augury doggerel

Friday, November 18, 2005

No desert god did this.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

first snow right now

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Today I find a used book store I'm sure was not there before, in a basement on Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Street, though the place does not look new. This discovery excites me until I walk down the concrete steps.

It is raining, the door is open, and the place is cold and dim and fusty. A man with long gray hair and a missing row of teeth -- I've forgotten whether it was the top row or the bottom -- greets me just inside and turns on a fluorescent light. When I ask, he leads me to the English-language books.

I crook my neck to read the titles. There are just nine books in English. The titles are gone from my head now, but the number, I think, was nine.

And I remember the woman in the corner, a thin woman, maybe fifty years old with long dark curly hair. She is in a brown turtleneck sweater and she is hunched over and reading. No, she is not reading after all, she is looking at the knuckles of her left hand.

The man goes over and pats the woman on the head with what looks like affection and he scratches her scalp like you might scratch a dog behind the ears. She looks up and says nothing. I am embarrassed to look. I twist my neck again and read the nine titles. Nine books in English about nine things no one ever was interested in. There is nothing here I want to touch.

I hear a retch and look up. The man is gone and the woman is in a small kitchen alcove near this corner of the basement. I can't see her but I hear her puking. She retches seven times.

I hear another woman come in and ask for Basia and I hear the man say that Basia is right there, but then he sees that she is not right there and he goes to look for her. I know she is puking in the kitchen alcove, where I can see a jar of instant coffee and a canister of sugar. I never see the other woman. I say thank you and goodbye to the man now and squeeze through the aisle toward the exit before Basia can be found.

This place, it might be gone the next time I go past.

Friday, November 04, 2005


In the window of the bakery, a sign says they're looking for counter girls. Nice counter girls.

I suppose they don't want more like the woman who just served me, the one who looks as if the world is weighted against her.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


It's All Saints's Day, Festum omnium sanctorum, and the living outnumber the dead in our cemeteries. I take girl 11 and borrowed boy 9 to the cemetery after dark. They jump and dodge and skin their knees and lose a scarf; I walk behind. They eat candies; I chew cloves. They never stop talking; I take useless semicolons and unnecessarily elaborate possessive plurals. I wonder if there are any abbesses around here and, if so, what the abbesses's addresses might be.

The kids crouch and play with sticks at the edge of the candle field under a statue of Jesus and a photograph of the dead Polish pope. There are nuns here just now looking toward Jesus and the pope. I can see the nuns in profile and at least one of them is a man unless it's the books I read. When I look across the candles, my vision blurs (smoke, darkness, rising heat, wandering mind) and I imagine a painted medieval city, maybe in Portugal, burning at night.

We walk the rows of graves and boy 9 declares that he is bored, so girl 11 tells him a story she says she read in a book. There was a man who taught his son how to build wings from feathers and wax. The father warned the son not to fly to close to the sun but the son did not listen. He flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, the wings fell apart, and the son fell into the sea. This is better, hearing stories, but boy 9 is glad we're going home.

We try to show him the Wielki Woz, the Big Dipper, but he can't make it out. But there is Mars. He sees Mars. Mars is giant now. Mars is a burning ball in the sky.