augury doggerel

Saturday, January 25, 2003


I was paging through some Arthur Schopenhauer, a brilliant, cantankerous, whoring son of this city. He wrote:

The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. � A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.

Of course, Schopenhauer would say that; he couldn�t give his books away. Still, the idea is sound, especially in this medium. On vacation, I will take a few books of poems and essays that never made much commotion. But probably no Schopenhauer. For life is short.

Friday, January 24, 2003


One swan on the pond tonight, lowering her neck into the dark. I�m done with work. Just waiting. I�m going to snow in the country.

Thursday, January 23, 2003


I am thinking of poor Philip Larkin, the head of the local university library, secretly shopping for porn in Hull, looking through thick specs for something girlie and naughty enough. And now he is spanked for it. Larkin:


Day by day your estimation clocks up
Who deserves a smile and who a frown,
And girls you have to tell to pull their socks up
Are those whose pants you�d most like to pull down.

A lesser man (me, for example) might have tried to work in 'frocks up' and spoiled it. Or maybe he was just preoccupied after the fourth line.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Living Room

Home to pierogi and pickled beets and listening at the piano to Happy Train, something the kid has come up with. The Christmas tree is still up and drinking. Invisible spiders decorate between the pine bristles and soft green tufts grow from the tips of branches. The cat rolls her back on Jungle Animals Illustrated. The kid�s left hand rumbles the upright and her right hand spreads long open chords. She turns her face to me as each chord rings and smiles like a midget saloon entertainer looking for tips.

Monday, January 20, 2003


The kid wore a borrowed fairy costume to the school Carnival party today. They learned the ketchup dance, which she showed me to the wrong music tonight. Still in her fairy costume, she magically turned on the Christmas tree lights and turned off the lamp, then read her catechism to me in a stage-solemn voice punctuated with hiccups. I, Caliban, had to be prompted for the amens and such. Soon she�ll wear another borrowed costume, a white dress for a week of parading about as an official Christian. But tonight before bedtime she ran on all fours and growled.


Between the trees outside the city there�s still Christmas snow, but this wide lawn is green again, and pocked. The moles all winter have wormed and dewormed the wriggly gut under the grass and built high mudcastle puddings. They�re always there, the moles underground, pink hands pulling at the roots.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Boys� Night Out

Just me and the bartender and, in a corner, a gay couple, one of whom sings along to radio pop: "no, I can�t stop lovin� you." I have met one of them before. A year ago, when he was drunk and sad and moon-eyed and confessional and would not let me alone to read, I told him to say the hell with everything, to go to Warsaw and get his man. Sure, it sounds as if I was being the champion of love, but I was thinking, go to Warsaw tonight. Now. So here they are, and good for them, but he�s crooning �words are very unnecessary� while I drink a fourth damned tea and try to think straight.

Friday, January 17, 2003


I am outnumbered. Something has crept into me at night, hunkered, bred.

I always smile when the woman tells me a cat will sleep on the sick, curl on the spot and share the disease away. But the cat in collusion has given up her place under the heater. She waits every night now for the light to go out, then pounces and she's on me. Her three good feet hobble in the dark over me, and then I'm the nest.


Work and illness and indecisive weather. The worst thing is nothing.

But the moon is almost full.

Monday, January 13, 2003


We saw Seamus Heaney in our pub long ago. He worked up the street and so did we. He leaned back on a corner bench, one leg over the other, and sipped a pint. He looked into a small hardcover whose title could not be read. He may have smoked a pipe, but now that piece of the picture is smudged. Maybe someone else smoked a pipe. We were careful, let him graze, but he might have felt the crook of a neck or caught a quick face, or maybe he had just had enough. When I came out of the bog, his corner was empty and I was left with two women and a newspaper.

Sunday, January 12, 2003


While the woman and the kid were tormenting horses today, I took the tram downtown for a look around on a slushy superzero afternoon.

First too many policemen walking and looking. Then Red Cross rescue dogs on leashes. Hmm. But then amplified music and people with red paper hearts stuck to their coats, teenagers with money cans walking around asking everyone without a heart to contribute and get a heart. I was there, by chance, on the day of the annual national telethon for children�s hospitals, and I had come upon the local portion of the show. Television cameras and spotlights scanned the crowd. If we had a television at home, I might have caught myself standing in slush on national TV.

(Why did the kid come in just now, hug me, and slip out? Something sneaky is going on.)

The action was in the town square on a temporary stage next to the statue of Neptune, our naked local god. A local girl in a big fluffy coat sang slick cover pop to recorded music. An Elvis impersonator had a convincing leather suit. Four young guys (I am too ancient to name them) who seemed to be playing their own songs pleased the girls near the stage. Down at the canal, almost out of speaker range, in a different patch of slush, a navy band played a steady �Hold That Tiger� or whatever it�s called.

When I got home, I stuck my heart to the piano, where the kid is now practicing under the woman�s guidance. They�re pretty good, too.


Even in winter, the ice cream truck drives up streets looking for children, the driver trying to make back Christmas in January. Seven notes rising you remember from summer coming over the trees and across the snow. This kid with frozen droplets in her lashes would drop her sled and run to him if she could see him, but the hill is here and the ice cream man is only seven notes rising over the trees and across the snow.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

High Horse

The woman fell off her horse and got right back on. I might have tried something more elliptical and fallen on my face, but she did just the reverse.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003


Two girls thumbing SMS under the table after tapping themselves out. Each vowel means something to them they won't say, no key for hope. He'll come, I hear. Then thumbs again, thumbs again, and looking.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003


Tonight the snow cracks like wood under my boots. There's no sneaking up on this quiet. But stand and the snow sneaks up. No birds, just the moon peeled over and a planet I can't name and trees around the edge. I'm the only dumb animal left standing in the middle of tonight.

Trickle Up

The bartender is a bastard to his cook in front of the customers. The cook is pink, undone. The bartender is already licking spit from a hundred soups.

Monday, January 06, 2003


At the pub, Benny Hill, no dubbing needed, running across English landscape in pursuit of a tall pair of tits and trailed by a little bald man and various others. You may be familiar with the music. Then the equivalent of Poland�s Funniest Home Videos: babies making faces, women lewd and foolish at weddings, men leaping fat-bellied to humiliation, dogs taking up the intellectual slack. And then to Hollywood, a detective and romance: dick cheese.

Sunday, January 05, 2003


The kid tried a hard hill this morning, a long drop through the trees, then a ramp and flying girl and bam on bum, almost, almost crying, but on to another hill.

Then she went facedown and screaming on her skinny belly. I plucked icicle drops from her eyelashes and gave her my big gloves (hers were ice), then woohooed her down again.

There�s a spot in the dark evergreens where we still talk about the witch of the woods. We listened to her today, coughing and knocking and coming through the trees.

Then we watched boys snowboard and a man ski, and she wrote her next Christmas list in her head. And home, and off with her mother to horses.

She�s the beast of the morning, the beast of the wood, just a year or two from telling. Then watch.

Horse Play

The woman: I have to take a bottle of vodka to the stable.

Me: Hm?

The woman: Because the horse fell on me.

Me: It�s for the horse?

The woman: The owner, I suppose. They said you always do that when a horse falls on someone. I�ll just take a small bottle.

Me: And how�s your finger now?

The woman: It�s fine now. No swelling. They said the horse has had all its shots. He never bit me before. He was just jealous.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Hardy Har

There are stories about how Thomas Hardy lost his heart for the last time. This is a good version:
According to Frank Smyth, the heart was removed while the corpse was still in the house and wrapped in a tea towel, then placed in a biscuit tin next to the body, awaiting the undertakers arrival the next day. When the undertaker arrived to collect the heart for burial all he found were a few gristly scraps of heart and a fat and contented cat! As it was his duty to bury Mr Hardy's heart in the village graveyard, he killed the cat and placed it inside the biscuit tin and then carried on as if nothing had happened.

Here's Hardy:

Snow in the Suburbs

Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward, when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.

A sparrow enters the tree,
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eyes,
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.

The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.

Thursday, January 02, 2003


The vet gave the kid a toy, a small football stuffed with catnip, for our limping cat. Brand name: Gimpet.

And the fox is back just now, just outside this window, furring through the snow, hungry enough to dare a daylight run on the neighbor's chickens.