Monday, May 29, 2006

oLD mAN2*9

Some trees are greener than others, so he discovered; some so green they almost appear oceanic. True, the man in the hat has never seen a moraine lake, one so blue-green that it appears inanimate, but he has seen snapshots and pixilated images on TV, and once overheard two men talking about one in a laundry mat, perhaps a cafĂ©. He once thought that the life of a roughneck, heaving massive chains round drilling bores, would be to his liking, but decided against it when he realized that he would need to be around other men, some with roily skin and stale breath, wearing coveralls soiled through with machinist’s oil. Being around others was especially troubling, even if they stood a good distance away from him, which, so it seemed, they seldom did. Everywhere he went he felt like he was bumping into crowds of people, people with little respect for his wellbeing and general health. Some with breath so rancid he could smell the rottenness of their stomachs, others with such horrid skin diseases he feared contracting some incurable rash or callus ailment. Green is the sign of a gangrenous infection, or simply an indication, one seldom mistaken, that a person has lousy washing and grooming habits. Blue and brown are the signs of a robust and hearty life, gestures of proper grooming and respect for others that may find too much green troublesomely indecent. But the unwashed have neither the patience nor job training for such delicacies, both of which require a middling degree of self-awareness and education, or at least a scant desire to obtain them should the opportunity present itself, which, of course, it seldom does. The man in the hat sees no reason why one should be pressured or cajoled into investigating one’s life, even should it be done in the privacy of one’s home and the results decidedly positive, or at most less troubling. He has no difficulties filling up his time, pursuing his love for tightrope walking or riding buses, or simply trying to conserve what little energy he has, stockpiling it for some new venture or yet to be determined avocation, which, of course, never happens. People, who have an individualism for wearing hats, seldom do anything that would in anyway compromise or increase the risk of loosing their hat. The hat, of course, being the reason why they shake themselves from sleep each morning, in anticipation of either choosing a different or alternative hat, or dusting off the one worn the previous day. Personal style and elan in such matters are essential, as are proper hygiene and choice of footwear. What a man wears at either end of his body is significant, as it allows one to make the observation that the two polarities match and are in accordance with proper style and grooming. These two seemingly divergent opposites have a logic and soundness all their own, one that carries with it a significant degree of responsibility and prestige. Suffice it to say, what one chooses to crown one’s head with, should never be taken lightly, subjected to mockery, or made into some burlesque sideshow. The hat is a sign of individualism, not the topic of cajolery or trifling bad manners.

He knew of people, the man in the hat, who used coffee filters as toilet paper, unscented and with tiny anabolic perforations for distilling pulverized coffee beans. These same people, he assumed, ate nothing but prepackaged food and candies, drinking liter upon liter of sugary colas, orange Fanta and grape-aide. Their children, should they, the children, be so unfortunate, were probably infested with head lice and other festers’. Their skin raw and scalloped with nit bites, itchy with grubs and maggots laid in soft tissue and muscle. He recalled stopping once to drop a coin in a almsman’s cap, thinking as he did, that his choice of hat was far superincumbent to the almsman’s, who’s cap was used as an offering plate, not to shield the sun or to add to one’s general appearance. In some ways he, too, was a beggar, but his baksheesh were thoughts and ideas, not coins and cigarettes, charity of mind, not hand me downs and castoffs. He also knew of a man, someone from his distant past, a past all but forgotten, who was forced into beggary when he lost his position as a postal clerk, a job he’d held for twenty years, perhaps longer. The man, the one he once knew, had a nervous tick that caused the left side of his face, the prepuce of his lips, to twitch violently whenever he felt unduly stressed or out of sorts. After his fellow clerks in the postal office made a litany of complaints, he was let go without a pension, severance or a shake of the hand. After struggling for a year or so, living off what little savings he had hidden in a pillowcase stowed away at the bottom of his closet, he bought a cap, one too big for his head, and took to begging for spare change and cigarettes. Hunched in a doorway across from the public library, a place he never visited, he placed his too big hat with the brim upside down in front of him, his legs folded on top of the other, and waited. If he were lucky, he might count out fifteen dollars from his cap, but, sad to say, this was the exception, as more days than not he was lucky to count out five or six dollars, enough for a loaf of day-old bread and a dented tin of sardines. After five years of this, day in and day out, he took to selling off what possessions he deemed were unnecessary, secondary to his life, until all that was left was his bed, a broken chair and a radio that only picked up static, a black cicadic noise. Half-smoked cigarettes, filters buttery with drool, and coffee, someone’s unwanted dregs left at the bottom of a Styrofoam cup, were a luxury, things he coveted with an eye to proper sustenance. He is dead now, this man from the past, rotting in an unmarked hole in the ground in some nondescript graveyard, backhoe dirt dumped and tramped down with gravedigger’s boots, hobnailed soles worn down to steel tacking. No one will visit him or remember he existed at all. The day he read the other man’s obituary in the morning paper, the man in the hat went to the graveside and placed a hat, brim upside down, where he thought his head would be, the grave dirt stomped with boot prints.

A late spring breeze, a concerto of birds, some blue and red, others dun brown and yellow, trilling and chirping like hellcats. A squall of blue sky, fleece white clouds, sheep hobbled to the slaughter, life is unnecessary. A bird perched on a branch in a tree, the branch breaks, the bird plunges to its death. The chirping and trilling stops, birds are surplus, not worth the bother. The man in the hat thinks to himself, to no one, a bird, a cat, a hellcat, all surplus, superabundant, inessential, whether blue, red, dun brown or yellow, not one iota. Birds, he suggests to himself, alone, are devilfish, devilfish with wings and tiny clawed feet. Not even worth the bother of eating, broiling, skillet fried with bacon fat and the green, greenest shallots. A Styrofoam white moon, a fat yellow jaundice whore with fencepost teeth and tiny misshapen feet. Life is unnecessary, a waste of all that energy and good manners.

When out walking one day, something the man in the hat did sparingly, he saw a three-legged dog striking its way along the pavement. He let it be, feeling that it was an alms-dog, and should be left to its own discommode and beggary. Some dogs are just not worth the bother. Perhaps, he thought, if I were to catch it a bird, trampling it with the soles of my boots until dead, I could offer it up to the dog, a small benefaction of my own sympathy and selfsameness. The three-legged dog, so he felt, would eat the bird with great relish, teeth clacking, a white slaver frothing its snout.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Old Man and Hat

He wears a hatman’s hat, broad brimmed, felt brown and quail with feathers. He has on a haberdasher’s jacket, brownish gray with widespread lapels and a two-rose buttonhole. He rides a bicycle without a horn, flagon or bell. His trousers, brownish brown, are cinched round his ankles with tape; the cuffs tucked into his galoshes with object care. The man in the hatman’s hat eats sparingly, generally boiled dog meat with asparagus and potatoes, boiled with the skins left on. He prefers his meats and vegetables boiled, as they retain less of their flavor, dog meat, as one might imagine, having a too strong domestic taste, which is reduced from excessive boiling and mincing. Mincing, as opposed to dicing or cubing, being the preparation of choice, at least for the man in the hatman’s hat, as his knowledge of culinary technique is middling to nil.

He is neither a religious man nor an agnostic, or for that matter an atheist or a true believer, as he finds anything organized unwholesome and troubling. He has a penchant for small dogs, cur and dioxins being more to his liking. Yes, he eats sparingly but with great relish and clacking of teeth, which have been abraded to stumps and gate stiles, leaving a horrid aftertaste at the back of his throat. His esophagus is striated with dog and asparagus, both of which, due to improper cooking, he finds troubling to swallow. He eviscerates the dogs, which he catches behind the viaduct behind the Sears store, with a lancet he borrowed from an acquaintance with whom he is no longer acquainted.

He hangs the meat to dry, or cure, as he sees curing as a more efficient manner of dressing dog, behind the viaduct behind the Sears, where he has constructed a lean-to out of scrap linoleum and castoff two by fours left behind once the Sears was built. Beneath the man’s hat he has a whorl of hair, crenellate and tufted in cornrow rows, a row or two which have been spiffed with Brill Cream to effect an authoritarian look, which it does not, though no harm can be attributed to trying. He likes his hat, and wears it when eating, even when the heat is inhospitable and his hatband gets soaked through to the felt with perspiration and Brill Cream. He is extremely short, dwarfish, barely the size of a nursling or a small domesticated lapdog. He likes tightrope walking, and sees it as a sort of unofficial avocation, one which he would like, time permitting, to parlay into full-time employment. He reads nothing but atlases and Popular Mechanics, sometimes a book on soccer foot positioning, to help in his own foot positioning for the purposes of tightrope walking.

My grandfather wore a hat, though had neither interest in nor dexterity for tightrope walking. He took snapshots of family gatherings and building sites, both of which he found unendingly fascinating. He preferred the fedora, the bowler when he was of the mood, to the simple hat or cap. His tertiary interest was in painting, with oils and acrylics, which he applied to enamel boards and stretched canvasses, many of which hang on the walls of my flat. He was a short man, but by no means dwarfish or nursling. The hat, or hats, he wore, covered the bald spot on the crown of his head, where faint wisps of gray hair grew in defiance of capillary baldness. My grandmother, to the best of my recollection, never wore a hat, preferring the luster and thickness of an unadorned head of womanly hair. Yes, she did once don a sunbonnet while boating with my grandfather on a pristine, bottomless lake in the Eastern Townships, but more as a favor to my grandfather, who feared she would swoon and subsequently faint from heat prostration. They had a dog, Simon, which they took care of for my uncle, an English teacher with an ex-wife who he fondly referred to as the cunt. She drove a Volvo sports car, a graduation gift from her wealthy parents, both of who drove standard Volvo sedans.

Yes, the man in the hat, lest we go off on a tangent, which, as you know, can be most difficult to return from. Did I mention, I fear not, that the man in the hat is clubfooted, dragging his clubbed limb behind him, which causes him a great deal of discomfort and no little humiliation? One acquaintance, with whom he is no longer acquainted, referred to his foot as a cudgel, and offered to shellac it with a badger’s hair brush that he kept in a scabbard on a belt which encircled his trousers. I doubt he would have shellacked the man in the hat’s foot, though stranger things have been propositioned, one might suggest. This man, the one-time acquaintance of the man in the hat, rode a bicycle with a flagon attached to the handlebars with a scotching of tape, from which he sipped Whisky through a straw. He also, this man, wore a hat, though one that was in no way a cover up for balding, as he had a full, healthy head of hair, tresses of which dangled from beneath the brim of his hat. He was not, to the best of my recollection, of the Jewish faith, though one could, I suppose, draw such a conclusion. He neither owned nor ate dog, but saw no reason why someone, should they be so inclined, should be persuaded not to do so if they found it a sumptuous delicacy. Meat is meat, he contended, regardless of its begetter or ancestry. The man in the hat, however, has some moral restraint, and will not eat a dog that is smaller than a cat. Having eaten a cat, which he mistook for a small dog, he considers the experience a most troubling one, one that he has never quite forgotten, much as he has tried.

In history, yes history, there have been many a great man who was a tightrope walker, many of whom fell to their deaths as a result of their avocation. I have neither the time nor patience to recollect who they were, but suffice it to say, and I give you my word, there were many. His choice, the man in the hat’s choice, to take up the avocation of tightrope walker came about as the fulfillment of a childhood wish. He wished he could, so he did, fulfilling a wish that had dogged him since boyhood. One might conjecture, should one be so disposed, that there is a connection between tightrope walking and the eviscerating, boiling and eating of dogs, even if this connect, at first glance, seems improbable. I assure you I am not making this up, but simply recollecting for someone who prefers to remain anonymous.

Long ago, when the man in the hat was younger, a boy, he was prescribed a therapy of drugs to curb his appetite for running round aimlessly in circles. He did so, darting in and out and around objects, many of which we put in his way to prevent him from whetting his appetite for running in circles, his tongue slapping the side of is face, his eyes tightly closed. He claimed that running in circles made him feel at ease, lessening the horrible anxiety that he was prone to and experienced without end day in and day out. His parents, under the doctor’s supervision, decided that wearing a hat (not a straw cowboy hat with a drawstring around the chin, or a sharp sounding whistle, but a man’s hat) might stop their son from his frenzied running in circles. Thus began the man in the hat’s disposition for wearing a hat, long after his running in circles had stopped. It might be suggested, perhaps, that there is a connection to be drawn between wearing a hat, one inappropriate for a young boy, and the eating of dog meat in later life. I see no reason why this might not be the case, given the vagaries of life and the backwardness of psychiatry and insipidly bad parenting. A gestalt of images, some half, others mixed together to form a montage of likeness and facsimiles of likeness’, combined to confuse and addle the child in the hat. A partnership between a child’s building blocks and a shaman’s trickery, a slight of hand done in the open. The man in the hat, seeing no viable way out of the dupery at hand, simply gave into the therapy, learning in the process to disassociate reality from thought, sophistry from authenticity, sorcery from truthfulness. In this manner eating dog seemed neither extraordinary nor immoral, nor, for that matter, unseemly or horrifying. Meat is meat, after all, regardless of ancestry or breeding. Self-reflection, he was told, is the hallmark of humans, what differentiates a thinking thing from a reactive or non-self-conscious thing. A dog, for example, doesn’t reflect on what it is about to devour, but simply gnaws it into bite size smithereens. Eating a dog, then, is nothing more than a natural reaction to hunger, and one’s self-consciousness of that hunger. Broiled, spitted, slow-cooked over an open fire, skewered, stir-fried or baked, it’s all the same, meat. Carnivore, omnivore, glutton or epicure, the end result is the same, satisfying the want for food.

Mt grandfather, who wore a hat, a fedora with a silk hatband, and my grandmother, who once wore a hat in a boat in deference to my grandfather’s pleading, liked roasts of beef, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and white bread, to sop up the gravy and bits with. My grandmother, who had no great like of cooking, preferring stitching and rug hooking, boiled everything in the same pot, meat, vegetables, spices and dumplings. To the best of my recollection, they never once ate dog, even though they had one around and at hand. Their son, my uncle, referred to is ex-wife as a dog, a cur with wide ankles and a barking cough that annoyed him to no end. The man in the hat, as is of his mien, would have eaten their dog, Simon, had the opportunity presented itself, standard poodles, in keeping with his moral approbation, being a tasty festive dinner. The standard poodle, he felt, was best prepared as a roast, with the appropriate vegetables as a side dish.

The man in the hat on the bus, which was how he referred to himself when he was out and about, seeing to errands or simply to test his patience and intolerance. The most common hat, he discovered, was the standard baseball cap in a variety of colours, some with tags on the headpiece, others with stitching, names and insignias that represented gods only know what. Many seeming to have no other purpose than to attracted attention to the wearer and their hat. Vagabonds, hobos, derelicts and the deranged, all seemed to find their way onto the same bus that he happened to be riding. An enormously fat woman with an proportionately fat toddler, her face a squab of veins and blotches, pressed into the seat next to him, her child screeching like a banshee. Or a bawdy woman with chicken scratches on her arms, nodding back and forth, her neck seemingly incapable of supporting the weight of her head. A fancy man with in a fancy hat, teeth the colour of corn, needling the bawdy woman with the screw of his elbow. A traffic jam of perambulators and baby carriages, old people shuffling behind walkers made from tube steel, leatherette and Velcro, tires splayed through to the rim. And all that hacking and coughing, and the odor of peppermints, clothes recently unpacked from mothballs, mildew, and the blight of necrotic flesh. He thought of them, all of them, as dogs, creatures lacking in self-consciousness and purpose. The unprincipled fat woman, even though the sight of her made him sick with dread, he would eat, boiling her with leeks and garlic, making sure to skim the oily fat from the top of the simmer. He imagined there were dogs that size, even though he had never seen one or known someone who had.

The bus was a phantasmagoria of delinquency, a steel sarcophagus stuffed to spilling with the odds and end of humanness. He, the man in the hat, felt there must be a hierarchy of humanness, one where the incurables were at the bottom rung, the ambulatory and half witted in the middle, and those on the verge of destitution somewhere near the top. There were days, too many to count, where he felt that he was somewhere in the middle, between the not quite incurable, those held in purgatory for no other reason than bad luck and beggary, and the ambulatory, just a hair below the destitute and downward spiraling. At times like these the craving to run in frenzied circles was like a hunger, a need to split the infinity of his being in the world of things. At times like these, the urgency to disassociate, to escape from it all, was impossible to censor from his thoughts, as disordered and random as they were. He would recall his grandfather’s fedora, his grandmother cowed in a sunbonnet, her eyes staring discerningly at the clear, blue water; and the smell of dog broiled over mesquite coals, the skin shriveled like curdled milk, a scratching at the back of his neck. A downward spiraling he was helpless to put a stop to, and even if he could, wouldn’t have known how to. Wretched bad luck, beggary, a busload of half-wits and incurables, and a sour burning sensation at the back of his throat that caused him no end of worry.

When it rained, which it did, almost habitually, the man in the hat would fasten a kerchief to his hat with safety pins and tape. Actually it wasn’t a kerchief, but a bathing cap; the sort used by old woman and small children, a precaution against earaches and pus boils. Gobbets of rain would bead on top of the protective cap, preventing his hat from getting watermarked and soggy. He noticed that the deranged and half-witted seldom wore hats or rain bonnets, and how they scuffled through the rain seemingly unaware, or caring less, that they were soaked through to the bone, hair matted like rug hemp. He neither felt sorry or pity for these poor creatures, but rather avoided them at all cost, sometimes parrying round them, or rerouting his trajectory to avoid contact with them. Rain was not God’s tears, as some suggested, but nature’s way of wearying the incurables from the face of the earth. His, the man in the hat’s rain slicker, was standard yellow with buttonhole clasps rather than snaps. When he was a boy he had a squall jacket, with cinch cord at the bottom to keep it from bluffing in strong gale force wind. He learned to sail, but sparingly. Like most things he did, or put his mind to, an economy of energy was the first principle, the one he expended the most energy on. For the boy in the hat, entropy was something to aspire to, a complete cessation of dynamic thought and action, an inertia of sorts. He willed very little, and those things he did with an eye to despotic inactivity. It rained for a year, perhaps more; clouds the colour of poached mutton tarnishing an otherwise blue-gray sky. But the man in the hat slogged on as if under a robin’s egg blue sky, his hat safeguarded beneath a nimbus of polymerized cowling. Never wearying, housed beneath a luminous aurora, his galoshes splitting infinity in two, he trudged on, his slicker cutting a V in the mutton gray sky.

He kept a scrapbook where he affixed pictures, odds and ends, of those things that he found intriguing. Pictures of safaris, which he found irresistible, Banyu trees slung with monkeys and red-faced gibbons, salt grass where lions and jackals skulked like devils, other men, like himself, in ox hats shouldering impossibly heavy rifles. As far as he knew these places didn’t exist, as he had no first-hand knowledge to verify their reality, no way of knowing if places other the one he inhabited existed at all. Yes its true, safaris and red-faced gibbons have very little of anything to do with the day to day drudgery of life, but the imagination does, and the man in the hat’s is exemplary. His capacity to disassociate from the moment, his inimitable endowment for finding unreason in reason, is without stead. He lives a life of absolute disinterest, an almost disinterest in his own disinterestedness, a disinterested disinterestedness, so to speak. He cares for little, not even his own upkeep, and would rather watch stragglers and knockabouts going about the routines of the day, than pay attention to his own interests. Finding his own meager existence not worth of the bother of mentioning, and when he does, in the third person particular, he sees no great need to make sense of the senselessness of his own existence, his ontological wherewithal, his disinterest in his own disinterestedness. For him, and perhaps those like him, though he has never met one, another like himself, life is one long arduous, time consuming translation from one language to the other, neither of which he has mastery of. Decoding codes, re-transcribing an enigmatic pandect of untranslatable nonsense, inane chitchat, blather. Language is a decoy for stupidity, an excuse for prosaic chatter, a waste of precious time, which, the man in the hat feels, we have so little of.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Dogwood Wooddog

The dogwood tree outside my bedroom window spawns the greenery of late spring. Fucking stupid tree, weevil knots and heartwood, pensile roots and that fucking thirsting. Gangrenous olive grayish greens, septic with fecal purulence and douse. And the wind, so fucking mercenary and bad mannered, enough to send one hi-tailing it to a less inhospitable clime. Leaves like box kites, shaped into withered hands, prawn with arthritic knots and bone curd. Gonorrheal gray, a livid supernal excrescence. Sermonic nonsense, a down right shame of nature. A tree is not a Eucharist, unless, of course, it is the breadfruit tree, a fine exemplar of cornmeal eudaemonist spoilage. Fucking sugartrees, all that boiled pitch and lynchman’s noosing. I much prefer my dearly deceased aunt Alma’s raspberry tarts, sopping with drupe and the sweat off her brow. Uncle Jim, of course, saw things out of one eye; the one left after the sawmill saw cauterized the other one shut, suturing it to a bloodied orbit.

A fine and blustery day for corporeal mortification, a slap whisk to flagellate away the desire to have desire. Tossing a clog into the desiring-machine, stopping up the whole mess. A joint of lamb, sprier flat, dressed out in all it’s finery, the augur of a slaughter, laid out on a bed of greenery, shallots and zucchini peels, unction wine and a spirogyra of allspice and cumin. A portend of rain, slate grayness, a spectacle unto itself, a study in the study of study, a studious study in studiousness. A rat’s breath of wind upbraiding a sky menaced with rarebit and toast heels, not a marmalade pot in sight, no jams, jellies or compote of legume and schizocarp. Thinking thoughts without a tinker to sledge hammer notion into coition. Toques mitered to form the shape of your head, kilted to one side, a fluke bone without a central nervous system. Welcome to my world, a world chalked full of nervous energy, spoil and Gauloises’ ends, a syphilism of carnage, carrion and coition.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Clinker Ash

you stood under a hovel of rain
a child’s roughed up knees
pressed into the spar of your chest
storm clouds like phantoms

a childhood gray as clinker ash

Guinness Porter

bread sop black with slaughter
a butcher’s rations
pricket with bone and carrion

Friday, May 05, 2006


(May 5/06)
Pauperism forced me to heist a roll of toilet paper from a tap house this evening. I slipped the roll into my knapsack, stopping to glance at my pitiful self in the mirror, and left the men’s room through the door through which I had entered. Public house toilet roll, I was to discover, has a much wider hole in the centre, forcing me to place it atop the cistern, not in the roll dispenser as is generally de rigor. Now I am de rigor, and not the toilet roll. I, the toilet roll brigand, am a sad wretched chattel thief. Perhaps unwittingly I am being influenced by Zeno, who’s Confessions I am presently reading, perhaps not. Water the plants, that is what I should do, not pilfer lavatory wipe from some unsuspecting hostelry. Hume, after all, taught me that I have no sentiments or a moral bone in my body, but rather a threshing machine that separates the moral wheat from the unconscionable part of me, the chaff, which, I have come to learn, is a colossus unto itself. Today I have two choices: either I water the plants, which are thirsting into cactus, or thieve yet another roll of toilet paper. Two choices, yet an invariable ratio of thinking. I am perplexed, as is my de rigor in most things I put my mind to.


a standoff
keeps me conscious
of the gap being filled
or is it emptied
above my head

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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