Monday, March 17, 2008

"Tierra Mia," Part 7

Cuento 7: “Aves y Gracias” (888 words)

“Tierra Mia,” my city block of casitas in Teote, Nicaragua, at the end of a very long road north from Managua, is fenced from passers-by—as well, from passing pigs, cows, and occasional caballos on rider-less mission-- with festoons of plastico burlap on poles, leftover from last year’s acres-long, acres-wide nurseries for newly planted tabaco. The seedlings need protection more from migrating birds than from insects, well-decimated by the black-market DDT used extensively in the fields. No es posible, even one bug or bird hole in the precious leaves, when each, rolled expertly in Havana, makes one holy, lustrous draw, probably worth $75 before tax, in Nueve York. I should grow tabaco, but I have human and environmental ethics.

Unfortunately, that insectacida makes goldfinch and hummingbird and parrot migration genocide. After a short visit to Honduras or Northern Nicaragua, they stop laying viable eggs, from eating dying insects. Unfortunately, this end of the Jalapa Valley used to be known for its sky-darkened swoops of passenger pigeons, chartreuse parakeets, in swarms at every loud retort from an over-gassed tractor, so the elders say. White ibis, along with avocet and heron down from Colorado, used to fly, icicles against the hot celeste of the sky. No longer. I rarely see a bird on the ground. Thus, the aviary, for birdsong, to write by.

God knows what DDT has done to this old knight’s body, though I don’t think my fertility’s much an issue anymore. And, after all, I was raised in the 40’s and 50’s, with insecticide a staple food on every plate in America. What it’s done is done already. On the other hand, now that I’m a don, I should maybe think about founding a dynasty?

Ay, Chihuahua! Look at these hibiscos, roja y blanca y rosada y salmón, even amarilla, as yellow as limones, now all a-bloom. Bonitísima, esta flor, very centered. One flower of hibiscus in a vase looks great on mi escritorio, here at la casa de palomas, for a day.

In the rainy season, cuttings root without Rootone: all I need do is amend the soil with old chicken caca and stick a cutting in. Guaranteed. For rosas, as well. This place--I’ve known since my first visit in 1993--is gardener’s Paradisio, and I’m a major gardening fool. I have such gardener’s greed, whenever I visit another jardín full of exotic plantas: “Just a few cuttings, por favor?” Some things, even in the whirling flux of the world, don’t change.

Ah, “Tierra Mia” is endlessly interesting, do you see, mi amigos? Every inch tells a story to me. Have I shown you where the little shrine to San Miguel will be? Come with me, por favor, amigos. Es aquí. I’ve spot for a fountain, a tiny pool and a brightly-painted statue of mi amigo, the arcángel, umbrella’d in the rain by a techa of tile. Even angels need a cover from la lluvia, torrential here from June until December. There’ll be a seat here, from a nance log sawn in half, bright red as cherry, so I, a multi-tasker, can wash my feet by the pool and pray a while, at once.

“Tierra Mia” holds potential as a pretty retreat and workshop center, La Casa Descansa de los Ángeles (“Angels’ Rest”). But, that’s future. Right now, I’m contento, tranquilo, just being the Chéli don, grateful for my ultra-verdant greenery in the hot, dry Seco, while it’s yet so cold outside in Glenwood. But, now it’s March, there’ll soon be early daffodils even there.

I live with whispering ghosts, es verdad, in every corner of “Tierra Mia,” but bennies have accrued, as well, from creating, so far, an empowered life of giving, not the least, a valid karmic protection I feel shining around me, un cerco de luz that people notice, out beyond my paler skin. As a Brigadista de Nicaragua, especially as a friend to Teotecacinte, practically a national shrine, I’m honored by every Nicaraguan everywhere, even in the bureaucratic offices of Managua, once they know my story. One official introduced me to an ambassador as “un don de la Guerra, from the killing fields of pobrecita Teote.” Ay-yi-yi!

Diós mío, my heart is full. That exalted honorific, friends, makes my old-don eyes sting, brings me to attention as I remember and write it, like singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” My love for these people of gracias flows from very deep springs: I have much to be grateful for, as well. “A don of the War!” Ay, Diós! I hadn’t even arrived yet, back in the bloodshed, but, now, en Nicaragua, I’m an honored Veterano, though one with longer-lasting kickback than an AK-47, es verdad. Here, I couldn’t fly higher, though a jet-set peace guy, a quiet witness to global atrocity, and, probably, for some, from the Moon, or, possibly, so say los locos, one high-flying earthy ángel.

It’s all blessing and curse, really, mi amigos, don’t you think? It’s certainly been “create-destroy” in the bloody lists of my Middle-Ages-modern hacienda, especially within myself: Ay, the craziest gauntlet! There, a friendly ángel comes in handy, even for un viejito knight, retired to scarlet “Tierra Mia,” a twinkling star-don, gratefully at your service, in this Loco-Latin-Love-Boat-Field-of-Honor, building heart in wounded Nicaragua.

"Tierra Mia," Part 6

Cuento 6: “A la Futura!” (830 words)

Now, mi amigos, after café, I’ll show you to the servicios out back. Three ensure one empty, in case I scarf too many mangos at once. Ha! This is dangerous fruit for taste-obsessers, especially if juiced fresh —Ay, yi, yi! Dulce Maria! But, oi-vay, once, en la pasada, I . . . oh, well, queridos, that might be “TMI”: few words could adequately express the unending direness, excepting “Oi-vay,” moaned very low in the gut, with cramped yet explosive inflection.

Ay, Diós mío! No más!

Now, caballeros, look at what we’re doing on the north side of palomas! I’m so excited!

My new private rooms at palomas, built this trip by my brother Denís, for $1200, from adobe blocks handmade on “Tierra Mia,” will triple my personal living space. I’ll now have a 40’ wing of my own. My current hand-built cuarto (12x20) has served me just fine for eight years, but it multi-tasks as an office, my bedroom and closet, as well, my somewhat private sitting room. Very minimal, it feels too cramped, now, for entertaining on “Tierra Mia.” When my new wing is finished, I’ll have a private sala off the front of palomas, for receiving my don-dom’s guests in more comfortable surroundings, complete with suspended ceiling fans.

La sala nueva will connect, via a new door, to a light room (6x20) with a potable water tap, up through the floor, giant screened windows with wrought-iron theft guards at each end, topped by a clear plexiglass ceiling, for starting plants and indoor flowering greenery without insectas: I’ll be writing in an airy greenhouse full of orchids when I’m here next year.

Then, to continue the enfilade, another door opens to my new bedroom and rainy season office (18 x20), one with a needed lockbox closet (3x3) and shelves for mi chunchas—my desktop publishing empire, my Nicaragua clothes, mi libros and art supplies in Rubbermaid boxes —so I can travel more lightly in the future. My new bedroom/office will be locked, cerrado, draped in dust cloths, sagrado, when I’m gone, las chunchas triple-tight in their boxes in that padlocked closet: I’ll have the only keys to my sanctum sanctorum tucked in my travel drawer with my passport when up in the States, ready to return.

Those chunchas are just too much temptation, even for my sister Marta, very honest and devout, who once wore my clothes all winter, I’m sure, and, then, feigned surprise at their mouse-ruined condition, even though I’d left them in a belted metal case in my room. “Must have been los muchachos,” said she, though, of course, no one else but she might have worn them, with a belt or sash. Maybe it was the Arcángel , needing warmth in the night, who left them out for los ratones to shred for their nurseries? Only in Nicaragua would a Guardian Angel shape-shift to a Gap-dressed, lovely matrona and madre, una campesina eleganta, blaming it all on her innocent-ángel-looking kids! Mentira! Mentira!

It’s a fun game of life here to catch people you trust in their “little white lies.” It keeps vida more finely tuned towards both the truth and sublime comedy. I couldn’t care less about the clothes—“End-of-Season-Sale” in Silverthorne, 90% off, from 2003, they’d tent the new-skinny-me--but the “mouse-eaten-ropas” story evokes merry guffaws over the fire in Marta’s cocina every year, when I bring it up, yet again, Don-Rickles-don-that-I-am, just to tease her.

Still wearing the darned-patched-cinched Gap shirts I gave her in 2005, she blushes, demurely, smiling. Everyone points to her flush, giggles behind fists, Betancos in love with mi hermana, La Capitana Marta, Guerrera Sandinista de Nicaragua, 1980-87.

Out the western puerta of my new bedroom, will be my veranda, sequestered from family activity by a clump of bananas and café, fronting a square court of brick pavers and gardens. On the north, there’s a clump of coco palms and Semana Sancta palmeras, already planted, surrounding a cistern—pila--where I’ll plunge in hotter weather, with red and white Butterfly Amaryllis and indigo-blue Lilies of the Nile, my little patriotic cooling-off corner.

West of the court, a white garden visible from my office window will shine in the moon like polished silver with waxy Peace Lilies, white Datura and Brugmansia trumpets, and Peruvian Daffodils, like giant icy-spiders under white camellias y gardenias.

We’ll see how it all plays, for one very happy visionary-don.

Ay de mi! I have too many projectos on “Tierra Mia” already, prior claims, to fret about La Doña’s pasture: la casa de palomas is also getting a new roof in March, already paid for. And a proper dovecote for my white roller pigeons, as well as the canary and parakeet aviary in the garden room. Palomas just keeps growing like Topsie, ever larger, one room or concrete floor at a time. I hope I’m not importing too much Disney World, but I’ve rampant visual greed, in developing Nicaragua.

"Tierra Mia," Part 5

Cuento 5: “Solidaridád,”Paradisíaco (889 words)

Gardening’s why I’m here in Nicaragua, beyond loving my family into productive life and pushing my writing to staccato elegance, castañeteo, sometimes, when I’m here. Too, I’ve a well-sprung heart for Teote, and, given all the FCE work—the school s, health clinic, police station, town hall, women’s bakery, plus, experimental farms, scholarships, visiting vets and optometrists, ad infinitum. Just for starters, we brought potable water back to town, out for 13 years, not bad for gringo crazies with hearts in the warmer places. Gracias, Glenwood Springs, Sister City.

It’s all just greater gardening, to me. Of course, I also love being a don.
Por favor, look here, over this plastic fence, queridos!

“Tierra Mia” backs up on La Grundge-ia, a.k.a. Teote Abajo. Once a haven for war homeless, now it’s Zorro’s starving village, con putas en la noche, all down my western border. Most are polite young women with abandoned kids who enjoy this more than working tabaco. I own and rent two houses on Puta Street, my buffer, to several young -Betanco-niece-sex-workers—Believe me, amigas, I’ve tried to save their virtue, but, no dice!--plus a third, across Puta City’s main street, not really part of my plan for “Tierra Mia,” but for noise control. Its acquisition speaks to realer-than-real life on Teote’s meanest street.

I bought the gay bar and its blasting PA, es verdad, now rented to busy teachers, when doña Marvin, the owner, one of Teote’s “men in dresses,” wanted to move farther off, onto the highway to Jalapa, paved now, and fast, and needed to sell. “La Faerie Queen de Teote,” so named by another Brigadista, whispered to Marta over café that she’d “cut the price, move out rapidamente y permanente, if a certain noted Chéli would expedite the cash pronto, via Western Union, in 2 days. ”

Otherwise, she’d “probably have to stay, for years”—location is everything, even in Teote—“until a sucker comes along.” Anyway, she said, “I guess I’ll open a Disco Bar for heteros on the other side, shocking pink and blue, just stunning, like Paris or Nueva York, with mirrors,” she said, “though un poco loud, with two barros playing such musica diferenta ,” she added, with a mince of claro sympathy to Marta, and . . . . So, Martita, who hates la musica de Marvin almost as much as I, got on her cell, my gift, called me, and, voila, I marshaled all the angels needed to reap mi tranquilidád.

Por gracias de Diós, with help from Miguel, and, especially don Moncho, one shrewd Jerry McQuire, I eventually obliged, after shaving another $900 off Marvicita’s cut-rate asking price, “for malo wear and tear in all the fuchsia bedrooms,” mi padre said, with a macho smirk in his voice. The cash, ready, had fallen in my lap, gilded manna, the week before, another synchronicity. “Found Money” hyperventilates to this end of the road for the incipient don Douglas, Land Baron de Nicaragua.

The deal got me an upscale house in Teote, cheap, with multi-colored cribs, a modern kitchen, and a bordello de hombres bathhouse deluxe, with aqua Greek columns around a deep pink pila, cold-water-only, Teote-style. It’s the one house, excepting palomas, I’d live in, did it not front La Calle de las Putas.

I bought it to bury the noise, but I also engineered a laugh-riot-sensation the following Christmas Dinner in Colorado, telling my grown son and daughter, in front of the clacking relatives, they’d one day own a very pricey gay bordello in Puta City, Nicaragua! Hoo-Hah! We almost lost our giblets and gravy, giggling. Trickster-don!

Now, though, I’m selling it, for doble the dinero, to an evangelical church on a mission, with need, apparently, of a large baptismal font. No PA is part of the deal. I’ll buy a couple more buffer houses with the gains. I hope I’m not cheating my stateside kids of their heritage, but I’m not much into abuse. Marta says muchachos con vestidos died of slit throats in esta barro, and I don’t need any more ghosts than I already have.

The deal with Marvicita felt destined, smooth, mutual. Both doña Marvin and I are happy in our expansive and, for me, much quieter, places. I’ll never hear Ricky Martin’s “Vida Loca” again, her favorite song, blared out her barro’s system until 10 pm every night but domingo.

Even gay putas need their Sundays off, and most go to church in very sedate dresses, with braided beards, of course. When doña Marvin’s not in bright Gucci knockoffs, she, being a macho modern guy, goes for black Armani copies, muscle shirts and chains of gold and silver, un guapísimo, especially for church with her colorful entourage. They separate and celebrate with their families, pass the paz, and visit with the padre after misa. In drag. With beards. Surrounded, like doña Marvicita, by children from earlier sexual choices, supported by their current services.
Now, that, mi amigos, is Teote, pequeño, in small: one for all, and all, regardless of circumstance, for one, in solidarity. Gracias a Diós por todo.

Perhaps the locals who covet La Doña Estebana’s pasture just want to live across the street from don Douglas Betanco, on the quietest street in Teote, tranquilo but for “The Moody Blues,” medium volume, my constant writing compadres, in blues-y Nicaragua.

"Tierra Mia," Part 4

Cuento 4: “Don Visions and La Doña” (870 words)

Let us sip some café. Por favor, my guests, siéntense, here on my veranda, out of the southwest vienta. See how elegantly Marta has set our table—Gracias, Martita!--complete with peace lilies in mi abuela’s cobalt-glass vaso on the hand-crafted mesa? Rosquillas beckon on my great-aunt’s hand-painted, gold-trimmed Limoges plate, thin as eggshell, translucent. And cups extraordinaire, anywhere, crystal I rescued in a coup de garage sale in Glenwood—6 Waterford cups, signed, mint condition!--from an Oxydol box of dirty rags I bothered to finger, then bought pronto for $1.

Would you pour, La Doña?

These were carried just for café at palomas, querida, wrapped in pop’em plastic in my ancient, reinforced Samsonite suitcase, still going strong. I never carry it myself when I can help it, but it’s indispensible for toting my desktop publishing empire and one or two fine, appropriate objets to embellish “Tierra Mia” lifestyle. It’s not “Rich-and-Famous,” yet, but we’re above-the-poverty-line-elegante in very small things. Next trip down, Samson will hold some Wewer Keohanes from my Glenwood collection, in gilded frames, for my new cuartos, north of my current room, and a pewter duck.

This Old-Zorro-don sets a courtly table when it counts, a glittering Wow for everyone breathing inTeote, out here in the drying cornstalks. Fresh-toasted café for dipping chewy rosquillas counts for everything, as lifted-pinky as possession-poor campesinas can make it, serving hospitality with finesse.

Ah, sí, I grow this café myself, here on “Tierra Mia,” under those spreading banana trees down south there.

I’ve rented that pasture to the east, below those sexy montañas, to grow corn, provide work projects and food for my older hijos, keep them out of tabaco. The don in me deeply covets it. It looks great from mi ventana, full of well-fed maís. I can watch it grow a half a foot daily in the rainy season, without leaving mi oficina. The owner, here pouring, mi amiga La Doña, won’t sell--Naughty Señora!--though I’ve asked many times: it was her dear don Gumercindo’s favorite piece of land.

Somehow, though, the way mi loca vida twists and turns, I intuit I’ll own it, someday, with the help of the Arcángel. La Doña to Teote, Estebana Sanchez is 97, a good friend. She has, from me, a framed photocopy of the Arcángel in all his glory, on her sala wall. We dance sometimes, at fiestas, very, very slowly. I’m delicate, after all, un viejito. She’s a tough, wizened crone, in the best sense, es cierto. And, too, while I want her “memory-lane” mostly to keep it unobstructed along the track to the río Limon, as well for caballos and sweet corn, a few coco palms to bisect the view from palomas, I’m not really very greedy, for an aristocrat.

Prime campo land of two acres, though, that pasture with its own artesian seep, good clay for tiles--Ay, Chihuahua, amigos! Unfortunately, even if La Doña deigned to sell, it’s jumping out of reach, though only twenty feet from my property line, straight across the road. Van Gogh would have lost his other ear to this mystical view out my writing window.

The foundations of La Doña’s first casa as a married woman are located there. The house melted in the rains, after her husband took the tin roof, during the war, to use as ceiling for a bomb shelter at her city home, back in 1980. What didn’t melt was blasted to smithereens in 1981, as the Contras moved con fuerza to take Teote from the Sandinistas, who considered the battle to keep the town a fight to the death. Many got buried. The old shooting trench from La Guerra, around the town’s perimeter then, still crosses the pasture, north to south, though it’s a bit crumbled in. Cottontails make it home.

I’d love to have her in the neighborhood, again, now I’m a local don. She’d tart up el vicino even faster, and be closer, as well, for our visitas than up in Arriba, where the oldest families live, some in compounds with an ancient stucco wing like hers, stout wooden beams still arching the sala, under a roof of tile. Her husband, don Gumercindo Sanchez, and she founded a most vibrant and peso-savvy family in Teote: their hijos have carried on the Sanchez tradition of moving and shaking most pragmatically with the times.

According to La Doña, half the ricos in Jalapa have knocked at her door, ruining her siesta and her estomago, but offering mountains of dolares for her former home site in Teote, to develop as a projecto of 48 teeming casitas or to grow tabaco: “Ay, no!” she says; she doesn’t like that picture any more than I do. The price is rising even faster than the market, though, and too big a chunk for me: I haven’t got much money left this trip, on purpose. I live on a very fixed income, here and there, and need to get used to it. Ah, well, even though my writing desk faces the campo, with those hills, naked majas Tropicanas on parrot-green lounges, if I’m meant to have it, I will, even in Pension-City, Nicaragua.

"Tierra Mia," Part 3

Cuento 3: “A History in Flors de Sangre” (886 words)

Ay, Diós mío, señoritas y caballeros, look at that unobstructed view of Honduras across the campo, from mi casita del norte. As you can see, esta vista mágica fronts the long eastern border of “Tierra Mia.” All the casitas, covered now with scarlet bougainvillea, face these sensual yet dangerous mountains, once filled with landmines and Contras and banditos and Mayan warriors, now robbed desnuda of their towering pines and mahogany by log teams in the 50’s. They primed Anastásio Somoza el Segundo’s dictating pockets, over the sixty odd years his family was supported in power by the U.S. Marines.

They put down recurring campesino insurrections—Libertad whistles more loudly to land slaves than to free men, perhaps?--even before the 20’s, when a firebrand named Sandino, from Nueva Segovia, the north country province where I live, rose in arms against the Gringos, the Men in Managua and Somoza, el Primero, then a General, who truced, finally, with this national peon-hero, after many Marines, campesinos and Nationales were killed, all fighting for a version of democracia. Promising land distribution to Sandino’s face, El Jefe then had him shot in the streets, after the Marines had helped to elevate Primero, a peacemaker as it seemed, to Presidente. They also trained his Guardia Nacionál, notorious for torture and bloodletting mayhem, though I hope our boys will never know what vicious sadists and terroristas their students became, with fine-point savvy in mass-intimidating-travesty, after boot camp.

Anastasio, el Segundo, one heinous modelo perfecto for his Guardia, siphoned off gazillions , all here believe , in international aid flooding his Capital City after the 1967 earthquake trembled most of Managua to the ground. Que desastre! The city, when I first saw it in 1993, still looked a bombsite, 25 years after. That was way before I became a don, of course, and before I saw what bombs can do to people, up close, in Teote.

Now the rubble of the former Downtown has been turned under an extensive green parque, nice for the opening evening, after which it filled overnight with thousands of black plastic tents on clothes lines, strung between the newly-planted trees, homes for Managua’s poor and squatting street kids, sniffing glue and selling themselves for a breath of freedom. It’s not a safe place to get off the bus; in fact, I’ve heard, mi amigos, an innocuous tourist lady in a bus, with an over-jeweled hand out the window, lost her rings and fingers to a hungry machete. Managua’s not the best spot for a jewelry convention, nor is Teote, not quite as desperate anymore. I left my gold retirement watch in Colorado on purpose, practical don that I am.

Everything in Nicaragua’s connected, one way or another, to the abuse of the poor, 90% of the population, by the privileged. “Tierra Mia” has witnessed most of it, so every stone tells stories of cruelty and rape and oppressive slavery, for two thousand years, if we figure in the Mayans. They sacrificed slaves, mostly captured war trophies, for every god-appeasing function, including, I suppose, sweet fifteen parties, to flatter marriage gods into sending on rico husbands. Imagine, if you will, losing your heart, possibly right here on “Tierra Mia,” to save a winsome Mayan princess from pimples. Such a rare honor, don’t you think?

Sí, señorita, Mayans marauded the north of Nicaragua, so I’m told by La Doña Estebana, who ought to know, an ancient crone and matriarch of all Teote, a friend of la Brigada de Glenwood Springs. She’s Mom to local star and Sandinista war hero, mayor of Teote through all its Brigada activity, Chindo Sanchez, now mayor of Jalapa.

La Doña says the Mayans, to corral their slaves before the trip to Guatemala, built a stone compound, then a small stone city where the Limon and Poteca rivers come together, just down rio from Quacamaya, mi padre’s finca with the curious non-Hispanic place name. The ancient site—stones vanished into campesino foundations centuries ago--now slithers with poisonous snakes, so everybody stays away, even seed-seekers making beaded curtains. Too much ancient pain, I’d say, and haunted. I’d love to explore it, but avoiding Bushmasters and Corals—as well as pain-- is very high on my Teote have-to agenda: One good bite of the don and I’d be agonizing history, myself, or, worse, paralyzed for life. Luckily, they only live where people don’t.

Somoza Segundo, a pit viper, ran the upper Jalapa Valley, the breadbasket of Nicaragua, as a personal tabaco fiefdom, owning most of it himself, through the shadiest dealing, so say the Teote elders. If he wanted a piece of land, and the owner, usually a campesino struggling to keep his acre, wouldn’t sell, he’d end up dead, shot, skinned while dying, skewered on a sharpened pole for good measure, then dumped in the middle of the disputed piece of land. Slam-bang! It made estate acquisition pretty easy.

His “cattle,” the Sandinistas who eventually overthrew his terror in 1979, worked in his fields for food, like any other domesticated beast. All the elders joke sardonically that every fetid outhouse in Nicaragua now holds a starving, caca-eating parrot named “Segundo” to clean out the hole for free.

Thank God, he’s gone, assassinated after his ouster with silver bullets, the elders say, to keep him in his coffin: “Tierra Mia,” scarlet-stained with bougainvillea, would make a jim-dandy triunfo of a private pool for a dictator and his doxies, complete with imperial, sultry view, here in bloody Nicaragua.

"Tierra Mia" Part 2

Cuento 2: “Slow Walk to Land Baron Style” (802 words)

Now, though, I’m weary, from such imaginative don-derring-do. The tender bowing over fine brown hands hurts my back. It can be tiring, this landed gentry bit. My butt and legs hurt, as well, from this morning’s lesson with mijo Ramon. I’m content to hobble ‘round my bustling homestead, la casa de palomas, grinning as wide as Methusaleh’s teeth were long, savoring the campesino flavor of “Tierra Mia” in Nicaragua.

Ay, Chihuahua, “Tierra Mia!” Would you care, mi amigos, for a little stroll, with a guaranteed, pedigreed Nicaraguan don, around my mesh-curtained castle yard? It’s mi plesor, as a first-time landowner, señors y señoras.

Ah, sí! Check out this tall poinsetia clump, north of palomas. 8 feet of verde stalks, scarlet-crowned, the village elders say the plant’s witnessed too many martyrdoms, quite bloody I’m sure, and, so, it metamorphs to red in February, a memorial to saintly and Sandinista sacrifice every year.

Behold, now, mi Campesino-Heaven-on-Earth, just past that bright-red bouganvillea! Si, senor, my yard’s very long. More than 200 striding paces, street to street, a village block of tired adobe shacks—No other word fits quite as well, but we’re making progress!--my new celestial province of fruit trees, full-grown, bearing aguacates, mangos, cocos, cacao, bananas, limones and naranjas, and , of course, café.

“Tierra Mia” stretches over a half acre, más ó menos, still growing, of developed residential land, amenities already in at the sale. Surrounding la casa de palomas, still home to my sister Marta and her family, though my name’s on the dotted line at the lawyer’s, “Tierra Mia” expands my strolling space, safe after dark with my perros beside me, right where I’ve lived for 13 years when in Teote. I traded Martita a fine but tiny casita, with bananas and café, down on the rio Limon. A pump and hose fetch water for the trees and for frijoles in the Dry. We both think we got the best bargain, especially as she still lives at palomas, taking care of us all, so Miguel had a hand in, we feel, es cierto. Mutuality is the Árcangel’s constant sign, along with his Sword of Truth.

The rest came poco á poco, as contiguous lots became available in the years since I developed landlust in Teote, guided by synchronicity to buys where everyone wins. A 20 minute stroll traces its circumference, about the same as dawdling ‘round a block in Old Town Glenwood. New member of the campesino hierarchy, un caballero, I’m finally planting in my own garden, un jardÍn tropical, just like Voltaire’s Candide, no more on rented land.

Just look at these cascading candelarias, like red honeybees on golden wires, on every wood column of my veranda! Life triumphs over death, once more, in “Tierra Mia.”

See the fleck of red in this pebble? It speaks to la sangre of many martyrs. Two millennia of war, “Indian” slavery and quashed rebellions do that. Before this extension of Teote was built, to shelter refugees after La Guerra, what a killing field “Tierra Mia” must have been, so close to the fields and the front! From tilling the soil for new gardens, I know it contains bullets, and, once, a bayonet, though guerreros campesinos are very careful with their killing tools. Most still keep an AK-47 and a machete under the mattress, lumpiness an issue transcended with an extra colchone.

OK, sí, it’s pretty bloody ground, but, it puts things into campesino perspective, and, we do get an ocean of rain here when it rains! Pero, no, it’s a horror story, unwashed or cleaned, especially with the earliest Spaniards and the Somozas, who called the campesinos “our cattle,” and treated them accordingly, a continuous blood-drenched genocide of “expendable” people, just “meat.”

Even so, I love this tierra, as only a first time owner can, even if it is land purchased on the cheap--less than $5,000 in 7 years--in the hinterland of Nicaragua, not on the tourist-covered beaches of San Juan del Sur. It’s now worth $27,000! I could take the money and run, but why sell in this market, rising like an angel up to el Cielo? Just last year, I doubled my money.

In Glenwood, God knows, a city block would pave my way to Pig’s Heaven, or, at least, a small McMansion, but Teote is a garage sale after hours, when everything’s picked over and 90% off. Norteamericanos like me are snapping up chunks of Nicaragua as I write. It’s a “Blue Light Sale” at K-Mart in this northern farmer’s market, though I hear residential land in coastal cities is already much higher. But I live in No-Where-City, where everything is loco, including me, with my feet planted firm in “Tierra Mia,” in the corn god’s very sunny kitchen, Nicaragua.

"Tierra Mia" Part 1

Cuento 1: “Enter: don Douglas” (894 words)

What power a dinky word like don has! I’ve been elevated in Teote to don Douglas, with nary a sword to my shoulders, I’m sorry to say, nor any swearing-in ritual, not even a bending of my now aristocratic knee, after a swirl of my Zorro cape around my soon-to-be-skinny frame. I’ve always loved costumes. A CMC Theatre star for many years, I played Sancho Panza in Man of la Mancha, so I understand eccentric dons and impossible dream fulfillment. I’ve also played Bottom, the blustering ass in Midsummer Night’s Dream, who wakes, enchanted by magic dust, with a donkey’s head on his shoulders and with Titania, Queen of the Faeries, wildly in love with him.

That part fits, too, especially en la mañanita, though I’m quieter, with tiny ears, and am acquainted, as we shall see, only through real estate deals with la Faerie Queen. I stole both shows, with raves. However, I’m a don not for my stage presence, but because I now own sufficient land in Teote to actualize dreams, my way, like that other don—Quixote de Quijana--and because the villandry here find me a wise viejito, also, a loco fool, a good balance for playing don Douglas Betanco to the cosmic hilt, on my own medieval fiefdom in bloody Nicaragua.

Yes, you may kiss my silver ring, if you insist, my child. And, por favor, my guests, bienvenidos a “Tierra Mia.” We blaze hospitalidád con gusto on our brightest white, starched and ironed Oxford-cloth shirtsleeves, here in the omnipresent dust of the Dry.

Don Douglas Betanco de Palomas y Quacamaya y Colorado! Quite a handle to live up to, though I’ve been that, really, for years, one loco knight errant for justice, a private global warrior, and, while wordy, un trovador seeking verdad y gracias, with sweep of sombrero, at your service. Don Douglas is eager, as a landed aristocrat de Nicaragua, to rescue dimpled damsels—old toothy dragons, for that matter—or peons, es cierto, at a handkerchief’s drop, a fetid snort of breath or a cry from mi hermanos. Just call me on mi cellular, and I’m rearing en caballo, my sword aloft like Old Zorro, 25 years imprisoned, raring to go por Libertad y campesinos, with Spanish-American-Colonial-Class--ah, well, just like me! May I be worthy of this noble though intensely-abusive tradition!

Let’s try again, what say you, without abuse this time?

Old Zorro, eh? Anthony Hopkins, with his crystalline eye? Not bad, don Douglas, CMC Profesor de Ingles, Emeritus, gracias a Diós, especially now I’ve dropped almost a hundred pounds of fat and a ton of student papers. Hoo-Hah! Old Zorro it will be, when I can fit into the skinny black Levis I brought down, for the Palomas Mascarada in April. Hah! I’d better start doing sit-ups, pronto!

Oh, of course, señorita, I love the movie. The Mask of Zorro’s the only DVD in English at la casa de palomas, so I watch it anytime I want an Ingles fix. I’m totally immersed in Spanish, a treat for the ear: I love the liquidambar flow of spoken Español, more harmonious by far than harsh American English. “Church” is hardly the sound to sing the soul of “Iglésia.”

Ah, si, señor. Zorro’s a personal hero. He was, after all, don Diego de la Vega, so we’ve mucho in common besides Spanish, including great charm. It comes, after all, with the don territory. I wish I had a cave under “Tierra Mia,” for my fencing lessons, but I’ll never be Antonio Banderas. We’ll have a walking maze in the jardin, though, and plenty of happy peasants, hats in hand, singing my noble praises. Please, mi señora, check out Martita’s impatiens by the entrance here. Rosada, sí, y blanca, y roja y coral! Marta plants them for happy welcome to palomas.

Now, about that rearing horse: Triunfo’s my sweet pensionado present. I bought this macho horse, a caballo pinto grande, more hands high than most here, for stud as well as genteel country living, as soon as I discovered my don-dom. Who could even think himself a gentleman without a horse? In Spanish, “horseman” and “gentleman” are the same, caballero, and, Diós sabe, I’m a “cosmic cowboy,” total. Sometimes, I even stay saddled, though it’s iffy, so I don’t really rear that often. Never, to be truthful. I’m definitely a “Keep-it-at-a-nice-slow-walk-for-now, Triunfo!” caballero.

I‘m getting lessons. Mi hijo Ramon, 23, born on un caballo, has taken me under his wing. He wants me bone-whole, as do I. A perfect Nica country squire’s macho younger son, he helps me by choice in my dotage here. He worries that Triunfo, spirited steed, will bolt, a whirlwind of lust, frothing, no doubt, while I, clung orangutan-tight, entangled in his whitewater mane, hurl deranged mea culpas to Cielo, “Vaya con Diós!” to cheering peasants and “Sit! Sientese, por favor!” to my horny horsy, all the bucking way to the volcanoes.

“Tio Mame” in Nicaragua! So much for knightly dignity. I pray I don’t lose my new sword.

This is not really that unlikely a scenario: not of the fox-hunting set, I’m hardly a horseman, yet. Ramon’s teaching me caballo control, primero. Even a don de Palomas y Quacamaya y Colorado should learn the ropes, first, with a devoted maestro de caballos, playing it seguro with his brand-new-brightly-painted-slightly-frisky toy, my celebration-season-Triunfo, here in “Tierra Mia," Nicaragua

Angelus, Part 7

Part VII: “Last Lines of ‘Ángelus’” (581 words)

I finished “Ángelus” this morning, in 6 Parts, on a domingo near the end of February, but I felt it missed a 7th Part, since 7 speaks more loudly to me of finish and luck than 6. Don’t our lives run in spirals of sevens? And, then, there’s craps. It would fit better a story of angels working to keep us, by choice, from the seven deadly sins we celebrate in every magazine: avarice, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy, wrath, and pride, that’s the Nightly News. Most live in Vanity Fair, somehow, partying with supermodels and plutarchs, at least in our imaginations: at one time, I’d studied angelology as a respite from all that contagious local color up there, feeling highly sanctimonious.

I stewed about Part VII all afternoon, having nothing much to add, after weeks revisiting a less expanded draft of “Ángelus.” Then, I had a rain-tossed brainstorm, when an unseasonal downpour rang the tin roof, a carillon of cracked bells, right above my writing desk: since the last lines of the Six end in “Nicaragua,” I’d create a narrative poem for Part VII, by stringing the end lines together on a skewer of palabra-bells, entitled with the plot movements in “Ángelus,” providing narrative structure.

Voila! That’s what I’ve done. I’m very pleased to share it. It makes a very lucky end, especially since an “Angelus” is the tolling of church bells at dusk or death, calling all angels, when day turns to night, then heads again, hopefully, towards the dawn, with the help of Heaven.
A little judicious cutting, rearranging of palabras for bell-shaped poems, more espanol, apt punctuation, excellent dimension and even some damn-fine objective-correlative work, a la Yeats and Macleish: one very tight poem, I think, curious when standing alone. It’s meant for performance, as well as print. What could possibly be better? A tintinnabulation of silver bells at bedtime in dangerous Nicaragua: Let them ring!

“Last of ‘Ángelus’”


Mi padre peeks,
a duenna, as I bathe
desnudo in the río-crossing finca,
for ángel sign! Loco, he is, mi amigos,
even in Nicaragua.


Persuasive I am, one fighting gallo, mano a mano,
sin scratching souls. Papá, que pasa? What’s
falta? What’s arriba, what’s down? San
Miguel! Rollercoaster jokes, yet!
Ángel-loco in Nicaragua!


Perros y coros of descant gallos,
dead-drunk bolos roaring at midnight, Teote
slashers, all, con machetes; ladrones y putas bailando
en los calles: after-dusk-dead-paseo. Ay,
your fearful angelogia,


Have I no leathers
against them, no deep furs? No lit
angel feathers to cushion bones from falls
on stone? Look! En luz de luna, alone, I stretch, one foot
to chair antiqua, to cut with hand tijeras one gilded candelaria--
Glitzy spray of honeybees!--from elbows del mango en mi jardÍn.
Why risk, once again, my hips,
del oro
on my desk here in Nicaragua?

*• Obsession •*

I’m crazy,
Perfeccionista loca,
want chunchas, mi vida, just so,
truly claro! I check it, mi Ángel, all the—
Ay de mí! Click! That’s it! Aleluia!
Holy Nicaragua!


of perfectísimo,
one wrinkled ángel de Diós
de los Estados, makes biggest fear come
true: esperandos imposibles from others.
Now, más ó menos means perfecto! Viva Nicaragua!


Con silver jangles, spurs, caballo y viejito don, sombrero in hand,
spiral to Ángeles, muy despacio, from well’s bottom.
I finally rest, con paz, mi guerra-weary heart,
healing, warmed by San Miguelito,
más ó menos, tranquilísimo,
one happy hombre,
Old Zorro at
fiesta, un
ángel de Diós
de los Estados,
with familia,
this gleam of
angels, más
ó menos, in

• Dissolution •

ring silver-bright,
un ángelus, sundown’s tintineo,
calling all angels! What could possibly be better?
When all things fall-apart-before-the-dawn’s-reúnion,
horas prior my “little death” of sorry sleep,
tintinabulas fight darker oscuro,
welcome mañanita light,
in Arcángel City,