augury doggerel

Sunday, November 30, 2003


This was the day, in 1967, that Patrick Kavanagh died. Kavanagh quit school at 13 to be, with his father, a farmer and a cobbler. But Kavanagh also wrote poems, and when he'd had enough, he quit the farm and walked to Dublin and wrote more poems and drank a good bit and blathered himself into trouble and got lung cancer and got rid of it and found peace and married and died. He is buried where he was born, and is now a local industry.
He wrote:
There are two kinds of simplicity, the simplicity of going away and the simplicity of return. The last is the ultimate in sophistication. In the final simplicity we don't care whether we appear foolish or not. We talk of things that earlier would embarrass. We are satisfied with being ourselves, however small.

And he wrote 'Come Dance with Kitty Stobling':

No, no, no, I know I was not important as I moved
Through this colourful country, I was but a single
Item in the picture, the namer not the beloved.
O tedious man with whom no gods commingle.
Beauty, who has described beauty? Once upon a time
I had a myth that was a lie but it served:
Trees walking across the crests of hills and my rhyme
Cavorting on mile-high stilts and the unnerved
Crowds looking up with terror in their rational faces.
O dance with Kitty Stobling I outrageously
Cried out-of-sense to them, while their timorous paces
Stumbled behind Jove's page boy paging me.
I had a very pleasant journey, thank you sincerely
For giving me my madness back, or nearly.

Friday, November 28, 2003


William Blake, who was born today, was eaten alive and naked in his garden by his wife, by earth owner, by his god disguised as tiger. His was no natural religion. In India, you wear a human mask backwards to unnerve the crouching. In America, you incise at the base of the skull and explicate the flesh off in one clean motion. Between the two, William Blake takes his stripes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Per Diem

What this little cat thinks is all anyone needs to think: I'm warm, I'd safe, I'm fed, and someone softly strokes my fur and murmurs without alluding to the Incident of the Flying Claws.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


It's misting down like the edge of Niagara Falls (a place I know) and I've just come in. My head is newly shaven and wet.

I can feel, now that I'm in out of it and rubbing my soggy head, the scar where poor skinny Debbie hit me with a big rock (she liked me) in the sixth grade. She took it much worse than I did, though I played it up for the girls a bit when they came around to coddle me.

There's the scar on my lip where a German shepherd bit me during a game of crazy tackle in seventh or eighth grade. I stayed home by myself for a week and got Kraft Dinner orange on my bandage.

And now that I'm tallying, there's the tooth I chipped running away to skulk after I purposely (but not very hard, damn it!) hit my little brother with the tire of my bike. He screamed like a weasel whose dinner (chiefly small rodents, I read) has been snatched.

Lady was retired to an easy job guarding a construction site, where biting is recommended. My brother could do the tooth-chipping himself now if even I tried anything like that, so I suppose I won't. And Debbie, I'm told, is a tall, lovely blonde who could throw even bigger rocks if she wanted to, and men would line up for it.

And here I am (or here I was, until a few seconds ago) just lying here (there) thinking about these things, wishing peace on everyone and everything, when a black kitten flies out of the dark and lands on my face with claws like needles, only sharper.

But, Christ, three beautiful white swans flew out of the white fog just now, right past my window as I was writing to someone on the other side of the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2003


When he arrives, he's always already drunk on the cheap from somewhere else. Then his head begins to bob, and he slurs across the room at the only alien in the place, or the only reader; I'm not sure which bothers him more. I don't react, or I smile, though in bad seconds just now I thought how easily I could pull him down. But he has little to lose. A night in jail would be a night in jail. For the same fight, I could be jailed, fined, tried, deported, lost. All for a thin foreign skin. Instead, I take this moment to write his biography: slump. Now back to reading.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Mister air is here, the hiss, the lost channel. He says, and then the phizz of nothing worth it. He's hanging here now for a chance to suggest, as he says, to suggest something which he thinks is searching. He's thinking of something to say, but only to suggest, as he reminds. Then it comes; it's the weather, of course. Then something torrential: "So, how's it been?"

If I put down this pen, if I don't write this this, he will see that it's time to suggest, he might suggest, that this weather is a bit difficult. There is rain; the sun is hesitant, the mist. It's not Friday or he might suggest it's a fine thing to have Friday upon us. He has nothing in front of him but a beer and me and, three days out from us, Friday.

When this stops you will feel the lost channel engulf me. Mister if I'd just lit one cigarette, sipped an absinthe, fiddled a pen, relaced my shoes, whittled birds.


Three men dressed as nothing special stand and show their brass medallions and eye us now as ticket inspectors. This is when those who haven't punched a ticket feel fight or flight in their bellies.

But the man sitting across from me, with his knees almost touching mine, fears nothing. He smoothly produces a wallet with a shining thing inside, a silver badge. The man to my right then reaches into his jacket, finds another sort of badge, shows it to the inspector, and nods quietly to the man with the badge, who quietly nods back.

I feel a bit inadequate with my monthly pass showing through a window in a red plastic holder.

Monday, November 17, 2003


And it's dark.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Learning Curves

The kid learned how to play the guitar this morning. I don't mean that she practiced, but that yesterday she didn't know how to play a guitar at all, and this morning, after I showed her how to tune the thing and work out a few chords, she could play. She also learned how to jump a horse this afternoon, and tonight she practiced her half of the piano duet she'll play tomorrow.

I cleaned cat piss from one bed. Then cat shit from another. Mine. Just now. The kitten must die.

Friday, November 14, 2003


My awful ears are full of old smoochings, the corners of my eyes are dirty with the rubbings of noses into necks and talk of how they'll eat tonight. "Tonight you must prepare the chicken just like that. It's better. It's best. It's fine." He's Dutch, she's Polish, they speak a sort of English that runs out of words. He holds the scruff of her neck like love or a cat and pulls her face into his moustache and long white beard.

Meanwhile the animals have scattered.

Monday, November 10, 2003


Bwana the Malarial, of Porlock via Africa, is leaving this country that does not want him and returning via Porlock (and a week on a friend's couch because his wife will no longer have him) to Africa, this time to a job in Mbarara, Uganda, and, he hopes, to his African (Kenyan? I wasn't listening) girlfriend and a steady supply of mail-order Viagra. This is the clutter he leaves in the porches of my ear.

So he stands the place a round, and all is promise and free beer as he goes for his wallet and coat. But foreign barroom jabberers must operate under a valence system: just as he goes out, he meets a man coming in, and the stranger speaks an American variety of English. Bwana directs him to me, and he hovers now, but I hunch and I scrawl.

Sunday, November 09, 2003


The clouds were too thick to see the moon fade last night � there's still a fog this morning � but the secondary effects were interesting. I balanced eggs little-endian on our tabletop and watched them slowly rotate clockwise, then stop, then rotate counterclockwise. I filled a glass almost to the lip with water, then watched the water slide up and dribble over the edge. Then the cat levitated.

Saturday, November 08, 2003


This morning the kid showed me the exact steps of two dances they were taught at school, the waltz (pronounced valts) and the rap (pronounced rrahp). Her mother at that age was taught the rock and roll.

Friday, November 07, 2003


Stone fog tonight, blue flashing lights and noises cutting through all intersections. We wipe our windows to see a silver car balanced on a guardrail, somehow with no wheels on the ground. Three men in rubber suits and wet helmets wait quietly for something to tip or spark or explode.

Thursday, November 06, 2003


Their slumped friend falls off his stool and lies like a poisoning in the movies. They hoist the corpse from the floor and explain to the barman what doesn't need explaining. "But Bartek," they plead � the barman's name is Bart, Bartek in the local language � "but Bartek," but barman Bartek says finish your beer. They finish theirs and their friend's and heave together through the doors to the sidewalk. Then they stand. They lean. They wave. They stand. No taxi wants them and they can't walk. It takes them ages to dissipate.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


Am I tired of hearing people ask and answer their own questions when a simple statement would have sufficed? Yes, I am.

Does it bother me when people use this construction to covertly reframe a conversation while sounding as if they are simply interacting with and responding to the people who are supposed to be asking the questions? Yes, it does.

The next time I hear one of these constructions, am I likely to punch the speaker in the mouth? Even if the speaker's name is Rumsfeld? Probably not. Security is tight these days. But everyone should brush and floss regularly, take plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and keep the number of an all-night dentist handy. FAQ.

Sausage Factory

Downstairs at the company canteen I come in quietly, first customer, just as the woman making sandwiches drops half a roll. The roll rolls like a wheel wheels over to the cook. The cook stops cooking and picks up the roll, dusts it off with a hairy hand, and hands it back to her. Roll roll. Wheel wheel. Cook cook. Hand hand. I back out. But I'm hungry. I walk in, louder this time. "Good morning." I buy a couple of sandwiches.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003


It's a community chore, rebuilding the church between the woods and the graves. One welder's spark burned it down. Bells brought the engines and donations, and bells ring it back into service between the car wash and the abandoned railway, between the town and the farms, between the woods and the graves.

Monday, November 03, 2003


From left to right, yellow birds go together like someone running and pulling streamers behind and jumping the wall and gone. Each bird is a wave of small yellow bird and a corpuscle of the species. The waves are unsynchronized but flow in the same channel just above the grass, just above the blades of grass, and over the wall. I could watch again. Run again.

Saturday, November 01, 2003


The two-way street past the cemetery is switched one day of the year, on the morning of All Saints' Day, today, to a one-way street. The buses are packed. The average man is seventy years old and five and a half feet tall. The average woman is shorter and older. With big bags of flowers, with flowerpots and candles, with feet stuck into best shoes, with crutches and canes, they negotiate the bus steps. All get off at the same stop.