augury doggerel

Friday, August 26, 2005


The game ends. Sirens and blue lights fast past the tram stop. Twenty-three blue vans. A water cannon mounted on the roof of a square truck with caged windows. Under the train station boys in green and white scarves funnel into a line of boys in black padded vests and white helmets. Truncheons and rifles are unslung.

The invisible man steps out of a store in the tunnel with a children's book about chimpanzees. He passes through the line of shields and the mass of green and white scarves and appears on a platform above. He wiggles his toes in his boots and takes note.

Then rain comes and the whole thing is called off.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


An alley separates the gothic church and the baroque royal chapel.

One door leads from the alley into the royal chapel. Above the door is a carving of three boars' heads with long tusks and red mouths and red necks. Above the boars is a Latin inscription in gold.

Another door leads into the back of the church. The church can hold 25,000 people. It is the tallest building in the city. The door here is heavy, carved, wooden. This is where they take out the garbage.

While I try to make out the Latin inscription, I hear a low gurgle, a growl, thick spitting. In the high church wall, just to the right of a rusted drain pipe, there is a small square window not big enough to admit a head. The window is swung open and a light is on. I hear a flush and then the light goes off.

On an electrical box on the church wall, a bill pasted over the skull-and-lightning warning sign advertises a Zen meeting at the university.

An hour later, at the meeting, a woman asks the master how to solve a problem with raising her son. Then a man two chairs away from the woman clears his throat and begins to ask a question, but the woman interrupts to announce that the man is the father of her son. Everyone laughs but the man, who looks as if someone has hit him. The Zen master does not tell a story about the empty chair between the man and the woman.

I go home to watch Barbara Stanwyck cry into Gary Cooper's chest.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Salamandra salamandra

The twins are gentle women with matching speech impediments: identical mouths that cannot make an R in a country where R is growled. But I am quiet and foreign, it is dark, and they talk and build a fire and talk about building fires when they were girls.

Our host, a man from the Bering Strait, plays guitar, tells stories about border crossings and border guards, and goes in for the night. We are left: the twins, a businesswoman who is sour to things, a Ukrainian girl with braces on her teeth, a girl with a pale round face who helps in the house, a nearly deaf woman with a mute foreign man. We are happy but, to be good, I ask two loud laughing couples to come to the fire. They have just driven out of the city in one car.

The carload talks about what they do, which for the woman with the permanent is speech therapy in a prison. The rest of us are there in the dark. The twins grill bread and shish kebob and pass it round. The businesswoman pours wine. We lay wood on the fire and watch.

A black salamander walks out of the fire. When we take it in our palms it is soft and shining and as cool as the grass. We turn it over and its belly is an orange pattern of flame. We leave it near the wheat, which is green still, and it disappears. And when we go in we go in.