augury doggerel

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Break, Fast

Cats on the kitchen table. Two flying cats. Mayonnaise squeeze bottle farty noise splats. Tea, coffee, fruit juice, food on the mats. Phone, money, keys, door. Outrun the rats.

Sunday, April 25, 2004


If I had a camera I could take pictures of things disappearing. Just a walk from here, two houses more are ready for the wrecker. And just past them, where a cluster of little shops was facetiously called Manhattan, the place could now be a piece of Manhattan itself. Four levels of glass and tile and fountain are connected by crawling metal stairs. Here are the finest in petulant shop clerks and mannequin nipples. Under it all, a parking garage.

Today I cut through the place (they shop on Sundays now, the pope be damned) and loiter near a shiny railing on the upper floor. Below in the atrium, a three-piece wedding-class band plays rock and country (but not this country) from sheet music. Their gray hair hangs over their collars and their untucked shirts hang over their bellies. The one with a Telecaster copy and the rolling local r sings, "You gonna SHAKE! RRrrat-Tell! ahnd Rrrroll! You gonna SHAKE! RRrrat-Tell! ahnd Rrrroll!"

Saturday, April 24, 2004


This damp afternoon we play school for three hours. I am taught the English words for weather, practice my multiplication and division, write (and sing a thousand times through a white toy seal) a song about excuses for getting out of school, and fumble the samba and rumba.

At my turn to teach, she owns a restaurant and must write a menu of monkey brains and bat's blood and snake tails and crunchy parrot beaks. Then mama announces her real lunch, a hot bowl of turkey neck soup.

Sunday, April 18, 2004


All afternoon I'm alone at the zoo.

I lean on the railing and the seals lie on the concrete. People stop and say "Seals!" and wait. After balls are not balanced and horns are not honked, they walk down to the monkeys. More people come and say "Seals!" and wait a minute and walk down to the monkeys. After I memorize the four seals, I straighten up and leave for the wolves with the long legs and pungent smell. Someone behind me says, "He's moving!"

I convince myself a hippopotamus is watching me. I blink. It blinks. I blink. It blinks. I don't blink for as long as I can stare into hippopotamus eyes without my eyes falling out of their sockets and the hippopotamus looks back. Then I blink. It blinks. I blink. It blinks. Before I start talking to the hippopotamus, who is pinkish and possibly fine to rest my head on and listen to gurgle, I read a sign with a hippo silhouette that says "Very Dangerous Animal!" and a sign with a human skull that says "Danger! High Voltage!" and a sign with a fork that says "Snack Bar."

I have coffee in a styrofoam cup and watch storks circle. Big sausages smoke on a grill. People drink beer and tear into chicken and fish with plastic forks and knives. Ten meters downwind, leopards growl.

Saturday, April 17, 2004


A dog on this wide green lawn looks ahead, arranges his legs, poses as if watching the other side and not as if, or also as if, leaving a long warm shit. This wide green lawn has a wide wooden bench with a man in a suit cross-legged in the middle who talks into the air. On this green lawn just now a woman in little pink running shoes rehearses East Asian, East Asian, East Asian, East Asian maneuvers against all the wolves. She practices breathing with her hands, breathing with the rotation of her body through air. This wide green lawn before the war was a German cemetery stuffed with folk who voted Nazi and then died before their wish came true. After the living were run off, the stones were pulled down and hauled away, but the unknowable dead are just there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


An unsprung steam pipe in our room drops in a deep steel pan. Each drop ping-ings until it's deep, then pops the water. I dump it in the sink and hope for spring king king king king stop stop stop stop.

Or a plumber.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Giving Over

Saturday morning the woman made up a basket of food and green´┐Żbread and eggs and sausage, butter and boxwood, salt´┐Żand Saturday afternoon the priest splashed the contents. I wonder if even he believes it? I've never seen a priest who looked as if he was thinking he had just done anything more important than to run the cash register at a liquor store. "One Easter basket blessing. Anything else, Mac? That'll be 2.99. Next."

Last night the hare (not a rabbit in this country) was about and secreting things for a covetous child. The hare as it came to us in human form was not asleep long when the kid appeared in the hall, ready for plunder, and had to be sent back to bed. This was three-thirty in the morning, which, as she would tell you any other day, is at least four hours earlier than it is physically possible to get out of a warm bed. I am certain she knows there is no Santa Claus, and I am almost as certain she knows there is no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, but any myth suggesting that children, even fairly rotten ones, should be given presents on a certain day will not die if she can help it. We should have invented reverse myths while we had the chance. "You can't find your plastic dinosaurs with the sole-puncturing horns? Hmmm. Well, remember, yesterday was the first Saturday of the month. That's the night the Toy Troll snatches and ritually burns all pointy little toys that have been left on the floor. Sniff around. He may have peed in a corner of your room, too."

At breakfast I wanted to offer lessons in basic table etiquette to people older than I am, but I resisted this as itself being too rude for the table. I thought but could not say, for example, that no decent person speaks with a mouthful of food, and that this is not just a silly old custom. It helps to keep people from spitting into your food, for one thing, and it saves the rest of us from having to watch and listen to ham being reduced to gullet-ready wet lumps of pig-and-saliva mash. But other traditions and myths held my tongue. Instead, I inched my plate away and tried to shield it with a semi-polite hand resting near my cup.

But now I'm alone with Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and two sleepy cats and fine weather. I could dance naked with a picture of the pope.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Fan Tan

My old writing box sounds too much like the cabin of a jetliner: recirculated wind and a distant, continual whine.

Monday, April 05, 2004


My first spring walk downtown. A long row of market stalls runs parallel to a remaining section of the old city wall. Sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, candles and soap, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, poultry, sausages and cuts of meat, belts and shoes, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages. A long sausage of smell fills the channel between the wall and the market stalls. I might start or stop breathing, but then I'm round the other side of the stalls and walking back up. Bras and underpants, sausages and cuts of meat, sausages and cuts of meat, fancy dresses, sausages and cuts of meat, a pretty girl selling sausages and cuts of meat, bras and underpants, sausages and cuts of meat, flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers, fish, flowers.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Trisomy 21

Walking home, I go slowly past all the front doors holding my sore belly in one hand and my keys in the other. Around a corner, a boy with a familiar face plays hopscotch alone on the walk.

This is when a cat runs up a cat-sized gangplank someone has built for it from a front garden up to a kitchen window. It makes us both look and smile.

At home, I look it up and see the boy's face and biography laid out. He's one in a thousand for a young mother, one in only forty for women over forty. I know the patterns on his hands and feet.

Thursday, April 01, 2004


I can barely move my mouth, but I manage, I think, to tell the doctors not to kill me. They laugh and pull off my clothes and roll me under the lights.

Somehow I'm alone in my room again and a lovely doctor comes by to say I have a beautiful bellybutton now.