This month of July is one of solitude and writing for me. I am in Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica, which is home to the David and Julia White artist colony. Here, we are a forty-five minute bus ride away from the capitol in a little town tucked into the jungly mountains. Since the birds and sun are both so loud, I can’t sleep past 6:00. After a bit of resistance to this fact, I gave in, and now will often pack a picnic-breakfast and walk up to the highest point at the colony that overlooks the town. (Picture above.) There, I begin my writing and watch the world, and my poems, slowly stretch and awake into being.
Like the birds and sun, the solitude is both sought and at times resisted. After about four to five hours of writing, it is only eleven, yet I still have a lot of work to do with a mind starting to go cross-eyed. Where is the interruption? The annoying neighbor? The student email? Not here. So, walks are key, building ant trail diversions are key, swimming is key—as is participating in one of my favorite traditions at colonies: the sharing of work. This is when one gets to finally peek into the artists’ studios and look at what they have been doing. And for us type and publish sort of artists, we have readings. Yesterday, Holly Woodward and I read some of our work to the other folks here while looking out at the beautiful tropical gardens of Pat and Willy Piessens, who live here year-round. (There's a photo of all of us here, too.) I am the kind of writer who needs a lot of time to finish a poem, and by time, I mean both time working on the poem and time away from it. To share a new piece of writing with a group is outside of my comfort zone to be sure. Yet, as we all know, going into new territories is not only the point of travel, but of writing. (“Traverse the Earth, Fool,” Mr. T says.)
To push me just a bit more outside of my typical process, I thought I would do something a little different on this blog and post a new poem here. Granted, this is NOT a finished poem. In fact, it is only a week old, entirely conceived and drafted here. I might have to take it down later as I actually finish it and start sending it out, but for now, I’ll test its wobbly legs with you, Gentle Reader.
The Architecture of the Veil
Islamic architecture often adorns the interior spaces as opposed to the exterior, commonly known as the architecture of the veil, to represent the nature of the infinite. –Dr. R. E. Souser
All afternoon, the hotel roof went on being a windowsill
as if the city below could be understood by echo, by leaning out
over prayer calls, car horns, hot spoons scraping woks of nasi goreng,
by looking down on pishtaqs, minarets, canons fashioned into water fountains.
All through the afternoon, the faithful went on being faithful.
The faithless, faithless. Each chasing piety with sticks and sugar,
even when piety tripped the running feet with a simple man’s
crutch, and the crippled devil kicked his child’s gut until
green-flanked smog shifted directions, sweated the clouds
into crumbs, into evening, into this thing called hidden or infinite.
The architecture here secludes its beauty
to the inner spaces, to what cannot be seen from the street
where a costumed macaque flees under a soup stall,
his frustration blooming into sequined soapsuds rushing the gutter,
where a woman from the roof above irritates her palm’s sweat into stone,
while a walker below, worries his molar’s crown into a sip of mercury,
all of which chemically occur whenever the adulterous, man
or moon, vow themselves to just one bed. No one’s fate is determined,
despite how sometimes it is. The mosaics repeat and spin their cobalt
patterns until the moon quivers one day to the left—and no one notices,
except two mangoes rot hanging green on the tree. All the while,
the prophets’ daughters strut in their highest heels, busy
poking the sun back into the pieces it really is. This brokenness,
we suspect, is true about our own selves, despite the fluid strides
we make from city block to city block. We walk among sweet-smelling
sulfur, wondering what we cannot see, wondering which feast or fast
is behind which house’s wall. In each of us, a stray dog forgets to ask
for home; a pack of roving hounds guards the door.