Monthly Archives: May 2016

April poems & etc.

Not much for April, just a couple or three new poems. I’ve been taking some time off now that the books are published, thinking about what comes next, a little bored with doing the same kind of stuff, taking advantage of the beginning of the rains to move things around in the garden and plant out new stuff that I’ve been growing in the greenhouse and vivero.

I did come up with a preface and epilogue for Meanders, but am uncertain whether to publish another edition or just let it be. I’ve included them here, following the new poems. What do you think?


Bard’s tongue
dry as the clime
blowing uneasy

pace the garden
prune and groom
so not to be still

poet’s eyes yellow
fleck the hibiscus
tendrils macheted

maroon bougainvillea
thorny limbs fall
carved to a tree

rotted pine log
hand blistered chips
scatter bare ground

mid night a face flares
flames leaving cheek
shadowed of scar.


White-crowned parrots
a score screech
blue streaking sky.

Crrrk crrrk of tucans
there in the tree green
another breaks canopy.

Tanagers blue-gray
one then another
pair the bare branches.

Old Capo young Bela
muzzle and wrestle
oblivious to humans

or cacti unbedded
eight flailing paws
romp the hill down.

The breathing steady
feet mindful of play
hands moving like clouds.

After the rain

A late April day
two centimeters of rain
leaves faded dry
brighten tumesce.

The next day an inch
hillside turned green
day fades to black
glittering fireflies.

Meanders – Preface to the Second Edition

The idea for Meanders first came to me upon receiving a blank, hand-made journal sent the me by my sister Peggy. I had been writing poetry off and on since a young man, thinking to someday be a writer. The writing waxed and waned. At a time rather late in my life I at last let go of the ambition of being a poet. What would be, would be. But I had managed to hang on to a good part of what I had written over the years, what hadn’t been scattered along the road. Confronted with a blank journal, I saw that those earlier works, along with more recent poems, told a story. I gathered the older and selected newer poems together and published the collection as a single poem, Meanders.

I then set about hand-writing the poems in the journal, to be sent back to Peggy. When finished, several blank pages remained at the end. Thinking to fill out the book with a few more recent poems, I realized that Meanders was not yet done. The three poems chosen to round out the journal turned out to constitute an epilogue, completing the arc of the story and necessitating this Second Edition.

James Just


1. Dreamscapes

Test to take, drive the freeway, wrong city. Volkswagen Beetle, a faded red with the big back window, heads downhill, foot pumps brake pedal, nothing. Through a stop sign, a signal, traffic, onto a pier stretching over the Bay.

Oversleep, drive quick to Reno, arrive Chapel of the Bells, taped music starts, Here Comes the Bride. A haze, it’s done. Please not the video. Not now, not ever.

One last test, need credits to graduate. Haven’t read texts, gone to lectures, totally screwed. Befuddled standing in the quad. Don’t know which building, room number. Across the grass, wife blonde and freckled walks by pushing double stroller, professor’s arm drapes her shoulder. Enormous erection, tent pole stretching canvas at the fly. Pull shirt tails to veil. Girls grouped on the concrete walkway point and snigger.

Sharp bark, wake with a hard on. Get up, let the dogs out, pee, dogs back in, back to bed.


Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.

Green Fiat 850 Spyder flying the freeway towards Davis, the law school, the causeway straight, endless. Come to the exit. Keep driving on.

Working the line, restaurant kitchen, tickets strung full along the holder. Nothing prepared, mis en place not done, no pots, pans, tools. Legs thick, heavy, feet glued to floor. Tickets piling up a thick stack at the end. Three boys sitting on the butcher block table in the back, faces sprout hair, grow grotesque.

Highway 50 to South Lake Tahoe, American River Canyon, woman olive-hued and round-bellied sits in the passenger seat. Up into a blizzard, wipers freeze tight, windshield piles with snow. Car spins, spins a slow twirl, lands gently rear end in the bank thrown snowplow high along the road. Step out, the front end of a Peterbilt erupts from the swirl. Step back, float, truck scoops car and bride off into white nothingness.

White porcelain throne set on a platform in the middle of a large room. Sit naked, room fills with people paying no attention. Toilet transformed to a wooden chair, hole in the seat. Urine spreads across the floor, drips off the edge.

Awake needing to piss, return to bed.


Climbing a spiral staircase, sea captain’s mansion perched high on the point, West Seattle. Nose to woman’s rump encased in a tight black skirt. Widow’s walk, white lights of

the city faerie dust around the frigid black of the Sound, wake of ships tangles glistening in the moonlight.

Well-groomed vine-covered slopes, walk through fields across the border the kilometer to Wissembourg. A bar, pungent smoke of Gauloises hangs thick, crawl hands and knees on the floor to breathe. Scrambling up a mountainside thick with brush, break out of the bramble, Frankenstein’s castle, a restaurant outdoors, paved with stone. Order Eiskaffee for two.

Château in the Languedoc, the tower room glassed on all sides. Swells of vineyards splosh up jagged limestone hills, skeletons of ancient forests. Stench of rotting flesh infuses the countryside. A duck in the mail box, roasted, rich with sweet orange.

Airplane sits on a runway, tires rotted as the lonely terminal. Fishing resort, wooden, high beamed, screened against the bugs. Jungle hot, humid, endless, waters stretch shallow, still, murky. Howler monkeys screech hidden high in the shimmering green. Open bar, ron Flor de Caña. At the buffet, a woman arm in arm with the pilot asking if anyone has a condom.

Awake to yip, yip, yip. Paws twitching dog dreams.


Funky market a maze of old wood, myriad small shops stocking touristy trinkets. At the open door of a stall packed to the ceiling with whatnot, supposed to meet someone. Keep

on walking, searching a particular cribbage board. Should be going to class. One more week, then finals.

Joined by a friend. Outside, a road dirt lined with modest houses, a few straggly trees. Barefoot. Need to buy a pair of sneakers.

You can crack the books, catch up, he says. You’ve still got time.

Shoulders sag under dead weight of ennui. Just can’t make myself do it.

Then don’t, he says. You’ve got the restaurant, plenty of work, opportunity. Do that, make money, don’t need a law degree.

God I’m in a nightmare. Got a home in Central America, a life in Costa Rica. Go back, write, pura vida.

Ticket counter, hand over the money, passage for one. And one more, on the quiet. A speedboat, a flotilla, racing after one of the several cruise ships headed out for the open sea. Boat filling with water, start to bail, coffee mug in one hand glass in the other. Ease alongside a flat-bottomed river boat, pulled by a brawny arm onto the worn wooden deck as brack breaches the gunwales and the speedboat settles slowly beneath the surface, fades, disappears. Women and men, wizened by time and tropical sun, clothing faded and worn thin, crowd the shade under the canvas awning stretching the steel-pipe framework …

Zooey goodbye

1. A day in the life

With light rising
at the foot of the bed whap of a tail
a stilled head smiling brown eyes.

Making morning coffee
checking the weather
muzzle at open door Capo snuggled in his pile
of pillows on the bed.

At the desk in the study
all through the morning
on the floor at feet
rising to pace about
waiting out the fidgets.

Lunch time she sits
first at the butcher block
a bite then at the bar
her station on the right
shares of salchicón.

Dusk family hour
at the cupboard door
biscuits and bacon strips
Capo’s carried off
Zooey’s gone in a gulp.

Dinner at the table
always underneath tablecloth
draped muzzle a black nose
poking the crotch.

What time is it?
she knows, to bed
trots into the living room
left, right swinging head
with each beat a ruff . . .

. . . as did the young girl
belly deep in the pond
eyes bright paws slapping
left then right barking
water braided bright jewels.

Through the night
three times at least
sharp bark at front door
let me out let me in
each time take a piss.


2. The prognosis

We take Zooey to see Doc Oscar, she’s been coughing and hacking for several weeks. Probably the throat irritated, he says, see this a lot this time of the year, dry air, dust and smoke. Gives her an anti-inflammatory shot and some pills, she seems better the next days, but next week she’s worse again, take her back. Let’s take some ex-rays, he says, but my machine is broken, leave her. He drives her all the way to La Guácima, and back later that afternoon, the film showing what could be a heart looking enlarged. Not pumping strong enough to clear out the lungs, he suggests, it happens to dogs grown old. Gives us some pills for her heart and lungs, to help clear clear them of fluid.

Cheryl up the hill has an old coughing dog too, been taking him to a heart specialist, offers Zooey come along to her appointment. Cheryl drives, her dog Cooper in front, Zooey and her human together in back, the pista to the airport, the exit to Heredia, stop and go through the old town, the dog cardiologist’s office.

The doctor examines her, hooks her up to an imaging machine. There’s nothing wrong with her heart. But look, he says pointing. See that? That’s a tumor in the lining of the heart. And there, more, the lungs dotted all through.

The vet’s I’m sorry stuns, though we all know life isn’t forever. A shock to be confronted with an end now near.

3. The end

Zooey can’t get up to go outside to pee, lies in a puddle. Late in the morning, wobbles off to lie herself down beneath the big philodendron, where she has hollowed out a shelter in the cool dirt, secreted in shadows of palm grass.

It’s time, whispers Irina, calls Doc Oscar. He’ll come that afternoon.

Oscar’s pickup rolls down the drive, turns through the gate. Capo barking, Zooey drags herself out, feebly joins in, then sits.

Come on girl, let’s lie down in the green, in the cool. She comes without question to her place where she’s safe, trusting as when she jumped in the car to go not knowing where with someone not knowing who, to a life on a farm. Then never again getting into a car until we load her up, drive her in the middle of the night to an empty parking lot in the big city, a stranger’s truck. She leaps blindly, boost her up and in, the beginning of her journey to a new life on a coffee finca in Costa Rica.

Crawl with her into her hollow, lie spooning her back, her head resting on my arm, fingers softly stroking her muzzle. Oscar carefully inserts the needle in her left arm, eases the plunger. Her muscles relax, her breath slows, stops. An instant she’s here, the next gone, leaving naught but limp flesh.

trickle the cheeks
moisten the lips
taste of salt

Early next morning Juan Carlos comes to help with the burial. We lay a black sheet over the wheelbarrow, lift her body gently, wrap the shroud. Carry her down to a point of land can be seen, standing, from the veranda, with a view of the coffee where she naively stuck her nose at a porcupine. A pick and two shovels, a rectangular hole, deep from the buzzards, settle her in easy, head pointing north, toward Poás.

When the rains start we’ll plant by her grave an orchid tree, for the flowers and the shade.

The ache
for nights
of dreams


In the dreamtime
humans created god
in their own image
seen beyond good and evil
rent with compassion
coming down flesh and bone
and blood to share
in the suffering
in the bliss
of all living things.