augury doggerel

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I live in the "Tri-City" for a dozen years without, until this weekend, visiting the larger of the other two cities. The 1993 guide book said it wasn't interesting. It still says that. But this week the old man who works in the book store by the canal tells me there's a good place in the other city to get used books.

I take the train there, stand in front of the dirty railway station, and start asking questions. I don't know where this shop is except that it's on or near some place called Kosciusko Square, so I ask and wander and ask and wander. I find the square, but each time I ask someone where the "antykwariat" is, I am sent in a different direction. One old woman is sure the antykwariat is in the large building on the other side of the square. The building way down there. The one near the water. Out past the ship museums. When I get there, I see the word "akwarium" on the wall. Turtles swimming in circles.

I give up and am looking for a cafe when I see a sign for the antykwariat, which is through an arched gateway into an alley and then down a steep stairway into a basement.

The proprietor is a man sitting behind a desk. His hair is thin and blond, or thin and white. He is thin and pale, and he wears two pairs of metal-rimmed glasses, one over the other. This gives him superhuman sight, or subhuman sight: when he says "the English books are over there" and points to the far corner, I know he's reading the fine print on their spines.

There are three small shelves of books in English. I buy the best one, a biography of Hillaire Belloc I may never read, but if anything ever changes my mind about Walter de la Mare's Memoirs of a Midget, I'm sure the book and the proprietor and the store will wait for me.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


No matter how I google it, I have the signs and sighs of "clinical depression," everything but the clinic and the bottles of pills. And what could be more depressing than being so typically deranged?

To cheer myself, I go to Bar Ikarus, the restaurant in the central bus station. I never remember to write about Bar Ikarus. Maybe the place makes me forget things or maybe that's part of the other thing, this clinical depression.

In the anteroom, men who live out of shopping bags hunch over radiators and raise clouds of themselves. They yell if you leave the door open too long. Their bags are set out in a row on the floor along a wall, like they've just come back from a shopping trip and are taking off their shoes. But they haven't and they don't.

Inside Bar Ikarus, the year is 1960 or so. Nothing is disposable. The two women working behind the counter are in their sixties. Cooked meals wait on white porcelain plates in a row on a steel counter under heat lamps. There is no such thing as a sneeze guard; when I order my coffee, I bend slightly and speak to a chicken leg and mashed potatoes and gravy; behind the warming lamps, a woman in a hair net answers me through a meat loaf and potatoes.

My coffee comes in a short glass on a porcelain saucer with a spoon made of some light alloy, maybe gellerium. The two sugar cubes on my saucer look worn. Their corners are rounded, like dice. A half inch layer of ground coffee floats at the top of the glass. I stir it, then look around while I wait for the coffee to settle and the glass to cool enough to lift. I leave the sugar cubes on the saucer. Maybe the nexts guy gets them.

An old man with a glass of tea coughs and coughs. He is polite enough to cough into his coat, under his arm, or he is preserving heat. He is old enough and ill enough that the women let him stay. I think about my own cough lately, like frogs' eggs, dark speckles in jelly.

But I have a home and I have to go there. At home, I listen to Peer Gynt at top volume. When I look over, the kid is watching cartoon robots and I am listening to trolls.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"The two young ladies were summoned from the shrubbery where this conversation passed, by the arrival of some of the very persons of whom they had been speaking..."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


This day is called St Valentine's and is declared for love. No doubt somebody filled his breast, this Valentine, with arrows or pulled out his tongue or squeezed the breath from him. It's what one did with folk for laying down the law of love unbidden love.

Friday, February 03, 2006


After a cold, I am dizzy, dizzy, dizzy when I lie down or jump up or spin or bend over or roll. Dizzy, nauseated. Vertigo is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or malaise.

But Sunday, too late to cancel, too late to change vacation plans, I go away for a week.

A week at tai chi camp, where I will lie down and jump up and spin and bend over and roll for ages every day. And heave up a healthy vegetarian lunch all over my exercise mat.

Or -- I have just learned I will room with the camp DJ -- will I get sick all over the camp DJ and his expensive DJ equipment? The camp DJ who knows kung-fu?

This could be good. Repulse monkey!

Years from now, at some future tai chi camp, when they sit and tell stories around the fire, an older camper will ask, "Have you heard about the vertiginous foreigner and the steaming broccoli salad vomit slick of mortification and spiritual death?"