Sunday, January 9, 2011

Foraging Heart

Burnt forest of lies and deceit
downed stands of once memorable
stoic life offering chlorophyll to the sun,
I climb over root and snag
where I once knew a path
to a clearing before all this was clear.

Amid so many broken, fallen,
rotten and decaying people I know
convincing myself I love but
who cannot love me because
they can only love their addictions,
I climb over soul and memory
hoping to find something familiar
as an embrace.

Tender brushes aside,
with some greetings we always kiss;
a camaraderie of hugs and drink.
We, all of us, search for something
like worker ants, to bring back to the nest.
All this work and no rest
machine-like quest for immortality
along the blessed way there will be breakdowns.

Clutching at my chest I arrive
having driven myself in the early morning hours
to the emergency room. In moments I’m
on an IV with a drip of something
like brown cloud death to reboot
heart’s operating system.
Upon which sudden redemption lifts chest pain
breaths new life into me like the breeze
coming through the rear of the hospital gown.

In the coming days
with an ever breaking heart
I can only rejoin the groping.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Postales de Costa Rica


This is a nine piece poem cycle from a trip to Costa Rica in March, 2010. On this trip I studied Spanish in a language school near Flamingo Beach, visited the mountainous rainforest near Monteverde, hung out on the streets of the capital, San Jose, and finished up staying a few days on the beach at Manuel Antonio in the southern part of the west coast.

Bus to Guanacaste

Plane ride south to where
I’ve ever been more.
Night landing splash of lights
amid dark outlined, hilly, unlearned cities.
Unsure of directions but everything
new to me now will soon be familiar.
Next day long bus ride to Guanacaste,
arid province of the northwest
here below the horse latitudes
of counter-clockwise cyclonic rotations
where the drummer boy, Santamaria
marched against the filibusters
defeating them at Santa Rosa -
the great national struggle against
Yankee adventurers, who from
captured Nicaragua sought now
to make a slave state of the Ticans.

Ninety years later
deciding it no longer served a purpose
Costa Rica dissolved its army
and no one has invaded since
except me and the Europeans on this bus
traveling to the Spanish immersion school
on the beach at Flamingo where
all morning we are in class
learning verbs with a sudden cohort of friends.
Afternoons we explore the village and
body surf warm waves of the white sand beach.
Our intentions are honorable
we can’t relax at a resort while
nationals wait on us. We will
spend some money but
not like we think we own the place.

Still, bus bumping down narrow,
once paved roads between rows of saplings
pruned to serve as living fence posts,
nearing the coast the real estate signs
I see are in English.


From across Potrero Bay you can see
the lay of the land. Its hills
where the monkeys howl each night
look dry and somewhat smaller
gazing across the timid wake
of this catamaran I share with
paid strangers on excursion this afternoon.

Something female in this world
loves me, I know it and sometimes
she’s as solid as a ghost that holds me
close to her bosom breath,
the swelling breath in these sails,
the rubber breath in the snorkel I try on, then
slip like a tongue into the warm salt sea.

Under the water she is even closer.
In my own breath I hear her pulse.
Listen to the life support through the hollow tube.
Watch silent extravaganza of mullet fish.
Dive into the middle of several hundred
yellow silver bodies. Like a single body
around me they swirl and resume their winding path.

Later we anchor for sandwiches and drink
tell each other of the sights we saw undersea.
I swam alone along the deeper edge of the reef
where no one else saw the majestic school below.
On the lonely beach of Lovers Cove
a single dog, ecstatic, plays with gentle waves.
I see that I am already here.

That which in this world is female
I strongly suspect does love me and
I’m new in this place and so is she and
suddenly I notice she’s been here everyday.
Sits on the deck of the catamaran beside me, smiling,
with her camera. We take each others’ pictures.
Red shift sun dives into the Pacific.

Arc Iris Monteverde

Zipping through mist between trees
steel cables sing me airborne above ravines
too fast and too loud to see anything slow.
Not even monkeys do this!
Like hummingbird wings we
must be invisible to the sloths
nearly invisible to us.

Later walk on leaf littered forest floor traversing
suspension footbridges through flowering canopy
stop – look for movement that is not subtle breeze
the means by which to detect life.
There is so much of it here in the cloud forest
culture hearth of butterflies and hummingbirds.
Walking between banana trees and wild orchids
I hear grunts and growls I know are not my own!

Today, through a minibus windshield
I saw the prism colors of the arc iris rainbow
touching a puddle tucked between hills
on the unpaved road ahead
and for the first time
I understood the promise.

The first people in this place
loved the moist elevation
knew no seasons
built no roads or cities
bridges or zip lines
But in dense forest clearings placed
huge perfect stone spheres aligned with planets.
Not even we do this.


Joselina stands in the shade of a public monument
hot sun Tican day in the Plaza of Culture.
Taking a photo of the Teatro Nacional, I
back up until I have to say, hola!
Hola indeed!
In this generous land where people like each other
she is pleased to meet me, speaking her language.
Compliments me, but corrects my grammar.
We go for a coffee in the bookstore nearby.

Sweet Joselina, in the capital just this day
her child nearby attends school until this evening.
Made up nails and dyed red hair
the push-up bra so prevalent in this Latin air.
Habla mi idioma?
She laughs a word or two of English.
With her, I practice my Spanish.
Under the lazy fan in my squalid room
she teaches me new conjugations.

Hotel Doral

My trips on foot through this throbbing city
are circuits that open and close on the
reception desk where Rudolfo each morning
guards the seedy elegance of Hotel Doral.
At night I see him again, standing in the doorway
having a smoke in the cool dark breeze. He
welcomes me back from wandering
where he warned me not to go.

From my room on the fifth floor at sunrise I see
the Merced Church and lower red tiled roofs
at all angles and elevations crowding narrow canyon streets
at every hour some uneven sidewalk has the mercy of shade.
Giant busses inch like queen termites through
red taxi mites and corpuscle pedestrians scurry
in all directions, jump the deep dry rain gutters
like finca irrigation ditches but dirtier in this gritty city.

By day I tour museums and the central market and stop
to rest weary feet at public plazas where I watch the human zoo
and hear the reassuring song of a language I am learning.
Overhead in trees I cannot name are screaming parrots
dropping seed pods like alien spaceships crumbling underfoot.
Shoeshine man and old greybeard play a game I’ve never seen
batted ball knocks blocks off a vase in a circle near the
strange pink cupola dominating the Central Park

where at evening’s paseo, entertainment as much as exercise,
proud men and women strut for each other and mostly ignore me
sitting with my camera and my notebook and a grin,
see young guys and girls fascination with the fast food franchises.
Later I eat gallo pinto at a soda on Avenue Six,
stop at a bar I’ve been to the two nights before this
where by now Enrique introduces me to his cousin
whose cousin I have also met. All conspire to improve my Spanish.

Before closing the owner and another bartender drag a man,
unconscious, by his ankles out the door and onto the street.
Patricia with the deep cleavage leans even closer
shares another secret with my ear. Wait,
isn’t that the guy she came in here with?
On the walk back to the Doral two men like roosters
circle each other with fists in the center of an amused crowd
until the Fuerza Pública, with sheepish grins stroll slowly by.

Back home it is winter but here in the tropics I sleep
or almost sleep, under the constant beat of an overhead fan.
All night there is distraction on the street below. To the sounds
of kicked and rolling beer cans, two women brawl.
A man, perhaps less drunk but not by much,
reasons and pleads and begs them to stop the slapping and kicking.
Already at this hour there is faint light and the flow of pedestrians.
Today I will travel without sleep for the fascination of the night.

In the morning I tell Rudolfo I will be leaving.
“I hope”, he says, “senior Ric, you will come back to us again.”

Coca Cola Station

Another market maze
busy place by day
odd chicken parts under glass
tiny cars everywhere
symphony of honking
green and red parrots squawk.
Helmeted sewer worker’s smiling head
pokes out of sidewalk manhole at my feet.

Coca Cola Bus Station
moist mid morning heat
ask women for directions
go anywhere from here
money belt lifeline
one way ticket direct.
Lottery ticket sellers on every corner tell me
guard your money when you go to Quepos.

Sabana Cemetario line
Costa Rican Chinese food
red light district night
not sure if I’m doing this right
large breasted women
I know what they sell.
Señor, the women you meet here are earnest.
In Quepos the women you meet are professionals.

Boys of Espadilla

I did not know the beach at Espadilla.
Upon arriving, changed from sweaty clothes, then
followed the direction I knew from the map was the ocean.
Emerged from the orchid path, walked right, toward a headland.
Central American red sun with so many arms
inched down, hard sliding into silhouette cliff.
Near large rocks and warm water tide pools,
young Jorge introduced himself and we walked
the opposite way toward the happy hour tiki bar
an open air welcome mat he said was his favorite
in a hamlet I didn’t know at the other end of the beach.
We had ceviche and mojitoes where he told me he used to work
until the head waiter kicked us out for not having colones.
I was surprised Jorge expected me to pay for his supper.
Still more surprised later, when, smoking ganga on the beach,
at hot dusk with other boys without shirts
he rubbed my arm and said he wanted to see my room.
Laughing at my gullibility, I excused myself and went back alone
along the still strange and now big dipper dark beach
searching for that orchid path that might have been imaginary,
watching green foam waves pulsing to my left
wondering if a midnight naked swim might sweep me away.
Looking over my shoulder, nervous and not sure why.
Jorge had friends in town.
I had dollars in my room.

Almost there, a flashlight approached from the trees.
I stood tall with no place to duck on the sand
as nervous prey might show down a predator.
My back to thundering surf, the local constabulary greeted me.
Negotiating the porous language barrier I learned
they were looking for a man tonight
said earlier to have accosted a woman on this beach.
Somehow, I was above suspicion.

Body Surfing Soliloquy

I don’t remember how old I was
when I learned this wet pleasure
hailing thunder waves like taxis off Long Island.
Free riding crests and breaks remains
a great body craving
throughout my water-seeking life.

Impossibly warm Costa Rican ocean
lush jungle seeps all the way down to the beach.
I am scrubbed by the violence of foam and sand.
Swim until dusk, then stars exhaust my day.
Quick change. Cantina meal. Pescado con cerveza.
This is my plan for tomorrow too.

On the sun glare horizon I see parasailors.
Tourists are ferried out on fishing trips.
In the village I run a gauntlet of beach weasels,
offer every Pura Vida experience for dollars
but all I want to do costs only my endurance
battling naked the giant force of the Pacific.

Sweaty night in flea-bitten cabina.
Germans in the next room next drink and cough.
Carefully, I place my still wet towel
into the gap under the door big enough for a snake
but not big enough for what would eat it.
Can’t sleep for the bugs and the sand and the heat.

Next day I visit the market town of Quepos.
Cacophonous provincial place, crowded narrow streets
frantic bus station, buy ticket for inevitable return home,
respite in open air bar with expat gringos and local beer then
back down the winding road to Manuel Antonio where
once more before departing, I gift myself to white foam waves.

I don’t remember how old I was
when this started, the endless yearning
to float weightless in warm salt water
to escape the geographies of my birth and upbringing
fall in love with a foreign land and its people
regain ancient amniotic fluid of the pulsing sea.

Leaving and Returning

The airport is like all the others.
The last of my changed money
buys trinkets and export coffee from the gift shop.
People sit in rows looking out windows
wearing earphones. Another layer removed
from the steamy place they will soon leave behind.

It will take me a long time
to digest the meaning of this excursion.
It will take all my powers of summary
to execute a monument in my life to these days.
My eyes have done the heavy lifting here.
The back office work of this trip remains.

The plane takes off like a movie credit.
I see the Central Valley recede below while
I remember faces of people I met here
pleased to make even my humble acquaintance
proud, in a way unlike me, of their country.
Noticeably kind to each other.

Two hours on I see land out the window,
behind the wing, inner harbor of Havana,
a place I’d thought to go but didn’t.
Perhaps another trip, but on this one
there still wasn’t time for all the beaches,
cities, green mountains, dense forests.

At dusk in Miami I land, not yet home.
Immigrant legends celebrate our arrival
in a time when America was promise.
Herded through customs, scanned and frisked,
“I’ve a connection to make”, I say to the man.
“Yeah. Good luck with that.” he says, not in welcome.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dark Pieces Trilogy

Dark Pieces Falling. I

A seismic twitch
the dance of dying fish
the scrape of ocean plates
and screech of whales,
even the widened steam vents and
bulge beside the Goat Rocks
spoke more of my emergence
than my vengeance.
A morning sun only yellow,
a dark horse’s head cloud of
brain matter churning above the cone
amid the roar of Earth expanding.
I fertilized the sky with
dark pieces falling. I
smothered glowing sticks,
layered and stripped by the blast.
I spread far across Spring’s
tame spouts and
defiled the geometry of man.

Dark Pieces Falling. II

The sun glints. Your goggles fog.
Your breath hangs. Your crampons
scratch one last step and
there is no more Up. Across
you see the ice-worlds, floating
on a mirror of clouds.
Rainier, Adams, Hood are
white ghosts of Indian legends. They
personify the stony Earth,
the Mother, the everlasting Earth
you climb, you crawl, you sit, you lie,
embracing what now is gone –
the Earth which loves you.
Off the summit by noon. Only
the memory is unchanging.

Loose, jagged rocks echo long
from talus piles. The mist
from the falls and your sweat fill your face.
Like clouds releasing rain
to climb the Cascades, you
precipitate the fear, worry, and
anger which hang so low.
So low you are alive.
Alive in this landscape, you
are only mortal.

You once thought these mountains were gods.
You came here to find eternal
permanence in dead rock, ice, and sky.
You came to these mountains to feel
more alive than mortal
but sainthood is everlasting
as permanent as death.
You came to these mountains to scream
against slow rock life
you thought was death and your cry
was lost in the upper winds like
teardrops in an ocean, like
hot steam venting, like
strange shadows growing, like
dark pieces falling. Ear
to the ground now. Hear
unseen rock scraping deep below.
You came to this mountain to listen
to sacred rock and blessed ice
and it told you it was alive. It said,
“I’m not a saint.”

Dark Pieces Falling. III

Dark pieces falling, nose
tethered short against sulfuric burning.
Everywhere we walked through brush and weeds
the talc transferred to our jeans.
Handkerchiefs over mouths,
our shoes raising swirls,
our wild eyes scanned the ghost lake
at Ike Kinswa as calm as
pavement, dry as salt,
covered flat with grey ash.

Headlights only yellow
and filters straining hard
we drove in thick visibility,
a churning wake behind us
in the semi-solid air.

On what was left of the Toutle,
trout jumped the banks; a preference
to be breaded in rock dust rather
than boiled in torrid mud.
Outside the Ash Zone
twenty-five miles west by northwest
on a ridge we stretched and breathed as
our awed eyes reflected
earth and sky turning inside out
above Saint Helen’s agony.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Joselina se ecuentra a la sombra de un monumento
caluroso dia Tica, en la Plaza de la Cultura.
Mientras me tomo una foto del Teatro Nacional
camino hacia atrás hasta que debo decir “Hola.”
¡Hola de verdad!
En esta tierra generosá donde las personas se gustan
ella tiene el placer de conocerme, hablando su lengua.
Ella me saluda, corregir mi gramatica.
Vamos a tomar café en la libreria cercana.

Dulce Joselina, en la capital para solamente este día.
Su hija estará en la escuela cercana hasta esta noche.
Las uñas pintadas y el pelo teñido rojo brillante,
su sostén acentuado, como es habitual en este aire.
¿Habla mi idioma?
Ella ríe algunas palabras del ingles.
Yo practica mi español con su.
Debajo del ventilador perezoso en mi cuarto sórdido
ella me enseña nuevas conjugaciones.

... en ingles:


Joselina stands in the shade of a public monument
hot sun Tican day in the Plaza of Culture.
Taking a photo of the Teatro Nacional, I
back up until I have to say, hola!
Hola indeed!
In this generous land where people like each other
she is pleased to meet me, speaking her language.
Compliments me, but corrects my grammar.
We go for a coffee in the bookstore nearby.

Sweet Joselina, in the capital just this day
her child nearby attends school until this evening.
Made up nails and dyed red hair
the push-up bra so prevalent in this Latin air.
Habla mi idioma?
She laughs a word or two of English.
With her, I practice my Spanish.
Under the lazy fan in my squalid room
she teaches me new conjugations.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Market for Poetry

Maybe somewhere there’s another planet

leaving aside for a moment the question of intelligent life,

where you can’t land without some poems

and a self addressed, stamped spaceship.

On Earth, they tell us of the triumph of Capital

which insists that everything is an economic exchange.

What I want to know is how it started.

Did somebody once say, “Hey.

I can sell this stuff!”

Around some ancient campfire

did a visiting wanderer pass out flyers

advertising a reading before the next buffalo hunt?

The Psalms, we know, were a big hit,

compiled, as they were, into the ultimate anthology.

Virgil got rich singing the Aeneid for Augustus

then died and toured the underworld with Dante

who entertained all the burghers of Florence, anxious to learn

the torments of their destined circles of hell.

Milton, that savvy marketer, figured out that

the Fall of Man always sells.

In the early days of the mass market economy

Whitman learned how to exploit the slogans,

“New and Revised”, “Now with more Poem Power.”

In the post Eliot Wasteland wasteland

poets from Bob Dylan to Leonard Cohen

figured out the real money’s in the music

and pretty soon all the rockers knew

the less poetry, the more money.

Still, itinerate poets roam the literary wildscape

now and then one even does a book tour

though it’s hard to believe even Greyhound tickets are that cheap.

Academics of course, do it for the Tenure Track

assigning their books to their students, who,

with visions of their immortality

can’t wait to loose money on their own books.

It’s not like poetry is worthless, hell

even I’ve been bought a beer or two.

The boys do it to get into the girls.

The girls do it to bitch about the boys.

I do it because nobody told me I’m allowed to,

being absolutely unlicensed and non-accredited,

a selfish, masturbatory rite

that at least gets a double take from the good ‘ole boys

who up to now figured I was just a regular guy.

Most poetry is bought by poets.

Most poetry is heard by poets.

So, here’s an idea:

Let’s get every poet in this bookish city

to gather at a big reading,

somewhere up on a mountain, perhaps,

where they all get to read one poem.

If we tell them it’s a benefit

for unfortunate souls struggling somewhere,

they’ll even pay to get in.

And when we’re all assembled

fussing with the microphone and sound system,

somebody lights the fuse

and we blast off for that planet I was talking about.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Haiti, dark Hades

Haiti, dark Hades, stained with
historical sin of rebellion like Eve
who’s treachery condemned all women
forever to the pain of childbirth.
Forever marked disfavored in god’s eyes.
Into pain and suffering all are born
and from this all must be delivered
who are first brought to the Lord.
The poor you will always have with you
Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s
Destiny of the nation is manifest.
A slave ship new world anchorage.
“Free Trade” corporate coercion— work
for less than the cost of human reproduction.
Those on whom gods favor shines,
justified by faith alone, very soon
know the rapture comes and
it is their mission to salvage souls
as Christian soldiers go forth
rigid resolve in the face of infidel enemies
for every jihad, a crusade
for every natural disaster, a Relief,
an intervention in these rapturous times when
very soon now the King returns.
The oppressed wait with prayer and a grimace
but now is not the appointed time for their king.
Abducted from the palace by US Navy Seals
flown to a compromised African State
helplessly he waits in painful exile
humiliating to every patriot
profitable to the compradors.
The new occupation is subsidized
by a million colonial donations
medicine, food sacks, helicopters, guns
the police, Les Tonton Macoutes, endless Terror.
Now in the cover of chaos
strange are the ways of the Lord
from the streets of the ravaged city
the Lord brings them to their deliverance
“Suffer the little children to come unto me”
He has said and so shall it be done.
It is their mission to salvage souls
Haiti, dark Hades stained
with the blood of rapture’s destruction
your children are flown on Gabriel’s wings.
The Exodus across the mountains hits a glitch.
Detained, the saints claimed ignorance of the paperwork.
The poor you will always have with you
Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s
Suffer the little children
for each one brings a pretty price
to fund the salvation of souls
and the resurrection of the temple of the occupation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Falls at Kent

Come sit beside me
under the bridge
the shade is cool this very angry summer
in the middle of the day
in the middle of the week
while police cars hunt us overhead.
Under the bridge is
just out of the naked sun
the sun that bakes long amnesia afternoons.
In shadows see
thick steel girders
forever here because they are made here,
made here in the mills
that will be forever here
because who would move steel around the globe?

Come beside me, hide
just a few more hours
under the bridge by the semicircular falls.
White foam and water
churn with gritty air
smells like the industry and farm runoff upstream
as the river spills
over the concrete barrier
where once a grain mill made this portage a town
and then came canals
and then the railroad
and then the state university pityless buildings
and despite all rhetoric
the secret of America
is that everything was built with public subsidy.

Come sit beside me
skipping our classes
watching violet dining needles silently hover.
This cave of rest
under West Main Street
will shelter us from war’s bloody demands
will give us peace
and let us look up
at gray clouds through thickets of leaves
while the factories
hum forever reproducing
their endless line of shiny machined pieces
and tear-gassed halls
of the university
forever reproduce its shiny status quo pieces.