augury doggerel

Saturday, May 31, 2003


The trademark of this beer is a goat with a glass of beer. The glass is as big as the goat, or the goat is as small as the glass. The goat stands on his hind legs, embraces the glass, and pokes his long pointed tongue into the foam.

How does goat spit taste?

Snap, Go, Fling

A two-headed tortoise has been born in South Africa: "The tortoise is normal and both heads feed on leaves, grass and softened rabbit pellets."

Maybe you don't read Whitman. Maybe you do. Maybe your back legs say go and your front legs disagree and your heads are two small green bulbs looking at each other, one right eye into one left.

Here are three by the birthday boy, Walt Whitman, born the last day of May in 1819, the year the stethoscope was invented.

Song of Myself � 11

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten'd with the wet, it ran from their long hair,
Little streams pass'd all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass'd over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Night on the Prairies

Night on the prairies,
The supper is over, the fire on the ground burns low,
The wearied emigrants sleep, wrapt in their blankets;
I walk by myself�I stand and look at the stars, which I think now I never realized before.

Now I absorb immortality and peace,
I admire death and test propositions.

How plenteous! how spiritual! how resum�!
The same old man and soul�the same old aspirations, and the same content.
I was thinking the day most splendid till I saw what the not-day exhibited,
I was thinking this globe enough till there sprang out so noiseless around me myriads of other globes.

Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I will measure myself by them,
And now touch'd with the lives of other globes arrived as far along as those of the earth,
Or waiting to arrive, or pass'd on farther than those on the earth,
I henceforth no more ignore them than I ignore my own life,
Or the lives of the earth arrived as far as mine, or waiting to arrive.

O I see now that life cannot exhibit all to me, as the day cannot,
I see that I am to wait for what will be exhibited by death.

Friday, May 30, 2003


A mother with straw braids sprouted in counterfeit Pippi style drags her straight-haired girl along the walk. Mr Nilsson rattles her shopping.

Thursday, May 29, 2003


I notice now she�the loon with a flute of wine and another one coming�watches me back. I'm afraid. She looks at me and smiles. Next year I'll live with her and tell you, if she lets me, how the pigeon is king of secrets, the sparrow of sorrows, the cat of the realm of claw. Next year, if she ordains it, I will show you the dance of the falling stars.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


The kid now is communed, communal, little communist. ("No, don't say that. That's not what it means. He's joking. As always.") She and Jesus are just like that.

I have my own trinities, trim nighties, twice nightlies, try nicelies, not likelies, rood temerities. They try nought to get cross with me.

But I'll tell you another fairy story. This girl that walketh with me here is turn of bird. The priest who shares her cup should leave his lip unwashed and drive a truck.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003


Here and here need here.


I prose for my portrait, holding my ruddy head up over paper. Snails race the rims of my ears � listen � and a duck slaps green-headed and proud down the bar. The air is cooled by two storks unsettling on my shoulders for a cat plucking at my thighs.

Monday, May 26, 2003


From the wires where the tram rolls under the air, thick thick and blue. We're promised thunder. Wait.

And it's here.

Sunday, May 25, 2003


I'm watching out, ticking off this summer's girls going by, who don't like to waste a glance on old leer in the window. But they're pretty when I catch them not catching me, when they're playing boys down the street or crooking arm in arm. They impress the pavement.

Enough. I'm incanting rain.

Thursday, May 22, 2003


Early this morning a scrap metal man took his load to the junk man. He rides a bicycle with a two-wheeled cart in tow. Today, already loaded, he shot down the hill. But the sun was coming up, and three women and a field of dandelions looked the other way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


Red boilersuit, yellow lawnmower, green grass, gray crane, gray clouds, white clouds, blue sky, green trees, green grass, red boilersuit, yellow lawnmower.


The bar owner's moon-faced niece is in long white satin. She has white ribbons in her hair and she clops in shiny shoes. This party in the pub is just for her, but business is slow these days and the pub has to stay open for paying customers like me. She drifts over and stands at the foreigner's shoulder, not quite tall enough to see my papers on the bar, and acts out curiosity at what I write. I ask and she tells me her name and her age, both, it turns out, the same as our cat's. She's happy I look suddenly pleased, so she looks pleased for me. I do not scratch her behind the ears. Then she's off to old kisses at the door, the smell of cakes and snuffed candles and aunties wafting down the street.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003


A boy on a ten-speed is racing in the grass after two crows in silver vests. Crows go up to eleven.


Christopher Smart (1771) and John Clare (1864) were released today.

A fragment of a fragment of Smart snatched from Ray Davis:

LET PETER rejoice with the MOON FISH who keeps up the life in the waters by night.
Let Andrew rejoice with the Whale, who is array'd in beauteous blue and is a combination of bulk and activity.
Let James rejoice with the Skuttle-Fish, who foils his foe by the effusion of his ink.
Let John rejoice with Nautilus who spreads his sail and plies his oar, and the Lord is his pilot.
Let Philip rejoice with Boca, which is a fish that can speak.
Let Bartholomew rejoice with the Eel, who is pure in proportion to where he is found and how he is used.
Let Thomas rejoice with the Sword-Fish, whose aim is perpetual and strength insuperable.
Let Matthew rejoice with Uranoscopus, whose eyes are lifted up to God.
Let James the less, rejoice with the Haddock, who brought the piece of money for the Lord and Peter.
Let Jude bless with the Bream, who is of melancholy from his depth and serenity.
Let Simon rejoice with the Sprat, who is pure and innumerable.
Let Matthias rejoice with the Flying-Fish, who has a part with the birds, and is sublimity in his conceit.

And a copy of Clare stolen from the U of T.

I hid my love when young till I
Couldn't bear the buzzing of a fly;
I hid my love to my despite
Till I could not bear to look at light:
I dare not gaze upon her face
But left her memory in each place;
Where'er I saw a wild flower lie
I kissed and bade my love good-bye.

I met her in the greenest dells,
Where dewdrops pearl the wood bluebells;
The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eye,
The bee kissed and went singing by,
A sunbeam found a passage there,
A gold chain round her neck so fair;
As secret as the wild bee's song
She lay there all the summer long.

I hid my love in field and town
Till e'en the breeze would knock me down;
The bees seemed singing ballads o'er,
The fly's bass turned a lion's roar;
And even silence found a tongue,
To haunt me all the summer long;
The riddle nature could not prove
Was nothing else but secret love.

Monday, May 19, 2003


I went last night with Gerard Manley Hopkins to Amherst, Massachusetts, to see Emily Dickinson. We sat on a dark porch and listened to the night. When Hopkins leaned and whispered something, Dickinson laughed her head off. Then the flying cats landed.

Saturday, May 17, 2003


We watch two deer listening in a copse and not going through the long grass and over the old railway into the woods and not going back over the fields. I might go home early.

Friday, May 16, 2003


Two storks just circled on a thermal until they were long-legged wasps just under a cloud, then set off together in a high smooth glide.

Thursday, May 15, 2003


If the sky clears, I'll watch the earth roll over the moon tonight. The cat has eaten the dream catcher, feathers and rope, and I take elevators through stone while the woman mumbles and elbows. The cat runs and runs on a bellyful of people flying and couplings unmentionable. I'll take her up and see if she sees the moon go out.

Called Back

Emily Dickinson died this day in 1886, and somewhere in all her poems is a certain one I'm looking for.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003


We have lightning and rain then sun and rain again. I rub the water off my head and feel my skull through the bristles, water springing up from my fingers and spraying this paper.

I like the brown-burred madman outside in a discarded suit and wingtips. He's one foot in their door, conducting face-to-faces, joining remotes, taking minutes. He'll get back to them.

And a man gymnastic through the door to a good clutch at the bar with one beer more, upended in a motion and then swung out the door.

It's a soft evening for snails. They'll be out, one long lick each, prowling our groves. I'll accompany them.

Monday, May 12, 2003


Today is dangerous. It killed George Chapman (1634). It got Amy Lowell (1925) and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1944). John Masefield (1967) and Louis Zukofsky (1978) and Jean Dubuffet (1985) didn't outlast the day. We won't discuss James Connolly (1916) or the Maginot Line (1940).

But Edward Lear was born in Highgate on this day in 1812. Lear was a stockbroker's child, the last of a score, and raised by a sister. He was epileptic, melancholic, lonely, homosexual but not gay. He studied birds, painted fine watercolors, traveled widely. Old Foss was the name of his cat. But you know him for his nonsense.

The Pelican Chorus

King and Queen of the Pelicans we;
No other Birds so grand we see!
None but we have feet like fins!
With lovely leathery throats and chins!
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

We live on the Nile. The Nile we love.
By night we sleep on the cliffs above.
By day we fish, and at eve we stand
On long bare islands of yellow sand.
And when the sun sinks slowly down
And the great rock walls grow dark and brown,
Where the purple river rolls fast and dim
And the ivory Ibis starlike skim,
Wing to wing we dance around, -
Stamping our feet with a flumpy sound, -
Opening our mouths as Pelicans ought,
And this is the song we nightly snort:
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still.

Last year came out our Daughter, Dell;
And all the Birds received her well.
To do her honour, a feast we made
For every bird that can swim or wade.
Herons and Gulls, and Cormorants black,
Cranes, and Flamingoes with scarlet back,
Plovers and Storks, and Geese in clouds,
Swans and Dilberry Ducks in crowds.
Thousands of Birds in wondrous flight!
They ate and drank and danced all night,
And echoing back from the rocks you heard
Multitude-echoes from Bird and Bird, -
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

Yes, they came; and among the rest,
The king of the Cranes all grandly dressed.
Such a lovely tail! Its feathers float
Between the ends of his blue dress-coat;
With pea-green trowsers all so neat,
And a delicate frill to hide his feet, -
(For though no one speaks of it, everyone knows,
He has got no webs between his toes!)
As soon as he saw our Daughter Dell,
In violent love that Crane King fell, -
On seeing her waddling form so fair,
With a wreath of shrimps in her short white hair,
And before the end of the next long day,
Our Dell had given her heart away;
For the King of the Cranes had won that heart,
With a Crocodile's egg and a large fish-tart.
She vowed to marry the King of the Cranes,
Leaving the Nile for stranger plains;
And away they flew in a gathering crowd
Of endless birds in a lengthening cloud.
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

And far away in the twilight sky,
We heard them singing in a lessening cry, -
Farther and farther till out of sight,
And we stood alone in the silent night!
Often since, in the nights of June,
We sit on the sand and watch the moon; -
- She dwells by the streams of the Chankly Bore,
And we probably never shall see her more.
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!

Sunday, May 11, 2003


After noon, I go down a soft path through wet pines hearing only birds. Ghosts walk this way, deaf to their own steps, unnoticed by birds, with nothing to feel but a little rain through the needles.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Black In

Last night. Three girlies buy beer dyed red with raspberry syrup and served with bent straws bubbled over the lip. Ten rugby friends with shorn heads come in to be large and loud and to feed. Three women and a bicycle park behind me. Four separate men grip places along the bar.

Air conditioner, cash register, espresso grinder and blaster. Jackpot machine, stereo, two televisions. Neon beer signs, lights behind the bottles and over the bar and on the walls and the ceiling.

Somewhere in the basement, a fuse burns through. No light and, for a breath, no sound.

Then we oo and we ah at the dark and ourselves close together and listening to one another. Tongues tangle but dark makes us speak. Someone in the corner invents fire and the idea spreads from clan to clan. Faces hover. The girlies bow and slip straws into smiles. The rugby table has ten toothed moons. The women behind me could leave on one bike. Even here at the bar we look up and speak.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

What is to be done?

Gary Snyder was born on this May day in 1930, the year someone noticed Pluto, and he's still here. You could write him, wish him a happy birthday today, but maybe you won't because he's still at it, or maybe you will but he won't read it because he never opens his mail, doesn't even know he has an account, or maybe he does open his mail when he's not downloading pictures and you'll make him forget what he was just about to write, or maybe you'll remind him. I think I'll just read him. Or maybe I'll listen.

This just in (thanks, kilbot): Snyder reading Why I Take Good Care Of My Macintosh Computer. So maybe he would read your birthday email.

For Lew Welch In A Snowfall

Snowfall in March:
I sit in the white glow reading a thesis
About you. Your poems, your life.

The author's my student,
He even quotes me.

Forty years since we joked in a kitchen in Portland
Twenty since you disappeared.

All those years and their moments�
Crackling bacon, slamming car doors,
Poems tried out on friends,
Will be one more archive,
One more shaky text.

But life continues in the kitchen
Where we still laugh and cook,
Watching snow.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


This young woman is only just, if you count the years, only just, maybe seventeen but a big drip hanging from the tap, a great bud of belly and breast, smooth, smooth full face of her own blood. On the corner she's turning, first her back, then her face, in good cool air pouring down our street. We don't wonder these days whether boy or girl; she must know that little bit of what's coming. She lays back into it, dug into heels and hips pushed forward. Somewhere, testicles hang fondly.


I can't think. Too much summer just there, a quarter of an inch away, and the windows don't open and the air is filtered and ducted. This morning, a red doe back and forth, a black kite waiting in a tree, a brown hare across the railway, a yellow and black snail curled on the path, black and white cats in the long grass, a striped bee tapping at the glass, sun.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Delta Rhythm

Reading on the bed at noon, I try to stay awake. Strong sun through the window on the cat and the carpet. When I close my eyes, the cat is black on red squares. Then I can't open them. Don't sleep.

When I was alone in the toy aisle of a department store now long defunct, I took one experimental hop on a pogo stick and landed hard on the back of my head. The next morning I staggered and puked and staggered down the hall. All the way to the hospital, they made me sit up and speak and keep my eyes open. Don't sleep. At the end of visiting hours, my mother said she was just going down to the nurse's desk for a minute. She thought I'd nod off before I realized she wasn't coming back.

Out, out.

On the tram, two beefy brothers in shorts drink from bottles of beer. They sway in their seats. Then the slow spatter of one hunched and puking between his knees, puking a pink that spits back up again to his calves. At the next stop, the other leads him by the arm down the steps and away across the road towards the lot where the amusement park used to be. One face red, one face white, together a flag in a strong breeze.

A skinny old man with soft eyes gets on at the same stop. He has a decent suit and hat and a long nose with one very wet drip just about to fall from the end. But it doesn't.

On the sidewalk, a married pair, a pram, and a newer model of the woman, a younger sister. He laughs and trades shoves with the girl he married while the woman he lives with pushes the baby along. A girl going the other way modulates galumph into gazelle in two steps when she thinks I'm watching, but I'm only wondering.

I buy some old jazz, a five-piece combo in new 20-bit suits, and a Beowulf plain and glossed.

There's no television at home, so news at the pub always skewers me. I see a minute of Irak and, farther away, a land called Nowy Jork. There's no sound, but it's some sort of celebration. They must think it's over. Then the channel changes, dirt track motorcycle racing, and the sound is turned up, "We Will Rock You" on stadium loudspeakers.

A man who can't work doors with his one unbandaged hand comes eventually in to beg anything and gets a glass of water and an escort back through the door. He leans outside and nods. We could use a shave.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


Out in the country they're selling the flock, for the owner has just discovered, in her first year as svelte shepherdess, that she is allergic to sheep. And, unless this is misinformation from underworked storks on the line, she is pregnant by the Russian who strips shirtless and circles her horses and listens to no one but her.


I watched through train windows until they found an empty compartment. Now they're out with thirty shee-ee-ee-eep and eight horrrrses, or in with five German shepherds that can't but bark and two Russian blues that can't quite meow. One mare has been covered; another is still thinking about it. And, says the girl, there's a very small lamb in the fold. A pair of white storks is back from Africa and nesting at the top of the telephone pole just outside their bedroom window. I know this all through the phone, through wires to the pole where the storks listen in.