augury doggerel

Monday, August 30, 2004

Rain Delay

Two holiday boys coax a pretty girl from her parents for a minute. They want to take home pictures of each other with the girl. Girl, looking down: "Should I?" Mother, smiling: "Oh... go ahead." Father, saying nothing, stands. The girl runs back to the boys, then an arm around her, a click, a swap, another arm around her, another click, and she runs back to get a start on remembering it.

Then two groups of boys cross at the same spot--everything happens here and nothing happens anywhere else--and girls are watching, so it's serious. One boy from each group comes forward. They circle and clutch, break and talk, circle and clutch, break and walk away, promise to see each other again.

Leaping for leaping. The older members of the herd have full sets of antlers and prominent wooly humps, but they only walk. You notice the pointless leaping on long skinny legs.

Rain comes and flushes out the canyon. The street runs. Boys in shorts and flip-flops slide on the stones. Girls in light dresses take off summer shoes and scream. Some kid somewhere through the rain yells "bravo!"

But that's a day last week when I think it's the last sunny day, and I'm wrong. Warm days will never cease. People today are stripped to their shirts, stripped to other people's shirts for all we know. A jazz band is bright and loud near the statue of Neptune. At the street vendor next to the cafe, apples and pears and cauliflower and bright red and orange plastic bottles of fruit drink.

A bee hovers over my coffee, no sugar, no cream, but a shining black pool of heat. The bee walks the rim of the cup, walks down into the steaming crater, then rises. Two beggars come round the tables. They, too, hover while the weather holds.

A crack of thunder. A seagull saying aw-eee ow-ow-ow-ow ow-ow-ow-ow. Then rain again. This is hard rain. Gutterspouts bursting. Things floating past. Things coming through the door. A man in a limp sombrero. A tour of retired Germans. Miss Asterisk 1987 and possibly the veterinarian.

And it stops, and just as it all stops, before a single German tourist can shift a prominent wooly hump, a beggar appears and asks for change. Then beggar whistles to beggar, the two meet, and they move up opposite sides of the street together ahead of us amateurs.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


It's the end of summer and I'm left alone for a week and there's not enough room in this apartment for swinging cats. Out in the woods a couple hundred of us meet in the dark amphitheater for a jazz concert. Horn and sax and piano and drums and bass. And record player. I wonder if this is the first turntablist -- my spellchecker chokes on turntablist but not on spellchecker -- and the first wikki-wikkies neath these trees. In the clearing over us all is Lyra and a shiny old Vega circling.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Stamping Ground

At the cafe, two guys slip between the potted shrubs that separate us from the merely pedestrian. One is tall and strong and teenaged. He moves one of the shrubs for the other, who is in a small wheelchair and is red and bent-nosed and dwarfishly compressed.

They take the table in the corner and open cans of beer they've brought with them. They talk and watch and chortle, but the walking boy walks away and back, away and back. He is wanted somewhere or wants to be somewhere. Maybe there are girls around a corner. His cheer sounds worn.

The rolling boy stays by the table and sips his beer. He pulls out a mobile phone and speaks in a small straining voice you'd think was a prank if you didn't know him. Someone on the other end is guessing wrongly and he's laughing and saying no... no... no, no, no... no...

I write "Rumpelstiltskin" and draw three concentric circles around it. When I look up next, he's gone.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Cat's Ass

The fat cat sat on the edge of the keyboard tonight and typed this:
zzzzzyyyzyzyzyz AAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa 1
and managed to exchange the y and z keys. I don't know how. You type y and get z. You type z and get y.

Luckily, I had just finished my monograph on syzygy.

Monday, August 16, 2004


I go in to finish a course of vaccinations. First the checklist and chat (no inflections? no allegories? no badverse reactions?) and I tell her I have had my operation and I feel good. My arteries no longer bulge under the pressure. I tell her I am lighter now and I am thinking of taking up tap. The doctor congratulates me and stamps something into my records (a star? a smiley) and sends me to the mistress of pointed devices.

The injectionist (and more: "Blood drawn here.") softens me up with her left and then telegraphs a high right jab. I wince and she rubs down the sore spot and coos because I'm a big boy and that doesn't hurt, does it? She puts a little bandage on my arm. No filthy hospital can harm me now. Bring on your dirtiest nurses.

On the train back I read Romeo and Juliet and forget where I am. I look up and ask the woman next to me whether we have reached my stop. No, no, not yet. I read again until she tells me it's time.

At the cafe, the three women working this shift see me in turns and greet me in turns and smile. When I order today, I ask for cake. The woman at the register stops and looks at me. I admit it's a joke. A large black coffee, please. I am here more often than some of the employees. All I ever have is a large black coffee. I hear her repeat the cake line to the next cafe worker, not because I told a funny joke but because you are surprised to find it done at all. Someone slips the silly foreigner a free biscuit.

The little girl at the next table watches me and laughs. She gets up and circles my table. She doesn't go back to her daddy when he asks. What am I doing? Am I drawing? Am I writing? What am I writing? Then she leads her father away and I'm late for home.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Stage Mother

So, a nun walks down the street with her mother. The mother is in civilian clothes, but she might almost as well wear the habit. Same unstylish blue shirt, a uniform fit. Also, the same nose, the same cheeks, the same eyes, the same walk.

I entertain myself with tabloid-shaped headlines: I suckled a nun, my wicked husband unknowingly fathered a nun. I write them a story as they linger. One married god, the other married man, I suppose. Or one resigned herself to man, the other to god. Or one is a nuclear weapons researcher and the other was driven to prayer. Or the mother is really a much older sister. Or they are identical twins, one aged unnaturally by whatever drove the other to the church or aged unnaturally by not having joined the church. Or the older one looks her age and church has preserved the nun's youth or stunted her growth. Or the younger one isn't a nun at all and the older one isn't a woman.

So, a nun walks down the street with her mother.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


It's two in the morning and I'm out alone watching stars fall in a public park. The sounds of trains and motorcycles come across the city and out here to the edge of the woods. There are three other people somewhere in this park, though I can't see them. One guy sings like he thinks he's a very fine singer, one girl talks and talks when she isn't singing, one guy is quiet or he mumbles. I hear them notice the stars when they fall, but they are here to sing and talk and mumble together.

They give up watching and walk away. Then one of the guys turns and starts back. I can see him a little now because he has come out from the shadows. He's wearing a white tee-shirt. He is yelling at someone, yelling insults at someone. Someone is called the usual body parts and accused of the usual list of deviant sexual practices. And then I realize I'm the guy he's shouting at, because there's no one else out here and he's coming for me.

He gets up into my face and is still yelling. He wants to know what the elaborate combination of curses I'm doing there. His arms say he wants a fight. I'm standing with my hands in my pockets. He's demanding a reason. I tell him I'm watching stars fall. Oh, he says, yes, the stars are fine. And he leaves.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


In a corner of this massive church, there's an old clock as tall as a house. At the top, Adam and Eve in matching leaves (one of those couples) stand on either side of a bare tree, up which they have driven a serpent. At exactly five o'clock by my Japanese watch, Adam and Eve, with rope and hammer, take turns ringing bells for the hour.

There are twenty-four hours on the face of the clock, twelve astrological signs carved and painted on a lower wheel, and on the lowest wheel a calendar turning once a year. A carved man points to today's date. The painted clock housing might be a doll house but for Death gliding out one little door and in another.

A young tour guide tells her group in French about a restored mechanism. I know no French, so it is still possible that prayer is the restored mechanism, or that a saint has trapped a demon in the clock and commanded it to turn cogs until Judgment Day, or that a hidden nun is pedaling with her habit hiked up.

Somewhere behind me, St. Dorothy in relief is tortured with fire and tongs, and someone in the back farts with enough vigor to be heard but not smelt at this range. Then a bearded man, a satellite of the French group, comes up behind the guide as she explains the clock and pinches her. The guide stops and turns red, and the French tourists laugh. She smiles and starts again about this mechanism no one gets to see.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Merry Conceited Humours of Bottom the Weaver

I leave work early to see Hamlet, the only English-language Shakespeare production this season in this province. I discover that it's "adapted from William Shakespeare" by a tiny Californian company. One act, seventy minutes, four actors and a one-man band. Is there a station wagon in the lot with California plates?

Ophelia, who is also Gertrude and a fantastic writher, lies on her side and runs round herself like Iggy or Curly. Claudius is also ghost and gravedigger and mugger. Laertes, who is also Polonius and gravedigger, seems to cry real tears for us, but also sweats a long wide stripe in the crack of his pants that competes with his face for attention. Hamlet also plays the lion, but as gently as any sucking dove. "Duty" sounds a bit like "doody," and there is much slashing about with box-cutters.

But four encores and a basket of bouquets--Polish audiences are friendly and old-fashioned. Nothing ends without at least four encores and an armload of flowers--and then a coffee in the cool. This is the best place to be this evening.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Fair Weather

Heel to toe. Aged goat cheese. Rusted Nazi helmets. Push-up bras and fuck-me pumps and bangs. Heel to toe. Russians playing Polish songs. Overhanging fathers. Shakes and cups and cones. Roman nose and Grecian Formula. Glasscutters demonstrated. Pony rides. Popcorn and butter. Mothers as wide as walks. Sneakers and shades. Ponytail and goatee and chipmunk cheeks. Chemical toilets. Dreadlocks and peace sign. Motorized pirate ship replica. Chinese at-home electropuncture kit. Rides up and down. Licked stamps. Blouses on racks. Neptune. Heel to toe. Tropical insect show. Obsolete gold. Kielbasa smoke kielbasa smoke kielbasa. Postcards from dead stranger to dead stranger. Romanian band with a rockabilly standup. Beer belly, bum bag. Cotton candy. Police patrol. Ferret. Heel to toe. Chinese folding and unfolding daughter on a platform. Goat cheese demonstrated. Fireworks over the canal. A wooden massage machine.