Monthly Archives: December 2016

Diary: El Cajón de Grecia, December, 2016

The dry season finally arrived about a month late, on December 14, with the return of the trade winds, vientos alisios. They say here that the Christmas winds blow the rains away. We celebrated Winter Solstice with a dinner party for many of our friends. Tonight, New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going to a small affair up the hill at Rick’s, to be home in bed by 8:00.

I’m getting very close to being done with my translations of the poems of Rosibel Morera. The section I’m just finishing up are love poems to her long-time companion. Here’s an example:

El Tiempo Nos Mandó Llamar

este anillo de espuma
sobre una playa también imaginaria
de frases sueltas
que se despiden ligeras en el aire

porque inasible el tiempo se detuvo
para ti y para mí
cuando empezaron las historias

y nos mandó llamar
y dijo nuestros nombres anudados
y escribió en las estrellas esta página
que de camino desdoblamos
pasando sin pasar
sus detalles minúsculos
sus puntuaciones
los respiros

aferrados sólo al trazo de lo lejos
al largo viaje de seguir amando.

Time Summoned Us

this ring of spume
on a beach also imagined
phrases released
floating off on the air

because the stream of time stopped
for you and for me
when our stories began

and summoned us
and pronounced our names knotted
and wrote this page in the stars
of our road unfolding
coming to pass without passing
its minute details
its punctuations
the respites

encoupled as far as the far horizon
on the long journey of continuing in love.

Here’s a little poem I wrote about a spider.

green-spider

Pale green spider

Men dream of Mars
a bare sign of life
perhaps a new home
here on Earth life abounds
in sea and forest
on plain and mountain
even ice and desert.

This morning a spider
small pale green
translucent sheen
door to the deck
clings to the screen.

Sharing our scheme
of body and limbs
brain and heart
lung and stomach
intestine and anus
spiders see and feel
and suck their food
and with special gland
spin their own silk.

A male spider
smells female near
right species receptive
pays her court
to avoid being eaten
comes by himself
onto his palp
and stuffs his sperm
into her genitals
or if she’s feeding
on remains of him
she stuffs herself.

Scanning the stars
to not be alone
unmindful of Earth
teeming with beings
our kinfolk all
dying off faster
than ever be found.

And the following dream sequence is especially for Peggy. In Noah, the book I’m now working on, I think this piece will be immediately followed by the spider poem.

The House

I’m at the top of a bluff thick with scrub and live oak, looking out.

At the bottom of the cliff, the American River runs clear and cold. Across the river, tailings from hydraulic gold mining stretch for mile after mile after mile. To the east, the city stretches to the horizon. Near the river, the hills of gravel have been graded and leveled and houses have sprouted, the sprawl creeping forward like a slow rising tide. A low-slung bastion protected by a high chain-link fenced topped with coils of razor wire stands out like an atoll in the sea of city. Within the barricade are the offices, workshops, warehouses and giant hangers of Pantheon, an aerospace conglomerate which played a key role in sending men to the moon. An air force base adjoins the Pantheon facilities within the fortifications, hosting a fleet of B-52 bombers armed with nuclear warheads, capable of flying over the North Pole and obliterating Moscow.

I turn around and look behind.

A white stucco house clings to the side of a steep hill, rectangular, ordinary, set on on top of a white ten-foot high masonry wall clinging to the slope. A wooden staircase climbs up the foundation wall to a small deck perched at the front entrance.

At ground level, a roll-up garage-style door opens into a basement. The door is raised, I look in. I excavated the basement myself, by hand – pick and shovel, wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, year after year. Laid the concrete-block retaining wall along the back side, poured the concrete floor. The large space is divided into prospective rooms by unfinished stud walls. Electrical wires are strung but not connected, water pipes capped, waste pipes running overhead, one joint drips. An unfinished staircase leads upwards, dead-ending at the main floor above.

I’m at the front door. Enter. A bathroom is to the left, the interior visible through exposed stud framing. The bathtub has been removed, a sink and toilet remain.

A hallway leads to the left, to three bedrooms, the master and two smaller. The framing around the doors is exposed.

I’m at the master bedroom. A waterbed has bubbled like a giant ballon. A hidden door opens into an old structure, into a tower invisible from outside. In the secret room three young boys are tearing lath and plaster off the walls, exposing rough-sawn 2×4 framing and knob-and-tube wiring. To the right, a narrow wooden staircase leads upwards. No one has ever followed the staircase up to wherever it leads.

I’m standing at the kitchen, open to a large family room empty of furnishings. I turn to the left, to a living room airy with light pouring in through a wall of glass. French doors open onto a redwood deck reaching from the back of the house to a terraced back yard, shaded by live oaks. In the living room, an Italian rolled-arm sofa upholstered in a deep red faces a fireplace. A woman stands with her hands resting on the back of the sofa, near the door. Her belly is just starting to show.

“I’m feeling horny, let’s go do it,” she says.

Haven’t had that offer in a while, I think to myself.

Before I can say anything, she’s out on the deck, sprawled back on a chair, flimsy house dress hiked up, legs spread, exposed. The neighbors’ back yard is clearly visible, there’s no fence.

I follow her outside, drop to my knees, gently spread her folds with my fingertips, tease a taste with my tongue. Sweet.

“Wait,” she says, “I have to pee first.”

She gets up, smooths down her dress.

“You should take me like a man, not with your mouth.”

Yea, I’d be done and limp in 30 seconds, never hear the end of it, I think. My enthusiasm for this adventure is flagging.

She returns, wiping away a tear.

“I need a husband, the baby needs a father. And a home – look at this place! You’re always drunk on the scent of woman. You don’t even know or care about me. There’s more to me than my smell.”

She stares at me for a moment, hands on hips. I stand there, dumb. She turns, walks out the door, disappears.

She’s right, how long I’ve been blind.

I never see her again. Or the child, ever.

A small black dog sits at my feet, skinny and dirty, curly hair tangled, scraggly. It’s Winston, the cocker spaniel that lived here for a while until he ran away. He stops to lick himself. Wild oats have worked their way into the skin of his armpits and groin, a hundred sores are swollen, red, oozing white pus.

“Oh, you remember me.’’ he says. “Imagine that.”

“I ran across Tippy a while back,” he continues. “I see that you’re alone and in a mess, again. But what have your problems got to do with what ever gods might be? The troubles you’ve seen, you’ve gotten yourself into. You’ve no whatfor to be crying about any Covenant.”

I blink. Winston has disappeared.

 

 

Diary: El Cajón de Grecia, November, 2016

The rainy season usually ends around the middle of November, but this year instead Costa Rica experienced its first hurricane in recorded history. I wrote a poem about it. It’s long – but at the end, you’ll find another translation of a poem by the extraordinary Costa Rican poet Rosibel Morera, followed by a little poem about a scorpion, accompanied by a photo.

Thanksgiving storm

November 14

An area of disturbed weather develops in the southwest Caribbean off the Golfo de Los Mosquitos. Sea surface temperatures are very warm, around 29 – 30°C, about 1°C above average for this time of year.

Rainfall in El Cajón de Grecia: 0.4 mm

November 15

The low pressure area in the Caribe is pulling moisture from the Pacific and dumping it back over the Valle Central.

52.0 mm of rain.

November 16

Again lots of rain: 50.0 mm.

November 17

The area of disturbed weather, meandering erratically, is now dubbed Invest 90L.

But only 4.1 mm of rain.

November 18

Shower and thunderstorm activity in the vicinity of 90L has decreased a bit, though the storm now has plenty of spin.

24.0 mm of rain.

November 19

Invest 90L continues to have plenty of spin in its surrounding envelope, but no low-level center of circulation.

30.8 mm of rain.

Morning light mist
wind-driven veils
a spectrumed arc
trees stand waving
wild appreciation.

November 20

Invest 90L continues its leisurely development. Cold front #5 moves in from the north, favoring an increase in los vientos alisios (trade winds).

20.2 mm of rain.

Humans on the hillside
don seldom-used sweats
shelter behind glass
the dogs chase outside
no mind cold and wet.

November 21

The storm has now become Tropical Depression 16, sitting and spinning over very warm water.

Only 0.4 mm of rain.

All the long week
winds spin cyclonic
sea running warm
the long hot year

November 22

The storm is now named Tropical Storm Otto just short of hurricane threshold. The storm is expected to make landfall on the coast of southern Nicaragua or northern Costa Rica on Thursday. A storm of Otto’s expected strength has never made landfall so far south in the Caribbean, and there is no record of any hurricane or tropical storm striking Costa Rica.

Only 0.1 mm of rain today.

Hundreds of swifts
swirl with clouds
driven deep down
the mountain gorge.

November 23

Otto strengthens to a Category 1 hurricane, the latest hurricane ever to form in the Caribbean. The eyewall then collapses, Otto once again a tropical storm.

Rainfall: 21.9 mm

November 24

Otto has strengthened to a Category 2 storm with top sustained winds of 110 m/h (111 mph is Category 3). At 1:00 pm Otto makes landfall just north of the Costa Rica border and San Juan de Nicaragua (formerly Graytown) as the latest Category 2 Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and as the southernmost hurricane landfall on record for Central America. Otto crosses into Costa Rica at Los Chiles at about 3:30 pm, still at hurricane strength. Around midnight Otto reemerges over the Pacific at tropical storm strength and becomes the first storm on record to carry the same name while moving from the North Atlantic to the Northeast Pacific or vice versa (there have been twelve earlier crossover storms, but the National Hurricane Center has since changed its naming practices).

Impacts of the storm in El Cajón de Grecia are negligable.

Between the landfall of Hurricane Alex in the Azores in January and Otto’s landfall in Central America this week, 2016 sets a new record for the most prolonged calendar-year hurricane season in Atlantic history.

Rainfall: 28.5 mm

Thanksgiving dinner Marcia and Dave’s
light mist falling wind still
table outside covered from wet
Jasmin pours old folks
her young artist dreams.

Aftermath

In Costa Rica, nine people were killed by Otto, five in the Alajuela canton of Upala and four in Bagaces, Guanacaste. Hundreds of communities suffered damage, mostly due to landslides and overflowing rivers.

In Nicaragua, many homes were destroyed but no casualties were reported.

Otto caused four deaths in Panama before the storm made landfall. Days later, five more are still listed as missing.

Birds of the forest
butterflies of the flowers
names unknown
numbers uncounted

El Encuentro

Y yo salí a buscar luciérnagas
alguna maravilla que aún no tuviera nombre
llego y descubro tu soliloquio de risas
conversadas a pasitos de agua por dentro
tu risa de buenaventura
de amaneceres aún inconsultos
que, escondida, enmarañada y huraña
he obligado a venir.

Me permites rondar y auscultar
sin sorpresa, sin murmullo, sin protesta.

No me atrevo a decir
pero apunto el verde hondo de tus tonalidades
la rezuma de tu nombre vegetal
y ese coto de pensamientos
como antenas por las que circulara
un agua eléctrica de los espíritus.

Displicente
recoges los amores que se te profesan
en esa agua de la consumación
de la germinación
de tu espejo de fuentes prismáticas
donde todo refleja
se sostiene
y se anuncia.

The Encounter

And I went out to look for fireflies
some marvel that had yet no name
I stumble across your soliloquy of laughs
gurgles of little waterfalls engladed
your laugh of good luck
of dawns yet to be met
such that, reclusive, messed up and withdrawn
I had to step forth.

You let me prowl around ear to the ground
without surprise, without murmur, without protest.

I dare not say it
but I take note of your deep green tones
the manifestation of your vegetative glory
and that sanctuary of pensies
like antennas through which circulate
an electrical water of the spirits.

Indifferent
you gather the lovers that adore you
in that water of consummation
of germination
of your mirror of prismatic springs
where everything reflects
stands up
and promises to be.

scorpion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who sings for the scorpion

A Centruroides scorpion
crawls out of the cactus
heads for the front door
dark in armor
telson curled in
pedipalps spread wide.

This scorpion sting hurts
skin tight and burning
but little swelling
nothing systemic
and after a short while
fades to nothing.

Look back far enough
he’s our brother
or sister, can’t tell
more innocent than we
more deserving of love
of romantic ballad.

Who’ll write the song
one to us so ugly
fearsome, menacing
though we’re the ones
that spray him with poison
smash with a boot.