeds thrown on the snowy concrete. I tried to catch one's eye, but they don't let on.

Thursday, February 13, 2003


Blood under the morning's snow. Smooth white ahead; bright blood in the tracks of my boots. I took the apple from my coat pocket and impaled it on a dead branch. A red ball hanging in the black and white trees.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003


A jung and freudened deer just now faster than I can type this shot over sunny snow and into the woods.


With the kid on a snowy trail through close pines, we see the tracks of cloven hooves in the snow. Snout marks. Tusk prints. We quietly recite a nursery rhyme that means, "The boar is wild, the boar is bad, the boar has very sharp tusks. Whoever runs into a boar in the woods quickly jumps into a tree." And as if we've conjured them, now the sound of heavy hooves running on both sides of us, just there in the trees, but invisible.

She whispers that her heart is pounding. She has giant eyes. What should we do? Jump into a tree? No, we charge through the trees because I don't have the sense of a cat and I want to see a boar. The kid is game for anything as long as she doesn't have to let go of my coat, so in we go. But boars are smarter than I am and they've left us standing in very still, very quiet trees. Where are they? Now I feel my own heart.

On the way back, quickly down the trail and sticking close together, we make up new words. "The boar is nice, the boar is good, the boar is in very good humor. Whoever runs into a boar in the woods invites him home to tea." The blast of wind and snow beyond the trees makes us laugh.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Dies Nefastus

If you're the sort who counts the seconds and forgets the years, it's too late: the milk is laid, the doors are sealed, and she has marched to the oven for the last time. Don't wake the women next door, and don't light a match.


Sunday, February 09, 2003


Oh dear. I�m back on my perch, a fish in water, listening to three girlies sing along to the radiator: �And I [hold and elaborate upon this note for about a quarter of an hour] will always love you [this one, too]�. Another of a million slight variations on the only song ever written, sung by three slight variations of a million local folk.

But deer. That�s what I�ve been thinking of for some days. Deer and hare, fox and boar, and horses in the hard cold, snow blowing across fields, across my face. I�m having a hard time looking at these hind-legged strutters with the big lungs.

A friend�s friend�s father has died. Eventual news of us all. But the bartender fingers his buttons, boring his hours out. I drag ink, waste paper. We don�t know what to do with these curls of hours. What would we do with eternity?

The girls who sang have paid their bill and the bartender has cleared away.