augury doggerel

Sunday, June 29, 2003


What's left of wee stuttering Jock Brown and his years on the railway but what I remember of what she remembered? Where's his wife Mem and her years in the jute mills? It's the old vanishing trick, a secret we pass down. If you'll turn your attention this way, ladies and gentlemen, Alexander and his lovely assistant Mnemosyne will reveal to you the Rawalpindi market, the crowd, an Indian boy stealing a bunch of bananas as big as himself, a bullwhip cracked, the river and circling crocodiles. All this and more, all the rum at sea and torpedoes and the hammock swinging, all Detroit by tarmac and frostlight, all Niagara in girders and wind, all the fireflies and waterfalls and glens, will appear here tonight, take form in this air we breathe now, and blink out.

Friday, June 27, 2003


I tried and failed to kill my father. His drugs weren't good enough. He woke angry and stayed angry, but he was sleeping, sleeping all day, when I kissed him goodbye.

He was a boy in colonial India, a sailor in the Royal Navy, patient husband, father of a scattered five, high-steel balancer. Now he's a stretch of thin on a bubbling oxygen machine. If he's not dead � no one has called � he clutches in his last hundred pounds and eyes the needle.

Thursday, June 26, 2003


Days running, we took our tea to the woods to watch trees and the stream. She went with a vaguely familiar man. I went with my mother. She told me she saw a face in the trees, big teeth. I couldn't see it, but it was always there, new to her each day, just across the stream. She asked each day, was I married, and was disappointed if I told her I was or glad if I told her I wasn't. She asked whether I had any family.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Flying 13 Friday. Maybe not back until the 25th.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I can't write anything good enough for my father, who hurts too much to tell. I can't write anything good enough for my mother, who is flesh in mist. If nothing here, I'm between air and home and air, before nothing is one-fifth mine.

The Thing

Why Antony loved Cleopatra:

ACT 2, SCENE V. Alexandria. CLEOPATRA's palace.


Give me some music; music, moody food
Of us that trade in love.

The music, ho!


Let it alone; let's to billiards: come, Charmian.

My arm is sore; best play with Mardian.

As well a woman with an eunuch play'd
As with a woman. Come, you'll play with me, sir?

As well as I can, madam.

And when good will is show'd, though't come
too short,
The actor may plead pardon. I'll none now:
Give me mine angle; we'll to the river: there,
My music playing far off, I will betray
Tawny-finn'd fishes; my bended hook shall pierce
Their slimy jaws; and, as I draw them up,
I'll think them every one an Antony,
And say 'Ah, ha! you're caught.'

'Twas merry when
You wager'd on your angling; when your diver
Did hang a salt-fish on his hook, which he
With fervency drew up.

That time,--O times!--
I laugh'd him out of patience; and that night
I laugh'd him into patience; and next morn,
Ere the ninth hour, I drunk him to his bed;
Then put my tires and mantles on him, whilst
I wore his sword Philippan.

That's music, billiards, fishing, practical jokes, laughing, drinking him to bed, two female attendants, a eunuch, cross-dressing, and going all night. Not to mention the poop was beaten gold.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Girls playing in a lot keep a ball in the air. For an hour, just the ball over stretched arms. Then I look up and they're gone.

Monday, June 09, 2003


A fire truck stops to pick up smokes, big red fire truck idling outside the shop, and men in rubber coats watch girls push ice cream past their lips. Thin boys, the kind a girl needs, eat ice cream on a step and clutch themselves in mock aching at ankle calf and hip.

Sunday, June 08, 2003


White fluff, seed pods, rising in the warm air, floating slowly up and around and away from two bearded men who stand like boys. The woman who watches after them leads them along. They walk looking up and watch the inversion of snow.

Saturday, June 07, 2003


Still too hot. I am eyes and fingers. The sun won't set.

Women slung on bikes soothe their thighs and coast on cricket noises. Kids with new teeth and no sweat scurry free from their minders. Bellied men in black socks and odd shorts and broad-bummed women who wear bright prints down to their knees roll warm loaves of infant.

Girls with arms crossed and backs packed can't go home. Boys are transparent or have legged it to the beach. 2 girls 2 young 2 B let out like that�they've changed somewhere secretly�swell and roll in red shorts. They must practice at home. No one walks like that but Bugs Bunny in drag.

And a crone slowly going, pushing ninety, coiling over no higher than a doorknob. In a clear plastic bag, she has salt and bread and a bottle of something strong.

Friday, June 06, 2003


A nun hops the bus. It's hot and she looks a bit rosy under the wimple, but comfortable. We get off at the same place and I walk near her for a block. Black suits her. I wonder if there are more like her at home.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Hot Dog

An electric wheelchair pulling a manual wheelchair jerks out across the wide intersection, bounces over the curbs. The woman in the back hangs on tight to the back of the electric chair, then thumps his shoulder when she gets a chance. The dachshund sitting in his lap keeps his nose in the wind and plays engineer. He has all the legs they've got.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003


At night the woman has torn off the sheets and taken all the sleep in the room. An uninvented nightingale sits in a tree outside and teaches the car alarms tricks, then is quiet, probably mugged by drowsy pigeons. I roll, press into the bed, listen into my ear. Thrum thrum thrum thrum, and the mattress creaks when my lungs fill. I oar my Mediterranean.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Past Recall

Thomas Hardy, who was born this day in 1840, is a game of whist and Ouija. He remembered himself young, though from a safe distance, and as her observer, and whether or no it was true. He never loved his first wife more than when she had died and he had married a second, and he never loved that first as much as he loved the places she might have been and the air that remained.

Four from Hardy:

She, to Him

When you shall see me in the toils of Time,
My lauded beauties carried off from me,
My eyes no longer stars as in their prime,
My name forgot of Maidens Fair and Free;

When, in your being, heart concedes to mind,
And judgment, though you scarce its process know,
Recalls the excellencies I once enshrined,
And you are irked that they have withered so:

Remembering mine the loss is, not the blame,
That Sportsman Time but rears his brood to kill,
Knowing me in my soul the very same�
One who would die to spare you touch of ill!�
Will you not grant to old affection's claim
The hand of friendship down Life's sunless hill?

In Time of "The Breaking of Nations"

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War's annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

[Watch your step on enray and enarch, and don't get too close to her aureate nimb. Poetry is a dangerous business.]

Thoughts of Phena
At News of Her Death

Not a line of her writing have I,
Not a thread of her hair,
No mark of her late time as dame in her dwelling, whereby
I may picture her there;
And in vain do I urge my unsight
To conceive my lost prize
At her close, whom I knew when her dreams were upbrimming with light,
And with laughter her eyes.

What scenes spread around her last days,
Sad, shining, or dim?
Did her gifts and compassions enray and enarch her sweet ways
With an aureate nimb?
Or did life-light decline from her years,
And mischances control
Her full day-star; unease, or regret, or forebodings, or fears
Disennoble her soul?

Thus I do but the phantom retain
Of the maiden of yore
As my relic; yet haply the best of her�fined in my brain
It may be the more
That no line of her writing have I,
Nor a thread of her hair,
No mark of her late time as dame in her dwelling, whereby
I may picture her there.

Under the Waterfall

'Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from its thickening shroud of gray.
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart,
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock,
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks.'

'And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?'

'Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though where precisely none has ever known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalized,
Is a drinking-glass:
For, down that pass
My lover and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass we used, and the cascade's rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of chine-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.

'By night, by day, when it shines or lours,
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turns therefrom sipped lovers' wine.'

Sunday, June 01, 2003


Days like this I can do nothing but look at women. Summer shirts and bras engineer for dogs like me. Summer dresses lift and lower our eyes. Be kind, woman with summer dress; I still remember an unknown woman rounding hips from a summer gone. She smiled and let me pass not to find me starving at her gate. I know the corner when I go by. A summer dress is nothing worn lightly.