Monthly Archives: May 2014

May poems

Enjoy! The photos, if nothing else.

Making Pizza in Debi’s kitchen

Pizza making shared
tricks. Chatter, laughing, singing
in Debi’s kitchen.


Debi playing in her kitchen

On the bus

Easy Cajón morning, after
warm-ups, gardening,
reading, early lunch, nap
catch afternoon bus
an hour to San Jose,
three o’clock appointment
Clinica Biblica.

Out by four, taxi
to terminal de Grecia
catch the 4:53 too late
to miss traffic.
Just a few people but
along the route
the bus fills up
standing room only
crawling down the autopista
until people start
to straggle off.

Two hours back home
exhausted just riding
energy enough only
for a couple of drinks,
cold cuts, bed
sleep in next morning
’till six.

Tico friends, neighbors
do this every day
get up around four
get up next day
and do the same
over and over
again and again
day after day.

As a young man
I did the same
commute, study, work,
got high, no time
for nada.
Crazy waste
of a life.

Came down
with el gripe,
too close to
too many people,
laid me up
couple of days.

Lluviosa afternoon

Lightening cuts jagged
thunder cracks crashes rumbles
sofa dog whimpers


Sloped field, old coffee trees
ripped out during the dry season
one man chain saw screaming
trims back poro trees seeking
just the right amount of shade
another drags the limbs away
getting ready to replant.
Above their heads
a Hoffman’s woodpecker
speckled back golden nape
female, no red
hops along a dead branch.

Planting time

This morning the wind blows
odd for this season
still the soil now
soft and moist.
When the muchachas finish
I’ll visit viveros
gathering plants
for the butterflies.

butterfly garden

Butterfly garden

passion flower - 2


passion flower - red

Red passionflower

Joy of cooking

Yesterday friends
intimidated by
a leg of lamb
dropped it off
for us to cook,
tonight’s dinner.

What could be simpler
rub of salt pepper
fresh rosemary garlic
a little mustard, umami
roast rare, rare.

All those years
of evenings sweating
in a kitchen
not completely wasted.

May, early morning

Four men —
white shirts against hillside
three blue backpack sprayers
the one walks
down rows across tosses
a handful of fertilizer
at the base of each plant
left then right.

Two men —
red shirts
white caps
groom, pick tomatoes
rows protected from rain
by strips of plastic sheets
stretched above.

bright green
first one way
then the other
no place to be.

The girl with the patch on her pants

This young girl —
blond frizzy hair
legs apart raised
on high-heeled platforms
bold patch at her crotch
stares at me smiling
from the frame on my desk.
Why bother
with a gray-haired old man
too exhausted even
to think?

For two hours yesterday
I worked hard
in the garden, hard
as a young man
hard as the young man
working beside me.
Two hours.

That girl
wouldn’t waste glances
on a man who wants only
to lie out stretching
on pillows floating
flesh sweetly aching
wanting only
to let go
drift away.


That girl!


Morning peaceful
still afternoon
thunderstorms to come.
Waking hours not
troubled by reflection
of times past
and past failings.

Nothing special

of morning breezes.
In the pines
a woodpecker hammers.
Parakeets fly
up the canyon
four, a pair, six.
Against the blue western sky
vultures glide
one, two, three, now four.
In the garden
myriad butterflies
flit about
visiting flowers.
Yigüirro lilt
punctuates the chorus
of countless exotic songs.
Across the canyon
flash of a machete blade
a man hacking brush
around the tomato patch.


This morning I watched
a Juno silverspot eclose
from a chrysalis hanging
on the taller wall,
cling there awhile
then fly off.

Down the path
a hundred black larvae
teeming together
passionflower leaves,
multicolored lantana,
a hundred butterflies swarming.

If our new imago
happens to be female
she’ll be mated
almost immediately
the texts say Nature
hates a virgin.

Butterfly lineage
like ours stretching back
to the first time a protein
mirrored itself.
Brief lives, civilizations
spandrels of the real game.


Chrysalis on taller wall

passion flower

Butterfly larvae feasting on passionflower leaves



Light show

Far to the south
lightening flashes soundless
backlighting, footlighting
towering clouds.
Above, stars in the black.
Chirping quietly, crickets.
The gentle roar
of the swollen little
Rio San Juan.

Planting coffee

On the hillside
across the canyon
five men wearing hats
droopy wide-brimmed
or with neck shades
plant coffee.

One wears
on his back
a sprayer, Italian
rounds up the weeds
up & down the rows.

A second follows
lugging matas
in a plastic milk crate
drops them in holes
already dug.

A third carries
two bottles
sprinkling in the holes
a little nematicide
a little fertilizer.

Two strip
black plastic bags
off the root balls
of little coffee trees
pack them in the holes.

The farmer next to us
has cleared some of his land
of old coffee trees
pruned up cleaned up
holes dug.

Hoping some day
coffee will pay off.

Planting coffee

Planting coffee in the jungle


Short a few teeth
thickened with age
but still plenty spry
to clamber the steep steps
up to her crumbling
San Luis house
Maria grows orchids.

Hundreds, tiny ones
sheltered, in pots
Hundreds more, bigger ones
perched out in the trees
growing in her garden
mixing with flowers
stretching up from below.

Makes her own growing mix
lava rock, charcoal
rotting wood, simple.
Sends me home
with a sack
a couple of orchids
a hug, a kiss.


Newly “planted” orchids in our orchid garden

April poems

Here are the April poems from my journal. They are presented in no particular order, just the date I began working on them. They may or may not be finished versions – often looking back at them after I’ve put them aside I can’t resist tinkering and playing with them. Also, keep in mind that the formatting isn’t at all the same as in the original versions. I can’t figure out how to do any but the most simple formatting in WordPress.

I hope you enjoy.

Just a Moment

In the early morning coolness I like to sit at my desk in the casita or at a table on the patio, looking over this little valley, listening to the quiet tapestry of birdsong.

Today the morning silence is broken by the rumble of a passenger jet still rising, against the cloudless blue sky heading north. The intrusion reminds how intricately bound this remote place is to the rest of the world. The fossil fuels that power that plane also drive the buses, the cars, the trucks, the machinery that enable so many people to work and live here on the mountain.

The other day, time for a routine colonoscopy. CIMA great medical care, from U.S. trained doctors. Down the hill through Grecia to the autopista, pass La Garita, cross over to Ruta 27, zip into Escazu, only one toll booth. About an hour, each way.

In the absence of global supply lines this ridge could return to being truly isolated, nearly unpopulated by people, as it was just a short time ago.

Turn on the computer, the wider world again encroaches. Latest report on climate change sugarcoats: “long-term challenge, but one that requires urgent action.” We all know how tragedy plays out. We will continue to scrabble desperately for the very last hours of ancient sunlight, powerless to do other than our nature compels. Our character is our fate.

Could this cloistered, lovely coast prove a sanctuary where humans survive, even thrive, on a planet become perturbed? New tribes, new peoples evolving, growing wise?

Rising jet rumble
for just a moment disturbs
silence of birdsong.

In an instant

It begins with surprise.
Blood in the stool.
Pain grips chest.
Pee burns pink.
Belly bloats grotesque.
Dizzy fall sudden

One moment, what’s for dinner?
Next trip, Mexico, Peru, Belize?
Friday meet for lunch, feria.
In an instant, concerns constrict.
Beyond traitorous body
faithless brain

but medical care, how to
procure, sustain, endure. Sympathetic
friends weary of your awkward
fixations and get on
with their lives and you drift off
left at the end

How can this be? So soon
cherished spirits
starting to slip


For weeks now
pauraque cradlesong





over and over
deep into the night
interrupted only
by sharp bark
dogs wanting
out, back in
relieved at first light
by the lilt
of clay-colored thrush.

Five haiku of the changing season


Afternoon canyon –
cloud-filtered sunlight swarming
sleek, white-collared swifts.


Misting down softly,
softly, drifting to and fro –
shall I touch the earth?


Night howl on ridges,
mournful as coyote. Dogs,
growling at the wind.


Forsaken workout
plant coleus in garden
wait for midday rain.


Humid overcast
poetry pointless morning.
Sparrow sings from shrub.

Greytown, plane won’t start.

Stuck on the ground
lush wetgreen alive
here, where else to be?
Launch around
Captain Morgan’s lagoon.
On the house eat, &
Flor de Caña & soda
all you can drink.
Tongues loosened share
intimacies with strangers.
Howler monkeys drunken humans
sleep in the jungle.
Hop back in a six-seater
kissing cotton clouds.

What a find

Veal in the market —

wine, broth

flank steak —
grilled rare
sliced thin

Whole pork loin

off spine roast
(save the tenderloin)
— Sunday fiesta
—Sunday fiesta
simmer baked bones
herbs aromatics
stock makes fine
— sauce, soup

special treat
hot fingered tidbits
dogs hanging
— tacos, burritos

Viernes Santo

From the church
in San Luis
across the canyon
a woman’s voice
softly loudspoken
speaks, breaks
into song, speaks
then again sings
softly, sweetly
by bus honk
everything shut

No nothing

A morning garden
playing with plants —

Big footed nolina
grown bulky at entry
moves in along path
with real palms red caña
plantanilla, heliconia
café con leche, chirrite.
Lacy black aralia
charading as greeter
with perky sanchezia
in fresh soil, earthenware.

Afternoon, nap.
no workout
no reading
no writing
no Spanish
no thinking
no nothing

A haiku for Mike

A human demands
what is a haiku? Motmot
craps on the porton.

For Lair


Sitting at my desk, startled
by a loud thunk at the window.
Outside, a limp feathered body lies
still warm brown in the dirt.

The next morning
at first light
the air fills
with yigüirro song.


Loud thunk at the window.
limp feathered body
lies still warm
brown in the dirt.
Dawn glows
yigüirro song.


Loud thunk at window
brownfeathered body falls, stills
dawn — yigüirro song


So we saw Lair today
sitting in a chair
in his tiny sala
looking like hell
head black and blue
stiches snaking up
the back of his skull
knowing he’s got
at most a few weeks
one more story to tell.

It’s a cultural thing
Costa Ricans have to have fun
no matter what they’re doing
wiping the shit off your ass
these two young Ticas,
they want me to pee —
right here, standing up,
right on the floor
in the middle of the ward,
string up a curtain
for a little privacy
make a dam of towels
and I naked peeing
like a racehorse smelling
of the papayas and mangoes
they’ve beenstuffing me with
the girls mugging, giggling,
“oooh, el aroma, el aroma”
as they sop up piss
on their knees.

We’ll sing Lair’s song
we’re on the bus.

First rains

At dark fall
lights twinkle
electric, along
the ridge, & farther away —
Atenas, Sarchi,

At dark fall
lights twinkle
year after year,
down the canyon, above —
fireflies, lightening
at first rains.