augury doggerel

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Actual Life

Have I told you about anything?
As I sit looking out of a window of the building
I wish I did not have to write the instruction manual on the uses of a new metal.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


The kid is home from camp. Saturday night, when no one has to sleep, we go to the woods and catch fireflies in our hands, lightly, lightly, don't hurt them. They glow green in your palm. I think they like you.

But a boar is a werepig. They snuffle and grunt and, as the rhyme goes, you hop up in a tree if you meet one. When we hear them she barnacles and cries, but just a little. Then we like the fright of the noises in the dark and we walk home late, just us down the middle of the street.

Sunday night, we go back with mama and three old birdseed buckets made of see-through plastic. We catch fireflies in our buckets and make too much noise to worry about boars. I walk behind and see the woman and the kid by firefly lantern.

When we're home with our catch and too tired to stay awake, we open our buckets and set them out on the window sill. The fireflies are still stretching and flying off one by one as we fall asleep on a summer's night.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Come Home

I am on the downtown bus to have coffee outdoors with everyone who walks by.

The bus slows for the next stop and a boy and a dog are running to catch us. The boy wears horizontal stripes. The dog is a small, neat collie. She runs ahead. The boy and the dog laugh as they run.

The bus stops. A woman gets off and stands. The dog and the boy run to her. The woman loses her bus face and laughs. They walk off together, walk across the park, the laughing dog and the laughing boy and the laughing woman.

On an afternoon like this the world is full of possibility. The woman is not trapped under the bus. The boy is not bitten by a snake. The dog knows the bus schedule.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


I am on the bus behind the praying man. He still has the cheap prayer book. The book is thin and printed on thin paper. He should have committed it to memory. He might have. But paper is the ritual. He has kissed almost through the center of each page. He crosses himself.

I am in his smell. The woman beside me might think his smell is my smell. I might think her smell is his smell but I have smelled him before. His glasses have been repaired. He crosses himself. His ears are hairy and gray fur runs down in under his collar.

There is a woman in a pink shirt standing at a bus stop going the other way. He watches her for as long as it takes us to pass. Under his glasses he looks the length of the girl standing in the aisle. He crosses himself and he kisses his book and he crosses himself.

(I read a book by a woman on the bus. The same as last week. I don't kiss my book.)

When I look, he is big and furry. He crosses himself.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


It is hard to breathe in the woods in the late afternoon. Circles of fur where dogs must have exploded. Then deep thunder over the trees. The noise sets off the church bells. Church bells ringing. There's no use running. All I have is tomatoes and bread. But nothing happens. I go home, I open the door, I close the door, I open a window, sit with two cats. All the rain falls a mile all at once.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Neighbor boy has a big plastic gun that flashes and makes a recorded machine-gun noise and an American "Fire!" voice when he shoots his little friends. Neighbor girl has a swing that squeals and squeals and squeals and squeals and squeals and squeals and squeals and squeals. My favorite book one year was Too Much Noise, which, now that I think of it, came with a vinyl recording.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

In the woods, in a hollow within easy earshot of here, is an amphitheatre. This weekend, art songs and folk and jazz. People sit on benches cut from halved logs and set into the slope. Musicians stand on a stage cut into the base of the opposite slope. I listen for a bit, then back into the dark.
I go until I hear an owl ahead, then more owl than guitar, then I go slowly and softly and only owl close on my right and crackling leaves and branches close on my left. I stand with my face to the crackle, listen to the owl behind me, watch fireflies and look into the dark. I'm a tree.
I'm a tree. I'm a tree. My hands sweat in my pockets. But I am a tree. I'm a tree. I forget and sniff and something snorts. Something snorts. Something is cracking there and there and there. Something, I think, is pissing just over there. I'm a tree. I think of sharp dirty gouging infectious tusks digging into my legs. But I want to see a boar tonight. I'm a tree. I'm a tree.
I'm a tree. I'm a wah! A boar runs out of the brush and I start and it starts and the boar has friends and they're all running somewhere near me in the dark. Galloping circling galloping in the dark on two-pronged hooves and we're off in opposite directions for a few paces.
Then the hooves are drifting away and I'm pissing into the leaves and a boar snorts and I'm walking in the dark with fireflies and then people round a fire at the edge of the park and then the woman is home from the horse people and cats have fur.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


I look up to the sound of a curtain drawn back, metal rings on a metal rail. A woman in a boutique tries on a watermelon summer dress with a girlfriend. Her girlfriend is the talking mirror. The woman cups her watermelon breasts and smiles at her friend, then past her friend to a table where I drip black coffee on the weather report.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


Last night I am going to stay away from the woods and the cemetery, but I find a fat old snail stranded between roads and buildings and construction, so I stick it to my palm and smuggle it into the woods. Then the cemetery is just a walk away.

The nursery section is five short plots deep and runs along the path between ferns. It's dark, just two candles between them all, but I don't have to see the dates to know they're all babies.

Then something is here, then gone, then here, then gone, and I think I might be seeing things that aren't here like people see things in books and movies, and I blink like people blink. Soft green lights move in the air. Fireflies come down from the woods and float over all the shoebox graves.

I go up among the fireflies into the woods and down the path toward home. The leaves are wet. A wind blows across the tops of the trees and rushes up behind me, over and past me. Then a short blast from the snout of something and running through the trees.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Everything but a burning

Last night I am in another story about a girl who walks a dog in the woods.

The woman will have a visitor, a friend they call Ruda, and I like to be alone, so I go out to the woods. It is dry and still light, so I take a book.

The best place to read when it is dry is the cemetery, just through the woods. I am the only one here this late.

In the back row, some were ninety, some thirty, some younger, but everyone died in the same year. It is as if there had been a plague, but there was no plague. It must have been the opening of a new suburb here, another Willow Acres or Hawthorne Farm for folk who have given up living in the city.

In the next section, where I sit on the steps to read, each stone has a moon and a star and a swirl of script where a stone in the next row would have a cross or the thin bare man. Some of the stones with a moon and a star are broken. I read a story about the old American woods and a pink ribbon.

When it is too late to read I go out through a steel gate at the back of the cemetery and up into the woods. It is darker here. There is one bird and it screeches. Then I forget everything but the path. And then there is the girl and the dog, just visible tonight, but them, walking up and away into the woods. I almost follow but how could I say it was chance that I'd gone the same way, and then they have disappeared in the trees, so I turn out into the air.

There is still light out here, two planets and no stars. I watch bats circle and eat over the grass. When I get home, I hear talking through the door, but inside Ruda has gone and the woman is sitting with a cat.

Friday, July 09, 2004


Last night I am in this story about a girl who walks a dog in the woods. It rains and it begins to turn dark and the trail has choices. There is thunder but you'll think I'm adding things, so I'll leave out the thunder.

But the girl and the dog are on a trail and they hear something, not thunder, and look back. The man is mostly green and dark blue and not easy to see, but it is a man behind them. The man has stopped to look at a slug, which has horns and a slick skin, but they only know he has stopped. And when the girl and the dog move he also moves.

The girl and the dog stop at a fork and look back again and take the left turn and the man is gone. Then he is on a trail just above them, then behind them on the same trail, then above them again. They are deep in the woods now and the trails will meet just ahead. The man is about to overtake them, probably just around this corner.

Then the man is standing where the girl and the dog should have been. There are blackbirds in the leaves and there are thousands of spaces between the trees.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


A woman on the walk wipes her terrier's ass. The terrier tries not to look.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


For two weeks, a man lives in our garbage. He asks for cigarettes and money and won't hear of food. He is very drunk. He lives on cardboard. Three men in a uniform talk to the man who lives in our garbage. Our garbage is quiet for two days. Then the man is back with two friends. Then no one is there. There is blood on the sidewalk, a spill, something we have just missed. But our garbage smells thick and sweet this time of year.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


We keep to business during the day, but at night a cat comes through the Get Smart doors to stay with the guards, who are big men with shaven heads and straight faces that make no woogly-woogly noises in daylight. While we work, the cat sits as if nothing nothing oh nothing. But there is a bowl of milk and a bowl of food under a certain bush.

Behind the building is a storage shed and a recycling bin separated by an asphalt drive. A rat lives under the shed and runs across the drive to the recycling bin and runs back. Construction workers are pulling up all the earth around and burying pipes and laying a parking lot and digging a foundation, but the shed and the recycling bin stand in the middle and the rat moves from one to the other and back.

Today the cat meets the rat on the front lawn. Before the snatch comes down, just before the claw, the rat turns and faces the cat and lets go of the grass and rises, falls up as high as the cat's nose and looks the cat straight in the eye. The cat's face disappears from one end of the cat and appears at the other end of the cat, and the cat is gone before the rat has time to land. The rat, I think, also knows about the bowls.

Friday, July 02, 2004


A dog barking work work, work work work, work work, work work work.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


There is a camera crew on the beach. Two camera positions. There is a boom hanging over the sand. Emergency boats are on the sand. There is the expectancy that something should happen exactly here.

The pier is long and wooden. Shells for sale. Shells for sale. At the waxworks on the sea end, a woman poses with a mannequin labeled Einstein. Shells for sale. Telescopes. For a small payment, you could look through a telescope to places like this. Shells for sale. Quiet on the top, warm wood.

Down the steps, on the walkway under the pier, people zip jackets and speak over the rush and slapping on the bottom. There is a perspective in the pilings. The shady place smells of piss.

Three middle-aged women who would not, you think, usually, have stripped to their bras and are sitting on the long white bench. Their backs lean on the painted bench slats, their lace-patterned cones pointed to the beach, and their heads tilt back to let the sun into the cracks.

"So, that's it?" in the American voice.

Quiet on the top, warm wood. Shells for sale.