Twenty Poems move from Costa Rica beaches to the rain forests to a live volcano. Please join us on Friday, September 11 at 7PM for the book launch of Richard Downing’s Chapbook Four Steps Off the Path, published by Yellow Jacket Press.
Richard Downing admires both the wild nature in Costa Rica and the Costa Ricans for their insistence on preserving it. According to Downing, the poems deal with the narrator’s relationship with the often-unexpected wildness of nature as well as unexpected sides of his traveling companion and of himself.
He comments that “like a human being, Costa Rica can change its personality abruptly: a short drive takes you from thundering Pacifico waves to red lava flowing down the side of Volcano Arenal. I didn’t fully realize it when I was writing the poems, but Costa Rica was becoming a metaphor for many relationships on many levels.”
Downing teaches English, Creative Writing and Poetry: Peace and Social Justice at PHCC and is a social and environmental activist. He has published The Waking Rooms, a novel and has won:
the New Woman magazine short story contest over 7000 entrants
the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s poetry peace prize
the New Delta Review’s Matt Clark Poetry Prize,
and the Omnibus poetry contest.
Downing has received awards for poetry and short stories for the Boston Review, Juked, Knockout Literary Magazine, and Prose Ax. His poems have been anthologized in Against Agamemnon: War Poems; The Dire Elegies (each poem deals with an endangered species); and Hunger Enough: Spiritual Living in a Consumer Society. Downing’s works have been published in a number of literary journals and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
A sampling of Downing’s work follows in the poem Reflexology.
I am lying
on my stomach, head to the side, eyes closed while
Elisenda rubs my feet. She knows just where and how
to touch. She smiles
at my English words and pretends to know
what I’m saying. All this for a few American dollars.
Outside the spa, beyond my view of the lush green
foliage and the yellow-beaked toucans that soar
into and over the tropical leaves
are the obreros who are laying pavers one by one on the road
that will take tourists to their hotel rooms-with-a-view
of Volcano Arenal.
Earlier I was sweating from walking as I passed the workers
on my way to the spa, voucher in hand, wallet in zippered pocket.
Inside the spa waited Elisenda. She would be dressed in white.
I wondered if she wondered what my feet would be like,
smooth and pale
or cracked and calloused like the feet of the men
I passed, each of whom would lay hundreds of pavers that hot day,
a number as infinite as the moments
of their collected lives.