augury doggerel

Sunday, February 29, 2004


A man in a chopper mustache says nothing but sits and points to the Guinness tap, which is good enough for service. Then he orders the sheep gut soup and sucks where teeth were.

Saturday, February 28, 2004


She wants few things but she wants them and you cannot hide them well enough. A light flicks on and off in a dark room, something crackles just once, and sweets have vanished before I can move.

Her cat warms his balls on a chair at the heater and watches the corner for any movement. I pretend up to him, hip to hip now, to speculate.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


When I come home, the kid is listening to Miles Davis playing "Summertime" on repeat as she builds a train from cartons. The woman needs her back scratched. I'm not allowed to eat anything good, but I've got a package of books from Austria. The song is still playing when it's bedtime.

And her ma is good-looking.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


Edna St. Vincent Millay was born this day in 1892 in Rockland, Maine, and grew up poor but smart and ambitious in an all-female household. Between the ages of 12 and 18, Millay published 20 pieces in the children's magazine St. Nicholas, according to E.B. White, who was another childhood St. Nicholas contributor. In 1912, Millay was 20, her poem 'Renascence' was a surprise success, and a benefactor arranged for Millay to attend Vassar. And after Vassar, she took Greenwich Village.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends�
It gives a lovely light!

Millay wrote and performed and, as Edmund Wilson writes, she fascinated. One man she fascinated (she fascinated women, too) was Wilson, who called her "one of the only poets writing in English in our time [the first half of the 20th century] who have attained to anything like the stature of great literary figures in an age in which prose has predominated."

But Wilson had chased her, loved her, proposed to her, and was writing about her soon after her death a long time ago. Millay is now far, far out of fashion. Even the name Edna has grown old-fashioned and ugly without changing. She is not likely to be allowed back into fashion except (and you get the feeling the poet would not have liked this) for reasons unrelated to her poetry. Still, no one will know if you sneak out and read her a little on her birthday.

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Saturday, February 21, 2004


Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote 'Work Without Hope' on this day in 1825, in the long stretch of his final years.

Work Without Hope

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair�
The bees are stirring�birds are on the wing�
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


The kid has declared herself nudist (she's seen a sign for a beach). This could save a bit on school clothes.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Heart-Shaped Box

What's this some old cassettes I dug out today and listened to them all over this home sang songs to myself I still half know when the woman came home I was listening to the noise of when we met she liked that the light was bad and we were smooth skinny strangers.


Saturday, February 14, 2004


The English project for the third grade is to sing in this strange tongue for everyone in school. Sensible children form groups and sing nursery rhymes. The kid, though, chooses a radio hit and sings solo with an instrumental recording. And choreography. She shades her eyes as if watching for a train to an unknown destination, then holds up a prop one-way ticket to a madman's situation. But boys, who are simple, fall for her air guitar.

Friday, February 13, 2004


My doctor has me on a diet meant to make me linger. She says we all grow older. I notice her hair is a different color this week and I mention it to her. She smiles and says it's like her real color.

At home, I listen to George Gershwin, who died of a brain tumor at 38, and I read Somerset Maugham, who died of being 91 and Somerset Maugham, and I look at what's on my plate.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004


She's clipping nails, then cracking nuts.

Monday, February 09, 2004


Three women hike from the train station with heavy packs, a mother behind two sweating daughters who will no longer listen to arguments against the cost of taxis. I can see their knackers from here.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


Speaking of dogs missing legs, there was a two-legged dog somewhere, maybe in a freak museum, maybe Canada. It's been years. Someone built a wheeled harness to replace the dog's missing back legs. Or missing front legs. What I remember is that it looked like one of those loud ankle-menacing dogs. And now it had rattling wheels. Maybe it was born that way, two-legged and barking. Or maybe someone sat in a car, turned the ignition, and drove.

But now even a dog with no legs would control its own electric cart. With the slightest swell of a brain wave, it would surge forward and bang into ankles. A dog with Napoleon syndrome and no bark might need only to imagine a yap and a loudspeaker bigger than the dog would YAP to crack windows. A wheeled doggy might pull a catapult cart behind and launch half-digested Poochie-Woochie Yum-Yum biscuits into the next street.

At least, that's what I told a small cat who is teething and needs to keep his mind off things. He likes to have his gums massaged, too.


She's young and innocent, thinking about what her mother would say about her being with this stranger. She struggles to escape, but he doesn't let her go. She knows that he has her where no one would ever hear her scream. And, of course, it turns out she wants it � 'no' really does means 'yes' -- and, after he has forced himself on her, she's begging for more. Singing for it.

Do It Again (Gershwin and DeSylva, 1922):

Tell me, tell me, what did you do to me?
I just got a thrill that was new to me,
when your two lips were pressed to mine.

When you held me, I wasn't snuggling.
You should know I really was struggling.
I�ve only met you, and I shouldn't let you, but...

Oh, do it again.
I may say, "no, no, no, no, no,"
But do it again.

My lips just ache
to have you take
the kiss that's waiting for you.
You know if you do,
you won't regret it.
Come and get it.

Oh, no one is near.
I may cry, "oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,"
But no one will hear.

My mom will scold me
'cause she told me
that it's naughty, but then...
Oh, do it again!
Please do it again!

One CD, over and over, all month.

Saturday, February 07, 2004


A rainy Saturday morning. Saint-Sa�ns and Prokofiev making sound-tracks for the kid while she bottle-feeds a stuffed crocodile. Toast and jam and tea for us. Jellied turkey and duck for the cats. 3-D pictures of dinosaurs if you can get the specs on your head. The kitten dives under the rug like a mole.

When we've finished and scattered to separate rooms, the bell rings. A woman is selling eggs door to door, working stairwells. She has 300 eggs cradled in her arms.

Friday, February 06, 2004

If You Can Get It

I love Maxine Sullivan for just two minutes and eighteen seconds on the twenty-second of October in nineteen thirty-seven. Then the cat pisses the bed again and Al Jolson hornets and jawbones.

Thursday, February 05, 2004


Fog, wet snow on the ground, a big black tree full of ravens with nowhere better to be. The path to work goes under their tree and they're all talking thirty feet up. I wonder whether I can trust a tree full of ravens. On the other side, I check my shoulders, check over my shoulders, and the ravens are still jawing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Nightlight Saving Time

Staying up and not listening are drugs a girl needs. Not getting up the next day is another.

But I had a plan. We would move our clocks forward. Then the kid would think she was staying up late, crossing boundaries, living it up with a box of plastic dinosaurs long after tedious girls were extinct for the night, and we would still manage to have her unconscious before our own bedtime. In the morning, she would think she had slept as late as anyone could possibly sleep and still get to school.

It worked. It works. But only just. Relatives must be brought into alignment. And other places have clocks. School, for instance, where everyone can tell and will tell time, where they even build clocks out of paper and practice pushing the hands around.

This morning she got to school before she left home. What now, Einstein? How could this be? But she decided it must have been because traffic was light.

Monday, February 02, 2004


Thoreau, alone among the trees, wrote this:
...once I went so far as to slaughter a woodchuck which ravaged my bean-field - effect his transmigration, as a Tartar would say - and devour him, partly for experiment's sake; but though it afforded me a momentary enjoyment, notwithstanding a musky flavor, I saw that the longest use would not make that a good practice, however it might seem to have your woodchucks ready dressed by the village butcher.

and this:

As I came home through the woods with my string of fish, trailing my pole, it being now quite dark, I caught a glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across my path, and felt a strange thrill of savage delight, and was strongly tempted to seize and devour him raw; not that I was hungry then, except for that wildness which he represented.

and this:

I am on the alert for the first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving bird, or the striped squirrel's chirp, for his stores must be now nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck venture out of his winter quarters.

Venture out, see Thoreau's shadow, and retreat for another six weeks.