good groin bad groin

cup of Tanetze coffee – foto by smith

feel like cold spit warmed over, then mixed with rotting molasses. this is my second day without coffee, and i am dragging. bit of zombie, bit of narcolepsy, bit of slug, lot of lazy.

the good side of my groin seems to be going bad. the bad side–my right–i strained 2004 when trying to pick my collapsed mother up off the floor. she weighed more than I, and was too big around to get a good grip on. besides, exactly where do you grasp you mother’s torso to get good lift? awkward all around. since then i’ve been trying to keep up with Lady K walking up and down europe/africa/mexico with a weakened groin muscle. dood it too.

last week my good groin left side started swelling and burning and going numb on the skin surface. it’d flare up 3-4 times a day. finally decided it started when i consumed anything that raised my blood pressure – like strong coffee, salt, heat, sex, and marijuana. went off for 4 days to pick coffee up in the mountains, and didn’t feel a twinge in spite of the huge increase in physical exertion. the only difference up there was much weaker coffee, no grass, no sex, and less heat.

so i’m cutting out coffee to see if i can continue smoking, and this coffee-less lethargy is giving me all the pizzazz of road kill.

this is all crummy because all Lady K and i do is walk – up down in out everywhere nowhere. let this be a warning to all you younger folk thinking of taking up with old people – the old are physically weakened and break easily. Lady got defective merchandise when she chose me. of course there’s no where else she could get the artbrain / mindbrain / soulbrain / spiritbrain she needs except here, so it’s take the defective, or lose all.

try to fake it out for a few more days, and then give in and go to the clinic. ain’t got the money to get me fixed, but we lose our life if we don’t.

no matter how good and special your life is (our life is), there’s always a dark side lurking just off screen with the bill.

but still, i cannot complain – i’ve Lady K in my life, we’ve lived in 10 countries in 20 months, and we’ve oodles of canoodles of art, poetry, fotos, and non-fiction in the bag since we started september 9, 2005.

sometimes you just gotta pay

found couch couple, Tanetze mexico – foto by smith



The neighbor needed some money
The neighbor sold me to the takers
with white lipped sobriety
thinking of his family

The takers FedEX pragmatic packages
diapered, hooded and chained
in container planes
way out from who cares where
to nowhere

I wait in patient fluorescent
in the big safe institution of your fear
installed here between skin & prayer
the ingredients of a day

Imagine your eyes and hands
tactile tight in a concrete coffin
prison bar for sundial
paved under the unlawful awful blacktop
of your outsourced grasp
and feeble minded wrath

They never turn the lights off here

Shady Lady K

b 4 n aft r

before Lady K – foto by smith

after Lady K – foto by smith

hell bus back

men’s restroom door, El Pochote Market – foto by smith

get up at 4:48 in the morning to run up the slippery steep hill in the rain to catch the 5 hour Hell Bus back to Oaxaca. only seats left were the back seats, which is similar to riding an evil tempered trampoline. the young woman across from us kept throwing up out her window. since she had to keep it open for her next nausea, we were freezing – riding through high mountain clouds before sunrise is painfully cold. and me being 6′ 3″, the distance from my ass to my knee is greater than seat to seat distance. Lady is nauseous from the bouncing bus, sore from the sunburn walking working, is fighting diarrhea, and i worry about her.

bus goes 4 miles an hour up the dirt road mountain due to rain and slippery clay. even at that speed, the bus rocks and bounces. the dark prevents us from seeing how far down the fall would be. when the sun finally rises, the clouds we’re driving through cut our vision. we bounce nauseously through a glowing nothingness.

the driver loudly plays a cd of emotionally overwrought mediocre mexican pop songs over and over again – loud nasal male vocal whining at the top of his voice about life and love driven by unsubtle mariachi horns and oompa oompa accordion. this is the same cd he played for 5 hours on the trip up. sometimes i think there’s only 7 mexican pop songs that every singer puts on every cd and then wails in the same voice.

the two girls in front of us had a small white poodle. for some reason the second girl stood up the last 90 minutes of the journey and let her friend’s dog have her seat. large girl standing bouncing, small white ratdog lying in her seat. while i was mulling this over, the bus skids trying to miss something. i look out the back window and see the dog we’d hit trying to get off the highway with his left leg at an ugly angle, and i flash on the disparity twixt the two dog’s lives – one rides on the bus in his own seat, the other gets creamed.

when we reach the city, i compare its noise, filth, crowding, clutter to where we’ve been.

Tanetze is magic, a beautiful place with good people. have to figure out how to go back without the 10 hour hell of getting to and from. this our our 4th trip, our 20th hour on this same bus named Indomnable (Indomitable). each of our 4 trips was slightly worse than the one before. i can take the bug bites, i can take the exhausting work, and i can take the hour walk straight up the mountain, but i cannot take another 5 hours on this bouncing microcosm of mexico.

a few return trip haiku:

It’s 4:48.
Alarm beep beep beep beep beeps
Get up to go home.

Mad morning bus dash.
All the good seats are taken.
Sit in bumpy back.

Bus stops on mountain.
Perched on rock, I stare out there.
Unzip. Piss in air.

Pregnant Zapotec
in the seat across from us
vomits out window.

Hell bus skids, hits dog.
Poodle on bus not shaken.
I see both alive.

Bus drives through mist. I
look down on cloud white cold.
Shiver in my me.

Back to the city.
Dirty. Polluted. Crowded.
Remember nature.

Lady K sick. Sore.
Diarrhea flows one end.
Vomit the other.

Weary warriors.
We climb mountains, pick coffee.
Return home. Wonder.

women’s restroom door, El Pochote Market – foto by smith

mountain high, coffee deep – day 2

banana trees next to host’s house – foto by smith

“up in the mornin. out in the field. work like a dog for my pay. but that lucky ole sun ain’t got nuthin to do but roll round heaven all day.” 1949 song.

never trust time estimates. easter we thought we’d be walking an hour up the mountain, celebrate in the village, walk half hour back down, so didn’t take sunscreen. we were in the sun all day. walked wrong way up mountain. back down. back up other side. hid in the shade in the village. 2 hour walk in the sun back home. Lady turned right red. hurt. add injury to injury, her intestines start to burble on the way back down. then it gets worse – she has an allergy attack due to plants, animals, feathers, dust. she’s tired and hurts from walking mountain all day – she hurts outside, she hurts inside, her insides want to come outside, she can’t breath, we’re in a village of 2,000 people on the side of a mountain on easter sunday with the small pharmacy of course closed and Lady says to me no way can she pick coffee tomorrow. i can’t believe she’s actually being sensible. we’d been told it was 30 minutes down the mountain to get to the coffee trees, and an hour back up with 45 to 60 degree inclinations. they’d asked if we could do that cuz if it was too much, they could go to the closer plot. we’d told them no problem, we’d go down the mountain. the pharmacy was closed, but Tomas was the god parent of the nurse’s child who lived above the shop, so he went out and came back with some allergy pills. Lady found one stomach pill in her purse. that got her through the night.

good morning good morning – foto by smith

next morning, Elviria went to the closed pharmacy and came back with more stomach pills. Lady decided to come with us. she knew they could use the help because picking season is running out and there’s no one to hire in the village to help because a lot of the boys and men have gone to the city or the u.s. to make money cuz there ain’t none here.

walking down mountain 40 minutes to coffee plot – foto by smith

there was dawn rain. i had vague hope they’d call off the coffee picking mountain trek. it was wet, foggy, and quite cold.

no reprieve. the steep path down mountain was slippery, part wet clay, earth, rock, vegetation. the view was fairy tale gorgeous – down steep tree covered mountain side to cloud misted valley back up looming mountain other side. wherever you looked there were more mountains. cloud tops below us. we walked through grass, trees, wild orchids, pineapple plants, arched graceful flowering trees, will-o-wisps, peach coffee banana trees, silence, bird calls, mist, sun, strange flowers, streams. took 40 minutes to get down to camp.

we waited to apply insect repellent, and i got bit 6 good ones descending. applied repellent liberally every 2 hours. have two dozen bug bites anyway.

pineapple plant growing on ground – foto by smith

picked coffee cherries from trees 8 to 15 feet tall for hours. you pull the limber trees over by their branches, hold them to you and pick small-cherry berries from up and down the branches while standing on uneven mountain ground. 3:30 we broke for lunch of meat, black bean soup, coffee, and made-that-morning tortillas cooked over an earth and stone stove.

coffee mountain lunch – foto by smith

we ate beneath a wall-less tin-roofed shelter looking across the valley to another mountain. we could see a village clinging to it. before lunch, Elvira showed us flowering sprouting vanilla vines – and budding pineapple plants which grow on the ground, one pineapple per plant. after lunch we watched two lizards scamper in a sun sex dance on a stump. i’ve seen lizard police before way back in my drinking days, but this was my first lizard sex.

coffee mountain lizard lust – foto by smith

picked more coffee after lunch. the ground was littered with bright yellow fallen lemons. bright red coffee bean cherries glowed in the sun against blue sky. green bananas peeked through yellow green leaves.

bananas – foto by smith

then UP THE MOUNTAIN. coming down was so much work due to constant leg brake i thought it’d be easier climbing back up. i was wrong. i’m 6 foot three inches 175 pounds 62 years old, but we went up the mountain in 52 minutes. i was breathing ragged and got so tired i stumbled to the side once where i looked down a long way i didn’t want to go. the view going up was even more magnificent than going down because it was sun-lit, the mist burned off. trees, flowers, shadows, shapes, river sounds an hour below, textures, stone cliffs, all a mile in the sky. most beautiful place i’ve been.

looking down on clouds is cool.

dinner that night was full of talk and laughter, invitations back. maybe going down the mountain changed how they saw us. changed how we see ourselves.

day’s end – foto by smith

wrong way day gone right

wrong road Mexican mountain pig – foto by smith

i go up-mountain to pick coffee weighing 178. come back 172. not bad for a 6 foot 3 inch 62 year old man. walking up and down mountains is serious weight reducing work.

went this time with our gringo lady friend who had suggested we go the first time and who introduced us to the coffee couple. she’s involved in trying to get mountain villages their own independent radio stations so they can counteract government lies. she spent time down in Nicaragua and El Salvador back in the 80s and 90s when the Central American death squads were using ronald reagan’s drug money to kill american nuns.

the 5 hour bus to Tanetze took four and a half hours first time, five and a half this time, probably due to what i thought was fog but looked like clouds. mist so thick, driver stopped at one point and stared into nothingness, a headlight lit golden glow of Twilight Zone plasma about us. we left paved road for dirt and night. clouds thickened, bus bounced down steep mountain. even at 5 miles per hour, the bus bounced precariously. big bounces, small narrow road that’s not always all there. streams run across the road and wash sections away, and the mountain itself keeps falling off in bits and pieces each rain. i knew from our first journey how dangerous the roads were, how precipitous the fall would be, but figured if we fell, we fell. my only worry was falling and surviving in the mountain cold.

in the worst of it, a baby starts a horrendous squall and wouldn’t stop. never heard such angry rage vocalized so succinctly. don’t think she liked being bounced about so in the dark, or the noise – big bus down dirt road ain’t quiet. i can’t blame her. driver turned bus lights on and i caught her eye because i was the only tall white bearded person wearing a tee-shirt and a Greek fisherman cap. looked her in the eye and waggled my fingers slowly, and she went silent. stared at me. each time the mom broke our eye line, she squalled. each time we got it back, she fell silent. i felt i had magic power.

got to Tanetze ten at night. next morning at 5 the roosters start crowing, followed by burros braying, interspersed with the kur-eee kur-eee of dawn birds. at 6 the village loud speaker broadcasts religious music (it’s easter) and some sort of sermon or announcement. i look out the window down the mountain and see clouds below us, a river of clouds snaking between the mountains. and it is cold. i start thinking in haiku.

celebration in next village up mountain – foto by smith

we’re scheduled to walk up the mountain to the next village for a special easter festival celebrating a girl’s 15th year. our hosts have to buy a present so tell us to turn at the electric pole and follow the road. we three gringos turn at the wrong pole. walk 30 minutes up gorgeous mountain road the opposite way past pigs, pineapple plants, and banana trees. Lady picks up a ton of trash for her art. we’re having a real good time when we meet a man coming down the mountain who asks where we’re going. we tell him. his face drops, says we’re going exactly the wrong way. going back down, we meet a Mexican lady climbing the mountain with her old parents, she asks us in English where we live. we say Oaxaca. she says no, where do we live in the states? we say we don’t, we all three live in Oaxaca. she laughs, says she lives in California and is visiting. why wait for Godot when you can meet the Buddha on a Mexican mountain road and you don’t even have to kill him?

tuba under blue sun tarp – foto by smith

our hosts Elvira and Tomas are way worried about us. we’ve disappeared. Tomas even climbs to the top of the mountain to look for us. we ask a passing pickup for a lift. get in back with big bottles of clear bootleg liquor. pickup stops and picks up a couple with a girl and a boy. the girl is tied on the mother’s back, the boy keeps staring at me. i’m grinning one of my pure joy grins. pickup stops again, picks up our hosts.

our hosts Tomas & Elvira in back of pickup truck – foto by Lady K

Elvira & most of second hitching family – foto by Lady K

me against bootleg moonshine, father of 2nd family – foto by Lady K

get to village in time to watch a procession come down steep steps from old church and cross to village square accompanied by drums, tubas, trumpets, baritones, saxophones. a 15 year old girl leads them, wearing a fairy tale hooped skirt ballroom dress.she carrys a baby doll, and is accompanied by four symbolic suitors, each with a large red flower. a Strauss waltzes plays over the loud speaker and the girl and 4 boys do a symbolic courtship dance where she puts the toy doll aside and accepts the flowers from the men. then quick speeches from the parents, etc, followed by more loudspeaker music while the young lady dances briefly serially with the important people in her life – mom, dad, etc. our hosts danced because they were her god parents. and since we were god parent guests, we got to sit inside at the first seating at the special celebration dinner table eating rice, chicken, mole, and drinking white oatmeal atole. music followed, and we walked back down the mountain.

Lady K & I Easter afternoon 2008 – foto by Tomas

they said it was only an hour walk up the mountain, but it took us 2 hours to walk down. i’m learning here in Mexico you cannot trust either time or distance estimates. they don’t lie exactly, rather try to give you a softer acceptable answer. of course we stopped to shoot fotos of the waterfalls and look at exotic flowers. our hostess saw a white flower in the top of a tall tree, so the husband climbed down the cliff, climbed up the tree and got it. next morning it opened in a foot wide white waxy flower with fleshy erection covered in moist oozing extrusions

once back, we three gringos collapse while Elvira & Tomas go back out to a baptismal party. they basically work 14 hours a day 7 days a week, so when they do take a rare day off for easter or christmas, they walk up and down mountains to socialize and party. these folk do not have down time. a lot of work, very little money, a lot of life. but if you’re going to be poor, this is the place to do it because water pours from the mountain and food grows everywhere. we saw lime trees, lemon trees, granada trees, pineapple plants, vanilla vines, squash, pumpkins, beans, corn, honey bee hives, ginger, strawberries, coffee trees, cinnamon trees, chickens, turkeys, beasts of burden, on anon.

we’re in a time machine, life before electricity and wrist watches.

Little Shop of Horrors wanna-be – foto by smith

12 inch tree flower, Tanetze, Mexico – foto by smith

BEAUTIFUL JUNK: new issue of the City (poetry, art, photography webzine)

the City, Issue 21: BEAUTIFUL JUNK

– Current issue:

– Interview: Gary & Laura Dumm
– Poetry, Art & Photography

Photo by Peter Dell

some sample issue snips, juicy bits:

by Bree

I want to get cursed
And not care
I want to be chosen
And refuse


by Andrew Boerum

This is a great birthday ship
you told me to sail around in
But you didn’t mention anything
about baseball

Will there be baseball there
on the birthday ship? Or where
the ship will eventually dock…
will there be baseball there

Also, even though this is a
great birthday ship you’re
telling me about I need to know
several things before I agree
to accept it


by George Wallace

i am a cutout pilgrim boy. you
are a cutout pilgrim girl. i am
holding a cardboard blunderbuss
and wearing a stovepipe hat and
a shiny buckle is on it. you are
wearing a white apron and have a
white bonnet and one loose
string is falling from it.


City Contributor Yuyutsu RD Sharma,
a Nepalese poet, is reading at Mac’s
Backs in Cleveland March 27, 7 p.m.

the City poetry zine is edited by Kathy Ireland Smith.

mountain high, coffee deep

Cherries, a Zapotec coffee cat – foto by smith

away four days. come home to long list of myspace blog friends to read. bit overwhelming, but i feel if folk read me, i need to read them to keep the two-way going. getting hard to do. so much time, too much life.

had several goals this mountain coffee picking trip:
1) not take any herb with me, so i’d have 4 days straight. did it.
2) drink but 1 cup of coffee a day when i returned. doing it.
3) not smoke before 5. made it to 4 yesterday. consider that major success. was starting at noon. do better tomorrow.

Lady K’s in bed, sick, miserable. her 3rd attack of amoeba dysentery in 3 months. she’s been sick at least 7 of the past 12 weeks. the only down-side of loving someone this much is you feel helpless when they’re sick and can’t make them better. perhaps it’d be best to kill them so they don’t suffer. but then, who alive knows if we suffer after death. it could be worse over there, could be better, could be nothing. i’m hoping for nothing, so i have peace. if there’s duty, pain, responsibility, or suffering on The Other Side, then they’d best get ready to defend their barcodes cuz i’m tearing the frigging place down once i arrive. ain’t playing cosmic games i don’t sign up for. if i have to suffer for being human, then i’m doing my suffering now – i already have a darn good start at it. suffering twice would be double jeopardy, and that’s a sick god fool game.

~ ~ ~

Lady K email to madmaxman:

I’m gonna flood the world with my pees. Urination salvation.

Mmmm… consumption. I got the gumption to eat steak. I want to get a grill, too. I’m gonna eat and eat and eat until there are no more animals. I want animals shaped like hot dogs and hamburgers too. I want animals on a stick, too. Stick and spit and chew.

Actually I’m feeling guilty and considering total comprehensive veganism. I do this sometimes. Poor Smith is being subjected to multiple meals of black bean burgers, which according to him are no substitute for dead beefs.

Little girls are seeds that grow into this world and get turned by the weather & gravity & childbearing into woman creatures.

– Lady K

and this morning’s coffee poem:

Making morning
Bubbling buoyant clouds of boiling coffee
A thing of beauty

– Lady K

(that’s a haiku on strong mountain coffee steroids)

~ ~ ~

getting tired of my own words but words keep spilling so so do i. hard habit to break. not sure i want to. words keep me close to sane. i like the haiku cuz you can say lots with less and look beatnik cool while doing it.

i read that the traditional Japanese haiku counts sounds, not syllables, even though they are frequently the same. but a word like “sign” would have a 3 sound count – 2 for “sigh-n,” and one for the hard ending. glottals also get extra sound count, as do pauses. so to be true to the traditional haiku spirit, they recommend 10 to 14 syllables instead of 17. the three-line 5-7-5 syllable break is artificial as well – they were originally written in one continuous vertical line on scrolls. and weirdly, the plural of haiku is haiku – the Japanese often have words which don’t differentiate between singular and plural.

my own definition? – haiku is the silent sound of one monk sneezing.

here’s day two haiku.

Coffee Picking 2, Day 2

Burro brays. Cock cries.
No sun. Cloud over mountain.
Mist flows through valley.

Above wet. Below wet.
Trees drip in sky water cloud.
And where is the sun?

Up the mountain: East.
On the mountain: life, love.
Down the mountain: West.

Crawl from covers. Cold.
Don two sweaters and a hat.
I await coffee.

Grind corn. Grind coffee.
Wear away back, muscles, heart.
Free soul for rising.

Poke banana tree
with sharp stick until it bows.
Harvest the bounty.

Flesh sore. Bone weary.
We pick coffee all the day.
Climb mountain at night.

Walking up mountain.
nam myoho renge kyo
Up and up and up.

Walk and walk up hill,
Sisyphus without the rock.
Wait – I am the rock.

Laughter at dinner.
Food shared with people and drink.
I am not alone.

dawn bird outside our hosts’ kitchen window – foto by smith

up coffee mountain

one-rear-legged Mexican mountain grasshopper – foto by smith

back from 4 days up mountain, picking coffee and visiting our indigenous family. i wrote 22 haiku, plus one with Lady K who’s sick as a dog again, though not as sick as the dog the bus from hell hit on our way home today. this is Lady’s third stomach / intestine / bowel dysentary attack in this three-month old year. sounds like me in morocco.

here’s day one’s haiku. description may follow tomorrow.

Coffee Picking Part 2, Day 2

Rooster crows, bird coos
Sun rises up mountain side
Daily pain begins

Cat claw in my knee
Demands attention from me
Good to be wanted

Country to country
All things change yet stay the same
I remain other

Laugh, touch, cling, hug, hold
People clasp people to heart
I watch from shadow

Outside the fire’s flame
In this dark encroaching cold
I hold my wife, warm

looking south from our host’s roof – foto by smith