augury doggerel

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bye-Bye: Phantom

We squeeze in. I think fire trap. Then it sounds as if the back row of seats falls off the stands in the dark. I don't hear screams, so everyone lives, or everyone dies quickly and unnoticed.

The sounds of feet and breathing, of bodies running crashing into each other. A man who moves like a spider sticks his head in a bucket of water. A man in a suit rolls out a wheelbarrow of soil and shovels it on to the stage while the Greek alphabet is recited. Sound. The man in a suit beats a woman in handcuffs until another woman stands in for her and he beats her. We watch her skin turn red and we are quiet. A topless woman on a stand in a fringe skirt. Projections on the wall of cockpit film from American aerial attacks. A man in an Al Ghraib hood. A burqa from under which a man crawls, kneels in the earth, shakes, calls out the names of places of conflict. An open fire. A mirror: there we are.

Three encores and no smiles. After, people smoke.

Monday, September 27, 2004


You could see all of it here (.ram), but in Danish. I saw an English version.

This afternoon I escaped into Gdansk shipyard, past a guard, past oversized steel art built by men who built ships, and into building 49A, which is now used as a theater. When they turned out the lights, daylight came in through the cracks in the ceiling and walls. Raw concrete and steel building, bare bench seating. And a row of six Theremins.

Only one actor, Sarah Boberg, spoke. The rest was recorded voices and cello and violin and Theremin. A quivering nondance choreography by Bo Madvig. Children in lab coats playing Theremins and worshiping electricity. And the man I met Saturday, Laurie Grundt, sitting quietly in a chair playing an old man sitting quietly in a chair.

After, Lydia Kavina performed.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Listening Device

I met this man in the cafe today. He wasn't sideways or naked at the time, but you can tilt your head to the right and imagine him in a leather jacket to see him as I saw him. Smoking a pipe. Eating cake. Drinking coffee. Reading a Danish newspaper.

He will be a man imagining things Theremin tonight and tomorrow on a stage in the old Gdansk shipyards. I didn't ask his name. I never ask names, and I forget them when I'm told. But I remember the way he looked and sounded and the way he tapped his pipe out in the ash tray and how he ate his cake.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Today, we have an earthquake, the end of summer, and four-handed piano. The kid and her grandmother squeeze on to one bench. I can just one-finger the Cyrillic at the top of the page. Rachmaninoff's "Italian Polka," an old photocopy. Their hands are the same size now.

Monday, September 13, 2004


On a fine late afternoon I sit, a man in a cafe chair. There are no cars allowed in this part of the city. You hear people and smell people. Women clip past on stone. Cups settle into saucers.

The sun moves on to a high window and I am illuminated in the reflected light. I lean back. Now drums, invisible. Now drums and brass. "You Are My Sunshine."

They come around the corner. "She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain." Pom-pom girls and a band in a military uniform. "When the Saints Come Marching In." It's an American medley. They head for the river. "Down By the Riverside." Not songs like these songs, but these exact songs.

Behind the band, like part of the band, half a dozen dreadlocked boys prance and thump out another beat on bongos.

Walking just as closely again behind the bongo players are fifteen or twenty "traditional" musicians. Hats and boots and long dresses and laced bodices. They swing hips and look choreographed looks at one another. They sing and fiddle Polish mountain music, not after the brass band, not with the brass band, but up against the brass band and the American folk songs and the bongo rhythm section.

In a long day, there are just these two minutes. Then I order another coffee and the sun moves off me and the ghost of Charles Ives is laid. Can I convince you that this happened? It happened in daylight in the center of town.

Friday, September 10, 2004


The fourth grade starts the study of informatyka. One lesson is to find pictures to save as wallpaper on their computers. The kid goes looking for kitties, so she types a likely address on the line and surprises the whole class with what she discovers.

The school, which is also just learning this subject, will install filters to save us from the she-cats.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I am out for an evening walk round the block and see colored lights, maybe fire, on the sidewalk ahead. I expect the usual--chuligan is now in the Polish dictionary, just after the word for prick--but these lights are candles burning at the gates of the Russian consulate. There are flowers and stuffed animals and crayoned notes from schoolchildren.

Taped to the fence is also a note from someone about "Death to the American instigators" in Chechnya: "Mr Putin, what are you waiting for? For Bush and Sharon to march into Moscow?"

Up the street, the local council has put bars around our garbage to keep out the scary men.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


I listen to Glenn Gould hum-humm and dee-dee-dee along to Bach like a man in a shower. (Imagine Glenn Gould in the shower. Imagine Bach in the shower. Imagine a large shower room full of musicians. And the King of Prussia. "Gentlemen, Old Bach has come.") And though I'm listening to digits, it's an exact reproduction of the hissing master.

So I remember a cylinder recording of Tennyson reciting "The Charge of the Light Brigade." No one noticed at the time, or no one had the nerve to tell the old man, but Tennyson was thumping time far too soundly for the recording. So there he is still between the thumps and the cracks. His voice roars and fades.

Monday, September 06, 2004


I am somewho perched and belted high in the passenger seat of a company man's company car.

At a corner, we drive by the woman who raises turkeys and chickens from a shack near here. She's the one with an East German car up on blocks being a henhouse or a doghouse, the woman who keeps a husband in the country to watch her cows. She is headed downtown on foot now in a good mauve dress. She looks clean and has probably scrubbed hell out of her gnails. She isn't as old as she is when she stands in chickens.

I mention the woman as we go by, but my driver, who is also from here, doesn't see her and doesn't know anything about a woman or chickens and turkeys. Now he's on his phone and I fade out. He has fires to put out, bugs to eliminate, builds and patches to get out the door. And I'm strapped in.