augury doggerel

Sunday, August 31, 2003


Under the Green Gate down near the canal I wait for no rain and listen to an old man play accordion for coins. This gate used to have bars lowered at night to keep out sailors. Now we all go through. Here are tourists walking behind a local woman yelping accented German and holding a closed umbrella over her head as a sign to them. I follow them to the statue of Neptune spitting water from lions. We're all strange beasts on good worn stones.

Saturday, August 30, 2003


In the woods this afternoon, two hours in soft rain, I saw just two others, each mushrooming alone in the quiet. One, an old woman, lit a pipe. I stood on the path and smelled it while she moved through the trees.

Thursday, August 28, 2003


A girl at the pub sits next to me, another forward blond, maybe four years old, and takes my paper and pen and draws me. I think those fingers are mine. She says the fuzz on the chin is definitely me. But the bloody radio makes me cry, so I lift her from her stool, thumbs under oxters, and get her back to her mother in time. It's a lucky thing, this evasive cold.

Monday, August 25, 2003


I had a fever this weekend. My lungs bubbled. Sometimes I shivered and sometimes my flannel pajamas soaked through with sweat. No one else was home all weekend and the curtains were closed. It was dark and quiet and I had plenty of time to think, if I'd been able to think.

I tried to remember being a baby, but all I know about baby me is what I've been told. Only hearsay. One witness is dead and the other doesn't remember that baby at all now. But these things sound likely.

One thing they told me was that my word for cow was 'tee-too'. Maybe I heard 'tee-too' when someone said 'see the coo', which is just what Scottish parents would say to a baby if a cow appeared. And I'm sure cows appeared. Baby books are full of cows. We didn't live far from real cows. I would have seen cows and heard 'see the coo'. And somehow, maybe just once, I got the word wrong and said 'tee-too' and never heard the end of it.

The other thing they told me is that I once had to have my stomach pumped. I found a bucketful of nappies soaking in bleach. When my mother came in, I was sucking the bleach from a nappy. I doubt I swallowed enough to bother about, but she whipped me off to the hospital. She said I was bright, bright red. Red and screaming. It was the stomach pump that bothered me, not the bleach.

And that's it. Likely things, but not enough to hang a story on.

Friday, August 22, 2003


A book I liked when I was young began, "Once upon a time there were Five Chinese Brothers and they all looked exactly alike." One could hold and hold his breath, and so could not be smothered. I think one had longs legs, and so could not be drowned. Maybe one could not be burned or bothered or something. I don't remember.

But one of the brothers could swallow the sea. He drank it all away, until his head was huge and the sea was gone and the secrets at the bottom were revealed. While this brother stood on the shore with a bursting face, a boy ran out on the exposed seabed to gather lost treasure. But the brother who could swallow the sea couldn't hold it forever, and when he spat it all back the boy was drowned. For this, the brother was condemned to die.

I'm both of them, the boy on the shore and the boy on the seabed.

Thursday, August 21, 2003


At a table behind me a girl in low-slung blue, done for the night, pushes tits at all comers. She's outdone her moonish friend, though the friend, the one with the eyes, will attract a better clutch. Between them the tide rises. Both are toothing at the skins of their underlips and chuckling.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003


The grass had grown over where they demolished the houses outside town. Now, as if to fulfill a curse on the place, the land itself is being peeled off and rolled away. We will have an intersection here the size of a village, twin bridges spanning the banks of the mighty ring road, a centrifuge pulsing cars through sluiceways.

There was a girl here I remember picking fruit from a tree. A ladder under a tree. The girl climbing up into the branches. A giant yellow claw is parked near the trees she fruited.

A corner in town where another girl lived in another vanished home is a flower garden now.

Rudyard Kipling, 'The Way Through the Woods':

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate.
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods . . . .
But there is no road through the woods.

Monday, August 18, 2003


As usual, and especially at this time of year, Andrew Marvell is dead. But that doesn't mean you have to stop reading him. Who still writing is as good as Marvell?

Andrew Marvell, 'Bermudas':

Where the remote Bermudas ride
In th' ocean's bosom unespied,
From a small boat, that rowed along,
The list'ning winds received this song.
"What should we do but sing His praise
That led us through the wat'ry maze,
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own?
Where He the huge sea-monsters wracks,
That lift the deep upon their backs.
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storms, and prelate's rage.
He gave us this eternal spring,
Which here enamels everything;
And sends the fowls to us in care,
On daily visits through the air.
He hangs in shades the orange bright
Like golden lamps in a green night;
And does in the pomegranates close
Jewels more rich than Ormus shows.
He makes the figs our mouths to meet,
And throws the melons at our feet;
But apples plants of such a price,
No tree could ever bear them twice.
With cedars chosen by His hand,
From Lebanon, He stores the land;
And makes the hollow seas, that roar,
Proclaim the ambergris on shore.
He cast (of which we rather boast)
The Gospel's pearl upon our coast;
And in these rocks for us did frame
A temple, where to sound His name.
Oh let our voice His praise exalt,
Till it arrive at Heaven's vault:
Which thence (perhaps) rebounding, may
Echo beyond the Mexique Bay!"
Thus sung they, in the English boat,
An holy and a cheerful note;
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

And the Tiger

In the rain after work, last evening's whore back about in a thin summer dress, red and white flowers, fine breasts in wet cotton, shining face, nothing hard but nipples and heels. She's the only one laughing on this street. A windfall for window-shoppers. I look away and look back and she's gone. She must have taken one of these doors.

Saturday, August 16, 2003


There's a small farmhouse across the road. Behind that house, with no direct access to the road, there's a smaller house, just a brick shed converted for a married child. I've watched the young woman of the house behind the house just stand in the doorway.

Charlotte Mew, 'The Farmer's Bride':

Three Summers since I chose a maid,
Too young maybe - but more's to do
    At harvest-time than bide and woo.
    When us was wed she turned afraid
Of love and me and all things human;
Like the shut of a winter's day.
Her smile went out, and 'twasn't a woman--
    More like a little, frightened fay.
    One night, in the Fall, she runned away.

'Out 'mong the sheep, her be,' they said,
'Should properly have been abed;
    But sure enough she wasn't there
    Lying awake with her wide brown stare.
So over seven-acre field and up-along across the down
We chased her, flying like a hare
Before our lanterns. To Church-Town
All in a shiver and a scare
    We caught her, fetched her home at last
    And turned the key upon her, fast.

She does the work about the house
As well as most, but like a mouse:
    Happy enough to chat and play
    With birds and rabbits and such as they,
So long as men-folk stay away.
"Not near, not near!" her eyes beseech
When one of us comes within reach.
The women say that beasts in stall
    Look round like children at her call.
    I've hardly heard her speak at all.

Shy as a leveret, swift as he,
Straight and slight as a young larch tree,
Sweet as the first wild violets, she,
To her wild self. But what to me?

The short days shorten and the oaks are brown,
The blue smoke rises to the low gray sky,
    One leaf in the still air falls slowly down,
    A magpie's spotted feathers lie
On the black earth spread white with rime,
The berries redden up to Christmas-time.
What's Christmas-time without there be
    Some other in the house than we!

    She sleeps up in the attic there
    Alone, poor maid. 'Tis but a stair
  Betwixt us. Oh, my God! - the down,
  The soft young down of her; the brown,
The brown of her - her eyes, her hair, her hair!

Friday, August 15, 2003


Now they're home from horses, in from the pastures, combed and brushed and washed and given fresh bedding and feed. I smell of perfume and cream and am led away. The cat hunches the corridor until we sleep, then hops up and pushes us apart.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003


A wittle bird on a bwanch. I'll onwy be a moment. Avert youw eyes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003


At the pub, two come in and take a corner. There is too much of her for her skirt and tube top, too much coil and marl on her head. While he watches up into motorcycle races in the corner, she is hiking and climbing, adjusting straps and gear. When they bring her a fruit cup, she scoops as if she hasn't eaten today. A small spoon and big mouth work hard together, and hair falls about her face as she leans into it. Motorcycles whine round the dirt track.

Later. Another corner, another pair, but shameless loud voices, broken glass collected, drink prices talked. I angle round in the mirror and see a woman dressed for street work, the old look of unsprung dancer, addressing a man in the third person but applying first-person hands. The barman is slow to serve them but he doesn't remove them. She knows the line to walk and he knows she'd cost more embarrassment and glass ejected than tolerated. When she comes to fix herself in the mirror hanging over me, she looks at my shopping and asks who the Friskies are for. I say they're for me and she growls, calls me tiger, and strokes my back as she turns for her corner.

I may try the Parrot tomorrow.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Home Sign

Deaf people at the bus stop at the end of the day look much more interesting and interested than our rows of dumb folk on the bus. The deaf nation has a waist-up dance for each conversation. I am spoiled with birdsong and thunder, but there is a physical consonance we miss with our hidden tongues and larynges. We say tarantula; their hands tarantella.

Sunday, August 10, 2003


Storks are circling up. I've seen, at last, three ducks going round the little pond. And red dragonflies are back about the grass. I'll go listen to things before they're gone.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Summer's Pace

Happy birthday to Philip Larkin, one of those old-type natural fouled-up guys.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Reading Room

In this chair I can't see the women but feel the air from the door behind me. A tattooed arm shakes my hand � his hand is soft and slimy, maybe soapy, but maybe he washes. I'm trying to read printed poems typed by a professional; he's bright and they must be good or why would they pay him to teach how to write poems? Some of them seem like my blog entries. But there are no women. In this chair I can't see the women but feel the air from the door behind me. There are children on the step, might be boys or girls but for pinking and bluing. But tell me about men, like the warm waft of sweat I've just inhaled from this man to my right. He huffs my lungs with a smell you go home to. You'd like his moustache and unsilly face. He rides horses, early gray and early smile. But there are no women.


First there was the dwarf. Then, two days ago, the black man on the bus. To you, cosmopolite, he might be a typical man in a typical business suit, but he was the first black man I'd seen here in ages, maybe the first this year. And now a pair of identical middle-aged white men walking abreast in identical synthetic shirts and slacks, the first adult twins I can remember seeing here ever. It could all mean nothing. But maybe they're messengers, the dwarf construction worker, the black businessman, the twins of synthesis. Harbingers out harbinging, precursing the cursors. A dumb show for a simple audience.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Alter Mitty

Our rude wooden cart grumbled along the narrow road up through the forest. Across from me sat a beautiful woman wearing nothing above her waist but flowers and a vague smile. I knew she was chewing the leaves of a hallucinogenic plant that grows only in this forest. I knew she and I would be married that evening. I knew that to refuse would mean death for us both. I did not know her name or where we were going or whether I would ever return.

When the bus swung round the corner this morning, I looked up from the woman chewing gum and reading the National Geographic, noticed it was my stop, and jumped off just in time.

It's still just the cat and me at home.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003


In the LRB:

"Coleridge wrote verse from perhaps as early as 1782, when he was ten, until 1834, when he died. What Mays calls sardonically 'the half-dozen or even two dozen best-known poems' occur mainly within the two years 1797 and 1798. And these poems cover not much more than fifty pages out of 1100."

Hot girl-on-girl action from Christabel:

Beneath the lamp the lady bowed,
And slowly rolled her eyes around ;
Then drawing in her breath aloud,
Like one that shuddered, she unbound
The cincture from beneath her breast :
Her silken robe, and inner vest,
Dropt to her feet, and full in view,
Behold ! her bosom, and half her side-- --
A sight to dream of, not to tell !
O shield her ! shield sweet Christabel !

Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs ;
Ah ! what a stricken look was hers !
Deep from within she seems half-way
To lift some weight with sick assay,
And eyes the maid and seeks delay ;
Then suddenly as one defied
Collects herself in scorn and pride,
And lay down by the Maiden's side !--
And in her arms the maid she took...


I am, a week, a bachelor again, a cat and me, a granny coming in to water plants. The woman and the girl ride horses in the country, city matters all left behind them. I unphone my calls: where are my pants? what is my sister's number?

Tuesday, August 05, 2003


Here's a poem by Tim McPeek of Buffalo, New York. (Thanks, Brian.)

Eulogy For My Manual Typewriter


Monday, August 04, 2003


The kid and I set up tent in the grass this Sunday morning. I moved a snail and a spider, she pounded stakes with a wrench (where's the hammer?), and we settled, she into books and crayons, I into grass under a bush with snails and tea. I brought a slice of tomato on a saucer for my slick friends but they had no appetite today. Then a spider, a spider on Hollywood legs, dropped in and buried her face in the tomato flesh, rubbed her face left and right in it, walked away and came back two more times, an artist at someone else's opening. The biggest snail, cool and the size of a thumb, slipped down my own warm thumb and crossed my palm with silver.

But the kid was hot in her tent and thinking of spiders, so we went to the woods, walked over our sledding hills, remembered screaming down winter. While we stood and listened, squirrels dropped nuts through the leaves, slip slip bump, some freshly split and half-eaten. There's one in my pocket. In the sun, over a slope of white yarrow, hundreds of dragonflies (the kid said 49) stopped and started us, sured in the air with big shadows. At least a thousand dragonflies and this exacting girl.

Saturday, August 02, 2003


If I died just now? Or didn't? It's a fine thing.

I'll save snails.


This morning on the bus, a dwarf. A dwarf beggar has worked the train station downtown for years, but the man this morning was part of the average world, a blue-collar worker � lunch box, hat, boots, and a real blue collar � off to a job site. At his stop, he got off first and kicked through grass and grasshoppers to a fence, where he looked left, looked right, shrugged his zipper down, and pissed. Small bladder, I suppose.

Friday, August 01, 2003


My legs are wet from wandering in the long grass this morning. Snails all along the track, each on the shining path. Camouflaged spiders setting tightropes and trip wires and nets across the path. A blue damselfly hovers up from the chamomile, white and yellow, green.