A native of Jones County, Miss., Buck Downs works in Washington DC. He distributes his poetry primarily in the form of postcards, available through free subscription. To subscribe to the postcard list, visit this site: http://buckdowns.com/postcards/
What are you wearing? Um, pants and a shirt Can you make it more sexy? And a knit hat Now you're lying I'm wearing a poncho Take it off I'm taking off my poncho in a really sexy way Describe it It has Velcro and I'm unvelcroing the Velcro What sound does it make? A sexy sound like khkhkhkhkh A velcroey sound
Jessy Randall's collection of poems A Day in Boyland (Ghost Road Press, 2007) was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Her poems and other works have appeared in Asimov's, Coconut, Many Mountains Moving, McSweeney's, and No Tell Motel. She has a young adult novel forthcoming in 2009, and her website is http://personalwebs.coloradocollege.edu/~jrandall.
Of course I thought it couldn't really hurt. Not like leaping naked from a tree to tackle a prickle of porcipines. So when my mother used to chide me about my wanderlust, I'd point my finger at the man to blame. My father. A few years ago he bid on a Rotary auction trip to Zululand in northern South Africa. He kindly bellowed "tallyho!" in my direction, so last winter I'd saved enough to finally get our trip off the ground.
We spent several days in Cape Town before heading north. Contrary to international banter, the World Cup stadium is indeed shaping up, but the toll on the city's limited electrical resources is just as apparent as the multitude of cranes that loom and swing along the skyline. Before leaving the city, we hiked/climbed up the face of Table Mountain. Along the way, we befriended a gaggle of locals and filled our bellies the following day at their traditional brae (S.A. bbq).
One cavet for anyone traveling with a family member who is not yourself. Consider pharmacial drugs. Not just for yourself, but try to get a peak at what your loved one is taking before you sign on the dotted line. If you see one of the boxes with Monday, Tuesday... and that alone takes up an entire suitcase, better break your own leg in a sledding accident or swallow some gasoline with your malt liquor.
In this case, my father and I were both taking what may seem unadventurous to an outsider-- maleria pills. But we had different types. What he was on I had taken before and it turned my brain into one of those factories from Pink Floyd's The Wall. Sometimes I'd sit and just want to cry. Unfortunatley, I didn't get around to real dramtics like making "line up" art, shaving my eyebrows, or stomping on wine glasses in my bare feet.
But the drugs didn't seem to affect my father in the same way. He became even more outgoing, thrill-seeking, and tossed and turned most nights before finally dozing off for an hour or three. My new drugs gave me headaches, although now I think it's possible that those were side-effects of constantly chasing my father around the room.
That said, I'm looking forward to the holidays. We'll be celebrating early with my family in northern Michigan because the 50th U.S. state is calling and in case of an emergency, I always keep a loaded backpack at the door.
"What did he say? The giant's laptop? The lips of molehair?"
"I don't know, I can't hear anything with my hood up."
"Nothing, just be careful."
I pointed a gloved thumb at sign.
"So many cliffs, so little time. And who would go out walking on that air? It looks really unstable."
Nothing. Better to talk to myself. That way I'm sure to be heard. Better not get too close. Better just snap some pics from here behind the wall. Would be a stellar workout to run against this current, mile after mile. Makes me think of some top runs of all time. Currents on each and every one.
-Mountaintop at edge of Arthur's Pass on the New Zealand's south island. Ran down the spine on gigantic snowpack, shadowcasting 20 feet ahead into the gyring clouds.
- Night up mountainside near Bern, Switzerland and full moon blazing the spring runoff waterfalls. Cowbells in the distance and we howled for cheese and chocolate.
- Tempted the great grey glacier at Torres del Paine in southern Chile by
"Take a step back, you're scaring me."
"I didn't even notice. I was just climbed over because I thought I saw an elephant."
"You couldn't have because they're not in this post, remember? You can't just jump to your South Africa travels by snapping your fingers. They'll come in on our birthday, on Saturday."
"Right, but can't I at least give a preview?"
"Give me your hand and come back from there. Then we'll talk about if and what it could hurt."
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The entrance to the Green road seemed hidden, so we hailed a local farmer on his tractor. For another 30 minutes we scouted around, then took what appeared to be a path through the mud and animal dung. It soon widened and became an apparent grassy road, penned in on both sides by maddening stone walls that have weathered and defined the territories of the land for centuries and longer.
Eventually we skirted the road and huffed to the top of a ridge. There was an ancient fort, and regardless of crack or craic, we took refuge within and pulled lunches from our packs. It wasn't long before the cold crept in and we headed back down to make a brake for the man beating his cows from the road with a well-practiced switch. He was headed in our direction. Onward to the Cliffs of Moher.
After helping lug gear and rations into the station from the truck, I shook hands with the soldiers and clambered up to the tenfoot cross at the uppermost cropping of rock in order to gain full vantage. I looked around, up, over, and down. But all I could see was white. Just like the cross, or what it had been once. Now it sported rainbows of graffiti ranging from prophetic to profane. One of the largest appeared in bold black letters. T I C K
I looked at my wrist and agreed. I'd forgotten my flashlight at the hospedaje, so I'd need to hoof down to make it back before dark.
The descent was uneventful, but considering it now, I've only been to one other guardtype station (which I'll get to later) and I didn't get a ride up with soldiers. Never even saw any. Just a slew of folk musicians. Inside and out of the pubs. They don't call it Doolin, Ireland for nothing.
My best man, Michael, invited us last February for a week in his motherland during a folk festival. Turns out Michael's relative was none other than Ireland's Whistling Ambassador, Micho Russell.
Although Russell has gone on to play in pastures of evergreen, the music he helped popularize lives and thrives in the pubs. The jams or sessions as I call them go on and on and on, fueled by rudy faces, hot whiskey, and Guiness. The locals, including Michael's uncle, called them something different, something that sounded like an addictive white rock.
(upon spotting us in O'Conner's pub and squeezing his way over)
Sucker that fer-de-lance, deadly venomous fangster. I set out whistling up the main paved road and swung left, gradually ascending toward Barú. Although it was sunny, the top was shrouded in a halo of cloud. For more than an hour I walked without glimpsing a soul. The howls of random dogs behind fences kept me company. They grunted and rattled their chains as I passed. Finally I neared the gate to Parque Nacional Volcan Baru, and a small girl peeped out from behind a 10x10 concrete bunker. I greeted her in Spanish, but she only stared back. Later in town I discovered she was likely part of the Ngobe Bugle indigenous tribe, picking on the nearby coffee plantations. For all I know, she spoke no Spanish and may have even considered me a mule or monster, especially the way I sweated beneath my pack.
Not long after, I paused and chugged a quart of water. I crunched some peanuts to keep the liquid down. I started hiking again and the road changed from paved to dirt to rock to mud to stone. There was a humming in the distance that seemed to grow louder even as I climbed away. I kept hiking until it forced me to spin about.
Filtered to Code
Where the volcano road steeps to walking with hands, I waited for the soldiers. Their truck acked a grumble through the jungle gnarl as three standing in the bed lurched forward from the sudden brake. Then the biggest man turned. "What are you doing here?" Laughing at my accent, he thumbed me in while flashing his single front, a tooth like me, a sucker scaled and parching in the sun. For the rest of the day we negotiated that road — jumping in bed corners to lend better grip, splashing down to muscle through mud holes, even throwing shoulders below the bumper to shimmytender the axils over ledges. At times we'd hop out and whistle as the biggest man mounted the front grill and bounded the truck over boulders. When the wind began to whip the cling from our shirts, we finally spied the summit. The biggest man lit up and motioned me head with his smoke. "Here's the station where all the voices get filtered to code. But you know gringo, it's the same message either way: a man a plan a canal panama."
Filtered to Code appeared in Ocho #19 http://cdn4.libsyn.com/miporadio/19.pdf?nvb=20081202020851&nva=20081203021851&t=04ba03ed4fb55a3c29a34
Today starts a week of blog entries by P.F. Potvin, an accomplished poet. He is an Ultramarathon runner and is the author of The Attention Lesson (No Tell Books). His writing has appeared in Boston Review, coconut, Sentence, Born Magazine, No Tell Motel, and elsewhere. He teaches at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and travels whenever possible to support his writing. Discover more of his adventures at www.pfpotvin.com.
December 1 and I already need to escape. The Ann Arbor winter with sleeting cold but little snow. Escape back to Panama. Boquete, to be exact. Warm without the blaze. Sweet Boquete, the mountain town in the north where I hiked, met crazy Panamanian birders, toured organic coffee plantations, and spent hours reclined with steaming cups of joe, scribbling in my red notebook under the eye of the looming volcano.
Even then I was escaping. From my summer studying Spanish literature at a language school in San Jose, Costa Rica. I'd gone there because a professor knew a friend who knew the grandson of the Cuban writer whose book I had translated but couldn't publish because I couldn't get the rights. I was assured that the friend of the friend would certainly help me. I quickly discovered that everyone teaching at the language school in San Jose knew somebody who knew somebody and knowing didn't mean squat. It only meant that you had shaken the person's hand or kissed them customarily on the cheek sometime in your long and complicated life.
Anyway, after spending my weekends puking from bus windows en route to swarming beaches where everyone either spoke English or wanted to "practice" some variation of "You want marijuana? You want girl?, You want coke?" Boquete was exactly what I needed.
While I found Costa Rica to be obscenely in-your-face touristy, Boquete has retained most of its charm. As a gringo, I can't help but shy away from what I know and see and experience in my everyday gringtopia back home. That's part of the lure of travel, the unexpected.
Although the gringos have yet to completely overrun the place, I could certainly see our telltale markings on signs as I bussed into town. International firms have purchased entire swaths of land on the mountainsides, invisible from the surrounding roads. They've branded them with ludicrous names like Valley Escondido I and Valley Escondido II (Hidden Valley I and II), as though the name could keep them like Frodo's ring, secret and safe from the surrounding residents and poverty.
One place I did spy gringos, however, was outside the single market store. I stopped across the street at a café first thing after hopping off the bus. I drooled over the entire menu as I prepared to lay down a night's worth of greenbacks. That's right. American coin. But that's another story. Just as I was settling in, several gringo men older than my grandfather caught my eye. They were strolling by, hand in hand with prepubescent native Lolitas. Just the thought made me sour. When the waitress finally twirled out of the kitchen, all I could stomach to order was a chocolate milkshake, which is just as it sounds, milk + chocolate + agitation.
As I sat waiting, I gazed in the direction of Barú, Panama's highest volcano. It was swaddled in clouds, but the following day I planned to hike the winding roads directly up from Boquete. A fellow student in San Jose had told me he went on an overnight guided backpacking trip up the volcano. When I pressed him for details, he confessed that an ATV had carried almost all of the equipment. As I usually look and smell like a mule when backpacking around my fair town, I found his method strange but managed to maintain my strategically poker face.
Although the place I wanted to stay in was completely booked, I found lodging a block further down the dirt road at a small hospedaje (house that rents rooms). My room shared a common area and kitchen with two other rooms. I slept solid, rising before the sun to my chirping wristwatch and readied my daypack to trek to the top of Barú.
Then I heard a woman scream.
Before the Dogs Get Deep
Pitchforked, a boy of eight struts from his mother's hospedaje. He sweats the muddy cul-de-sac to end where the bony dogs crouch in deveined pipes. As he toes the tines, a fer-de-lance that slickcircled the bowl the tourist fled from squatting upon, tumbles limp like the veil, "Only a snake, Miss." It's all he can recall before the dogs perk, pack, and get deep their teeth.
To be continued…
Before the Dogs Get Deep appeared in Sleepingfish .875 http://sleepingfish.net/0875/SF_0875.htm
New Work by P.F. Potvin in the most recent issue of Sleepingfish ZZZ http://sleepingfish.net/zzz.htm