Sunday, August 31, 2008

Plumbed Wine and Biscuits

Out of nowhere a quair fellow shouted at the tiptop of his lungs ‘…tomorrow the sky is going to fall, mark my words…’. The man in the hat, bent over a rabbit’s hole, said ‘…not again, you promised the last time was the last time…’. In the end the sky didn’t fall, and that was that. That afternoon, after morning vespers, the harridan’s sister’s table collapsed like a house of cards, bric-a-brac and doodads tumble every which where, the church deacon bellowing in laughter, a wee waif of a boy, his trousers to his knees, pissing up a storm. ‘…from here everything looks as it should…’ offered the deacon, ‘…so stop your blubbering and clean up that fucking mess…’. From where he was seated, between the ciborium saucer and the altar, the world looked as it should, port-side up and barreling with plumbed wine and biscuits. ‘…a girly like you should be grateful for what she has, measly and piddled as it is…’ he shouted, his face redder than spilt wine. Out of somewhere a quair fellow shouted at the bottom of his lungs ‘…watch out for that quair fellow, he’s a rare cunt he is…’. The harridan’s sister hightailed it down the church steps, and that was that.

Two weeks before the next day Dejesus received a postcard from his great uncle Theodore who lived in Ripe East Sussex and worked as a fixer for the
Guernsey Cable Company. Before working for the Guernsey Cable Company, his great uncle Theodore worked for the Aktiengesellschaft Cable Company in Austria, and before that for the Nick Dye Cable Company in Stoke Mandeville Buckinghamshire. The postcard read, Dearest nephew, I am writing you this short missive from my post at the Guernsey Cable Company while I am momentarily on break, albeit a short miniscule break, as they frown upon long languishing breaks, sad bastards, anything beyond 10 minutes is considered middling, and as such too long, so you might well understand the brevity of this short missive. One fellow, a mister V. W. Beams, however, seems to be permitted longer breaks, in the neighborhood of 11 or 12 minutes, why, I am unsure, but I suspect he is a favorite of the shift-boss, or simply a very smart man. Mister Beams, who prefers to be addressed as V. W., thereby shortening the time it takes to address him, as the company demands the utmost attention from its peons, V. W. being one of many peons to which I speak, so you might well imagine the undue pressure I currently find myself under, sad as that may be. I fear I am quickly running out of writing space, so I will get to the gist of this short, albeit middling missive. Might I ask of you to inquire about a position with the Kipling Cable Company as a fixer first class, which I am to understand is situated not far, a stone’s throw, I believe, from where you currently call home? Dejesus read the postcard, curious as to the postmark on the topmost corner, then pitched it in with the other trash behind the Greek Deli.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stout Stout and a Good Smoke

That morning the Liepaja Stepbrothers left for Bucharest never to return. The following morning the man in the hat got a telegraph from the Kista Brothers of Stockholms Lan declaring a monopoly over shoes and all things cobbled. He read the telegram then tossed it into the dustbin behind the Greek Deli. The alleyway behind the Greek Deli was a smorgasbord of spoiled buffets and sit-down dinners. ‘…what a silly world…’ he said, ‘stepbrothers fighting brothers over heel supports and eyelet punches…’. He spit-licked the brim of his hat, a sou'wester with a cockatiel plume, and went about his business, his thoughts sundry with cobblers’ awls and swung fists.

‘…I can’t remember the last time I had a good smoke…’ said the legless man to the alms man. ‘…and I a good stout Stout…’ said the alms man to the legless man. ‘…a good smoke and a stout Stout, what a splendid thought...’ said the legless man. ‘…sumptuous indeed…’ said the alms man, ‘…a splendid thought…’. The headlines in the morning Gazette read: 'POLICING ISSUE BEHIND RIOTS', Crisis talks at Stormont, IRA prisoners seek to clear record, Sharp reaction to Lisbon re-run proposal, Ogra Shinn Fein goes postal, Feature: March to overcome injustice, Analysis: British human rights record still among worst, the Polbeg Brewery has ceased producing Bogtown Stout, local man hangs himself from a tree in protest, fighting continues in the northern provinces. Dejesus’ family came from the northern provinces where Polbeg, sheepshanking and hangings were a familial tradition. A day didn’t pass without someone in the Dejesus family coming across a swaying corpse, the eyes pebbled with crows’ strikes, the tongue salted with hate and bigotry. The north had troubles with the south and the east troubles with the west, the entire country in troubles with itself.

The next day the headlines in the Polbeg Daily read, Go raibh mile maith agat. ‘…the cunts’re at it again…’ grumbled Dejesus, ‘…fucking dodgy bastards…’. The legless man sat in front of the Waymart and took in the clutter of the day, his stump-ends tucked under the seat of his half-trousers.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hortense Eugénie Cécile

The publishing house that published Popular Mechanics was still awaiting the shamble leg man’s overdue payment, now totaling, with accrued interest, 27½ dollars and 3 cents. As he had no intention of reading the Popular Mechanics they kept sending him, regardless of his arrears, he made a note to forget that he was in arrears and owing the publishing house the amount stated on the invoice, the very same invoice he had been sent 4 times to no avail. Mornings like this one made the shamble leg man drowsy and indolent, so, doffing his make-believe hat, he bid a farewell to all thought of accomplishing anything of value.

That morning the harridan awoke to a teasing pain, her back having bent over double while she slept in a heap of old linen and sour memories. As she pried herself from bed, stirring, she noticed a bird twittering on the window sill, a cozen warbler. The cozen warbler was known for its trill chirrup and quisling distemper. She shooed the bird from the sill and went about her toilet. The harridan disliked sharp piercing sounds, as her childhood had been chock-o-block with them. The harridan, now unstirred, remembered a slattern named Hortense Eugénie Cécile who worked in a casinò in Ancona Marche Italy. She had long silken curls the colour of buttermilk and eyes so blue they seemed impossible. The harridan read about her in an Italian caricatore she found in the trash bin behind the Greek Deli. Hortense Eugénie Cécile lived in a room upstairs in the casinò, where she kept all her worldly belongings, a pale blue dress with taffeta frills, two pairs of socks, two blouses, one red one turquoise, a pair of patent leather clogs and a table lighter she’d pilfered from the dining room downstairs. Hortense Eugénie Cécile was known as the best kisser in the casinò, the other girls known for their attachment to sweets and backstabbing.

That morning after the harridan had made her toilet, she put on her favorite pale yellow dress, the one she’d found in the trash bin behind the Waymart, and set out to find the man in the hat, who the day before had promised to show her how to make curlicues out of toothpicks and common balled string. She passed the alms man, who was sitting cross-legged on his swath of cardboard, eyes darting to and fro counting the number of cracks in the sideway, then she hurried by the legless man, who was busy scouring the stump-ends of his legs with a wire brush, his face red as the night sky before a rainy day, then finally to the park behind the aqueduct where she was to meet the man in the hat at 27½ minutes past noon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Algebra de Legman

Awakening from a dead fast sleep, the shamble leg man reached for the Popular Mechanics magazine stowed on top of his bedstead bureau. He turned to the middle of the magazine, to an article (perhaps a folio or expose) that read, the Guatemalan government has decided to add Algebra de Legman to the grammar school curriculum. After thumbing through the folio (perhaps an article or expose) the shamble leg man placed the magazine back on top of the bedstead bureau and lit his cob. Inhaling and exhaling like a tugboat steam chimney, he decided to put on his shoes, a pair of tan and black loafers with broad wingtip flaps. He placed his cob on top of the bedstead bureau steadily, careful not to disrupt the trimmings and bits and pieces that sat abutting his pocket-comb and clippers. On the bedstead bureau, other than his cob, pocket-comb, clippers and the Popular Mechanics magazine, sat three old coins of no known currency, a red button, a picture of a friend of his dead father, another picture of someone he had no idea who, a chewing gum wrapper, Beechnut peppermint, a spare pocket-comb missing several important teeth, an empty tin of Beeves’ Ginger Ale, a half empty package of Whisky Sour mix, a wooden cock, two macramé doilies and a book he had not, nor ever would, get around to reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Crook’s Ivy Gin and Moldy Cheese

That morning the legless man, having slept poorly the night before, awoke with a fright. He pushed back the covers, a poorhouse of bedbugs scattering, and lowered himself from bed. He ate a small indelicate breakfast, a glass of Crook’s Ivy Gin, three pieces of blue moldy cheese, nicked from the dustbin behind the Greek Deli, and when he’d had his fill, smoke a cigarette leisurely. ‘…but fuck its going to be fine and gentlemanly day…’ he yawned, ‘…a fine day for doing nothing at all, yes indeed, a fine and gentlemanly day it is…’. A cowering sun sat low in the morning sky, a poorhouse of gray clouds threatening rain and ungentlemanly weather. The legless man, unaware that the sky was about to fall, set out on his daily routine, a brisk punt to the alleyway behind the Seder’s grocer, where he palmed for yesterdays day-old castaways, a wide and rotten assortment of deli meats and cheeses, high fat breads and deep dish puddings, spoiled milk and whatever else he could find in the hoi polloi of the dustbin. Next a less brisk punt over to the park next to the aqueduct, where he unpacked what he’d palmed, laying it out in front of him to determine what was less spoiled and could wait to be eaten, comparing the less spoiled food with the almost spoiled food and the perishable foods, that food which was beyond less spoiled and in between almost spoiled, placing the almost spoiled and less spoiled food away from the inedible food, the two piles piled in deference to one another. Next he wrapped all of the non-inedible food, food that was almost spoiled but still edible, in his kerchief, heaving the non-edible food, spoiled beyond less spoiled and almost spoiled, into the black maw of the aqueduct. Next he punted with less briskness to the parking lot in back of the Waymart, where he sat for three hours watching the rats eat the spoiled food from the industrial dustbins that sat row on row beside the manager’s car, a yellow sedan with tan interior and spoiled white whitewalls. After he’d had his fill of watching the rats eat spoiled food, some so spoiled and rotten it turned his stomach inside out, he punted, with little to no briskness, back to the park next to the aqueduct, where he threw stones, palm-size stones, at the now half-submerged rotten inedible spoiled food he’d tossed into the black maw of the aqueduct three hours prior. Once he’d stoned all the now soggy inedible spoiled rotten food under the water, he set off for home, the kerchief of almost spoiled and less spoiled food pressed tightly between the stump-ends of his phantom legs, an imbecile’s grin on his tired worn face. The sky didn’t fall that day, but had it, the legless man would have paid it little notice, as his daily routine had scant room for dilly-dalliances and fallen skies.

The Day Before Today

Suddenly everything came to a stuttering stop. Drumming a tympani on the taut of his stomach, the man in the hat ambled southward. Moseying, he ambled southward. Today was the day before the sky threw itself into the turbid waters of the aqueduct. The day before today, yesterday, was a day well forgotten; a day full of pickling and yaw. The day before today the dogmen, the littlest to the biggest, spiced and smoked their catch of eels, creel baskets hung in the branches of the fichus, the unpalatable offal of fish oil and smoke breaking wind with the sky. ‘…what a strange day…’ said the man in the hat, ‘…and getting stranger by the minute…’. The man in the hat set off for the woodland beyond the Waymart, his feet cracking like autumn leaves, the sun sitting low in the noontide sky.

That morning Lela awoke from troubled dreams. The sun stretched like a bolt of cloth across her bed, blanketing her from harm and misjudgment. Today was the day she had an appointment with the manager of the Waymart, a manager by the name of Kym’s. Jumping from bed, her hands swiping quibbles of soft morning air, she made her toilet and ate a small delicate breakfast, a slice of Bib’s bread lightly toasted, a deli-glass of grapefruit juice and ¼ of a yellow apricot. She brushed her hair, buttoned her blouse, a pale yellow little girls’ blouse, looped her belt through her skirt, a blue gabardine throw-off, and laced her shoes, scuffed pumps with a thumb-size hole in both soles, and left slamming the door behind her, a banshee of hot morning sun pricking the skin on her face.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cowley’s Beans and Skinflint Taters

Scrawled on the label of a tin of Cowley’s Beans was the following: …a tithe of vicar’s plum for the blest James of Airlann, fader thrice-transubstantiate, eater of skillet-blacken kidney, highest-high Moyle of stropper, e’ though poor dead Paddy’s rotting, O’ yew cursed lye, oxen-cart re-crossing the Liffey at dawn, Moylan, reamer of surd, trackman’s stub weaning clove from crown and folly, mounting turret’s arse in excelsior Delores. Happy wee-birthday dearest dear James, adman, and blest be the heckle on the pub of yore neck. The man in he hat, not having the faintest idea what it meant, threw the empty tin of beans into the dustbin behind the Seder grocers and went this way that.

The next day the man in the hat found a tin of Skinflint Taters. He picked up the rusted tin, and turning it in his hands read the following: Grandmamma she wore a pillbox hat festooned with baubles and whatnot’s. Round roping her neck a scarf made from the rarest silk moue, a gift from the tinsmith, whose own hat was made from calf’s tongue and bleat’s testicle. He wore tied round his neck (his neck of spun tin and shale) an ascot cut with shears shearer than stone-ticking tick. He figured it was left behind by the same person who left the tin of Cowley’s Beans behind the Seder grocers. Not knowing what to make of it, he flattened the tin with the cob of his boot and threw it into the dustbin with the other tin, his mouth slattern with thirst, the sky turning grayer by the minute.

Pound Notes and Cockspurs

The following day Lela grabbed her portmanteau, the one she carried with her when she ran away, and slamming shut the door left her flat. The man in the hat grabbed his favorite hat, the one he wore on rainy days and the day after Ships Day, and bolted for the street. The shamble leg man kipped a shilling and headed north for Mudstone on Kent, a cockspurs of pound notes jingling in his greatcoat pocket. The alms man folded his cardboard and hightailed it for Eccles Street, where he heard a doter sold Cheddar Mwyn Coch Cymreig by the wedge. The harridan wrapped her neck in a muffler, a gift from her sister, and beat it for Vilnius Vilniaus Apskritis, not quite sure where she was going and why. Her sister sold her last Pop-siècle placemat to a fat man with a pigsty eye and beat a path to Manerbio Italy, a place she’d always wanted to visit but hadn’t the wherewithal or time to do so. The legless man punted his pushcart praying he’d make it to the sea before the ship left for Rome without him. The next day the sky fell, a parade of lost dogs kipping the shilling northward quick.

‘…that’ll be the day…’ said the shamble leg. ‘…and what day is that…?’ asked the alms man. ‘…the day they stop calling yesterday the day before today…’ replied the shamble leg man, knees knocking one into the other. ‘…oh, I see…’ said the alms man, the tiptop of his head bristling with new hair. ‘…them bastards couldn’t tell a month from a year…’. ‘…or a day from a week…’ added the alms man. ‘…sissy cod bastards…!’ hissed the shamble leg man, the back of his hands downy with sweat. ‘…the lot of ‘em…’ prated the alms man, the sky turning cartwheels above his head. ‘…that’ll be the day, sure as I’m sitting here…’. ‘…the day for certain, no doubt about it…’ said the alms man, the sky turning this way and that, the shamble leg man sniffing the tips of his smoking fingers.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dim Bastard

Lela ran fast, faster than lightening on a clear day. She stopped at the Seder grocer’s to buy a bar of soap, the grocer giving her a tinker’s stare, then headed the logway up the street, her skirt billowing in the noontime breeze. The legless man sat in his druthers beside the Waymart playing pick up sticks with the alms man, the sun cooping the awning. The legless man gave eye to Lela, who scurrying past bumped into his pushcart sending it caroming into the street. ‘…thoughtless cow…’ he hollered, his neck reddening. ‘…watch where your going…’. Lela hurried past, her feet making haste with the hot asphalt. She stopped in front of the aqueduct, took a deep breath and whispered ‘…dim bastard…’. Lela waked westward under a gray pitch of clouds, the bar of soap wrapped in the arm of her sweater. The next morning the man in the hat sat under the sky reading the funny pages. He read comics about fat people and skinny people and people who were almost fat and almost skinny. He read funny stories about funny people with funny families and funny pets. He read comics that’d been in the funny pages long before he was born, and some older than old itself. There was a comic about a fat man with a skinny family, and one about a skinny man with a fat family. On the back page of the funny pages was an advertisement for a cream that promised to tame wavy hair and cure cowlicks. He sat under the sky and read until his eyes stung and his fingers ached, then pulling his hat over his brow fell asleep under a blanket of funny pages and blue sky.

The Last One

the face
cowl flesh soft
a garrotte of pigiron
turned round the spine
the last one pulled up
from the seabed below
shoulders nickered
the spine shackled
in pigbone

A Mazurka for Three Men and a Blind Woman

The day after she ran into the biggest dogman Lela found a book under the smallest tree in the forest. In childlike handwriting, scrawled and messy, was written, 'A Mazurka for Three Men and a Blind Woman'. She opened the book slowly, the pages brattled with time, and read, ‘That day, the day after Ships Day, three men and a blind woman set out to find the end of the world’. She counted each syllable in each word, each word in each sentence and each sentence on every page until she’d finished reading the book, then placed the book back under the tree, the smallest tree in the forest, and walked in the opposite direction she had come from. She remembered an old man from Chippenham Wiltshire who claimed he could change a cat into a dog and a dog into a cat by whispering in the animals’ ear. And a man from Mannheim Baden-Wurttemberg who had two cats and two dogs, never knowing for certain which was which. Both men, the old man from Chippenham Wiltshire and the man from Mannheim Baden-Wurttemberg, knew a woman from Wola Katowice who knew how to change a cat back into a cat and a dog back into a dog.

Lela hid beneath the Waymart awning and wept. She wanted a dog that wasn’t a cat and a cat that wasn’t a dog; she wanted things that wouldn’t change no matter how much they tried. She wanted new shoes and socks without holes, she wanted a warmer sweater and a better hat. She wanted things that stayed the same, and if they wouldn’t, changed into a warmer sweater or a sunnier day. She sat beneath the Waymart awning and dreamt she was somewhere else, somewhere far, far away, somewhere other then where she was.

That night the biggest dogman bought a picture frame and put a picture of his mother in it. He forced the edges against the rim of the frame, tamping the picture in place with the sides of his hands, then hung the picture around his neck on a piece of string, cinching it taut with his teeth, and walked back to the woods beside the aqueduct. The night sky hissed rain, the street lights refracting the darkness into images of stillborn children and lost dogs.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Counted Apples

That morning the sky didn’t fall, but had it, it would have fallen into the sea. The dogmen danced around a bundle of dried milky green weeds, the biggest dogman yowling like a banshee, the littlest dogman caught in a sweetbriar of fichus branches. Lela met the dogmen when she was just past her twelfth birthday. She bumped into the biggest dogman on Ships Day, a day gray with clouds and the smell of rotten breadfruit. She politely excused herself and walked in the opposite direction, the biggest dogman shifting his largeness to let her pass. The next day Lela found a dead bird under a pyre of blackened leaves, its neck wrung like a slough rag. She wrapped the bird in her kerchief and placed it in the earth next to the biggest tree she could find. That night the biggest dogman slept beneath the biggest tree in the forest, a quisling mewing into his ear ‘…piss, mamma…piss, mamma…piss…’, the sky blacker than tappet grease.

Lela had the counting disease. She counted each step she took, each mouthful of food she ate, the branches on the trees and the stars in the night sky. She counted until her she couldn’t count any more, then counted again, over and over until the counting took on a life of its own. She counted the number of letters in a word, the number of sentences in a page, the number of pages in a book. She counted things that counted for very little or nothing at all. She counted each step counted against each stride, each stride counted against each meter counted against each city block. She counted the number of syllables in a word, then counted backwards to a hundred just to be on the safe side. She counted upon rising and upon going to bed. She counted in church, every word the priest uttered. She counted apples and pears, candy bars and bars of soap, the grocer giving her a troubling stare. She counted the number of people in line in front of her and to the back of her. She counted the time it took to unpack her groceries and place them on the shelf. She counted until the sun set and rose again. She counted the number of times she counted to one-hundred backwards, counting forwards when she tired of counting backwards.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Milk Thistle

a child digs for memories
beneath the gorse black earth

under a foal of bone
a skull appears

cauled in sweetbriar
and milk thistle

the child digs deeper
below the shovel line

his granddad’s voice
summoning him home

The Day After Ships Day

The day Lela met the man in the hat and the harridan’s sister she had a vision that the sky would fall. She stood in front of the harridan’s sister’s knickknack table and stared at the pop-siècle placemats, her eyes twitching like clock-mice. She seized hold of one of the dories and spun the masthead like a pinwheel. She had a vision of children with impossibly small feet dancing round a maypole. One of the dancing children was wearing a flagstaff hat with a toy whistle attached to a chin-string. Another was dressed in a loose-fitting jumpsuit made from sheet music and apple skins. And yet another was wearing impossibly small booties with pinhole tops, her face red with excited exertion. She smelled boiled onions, a familiar smell from her childhood, and fainted, her legs giving away beneath her like wobbly ninepins.

Lela knew a man from Vereeniging Gauteng South Africa who had similar visions, but his were of devils dancing round caules’ stones. There was a man, a very large man, who lived in Meriden Connecticut who had visions of the man in South Africa. And another man, a very small man, who lived in a boathouse in Eschborn Hessen Germany who had visions of visions. A woman in Dunshaughlin Meath Ireland had visions of people having visions, but none of her own. In Most Ustecky Kraj in the Czech Republic a man named Karneval had visions of people who had no visions of their own, but if they did, they would be the visions he had of their visions. And in Kaunas Kauno Apskritis Lithuania a woman with baggy stockings had visions of people who never had visions of their own, but if they did they would be the visions of the large man from Meriden Connecticut who had visions of the man in from Vereeniging Gauteng South Africa who had similar visions, but his were of devils dancing round caules’ stones.

That morning the sky didn’t fall, but had it, it would have fallen into the sea. The dogmen danced around a bundle of dried milky green weeds, the biggest dogman yowling like a banshee, the littlest dogman caught in a sweetbriar of fichus branches. Lela met the dogmen when she was just past her twelfth birthday. She bumped into the biggest dogman on Ships Day, a day gray with clouds and the smell of rotten breadfruit. She politely excused herself and walked in the opposite direction, the biggest dogman shifting his largeness to let her pass.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Breadfruit and Zippers

The very next day the man in the hat bought a Churchill bowler with a buckshot hatband. He fancied owning a Churchill bowler, even if it meant spending all his coppers and small change. Come hell or high water he could count on the alms man, even if it meant having to listening to him brag about his ten-thousandth vision and yesterday’s rain. Every day after Ships Day was the very next day. It had been this way since the very first Ships Day held in nineteen twenty-seven, the day the first ship arrived in port carrying a orlop full of Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) and zippers. Jackfruit, unlike Breadfruit, has a bitter carob taste, so the ship’s captain figured a boatload of the sweeter Breadfruit was a far better stowaway. As for zippers, stow-crates of them, he felt they were part and parcel of a potable carefree life. The day the first ship arrived in port, the ship that harbingered all Ships Days to follow, the skyline was aflutter with sailor’s caps and unquenchable thirst.

The deaf mute Lela met the legless man and the alms man at the church bazaar one especially warm July afternoon. Clapping her hands together she tried to get the attention of the legless man, who was busy stropping the lead on his pushcart. ’…piss, mamma piss, piss…’ she whispered, ‘…mamma, piss…mamma…piss…piss…’. That day, the day before Ships Day, Lela bought a new feather duster and a nosegay of bluebells, chrysanthemums and dahlias. Her old duster, the one her mother gave her as a going away gift when she was twelve, had lost all its feathers; and a scullery maid without a full-feathered duster is as useless as cow without a tail. When Lela was a girl her mamma told her she wouldn’t amount to anything, and even if she did it still wouldn’t be nearly enough of anything. Because she was pushed out her mother’s hole too soon, one rainy, moonless night in August, she never heard her mother’s voice or a dog’s bark. All she could hear was the sound of her own breathing and the hiss of tyres on wet asphalt when she couldn’t fall asleep at night.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Clowns and Steeples

When the biggest dogman was a boy, a towering boy, his grandmamma fed him water and beans. She served the beans in a clown’s bowl and the water in a Shiner’s glass. She pinched the Shiner’s glass from the trash behind the Occidental restaurant, the clown’s bowl from a fool with a stray eye. She cooked the beans in a black skillet. She fed her grandson from her bed, poking beans into his mouth with the grip-end of a fork. She slaked his thirst with the water fished from the river that never went dry. Her grandson sat at the foot of her bed whistling through the steeples of his hands, his face a mess of split beans and fished water. When he was old enough to tell good from bad the biggest dogman left home, the Shiner’s glass tied round his waist with string, the clown’s bowl in pieces on the kitchen floor, his grandmamma fast asleep in her bed. From that day forward he swore he’d never listen to fools or old woman again, ever. Dogmen and Shiner’s, clown’s and steeples, what a tall tale.

Dejesus wet his thirst with Pale Ale and Gypsy Gin. He slaked his thirst, an insatiable wet thirst, with russet Pale Ale and dry Gypsy Gin. He slaked his thirst, an insatiable wet thirsty thirst, with cup upon cupful of pale russet Pale Ale and shriveled dry Gypsy Gin. Every morning upon waking Dejesus poured himself a cupful of Pale Ale and a thimbleful of Gypsy Gin. He took a long pull from the cup and a nip from the thimble, chasing the two with a mouthful of willowy blue smoke. ‘…I am slothful and damn proud of it…’ said Dejesus sitting on the edge of his bed thinking about the day that had just begun. ‘…slothfulness is highly underrated…’ he mumbled, ‘…left out in the cold to shrivel and die…’. Acquitting himself from the sheets, his feet swathed in day-old linens, he said ‘….where ratings are concerned, sloth is nowhere to be found...’.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Lattelekoms of Ogre Ogres Latvia

The Muenster family of Nordrhein-Westfalen made horsehair hatbands. The Muenster family were the only family to make horsehair hatbands that wasn’t related to the Heidegger family of Rheinland-Pfalz Trier Trier-Saarburg. The Lattelekom family of Ogre Ogres Latvia made livery halters. The Lattelekom family of Ogre Ogres Latvia sold livery halters to the Muenster family who in turn sold the Lattelekom family horsehair hatbands. Both the Muenster’s of Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Lattelekom’s of Ogre Ogres bought 5.5qt Oval Crockery Slow Cookers from the Marcum tool and dye company, neither family aware that they shared a dislike for skillets and bean pots.

When he was a boy, a wee boy, the legless man pined for two good sturdy legs. He pined for two shoes and two socks, two feet, good and sturdy feet, each with 10 toes, he pined for winter boots and galoshes, soft-soled slippers and hard-soled Oxford’s, he pined for slip-ons and loafers, he pined for leather shoes and canvas shoes, he pine for athletic shoes and going-out-for-dinner shoes, he pined for shoes with tassels and shoes with two eyelets, wingtip shoes and clogs, he pined for bowling shoes and cycling shoes, for hiking boots and Pointe shoes, he pined for snowshoes and après-ski boots, he pined for Pyrenees’ Espadrilles, Poulaines and Crackowes, he pined for Cordwainer's specially made shoes, Papal shoes and King James the 2nd shoes, he pined and pined but never once did he find shoes that fit snuggly on the stumps of his hips.

Author’s note: what nonsense, what banal nonsense! Crock pots and slow cookers, cast-iron skillets and double-boilers, Bonus Little Dippers and horsehair hatbands, livery halters and slip-on loafers, what utter banal nonsense!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

5qt Embossed Oval Slow Cooker

On Mondays he ate Quaker jellied pork sandwiches in the park. On Tuesdays he ate fried smelts and bulb onions. On Wednesdays he ate nothing, as by midweek he was penniless. On Thursdays he ate sparingly; half a Quaker jellied pork sandwich (he made a habit of saving half a sandwich on Tuesdays to be eaten on Thursdays) and the end bit of a bulb onion. On Fridays he ate the other half of the half Quaker jellied pork sandwich, having saved half of the half of the sandwich he had saved on Tuesday, and half of the half of a bulb onion. On Saturdays and Sundays he ate whatever was left over from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays and Friday.

The Marcum tool and dye company made skillets and bean pots. They made heavy skillets, stainless steel or cast-iron, skillets for searing, sautéing and stir-frying meats, seafood, and vegetables, deglazing skillets, heavy-gauge bottom skillets, nonstick skillets, stir-frying skillets, electric skillets, skillets that ran on batteries and skillets that were powered by windrowers. The Marcum tool and dye company was in competition with the Courier crock pot company, a small family business run by three brothers, two sisters, an aunt (from the mother’s side of the family), two uncles (from the father’s side of the family) and a tool and dye maker from the Orkney islands who was related to a first-cousin on the father’s side of the family. The Courier company made a variety of slow cookers in stainless steel, cast-iron and crockery, the 3 Quart Oval Slow Cooker, the Little Dipper, 1.5Qt Dip Master, Slow Cooker, the 6qt Embossed Oval Slow Cooker, a 6qt Embossed Oval Slow Cooker, the ever-popular 3qt Oval Slow Cooker, a 4.5qt Oval Slow Cooker, the handy 5.5qt Oval Slow Cooker that also came in a 5.5qt Oval Crockery Slow Cooker, 5qt Oval Slow Cooker w/ Bonus Little Dipper, a 6qt Buffet Slow Cooker ideal for dinner parties and get-togethers, the 7qt Oval Slow Cooker, ideal for dinner parties and large gatherings, the 5qt Embossed Oval Slow Cooker and the
Double Dipper Slow Cooker, ideal for small get-togethers and family suppers. The Courier crock pot company had a small factory in Berndorf in the township of Niederosterreich in the Austrian Alps.

The legless man ate jellied pork squashed between Quaker’s bread. He had no time for cast-iron skillets and crock pots, 4.5qt Oval Slow Cookers, 1.5Qt Dip Masters or anything made from crockery or tin. He preferred his food barely cooked slathered in sauces and condiments: Salsa Roja and Chinese mustard (Brassica juncea), English mustards and French mustards, wholegrain and honey mustard, yellow mustard and black seed mustard, ground sinapis and arrowroot mustard, duck sauce and peewee hen sauce, brown sauces, chutneys and Sriracha chili sauce, any sauce or condiment that hid the offal flavor of food.

Piftie de Porc

Donning his Balmoral hat, the one with the pheasant hatband, he stewed a pot of Opole Pork and Beans. He brought the pot to a boil and waited. The Opole Pork and Bean Co. was owned by Andrzej Czachor, a onetime tinker and gadabout from Opolskie Poland. He produced, tinned and marketed Opole Pork and Beans in a tinkers’ shed behind the Lublin (Kościół Polskokatolicki w Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) Catholic church. Bishop Wiktor Wysoczański was a great admirer of Opole Pork and Beans, as were Rabbi Yitzchok Hertz and Rabbi Gershon M. Garelik. Both Rabbi Yitzchok Hertz and Rabbi Gershon M. Garelik served in the Plugot Mahatz, Rabbi Yitzchok Hertz as a cook and Rabbi Gershon M. Garelik in the motor pool. Rabbi Yitzchok Hertz substituted brisket for pork and Navy Beans for Cowpeas, slow cooking the fendl cassoulet in a Jersey Crock for 27½ hours. The legless man bought a half-pound of jellied pork and a day-old loaf of Quaker’s bread. He made jellied pork and Quaker loaf sandwiches with a bowie knife he kept on a string tied round his waist. Andrzej Czachor married a girl from Lublin with cornrow hair and blossoming lips.

2 cups of boiling water, ½ cup of molasses, ½ tablespoon of salt, ½ a yeast cake dissolved in ½ cup of lukewarm water, 1 cup of Quaker’s Rolled Oats, ¾ cup of flour. Add boiling water to oats and let stand one hour; add molasses, salt, dissolved yeast cake, and flour; let rise, beat thoroughly, turn into buttered bread pans, let rise again, and bake. By using one-half cup less flour, the dough is better suited for biscuits, but, being soft, is difficult to handle. To make shaping of biscuits easy, take up mixture by spoonfuls, drop into plate of flour, and have palms of hands well covered with flour before attempting to shape. The legless man made Quaker’s bread on Saturdays and every second Wednesday.

On Sundays he made Piftie de porc. 3 lbs. (1.5kg) Pork feet and/or head, 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 parsnip, 1 parsley root, 1 celery root, 2 bay leaves, 3-4 juniper berries, 3-4 garlic cloves and salt. Wash and clean the feet and/or head. If hairy, singe. Split the feet in two lengthwise and break the head with the mallet. Place in a large pot and cover with water so that there are 3-4 inches of water above the pork pieces. Boil over slow to medium heat. Remove the foam as it forms. Then add salt, vegetables, bay leaves, and juniper berries. Cover the pot almost completely. Boil until the meat falls off the bones. Remove the bones and place the meat on the bottom of one or several deep plates. Chop the garlic, add some salt and mix with the meat broth. Strain and then pour on top of the meat in the plates. Refrigerate it so that it gels. To obtain a nice, clear jelly you have to boil slowly, with the pot almost covered. The tastiest pork jelly is made out of pork feet and ears. You can use beef feet or a mixture of pork and beef feet. On Mondays he made enough jellied pork sandwiches to last him until the following Monday.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Barrister’s Corn Whisky

Author’s aside: I am sideways to the left of myself, I am to one side out-of-the-way away from myself. (Antonym): I am or was or will be in reserve or apart or to one side of myself, or, I am up my sleeve away from myself. I am, notwithstanding being sideways to the side of myself, apart from myself. Or, I am in digression and or departure of myself, or, I am on a tangent of myself. Asides aside, I am beside myself.

The legless man drank Spruce Beer on hot days and mildly hot days. On warm days he drank Gibbet’s Ginger Ale through a straw. On cool days or coolly cold days, of which there were many, he drank Garret’s Green Leaf Tea with a sprig of lemon. On winter days he drank Potboy’s Coco with vanilla extract. On autumn days he drank Barrister’s Corn Whisky, whooshing. The day after Ships Day he drank McCarthy’s Cream Soda from a water glass. On the day in question he took neither a sip, draught, swallow or gulp of anything. On that day, the day in question, he chose to go without water, sodas, teas, coffee, malt beverages, whiskies and any and all potables that started with the letters C. L. Y. and W. Instead he ate mouthful upon mouthful of vegetables and legumes, meats and meat byproducts, candies, sweets, salted foods, foodstuffs and foods beginning with the letters B. Q. R. O. and Z.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Yipping Moaning Yowl

A screaming came across the sky. A shrieking yip. A yowl. The shamble leg man cursing, said ‘…what a howling yip, a yowl, a shriek…’. The morning sky fell open like a squabbling child, arms fighting off imaginary dragons. The night sky punted the morning sky, capering it back into yesterday. The night sky and the morning sky spent their time bulling the other from existence. There was no room for both a night and a morning sky. The shamble leg man stared a gawk at the rising sun, his feet squared to the curbside. ‘…another day of nothing at all…’. The sun rose higher, the night sky cowering under an umbrella of light. ‘…all at nothing of day another…’ said the shamble leg man, the peak of his forehead plumbed with the Waymart clock.

Today was the day the Witness was to pay witness to the witnessing of the Grand Witness Poona Altamonte. The Grand Witness was staying overnight in the Grand Hall of the Grand Witnesses’ Cantonment, built by the great-great grandfather of the first great Grand Witness Scaramouch Malacca. The day would start with the other Witnesses witnessing of the Grand Witness (Scaramouch Malacca) witnessing the witnessing of the other Witnesses, a bimanual conference of Grand Witness witnessing. (Bimanual as the Grand Witness was predisposed to gesticulations, the likes of which were uncommon outside of a triennial witnessing, which occurred every 27½ years). A second then a third screaming came across the sky. A yipping shriek. A moaning yowl. ‘…cursed yipping yowl…’ hissed the shamble leg man, ‘…I wish I had a feather duster so I could dust the morning sky away…’.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tungus Psychopomp

Sunday morning the man in the hat awoke, his neck staved in pain; what was right side up was now upside down, bone rubbing against bone. O' Holloway, who claimed to be a direct descendent of the Tungus Psychopomps, made him a cataplasm out of butterweed, castor oil, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, St John's Wort, Devil's Claw Root, Chickweed and Calendula, advising him to apply the poultice-sac to the back of his neck thrice daily. The man in the hat applied the poultice in the morning, after lunch and 10 minutes before going to bed, allowing for the offal smell to grist from the bed sheets. The psychopomp O’ Halloway kept a grivet (chlorocebus aethiops) in a pen behind his house. O’Halloway trained the grivet in conjuring, not a simple task by any stretch of the conjurer’s imagination.

The grivet learned how to make Tungus Balm and Epsom’s, and how to cast spells and conjure foul odors. O’Halloway had a run in with the Witness, both men trying to conjure the other. The Witness declared spiritual immanence, O’Halloway the gift of the Tungus Psychopomps’, each man declaring the right to walk on the left side of the street. After a heated contest, each attacking the other with synonyms and perfect grammar, the Witness conceded defeat, but not before laying a curse on O’Halloway and spitting hellfire through the holes of his nose. The crick in the man in the hat’s neck got better after three applications of the Tungus poultice, proving that conjuring and foul odors had their place, even in a tool shed behind a madman’s house.

When the biggest of the dogmen got wind of the psychopomps’ medicinal conjuring he swore he’d have it for himself, even if it meant having a spell put on him by a hairy faced monkey. He told the other dogmen about the conjurer’s magic, warning them to stay clear of the tool shed where the madman kept his pet grivet. The dogmen were deathly frightened of monkeys, having been cursed by an African Green Monkey (Chlorocebus) while sniggling for river cod. They took every precaution to stay as far away as possible from the devil’s beasts, as the feral African Vervet was capable of tearing a man’s arm clean off with a single swipe of it’s three-fingered hand.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Borges’ Biscuits and Stinkweed

The man in the hat prepared an omelet with friar’s cheddar and crowberry preserve. He ate hurriedly, chewing each mouthful like a starveling waif. He lit a cigarette and sat in his favorite chair. ‘…today I will buy a new hat and a pair of matching socks …’. The sky made like it was about to fall. ‘…never but your faith in untrustworthy things…’ he mused, ‘…or falling skies…’. The water rose in defiance of common sense and hydrophilicity. Soon the banks of the aqueduct would burst, brown frothy filth flooding the tableland.

‘…this is terrible, indeed terrible …’ said the legless man. ‘…the Mountain buttercup should be watered no more than twice a month, otherwise its roots will reach to the centre of the earth…’. ‘…is that so…?’ asked the alms man. ‘…longer than a yogi’s fingernails…’ replied the legless man. This how it all began before the fever that would put an end to the beginning. This is the began of the beginning, the begun. This is not a fairy tale, nor is it puppetry or smoke and mirrors. This is how I remember it, how I was reminded to remember it, the begun of what was to begin, the beginning of the began, what began beginning long before the fever put a damper on the began of the beginning. ‘…I’m reminded of the smell of the Tea Horse road and yesterday’s leftovers…’. ‘…is that so…?’ ‘…yes, so it is so…’. ‘…you are a strange one…’. ‘…yes, I suppose I am so…’. ‘…its never to late to learn a new trick…’. ‘…or how to tell a Colt's-foot from a stinkweed…’. ‘…yes I suppose it is so…’. ‘…so it is so, so it is…’.

The legless man wished he was a legged man, one leg next to the other. He wished for a tin of Borges’ Biscuits, the kind with the happy-go-luck fool on the lid. He wished for legs, one next to the other, and a tin of Borges’ Biscuits, the one with the happy-go-lucky lid.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Colt's-foot, Pyramidal Bugle & Marsh Marigold

‘…they’re following me…’ said the legless man, the alms man, his cap lost in the drapery of his lap, paying him no notice. ‘…mercenaries, soldiers of misfortune…’ he said, his fingers digging into his empty pant’s leg. ‘…an alphorn skullcap, I must get myself one of those…’ said the legless man. ‘…are you out of your mind…?’ said the alms man. ‘…no, not to my knowledge…’ said the legless man, his face reddening. ‘…the glacier peaked snowman’s cap, now there’s a fine specimen of a hat...’ said the alms man, his face widening. The legless man frowned, the corners of his mouth disappearing into the cusp of his chin. The littlest dogmen found a alphorn skullcap bereaved in a nosegay of flowers, Mountain Houseleek, Mountain cornflower, Alpine rock-jasmine, Bavarian gentian, Colt's-foot, Pyramidal Bugle, Marsh marigold, Glacier mouse-ear chickweed, Pyrenean buttercup, Mountain buttercup and Trollius Europaeus, a scout’s whistle eyeleted through the underside of the brim.

Roe and Tut

He put on his coal-duster, jiggling closed the clasp, and left. Dejesus, dressed in his coal-duster, the clasp jiggled closed, left. He left, but not before jiggling closed the clasp. When he went sniggling Dejesus wore his coal-duster, the clasp jiggled closed. Were it not for O’ Callahan’s no man worth his weight in salt could stay the winds. Pockets laddered with crowberries and cress, Dejesus cuts the hardliner south, looking afterward for the northern most pitch. Below the tumpline the eels bed in their own slip. The day after Ships Day the banks of the aqueduct spilled over with roe and tut. The dogmen culled the eels into whicker baskets, laying them out to blister in the swelter. When not selling old shoes and heel supports from the boot of their car, the Sibu Brothers of Sarawak sniggled for eels. They supplemented what meager income they made from old shoes and heel supports with the money they made from sniggling. ’...what a strange oddity of people...’ said Dejesus. ‘…I must have lost my way...’.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

JJSS – July 6-12/08

In July of this year I was awarded a scholarship to attend the James Joyce Summer School in Dublin. What follows is/are my class-notes, scribblings and general nonsense.

July 6th 08 - Fuck; I’m here!

Walked Dublin in flip-flops, an enormity of people, jugglers, huskers, hustlers, hurlers (the Irish pastime and National Sport) clowns, people who looked like clowns but weren’t, Eastern Europeans, Asians, Indians, a cacophonous Babel, Grafton St. and Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, the Tennessee Shopping Dome extravaganza.

July 8th 08

One of the virtues of not knowing your way around a city (getting lost is what I’m trying to not say) is that you get the opportunity to walk up and down and down and up all those streets and places you might otherwise have missed. This morning began with two lectures at Newman House, the old UCD where James Joyce studied (we actually use the room where he listened to lectures over a 100 years ago), then lunch a Boston College, just across the way from St. Stephen’s Green, which is absolutely beautiful, a green-space plunked down square in the middle of Dublin, with ducks and swans and stone bridges and bandstands and benches and a circular path that circumnavigates the entire park, then a lecture at the National Library, which if I’m right, is next to the Irish Parliament, then a long walk (this is the getting lost part I’m trying not to say) that took we in a circle round Dublin, Grafton Street etc., down and up back alleyways, on to a bus, off a bus, then on foot past these ominous Off Track Betting places where men with more ink on their arms than words in the Bible trotted in and out (betting on soccer, hurling and greyhounds, is my guess) across the Liffey, westward from the bridge I think I saw the stevedore cranes at the docks, so close to the ocean, which I haven’t seen yet (it was overcast when we landed Sunday, no surprise, it is Ireland after all) then up and down and across more streets in search of the Abbey Theatre, which I eventually found, asking directions isn’t all that daunting, into see Chekhov’s Three Sisters, an extraordinary play, super acting, set (the Abbey is where George Bernard Shaw had his plays produced) then back to residence enmasse with the other students, one very interesting PhD student from Germany who I get along with well, we have much in common, and now off to bed, another full busy day tomorrow. Dublin is a aesthetic city, and it seems like all the business men wear dark blue or black suits, sort like a posse of bankers. Tomorrow lectures in the morning then I’m meeting with a philosophy professor at Trinity College to chat about things philosophical and psychoanalytical. I’ll write tomorrow and tell you all about the Swiss embassy; and I’m telling you right now, there better not be arrows painted on the floors pointing the way into the Ikea maze.

July 9th 08

The elevators talk to you in Ireland, such lilting things as ‘ground floor, second floor’, where my room is, and so forth. I noticed this evening upon returning from the soirée at the Swiss embassy, which was grand indeed, and yes we had Swedish meatballs oddly enough, that the elevator was made my the Schindler Co., which got me thinking, hmmm, Schindler’s Lift. The city of Dublin is a bustling metropolis with curved roundabout streets and double-decker buses. Grafton street is sort of like Sparks street in Ottawa but with much more panache and aesthetics; Grafton St. was jam packed with people, most of whom were sporting umbrellas, while I was trudging my way to meet professor Skelton at Trinity college for 2;30. You might well imagine the eye-level poking one could be subjected to were one not careful. Every morning so far I have awaken to rain, which seems to clear up around noontime; and the sun, my goodness it stays put until well after 10pm. I have not felt so unstressed in a long while, ever, perhaps; I suppose it has much to do with being in a different placed without all the Ottawa stressors, that and the culture and beauty of the city. Ottawa could learn a lot from Dublin about how to manage a city, beginning with bus service and street cleanliness. I best get some sleep, another busy day tomorrow, which is really today.

July 10th 08

Today was double special, even though the interminable bus ride was, well interminable (more about that later): we went to the National Museum and a guided tour of the Irish Collect, Jack Yeats, I must say, is not my cup of Guinness; so when the guided portion of the tour was done I scurried off and took the glass elevator (several times because it was fun) to the 2nd floor and saw my first Caravaggio ‘The Taking of Christ’ I used Caravaggio’s painting style as a counter-example in my MA thesis, so actually standing nose to nose with Christ and the constabulary minion was breath taking. I stood up close, scanning the painting for colour, dark/light, figures anything hidden etc, then stood back and stared (more like ogled) it from a distance straight on, it is magnificent!

Now the interminable part: I took the bus to go look at Sandy Cove, an important geographic location in Joyce’s Ulysses. Well I took the bus to what seemed almost off the island, ending up at the end of the route, thank Guinness the driver takes a 10 minute break then heads back into Dublin. I had a lovely chat with the bus conductor, he telling me about Irish immigration, and me telling him about Canadian immigration, then he gave me a few suggestions about places to visit outside of Dublin and off we went back into Dublin. The good thing was, regardless of the fact my sparkling water bottle half-exploded when I unscrewed the top, I got to see the ocean from the window of the bus, not a great view, but a view nonetheless. I’ll try this Sandy Cove thing again when I have flat noncarbonated water.

Tomorrow two morning lectures as usual, then lunch at Boston College (I have never in my life eaten such delicious sandwiches, strange smoked cheeses with cherry tomatoes and unidentifiable greens, I suspect there of the tuber family, but I could be mistaken, crisps, which in Ireland are extraordinarily yummy, and these wonderful desert bar things, chocolate brownie, shortbread that’s long on butter and lipids, and a hostess of other interesting grain/fruit/sundries oaten bars delights) and the customary Joyce dinner soire at the James Joyce House. Yes it rained today; but once you give into the childish glee of getting wet, its really not all that bad.

July 11th 08

Its raining cats, dogs and trenching tools, to unmuck one’s self of course. Its no wonder the Irish wear Bog Wellingtons, the weather can be quite miserable, miserable indeed. The sun seems to appear at 5 o’clock like a rabbit pulled from the hat of the sky, shaken, jumpy and probably anodized (no, I have no idea what anodized means; spellchecker offered it up and I quickly appropriated it, for reasons not entirely clear, I must admit) on Guinness and Paddy’s, which I here tell will soon be available in lozenges. Today’s lectures were admirable, especially the second one by professor Luke Gibbons of Notre Dame. He spoke about the concept of the spectra, or ghost, in Joyce’s work and how Fraser’s the Golden Bough was an act of savagery, more so than the savages he wrote about (from information gleaned from missionaries in Africa and the Congo), and the criticism Wittgenstein waged against it.

Of course this got me interested, very interested, so when question time came I asked a few well appointment questions about Wittgenstein’s notion of language games and how they need no original event or object or happening to reference themselves from or to; language games are contextual, within the language-users specific context, and as such always original within the specific context, language-users that use them. All quite fun and engaging. Then I got the opportunity to chat with professor Gibbons; after lunch and again when we bumped into one another in the book store, both crouching knee-level in the philosophy/humanities section. Professor Gibbons is an interesting engaging scholar, and long on encouragement and ‘stick to its’.

I saw my first , first edition of Joyce’s Ulysses, the Paris edition of 900 copies, and a few other Joycean gems, like a signed copy of Finnegans Wake and some firsts of Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney (several of the Heaney’s signed editions). I ended up buying a paperback of Heaney’s poetry, a bargain at 5 Euros, then moved onto another book shop where I met professor Gibbons who suggested a book of interviews with Paul Ricoeur, then I found a copy if Elfriede Jeninek’s Lust for 4.99 Euros. A good book shop shopping day indeed. Lastly, dinner at the James Joyce Centre, a beautiful old brownstone-like with oodles of Joycenalia throughout. Dinner was wonderful, as were the Joyce things. I spoke with two American expatriates living in Dublin, one of whom runs the James Joyce Centre, and they encouraged me to look into getting a UK passport which would allow me to work on a visa and lower tuition to residence levels, much cheaper than foreign student, landed or not. Now I think I’ll watch the DVD of Midnight Cowboy I luggaged along with me, then crawl bootless into bed.

July 12th 08

I missed out on the final lecture and the Joyce walk through Dublin this morning (which I was told wasn’t all that agreeable as most of the buildings from 1904 have either been razed or remodeled) due to a rather hobbling arthritic episode around 4;30am: I awakened from troubled dreams in such excruciating pain (excrutia) nary a salve or liniment could assuage it (yes, a purloined Kafka leitmotif, a paraphrasing of the opening lines to the Metamorphosis). Once I drew myself from bed around 9;30, somewhat rested and in diminished pain and bother, I set off for Bailé Átha Cliath (Dublin) centre for a dul ag spaisteoireacht (walkabout about). That’s it; I have nothing more to say, well of course there was the sunshiny sun for part of the pork gray day, that indeed was nice, nice indeed, indeed. I do indeed have more, more to say: I received an email from the editor of Sparrow Magazine, a fiction journal out of Ottawa, and they are delighted to publish 17 pages of my novel in progress, Old Man and Hat. One must always start at the beginning, any and all beginnings, regardless of how far away from the end it is.

July 13th 08

Was awakened by a man pounding on my door; voila! Patrick has arrived from hither and thon. Of course being a man of some moral means (ethical claptrap, I know, but well worth the epistolary attention) I gave up my warmish bed to a fellow weary traveler and went roundabout about my day whilst dear Patrick slept off an overseas ennui. A day full of here’s and over there’s and where is we? and why is everything in Gaelic? I took Patrick for a walkabout about Dublin seeing some of the more seeable things; Cardinal Newman’s bust (not his dear wife’s as I suspect there isn’t one ,or if one, one the Cardinal wouldn't admit to), the church that abuts Newman House UCD, where Patrick lit a votive candle (the wee little wee ones) then to Bewley’a (sic) for a wee bite to eat, yes the oh so famous Bew(sic)ley’s where Joyce supposed sat supping sups and drinking potables, then to the Temple Bar area which is oh so touristy, thought one half of the touristy tourists were well worth the bother (for you married men that would be you’re better half), then home to poach myself to sleep.

July 14th 08

Slept bad last night, whatever that means. I recall being asked once ‘did you sleep well last night?’, to which I responded ‘I dunno, I was asleep, I can tell you how things were while I was waiting to fall asleep’. I know, what an arrogant glib jackass. Patrick and I took the two-headed bus to Dublin centre this morning in search of a trusty tourist quay-box kiosk-box info booth-box. We found one and purchased return tickets for Galway Bay and the Cliffs of Mohr. We leave from Dublin centre at 7 am returning at 7 pm. Successfully made it to Sandy Cove this afternoon, taking the Dart (a train much like the Go-Train in Toronto) made it much simpler and less time-exhausting. Saw the ocean, Isle of Man what a reek, oysters, is what Patrick said the smell was, but I suspect its just how the ocean is suppose to smell, awful offal. Climbed up Martello Tower, which figures at the beginning of Ulysses, visiting the Joyce museum which is housed beneath the tower, or is it attached alongside the tower, suffice it to say the two abut one another. The stairway up to the top of the tower and the room where Joyce’s character’s talk nonsense, is slim walking, what you would imagine existed some 100-150 years ago when people didn’t have 7-11’s and snack food and were much haler and thin. Quite a sight from the turret, the ocean spreading and roiling out before you, a blue tanker circling a buoy like it was in the America’s Cup and jibbing leeward. Bought another copy of Ulysses, which the curator of the museum stamped with the museum stamp, quite nice. Home after a harrowing trudge through Dublin rush hour…soon to bed, as tomorrow we must rise and shine at 5 am to make the 7 am bus to Galway Bay.

July 15th 08

Up and at it at 5 am after a fretful lack of sleep (3 hours at most). Took the Paddy Wagon tour to the Cliffs of Mohr, a long green upon green drive across Ireland to the Atlantic. The cliffs are spectacular, as are/is the surrounding countryside. Apparently the Cliffs are a favorite offing-site for spurned lovers and depressants; every year people heave themselves ocean-ward from the crags of the Cliffs, sort of a Mohr jumping site for the crazed, forlorn, unhappy, melancholic and half-witted. A long tiring exhausting day, even longer as the Paddy Waggoner was 45 minutes late as the Paddy Wagon had been clamped, in Canadian terms, the wheel was booted by the traffic constabulary. The Irish countryside in many ways resembles the Canadian countryside, both have rocky crags and limestone quarries, stumpy wee trees and mile upon mile of Satrean Nothingness. If I closed my eyes and imagined I was traveling through Northern Ontario, I could easily fool myself into believing I was in Canada, not Ireland. Its those thatched cottage roofs that put the fix in: yes this is Ireland, not tin-roofed Canada. Upon our return to Dublin Patrick and I ferried our way into a good night’s sleep.

I am finding Dublin far too cosmopolitan for my tastes; there has been a massive Diaspora into the city since the EU opened its borders, with a great many Polish and Eastern Europeans coming to Dublin to work in the construction boom. With the economy quieting down and jobs falling to the wayside it is projected that many who came here looking for prosperity and a chance at a new life will jump the Irish Ship and swim homeward; and those that don’t, will either find themselves working at lower paying jobs or on the dole (Dublin will have a tough go of it accommodating more unemployed in an already overtaxed social welfare system).

There is a dark side to Dublin, just take the number 10 bus up O’Connell street past Parnell’s Monument and you will find the tough side of Dublin, where an estimated 10,000 heroin addicts struggle to get a fix and a bloody nosed bar patron is not an uncommon sight. Limerick has become the stabbing capital of Europe, a tough town by any stretch of the imagination. Limerick has a problem with traveling gypsies camping in their trailers on the streets in front of houses, and staying until the municipal authorities do the requisite paperwork to legally force them to decamp and go elsewhere, which I was told can take upwards of 6 months, that’s a lot of dirty nappies, as our bus driver put it. There is one sad advantage to all this: I’m quite confident that I could get a job working as an addictions counselor or teaching addictions, I dare say they need a lot of help here in Dublin, and with a recession on the horizon, as some project, things will surely get worse before they get better.

July 16th 08

A fair to middling day, far too many people in far too small a space. Went to the Writer’s Museum, across the roundabout from the James Joyce Centre down the street from one of many Baroque looking cathedrals. Slogging along in flip-flops, yes, imbecile that I am, at a trundling speed never in excess of three miles per half-day, or there about. Saw the Book of Kelps, not to be confused with the Book of Kells, which I assume was nearby, which I must say is far overrated; I much preferred the Long Room and its coterie of marble busts, a virtual who’s who of academia, philosophy, science and all things scholarly. Stopped by the Trinity philosophy department to dropped off some Dominican College propaganda, only to discover that it was closed today and tomorrow (time is relative, or some such teleological nonsense).

Dropped into the James Joyce Centre on the way home from the Writer’s Museum, where I purchased a DVD of the 1960’s something film rendition of Joyce’s Ulysses, I will purchase the 2004 version with Stephen Rhea as Bloom upon my return to dreary dear Ottawa. Patrick and I have decided to take the train to Belfast tomorrow morning (Thursday) where we will tour the city in what’s euphemistically called the Black Taxi Tour of Belfast et al. The tour takes us to the square/street where Blood Sunday took place, then a scoot round the murals and slogans that decorate the walls of the city and surrounding area. I am very much looking forward to this, as I have always found the North of Ireland fascinating, even thought the media, especially the UK media, would have us believe that the Protestants, and those wanting the six Northern Counties back, are soulless murders. I will make up my own mind about this, as I do with most things in my life.

One word of caution should decide to travel to Dublin and visit the Book of Kells; the lineups are murderously long, and usually in the rain, no doubt, and the crowds can be rude and ill mannered; we had an entire cattle drive of people butt in front of us for no other reason than they felt entitled to do so; when Patrick and I were ushered passed by the usher, I pleasantly offered the butter in-er’s a 50 Euro note, saying ‘your welcome to this too’. Of course they declined, or was that looked confusingly at me, and Patrick and I moseyed into the library.

July 17th 08

Belfast is a good (in the pejorative sense) exemplar of two cities within one city: the centre of Belfast, replete with high-end shops and a variety of tourist traps, and the Other part of Belfast, Shankill road and Falls road, the Protestant side of the wall and the Catholic side of the wall, the Middle East in Northern Ireland. We took the Black Cab tour of Shankill and Falls roads, right through the middle, geographically, politically and religiously of partitioned Belfast. Our driver gave Patrick and I a great history lesson, showing us on a child’s atlas how Northern Ireland came about, a working man’s history of the struggles of Northern Ireland. The murals in Shankill are extraordinary, a testament to those who have died for country and church, the two seemingly indivisible in NI. The wall is unsettlingly real, covered in names and slogans, prayers for peace and love, a graffiti Wailing Wall. Patrick, our cab driver, suggested we write something on the wall and sign our names, I wrote Peace, my name and Country, and Patrick wrote a spiritual slogan and signed it. The partitioned off section of Belfast is disturbing, we saw skin head shaved children playing in littered parks with no swings, merrygorounds or Hurling pitches, just garbage and empty tin cans and the ever-present smell of burning wood in the wet gray air.

We stopped at Sinn Féin headquarters where Gerry Adams had his constituency office, past the United Nations murals on Fall street and back into the centre of Belfast. Its all so overwhelmingly real; children playing with old golf clubs and balls, or simply chasing one another through the unkempt parks, and the older generation sitting round waiting for the next salvo. Our driver took us to the row houses that back onto the wall, where much of the initial terrorizing and fighting took place; the backyards of the row houses had wire fences that reached up at an angle over the backyard, protecting children from stones and fire bombs and home-made explosives. It is all so incredibly sad, sad for the wee children playing with nothing, the high rate of unemployment and addiction, the sense that the peace they are now experiencing is simply a lull in the storm, a short reprieve from more violence and sectarian hatred. The gates between the Protestants and the Catholics are closed and locked at nightfall, to keep others in and the others out, is there really a difference, I dare say not. The train ride up north was beautiful, 2 hrs, part of which was along the ocean-side then up through the hills and fields. One last observation: I said to Patrick as we were walking down one of the main streets in touristy Belfast, ‘look at how beautiful the hills are outside of town’, to which Patrick replied, ‘I wonder if anyone else notices them?’.

July 18/08

Had a lovely lunch at a lovely bistro with lovely old wood floors and a lovely waitress with lovely green Irish eyes. All in all a lovely afternoon. I have never had a club sandwich Irish-style: Focaccia
[fo’ katːʃa] with roasted chicken breast, lettuce, two strips of bacon, Brie and the most scrumptious marinated sun dried tomatoes on the planet, Dublin at least. Off we tramped to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where for a penance of 5 Euro you can enter the sanctum and look at all the old statuary and beg-benches. Not particularly to my mien, but well worth the offering fee. At the back of the beg-benchery is a small curio shop with an assortment of gift ideas for the penitent and sinner alike, icons, Bibles, Gaelic Crosses, DVD’s Jonathon Swiftery, key chains, shot glasses (which could substitute for Mass cups) and any and all things St. Patrick and Blest. We traveled uptown to Christ Church Cathedral where Patrick and I had ice cream and chatted with the ice creamery man, an affable chap no more than three or four hands high. Great ice cream indeed! I took a snap of a treble backed old fella strumming down the sidewalk with his pittance-bag slung over his shoulder; I sort of followed him from behind, and when he stopped to drop some trash in the dustbin snapped his picture.

Its feverously cold this evening, colder than a coalbunker’s ass. It has rained, drizzled, spat up, corseted, sleeted (well almost) and bled water every day since my arrival in Dublin. The locals say this summer has been one of the wettest in ages, Blarney Stones of rainy Irish rain. Well the rainy rain can cuss my polite Canadian…! Oh yes, I dropped by the Trinity College philosophy department this aft to drop off some pedagogical propaganda from my college; then worked my way downward to Grad Studies to inquire about out of country tuition, which is blasted expensive (even were I go get a UK passport, I would have to have resided in Ireland for at least 2 ½ years before I could be considered for indigenous tuition), then downward further into the ninth canticle, where Swift lovingly prepares biscuits and raspberry coolie for the denizens of Dante’s hell, to the department of Social Work to inquire about the addictions diploma, as teaching and counseling might be an employment possibility were I to move to Dublin. It is colder than Martha Stewart’s peach cobbler, so I best bully my way under the covers and fall willy-nilly to sleep. I’ll wager you a fistful of fried kidneys that it will be raining tomorrow morn when I awake, cold drizzly wet rainy rain.

July 19th 08

Last day in Dublin, cold feral wind that’d have Charon quaking in his ferryman’s boots. Its been a busy sometimes hectic two weeks, but two weeks well worth the tiredness and arthritic prickles. The weather in Dublin is not for the un-slickered, a raincoat and an umbrella are necessities, as are good walking clogs and a 7 day bus pass, which makes punting roundabout Dublin and across the Liffey and back again much easier and cheaper than a taxi or a bog-ferry.

My infatuation for Ireland, and Europe for that matter, lies in my passion for art, literature, psychoanalytic theory and philosophy. Having spent much of my life studying, either in school or out of school, I try to engage life passionately and with a child-like curiosity (trying to see the thing I saw yesterday as if for the first time today) or would like to think I do. Of course this comes at a cost, not having children to love and encourage, a firm sense of place, a job with a pension (many of my generation have had 3 and 4 professions, never feeling satisfied or challenged by just one thing) and feeling that somehow I missed the boat, which boat is of little importance, a boat is a boat, tug or skiff. These last two weeks have given me the courage and motivation to make a change, perhaps in a year’s time, perhaps longer.

I am a complainer, I bellyache about how passionless Ottawa is, how unconscionable our government has become, how I can’t seem to find people who ‘get’ my writing (which, if the truth be known, I seldom get, it simply comes out that way) and that living alone, in a sort of forced solitude, the excuse for which is my studies and writing, or so I say, is wearing thin, all this because I have lost the very passion I claim is missing in my life. Hopefully when I return home (for Ottawa is my home, and has been for the past 21 years) I will rediscover the passion that has always been there, the very passion I claim is missing in my life. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on a geographical change, but simply that passion isn’t a place, a city or a culture, but a feeling of being ‘now’, experiencing what you experienced yesterday as if for the first time today, passionately and in the moment.

Mayweed and Pennycress

The crappies were spawning underneath the aqueduct span, airbladders bloated with brine and silt. The dogmen had little patience for bottom-feeders, preferring river cod and quim. The man in the hat’s granddad was fond of whore’s crumpets and salt crappie. He made whore’s crumpets sandwiches, spooling the oily fish between equal halves of crumpet and mustard. He liked a cup of O’ Callahan’s with his whore’s crumpet sandwich, a bitter spirit made from mayweed and pennycress. The alms man liked crappie cakes and marmalade, raspberries and crowberries. Dejesus sniggled for electric eels behind the pier behind the aqueduct. He used a safety-pin attached to baling wire, threading worms and roe onto the barbs. He could sniggle for hours on end, the sun flaying the tops of his hands, sweat doling in the cups of his eyes.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Whores’ Crumpets and Jammy Jam

The shamble leg man had a thought: we could chase the rain away with fiddles and sticks. I could play the fiddle and you could play the sticks, and together we could shoo the rain into the next county. The legless man had a thought: I could make a punting-cart out of blue paper and paste and pole it round town like a warm summer sky. The alms man had a thought: I could make a purse from a sow’s ear and beg for cottage ham and coppers. The harridan’s sister had a thought: thoughts make the bottom fall out of my stomach. A blazes Boylan sun biting down on the bone of the brown earthy earth, a kettle of moorhen’s poking across the hard spitting ground (...the Kista Brothers stowed men’s raincoats in the boot of their car, Mackintoshes, Bioko slickers…).

The man in the hat’s granddad began to rot; skin unraveling, knob-ends tightening, old man’s flesh and bone. Larval white cataracts puling in the seams of his eyes, pustules forming round the cups of his cheeks, russet chilblain. Legs bowing, knees buckled, ankles stropping the bells of his trousers. A sad sight indeed. Every Tuesday afternoon his granddad patronized the Chap Sisters bordello housed in a walkup on Aleman avenue, lolling away the afternoon soused on sweet gin and powdered flesh. The madam, an abundant woman with pearl white skin and soft features, welcomed his granddad with a perfumed kiss and a vicar’s wink (tall tales are best left for rainy days and sometimes).

Whores’ crumpets and jammy jam, sluices down the borehole like a house on fire. Best supper I ever had, sweet treacle sweets lolled on the knob-end of the tongue, like a calf on a saltlick. I’m just chipping, no need to worry and fret. Granddad said the whores’ crumpets were divine, not a sweeter sweet to be found. …shoes piled neatly at the feet of the bed, just incase the bogmen come crashing, cunt so-and-sos! The maidenly madam made the most delicious crumpets, slaved in butter and jelly jam. Served them with salted cod, left a tangy pong on the nip of your tongue. …granddad hadn’t a foot to standup on, had to use his punter’s peg to get a leg up, poor crippled bastard.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bogmans’ Ham

Dogmen and whores, jiminy-jims what has become of the world? Its never too late to learn a new trick. Bolin’s vapors, a cure-all for cowlicks and Coober’s thumb. Over yonder the sky is falling. The Jolly Greeting Card truck corseted round the corner, a windsock flailing from the antenna. Around the next corner, coopering and gliding like a box-kite, the Mercury Fish Co. truck ran an amber light, a crateful of bruised Red Snapper hitting the pavement like a cherry-bomb. The Jolly Greeting Card truck came to a skidding halt, barely missing the front bumper of the Mercury Fish truck. ‘…you imbecile…!’ screamed the Jolly Greeting Card truck driver, ‘…you could have killed us both…’. The driver of the Mercury Fish Co. truck slid across the driver’s seat, his face a twisted wreck, and said ‘…but I didn’t, did I...?’ ‘…to fuck with you…!’ shouted the Jolly Greeting Card truck driver. The Mercury Fish Co. driver pushed the truck into gear and coasted away, a Happy Ships’ Day greeting card clipping in the U-joint.

Having witnessed the near collision the man in the hat turned, and facing southeasterly jaunted down the sideways, his favorite tan bowler cleaved under his arm for safekeeping.

The Boolean lights shone brighter than a Shankill bomb fire, a scrum of waif-wild children dancing ring-around the crackling flames. Its never too soon to learn a new sidestep, or lick the ashen ash from the manse of your Boolean head. Dog pound pounded meat, good for the digestion and jockey’s foot. Add half a tbsp to a skink of brown froth, jig-jig and down she goes, smoother than castor oil and heavy cream. Not for the Sinn Féin of heart or knee-knockers. Mr. Griffith seeks the pleasure of you’re company at the next Ard Fheiseanna, to be held in a Cottage Ham cottage, the location of which has not yet been made public. Old rag ham and boiled oats, ladle the scum from the topmost of the boil with the brandished end of a hook-and-tine. Bogmans’ ham, add a smidgen-pinch of allspice and roust into a tepid rue. A bright glimmering Boolean sky, the location of which has yet to be made public. Its never to late to learn a new trick; never.

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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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