augury doggerel

Saturday, May 22, 2004


I look through new and secondhand bookstores all morning and find nothing, so I start home. At the train station a man sells books he must have found in the garbage. He has them laid out on the asphalt walk where the pedestrian tunnel goes under the platforms.

Romances, textbooks, girlie magazines. Two books in English. One is a pocket guide to the fishes of the world, but I have just finished The Old Man and the Sea in Polish and need no more fish this week. The other is, somehow, exactly what I need: a James Bond book. (Don't ask.)

I give him two zloty (a large gold-colored coin, about fifty cents) and a Marlboro (made in Poland) in exchange for "a new assignment more hazardous and more exciting than any he had met before--a stupendous gamble with fate that was to mean for him--and the lovely Gala--days of tension . . . and fear!"

The man selling books is very dirty and worn and he smells like everything in the world a week ago, but when I light his cigarette his hands cup mine and hold me for a second.


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