El Cajón de Grecia: January 16, 2021

It’s been a quiet week in El Cajón. Our biggest challenge has been getting used to our new bed. We had to replace the old one as we were sleeping in two little channels, separated by a ridge in between. Sleeping on a firm and level mattress took some getting used to. The best news is, I found the soreness in my shoulders that I’ve had for the last year or more gradually disappearing over the course of the week. I’m a new man! And a good thing, too, the bed is guaranteed for 21 years. My body should last so long.

However, our sleep has been being interrupted at first break of each dawn by the bird – a yigüirro, or Clay-colored thrush – shown in the photo above. The yigüirro is the national bird of Costa Rica. This young fellow pecks at the slider of our bedroom door, then leaps up into the air beating at the glass with his wings.

Lekking with his own image?

I’ve been working on a poem about him.

The boys in the band

Jarred from sleep
by rapping on glass
a January dawn
beginning to break
a clay-colored thrush
pecks at slider
peppered by high hops
wings beating the pane.

Jump out of bed
chase him away
but soon he’s back
time after time
each dawn without fail.
Giving up to bird’s pluck
muffle ears in pillows
the mind drifts . . .

Back on the farm
fast asleep in the loft
jolted awake
tin roof resounding.
Rat-a-tat-tat-tat
rat-a-tat tat tat.
Stumble naked down stairs
throw the front door wide open
to a crisp spring morning
at the corner of the shed
a Red-breasted Sapsucker
hammering at the gutter drain
the drum of metal 
bill tip a bead.
Peppered with pebbles
the bird takes flight.

The drum beat repeated
daybreaks that follow
stretching the week.
“I’ll show him,” strapping
a length of downspout 
to the trunk of a near oak
“to hammer at this tree
not be scrammed off.”

Next day dawning
sucker’s back at his kit.
Run buck to my drum pipe
wielding a screwdriver
shank the stick
handle the mallet
reprise the bird’s rhythm
rat-a-tat-tat-tat
rat-a-tat tat tat.
Bird throws me a look
we take turns tatting strophic.

Curtain rises with sun
morn following morn
bird clinging to his corner
both tapping our beat.
One session a pheasant
pops out of the pasture
wings whirring belts out
cauu ca”
drops back in the tall grass
then pops up again
cauu ca.”
A wild turkey next 
hops up on a stump stage
puffs out his chest
rustles his wings
stretches his neck
goblbgoblgoblgobl”
repeating the ritual
sings out once more
goblgoblgoblgobl.”

Ruckus of thrush
recalls to the present
germ of a poem
yearning to take form

Aroused in cool dawn
vaunting plumes in dance and song 
the boys in the band.

We moved in to our house here in El Cajón eight years ago yesterday. I’ve been honoring the event by repairing the cement and brick stairs that lead to the bottom of the property. Now renewed, the steps should be good for another 15 years. An optimist, I guess.

from below and from above, can’t you see I’m tired?

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Diary: El Cajón de Grecia, January 9, 2021

Well, it’s been a wild week up north, hasn’t it? Who could have believed that things would come to this, the storming of the Capitol? Then again, who could have been surprised (but for the Capitol Police)? Events were pretty clearly telegraphed.

It’s been calm and peaceful in Costa Rica, as is the norm. Irina and I stopped by our local ebais – free public health clinic – the other day, to make sure we were properly registered to receive the COVID vaccine as soon as our turn comes up, which should be soon. We’re near the top of the list to be vaccinated, being of a certain age and thus considered to be at high risk. Need I repeat, free?

We didn’t have a photo of our ebais (like, the one featured above the blog title) so we drove down the hill to take one. Only in Costa Rica: we had ordered new pillows from a department store in San José to be delivered to our home in El Cajón. The only directions asked or provided for on the on-line order form was the name of the street we live on. There being no numbered street addresses in Costa Rica, we were wondering how this delivery could possibly be completed. But on the way back from taking photos of the ebais, we passed a small delivery truck pulled over on the side of the road, with Siman (the name of the department store) stenciled on the side. Irina shouted, “pull over!” Yep, our new pillows were on the truck, delivered the very next day from the day the order was placed. This, despite our delivery driver having to wander around aimlessly, wondering, as were we, how he was ever going to find us.

Un milagro todos los días

The weather here as been lovely – mostly clear skies, warm temperatures, breezes gentle. Bromeliads are in bloom. Today, 27° with a few puffy clouds floating by on the trade winds.

Bromeliad at our front entrance

I’ve been working on the same poem over the last few months, I published an early version of it here a while ago. Finally, I think it’s finished. I think it’s one of my best pieces of work.

I liked it better back then

I liked it better back then
Maricruz said.

Our vet.
She was driving
Bela the black lab
in the back seat
blew out her right knee.
A late afternoon
a general strike
the IMF demanding new taxes
intersections blockaded
the autopista too 
route  to Heredia.
Taken to back roads
following Waze
those jammed, too
a one-hour trip 
crawling to three
light turning night.
I’m lost, she had said
no idea where we are.
She trained here, the vet school
ten years ago maybe
she looks still so young.

Curving down in the dark
a road smoothly paved 
cement sidewalks fronting
new houses behind walls
stopped by closed gate arms.
The school, the rear entrance.
We came in the back way 
I didn’t recognize a thing.
She paused for a moment.
I used to walk here, the road dirt
hills covered in coffee
growing under the trees.

A guard walks to her window
cell phones approval
raises the bar
a parking lot empty
the clinic asleep.
Maricruz buzzes the door.
A few minutes it opens
Bela growls, raises hackles 
an intern in green scrubs 
masked too in green 
against COVID-19.
We enter the lobby
disinfect feet and hands
the intern and Maricruz
and Bela on leash 
disappear down a hallway.

You’re late for your appointment
the young surgeon gruffs 
I’m ready to go home
you’ll have to come back.
Maricruz tells me this later
the return to Grecia
reliving the scene.
I was scared, stressed
the drive so horrific
to all be for nothing
Bela suffering
days more on drugs.
The surgeon softened
Bela rolled in a sling
hefted up, laid out
her game leg x-rayed
displaying the damage
surgery scheduled
for next afternoon.

Bela settled in kennel
the surgeon asks
to be dropped off downtown
then we heading back home
pass the campus, front entrance
street broad and lined
with business and high-rise.
A girlfriend and I
we used to walk here 
along the old road
through fields of coffee
Maricruz says.
We’d each carry a big stick
to beat off any man 
should jump out of the bushes.
Her hand taps the iPhone
clipped to the dash
music turned off
the car falls quiet.

I liked it better back then.