Wednesday, July 13, 2016


It is cold tonight!  The air is cold and damp and I'm puffing it out in clouds. I'm rugged up - coat, scarf, gloves and a big pink wool beret.
            And as I headed out, a family walked in the door.  A small girl gasped.
            "Look!" she crowed, pointing at my beret.  "A pirate!"
            Her face had gone white and eyes were as large as stars.  Every storybook she owned had just come to life in the middle of mundane everyday-world Santiago.
            I grinned and said "That's right." and came very close to screwing up my face and growling "Argh."
            But I didn't.  I settled for a pirate grin, and walked out, feeling rambunctious and yo-ho-ho-y.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Copa América: Chile vs Argentina!

Tonight is the Final Match in the Copa América, and it's Chile  - vs Argentina!

We're the defending champions.  Last year we beat Argentina, so this year, there's honor on the line - on both sides. 

            The streets went through a mad rush of unseasonable traffic a little while ago (traffic jams on Sunday night of a long weekend?  Did the festival of Peter and Paul agreeably accommodate itself to a night when the whole country wants to sleep in on Monday morning?) as people rushed home to their televisions, but now the streets are so empty you could walk down El Bosque with your eyes closed from Apoquindo to Eliodoro Yanez and not meet so much as a shadow.
            It's so silent out there.
            So still.
            You can hear a pin drop -
            Until a Chilean grabs the ball and the cheering rises up - and the hooting and shouting and barracking and the choirs of men singing footy songs and the children who've been unwisely given vuvezulas stick them out of windows and set off the neighborhood dogs -  and we're only 15 minutes in to the first quarter.
            We're settling in for an amazing night.

Update:  Chi-Chi-Chi!  Le-Le-Le!  (We won.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Surf Sounds

Today the air tastes sour and smells like burning rubber.  We are on the fifth straight day of pre-emergencia, where the government tries to keep cars off the road to give the city a chance to breathe.  There's a rumor of mountains out on the horizon, but I'm taking it on faith because I'm straining to see the buildings four blocks over. It's winter in Santiago. On days like this, all I want is to curl up in bed with a good book that will take me somewhere else.
            Summer is my favorite.  Summer with a beach.

This post is about a very good book: Surf Sounds - a new volume of poetry by the Australian Poet Roger Higgins.

            Roger knows beaches.  Australia is  coastal country and summers are mostly spent by the ocean, squinting into the sun on the water and learning how to walk. You don't walk fast, or slow. It's a proceeding sort of pace - one you can keep up for hours, or the end of the beach, and in Queensland, where Roger was born, you will generally run out of day before you run out of sand. He has learned how to walk and he has mastered when to stop - for a good shell, or a jellyfish,  a crab or a cloud, a sunset, or a place where the tide is running out and braided channels form to carry the beach with it out to sea. Channels need to be dammed and new ones dug out with your foot.  You have to stay and watch the patterns change, the way the different sands settle out, dark over white, grain by grain, making little sandbars, marking little currents -
            It is good to have another person walking with you, to teach about tides and little rivers.  Alone, though, is better.  Alone, you don't have to talk to anyone.  You walk, and watch and you stop, and you think. Your stories are all your own.

Roger's first poem, Travels through Time and Place, was written in a Moscow hotel room - which admittedly is not a beach, but he has walked a lot of beaches since, traveling from one place to another place. Along the way he has done a lot of writing - on restaurant napkins and torn of sections of paper tablecloths, the back of airline boarding cards - even credit card slips, when he has needed to.

            It's amazing what you can find in your pockets, in a pinch.
            Roger writes about the places where he lives: Canada, Australia, and Chile, from the Atacama Desert in the north all the way through the Isla de Pascua down to Patagonia and Lago Grey. He writes about the places he passes through: Kazakhstan, the Cook Islands, the Congo, Mexico -
            A walking beach, Roger reckons, is a state of mind - you find it in long roads, long nights, long showers and the long flat roofs of sheds.
            "I write," he says "about the places that I love or have hurt me.  Places where words lead into emotions and points of view I'd never anticipated that they'd hold."
            Kitchens, late night bars, horse paddocks, bare desert mountains,  long roads, long nights, long showers and the long flat roofs of sheds.

            Little rivers that shift and reform beneath the weight of a toe -

            The drag of waves of your feet as you stand ankle deep in a rising tide-

            Waves that wipe the pattern clear and write it fresh - 

Surf Sounds: Poems by Roger Higgins

Roger Higgins' poetry is both day by day and exotic. The poet washes his socks and jocks when he showers. He prefers description, narrative and irony to self-dramatization; there’s a lot more to Surf Sounds than ocean, beach and desert.
~ Graham Rowlands, Poet

Surf Sounds can be purchased through Liquid light Press , amazon, and Lulu.

Roger Higgins has been published in various magazines and journals.  He is an Australian who has traveled widely and lived in (alphabetically) Canada, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, and the USA.  Roger is an engineer by vocation, and has utilized his pen rather more than his camera on many of his travels, bringing together his physical and emotional responses to the environments and situations which he has encountered.  First collection Hieroglyphs, Friendly Street Poets 2008. Most recent collection Surf Sounds, Liquid Light Press 2014.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Dogs in the Dark

Last night, being a crisp, cold, clear sort of night, I walked down to the park.  Wrapped in an aura of twilight and church bells ringing the local faithful to evening service, I wandered all the way down to the slides and swings, and was standing happily under a lamp post when two small dogs came boiling out of the dark. Their teeth were pinned back over their lower lips and in a torrent of snarling and snapping and loud whuffs, they were aiming directly for my shins.

            I shouted "NO!" in my biggest baddest "bad dog" voice, and to my extreme surprise, they actually stopped. The schnauzer subsided a lunge-length from my knee and with a filthy look, commenced to growling:
            "Boy oh BOY," it said.  "Boy oh BOY.  If you ever let me to get my hands on you, I'll, well I'll -" and it flung me a look of such furious passion that it brought him to its feet in another howling hail of barks. "Get you get you get you get you" - and the dachshund joined in  - "Yowowowowow!"
            From the darkness outside the cone of light came a voice.  "It's your hat."  The voice said.  "They don't like hats."
            Me and my winter hat stepped forward into the dark.  A man stood in front of me. He was wearing a hat himself: a woolly beanie pulled right down over his ears.  A cigarette flared.  A woman sat with her feet up on a park bench, nodding her head.  
            "They don't like hats."  She had one of her own as well - a wrap of elderly fur.  Behind them, another young woman - hatless - wrestled with something enormous - possibly a wolfhound - on a leash.  It leaped in silence, but the silence was pregnant with menace.  The little dogs boiled around my feet, yapping shrilly, telling me they wanted blood, - or at least a bit of skin from my knees -  and an enormous German shepherd looked up at me with liquid brown eyes and pressed her nose against my hip pocket.
             "Shut up, dogs." The man said casually. He aimed a kick at the dachshund and they subsided abruptly into silence.
            "That's Sofia" he said, pointing at the shepherd.  "She's a good dog." 
             Sofia sighed and looked up at me, and her tail thumped, once. I reached down and scratched her ears.  "GOOD Dog, Sofia."  I said. "GOOD dog."  
            She sighed again, and lowering her chin into my hand, sat down at my feet.  She was clearly ready to sit there forever, to settle in there with me for the night.
            Behind her, the little Schnauzer cocked its head.  He looked at Sofia, and he looked at me; you could practically see the little cogwheels working inside his little skull. Perhaps a different approach was in order?  With a short, conciliatory "gruff!" he trotted over and sniffed my trouser leg. 
            "Nothing doing, kiddo."  I said.  "After the way you carried on?"
            I bent and scrubbed at Sofia's soft neck, by way of illustrating what he'd missed.  Sofia got in on the game with gusto - twisted half on her side, she was leaning heavily against my legs and  banging out a tatoo on my thigh with her long brown tail.
           The schnauzer gave her a disgusted look and turned her back.  I stuck out my tongue.  Behind her, the dachshund made a spluttering sound.  The young lady with the wolfhound had clipped a leash onto its collar.  With one furious bark it leaped for the wolfhound, aiming for its belly.  The wolfhound yelled in shock and bit its own leash, and the schnauzer, yapping joyfully, leaped into the fray.  The wolfhound tried to eat its leash, the dachshund tried to eat the wolfhound, and the schnauzer was getting in a few good bites anywhere it could.  The man in the beanie was in the middle of the fray, bellowing and flailing.  The young lady tried very hard to go in several directions at once, and on the bench, the lady in the fur turban contemplatively extinguished her cigarette.  Fur was flying, sand was flying, and in the middle of the scrum, Sofia got up and lay down on the man's feet and rolled herself around on her back, tugging his trouser legs and begging for a cuddle.
            Very quietly, I tiptoed away.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Peak Chocolate

My parents are visiting us here in Santiago.  Today today we reached peak chocolate.  The two are not unconnected.
            The Chilean Easter bunny over-calculated how much chocolate four people could eat. The Australian Easter bunny wasn't interested in how much four people could eat - she knew how much chocolate she wanted to bring, and that was took up most of a suitcase.  A friend gave us a reasonably large chocolate chicken that turned out to be brooding a reasonably large clutch of chocolate eggs, and what with one thing or another (and most of a chicken) I am not feeling entirely my best.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Finding the Light

Today a friend of mine is having surgery.  She has cervical cancer.  It was treated, it went away and at the end of last year it came back. Today she will undergo a rather radical procedure - quite a lot of her insides will be removed.
            It is difficult for her and for her family. She has a husband and two beautiful children - a boy proud of his missing front teeth, and a girl with an urchin grin and the largest curls a small child can reasonably carry on her head.
            It is difficult, and she finds consolation in what she phrases as "finding the light" - the light of a dinner with friends, a helicopter trip over Niagara, a son in second grade and a daughter old enough to imitate grownups and be useful - even if that useful is scrubbing down the bathroom when she can't reach the taps on the sink. The water in the toilet solves that problem, and the hysterical laughter that goes along with a hasty shower for a kid and a Clorox scrub for all bathroom surfaces under 4 feet high is about as much light as a human body can stand.

Today she reckons she can use all the light she can get.
            I find my lights in the endlessly variable dimensions of human imagination. Like your daughter, my friend, we dream, and when we have dreamed - then, we simply can't help ourselves. We make it. We tinker and fix and because we did this one thing, we make the dreams bigger and bigger until - to take an example that is not mine - "we find ourselves playing complicated instruments while marching in complicated patterns in lockstep with half a hundred other humans, all of us wearing funny hats" and the result of what is, considered soberly, a rather odd collaboration, sets a million watchers on fire, screaming for joy.
            Sometimes those million people, building and tinkering, iteration by iteration, adjusting and learning and loving, find themselves coming together in a different sort of dance - their million labors condensed into a dozen people with dozen complicated tools each, dressed in masks and silly gowns, moving in unison beneath a circle of bright surgical lights and making life.
            And it is exhilarating. For this to happen, someone dreamed.

You got this, my friend.  You're gonna come out flying.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Among Friends.

Daniela and Mike have a deep-pile shag rug on their living room floor.
            I was sitting on the rug.
            My earring fell off.
            My big, bright, sparkly, knuckle-dusting Christmas Eve earring - as hard to miss as a Christmas cracker.
            We found two almonds, three crackers, half a walnut and a raisin before we found that earring.
            Mike reckoned that if we expanded the search beyond the immediate area where I was sitting, we might have enough to serve up to his sister's new boyfriend when he came for Christmas day lunch.
            Mike is a composer and a singer. A very good singer. The boyfriend came into money five years ago, bought a guitar and collected a band of like-minded two-chord enthusiasts. As he layered raisins and cracker crumbs on a plate, Mike played us a recording of the boyfriend's latest, and it was a very special recording - like the last Karaoke song of the night before the bar closes and the microphone is pried away from the leftover lush.  We felt for him, and suggested a vacuum cleaner with a stocking tied over the hose. To dig up the good stuff.