Thursday, December 31, 2015

the next president

the next president
walks into a packed hall
holding a torch of hope

Last night we drove half an hour to the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa, Iowa, to hear Bernie Sanders. The chairs in the hall are arranged in a circle around a podium set on top of the American Eagle on the marble floor. Although we arrive an hour early, the only seats left are behind the podium.

A burly, bald-headed volunteer sitting in front of us in the first row has brought his three young children. He is wearing a shirt with a flag on his right sleeve and "Never Forgotten UAW Local 74 Veterans" on the back. At 7 o'clock he gets up to introduce the senator.

As Bernie begins speaking, a woman behind him signs for the deaf members of the audience. Whenever he mentions a person's name, he turns and waits for her to spell it out. 

When Bernie says he has introduced legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition free, the crowd stands and cheers. The signer spreads her fingers wide and shakes them back and forth.

Whenever people hold up their support signs, which is frequent, Bernie gracefully waits for the applause to subside so he can continue with another burning issue, such as the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and to reverse disastrous trade agreements that take jobs away from Americans.

Speaking with animation, Bernie uses his hands to punctuate his points, as when he talks about protecting voter rights and promoting justice for people of color, women, immigrants, prisoners, and LGBT.

Fervently, he speaks about the imperative need to stop climate change by transforming America's energy system away from polluting fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainability. Bernie has led the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions, stop Arctic drilling and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

With great intensity, he talks about the need to get big money out of politics. "Our nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little." It is wrong, he says, for banks to be too big to fail AND too big to jail. "We must break up the big banks."

Speaking about the need for a Medicare for All, single payer system, he asks to hear from those who are suffering from the financial burden of medical care. "Health care is a right, not a privilege," he avows.

Reading from a local newspaper, Bernie reflects on the recent recapture by Iraqui armed forces, with U.S. air support, of Ramadi from ISIS. "The goal of U.S. foreign and military policy must be to destroy ISIS, but to do it in a way that does not get American troops involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East. Our goal must be to establish a strong international coalition made up of our Muslim allies and major powers such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia as well as the United States." 

A future to believe in. It's been a long time since I've been this excited about the future of our country, and the world.

"Join the political revolution today." Strong words for the need of the times. I walk out, filled with gratitude for our next president, who openly advocates everything I believe in, and who has the energy to turn hope into reality.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

foraging on the verge

foraging on the verge 
five bronze-cloaked wild turkeys blend
with winter's oak leaves

A small flock of five wild turkeys pass through the mowed yard between the cedar fence around our house and the surrounding woods of mixed oak and hickory. They usually appear in early morning or late afternoon, sometimes in single file, sometimes forming a loose circle as they bend their necks to the ground to forage for acorns and nuts.

They showed up after Thanksgiving, as if celebrating their freedom from the fate of their domestic cousin.

One of them appears to be a male, bigger, with a redder head and wattle. From time to time he spreads his beautiful striped wings as if he is herding his harem of hens.

The turkeys forage right up to the lattice fence. I keep expecting them to fly over it, to peck at the black oil sunflower seeds and apple cores I put out for the birds. Big as they are, they are agile flyers, though they usually fly low to the ground. So far they merely peer over the low fence. However, yesterday when I came home, three deer jumped over the fence, from the narrow space next to the house. One after the other, they leapt full out over the barrier and sped off into the woods, white tails held aloft.

Monday, December 21, 2015

whirling silver hoops

whirling silver hoops 
around her slender frame
suddenly a slinky

Once again this year we are fortunate to have the National Acrobats and Circus of the People's Republic of China perform at the Sondheim Theater. This year's performance, Peking Dreams, combines dazzling costumes with breathtaking feats of acrobatics. The show begins with a graceful parade of women in traditional costumes.

Acrobats tumble through the air as standard bearers wave enormous red silk flags.

A group of contortionists balance on top of each other. All of these acts require tremendous strength as well as incredible flexibility, dexterity and balance.

Women twist and back bend, all the while spinning sets of four plates on long sticks in each hand. One would be hard enough, but eight!

Above them a woman balances a vase of flowers at the end of a stick held in her mouth while she slowly lowers herself to hang upside down by one foot from a strap suspended from the ceiling.

A man wearing only a pair of gray silk pants walks with deliberate steps across the stage. Slowly he climbs a pole. Holding the pole with only his hands, he extends his whole body upside down, sideways. Then he balances on one hand at the top.

Look at those muscles!

After a group of women in red costumes form a pyramid, an assistant tosses large red fabric discs to them, which they catch and spin with their hands while their feet hold up the acrobats above them. The woman at the top is balancing upside down, spinning a disk on her feet.

A group of men in blue vests dive and tumble through rings with incredible agility as the rings become progressively higher. This man is doing the splits as he dives through the rings!

The last man, wearing a red vest, dives through the highest set of rings, while his companions form an expectant line.

A group of men demonstrate their skill with lassos, tumbling through their own or another's lasso.

One woman climbs a streamer of purple silk, weaving it around her arms and legs, then hangs by her mouth from the top.

A troop of women in exotic costumes and umbrellas pose gracefully.

The star juggler spins umbrellas on her fingers and toes while she balances upside down on a man's feet. At the end, she tosses one umbrella up to balance on top of another one.

Then she keeps hoops going around her body and in her hands as more and more are tossed to her by an assistant.

Finally, bending backwards, she turns a whole raft of hoops into a silver slinky.

Next, in a comic scene, a man dressed in traditional operatic costume attempts to woe a veiled woman, carried in a cart, with a rose, which she continuously throws at his feet.

To entertain the reluctant woman and her suitor, the retainers begin juggling their hats. The woman finally lifts her veil and we see that she (played by a man) is quite ugly!

Eleven women in pink costumes demonstrate their skill on bicycles and a unicycle, singly and in unison. Here they wheel around the stage, one arm behind their neighbor's back, the other raised high, maneuvering in tandem with no hands on the handlebars.

For their final stunt, one by one they run and mount a single bike until eleven women, and over a thousand pounds, are balancing on one moving set of wheels. How can the cyclist at the bottom even see?!

The final act of the show features the same man who climbed the pole. While women beat large red drums, he mounts a series of chairs, the top one set at an angle, and balances upside down on the top of the tipped chair.

For the ultimate feat, he builds two columns of blocks and balances upside down on them. As we hold our breath, he knocks one column down. Now he is balancing vertically on only one hand. You can see the blocks falling to the floor while his feet are almost as high as the stage lights.

Somersaulting down, he lands upright on the tower of chairs.

And so this dazzling performance ends as all the performers appear on stage and the audience rises to their feet to applaud.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

how the river turns

how the river turns
walls and windows into 
fluid squiggles

The River Kaw, also known as the Kansas River, runs through Lawrence, Kansas, dividing the city, which is connected by the Massachusetts Street bridge.

The Bowersock Dam crosses the river under the bridge. A low impact dam, it is the only hydroelectric dam in Kansas.

Suspended above the dam are electric high lines. On these perches with a view, crows gather. They come and go, but there is always room for more along the wires.

I walk down below the bridge for a closer view of the water. Someone has inscribed LOVE in red letters on the underside of the bridge. For awhile I watch the way the water reflects buildings, turning stone and glass into free-flowing abstractions. 

Across the river, the sun setting behind bare trees turns the water to liquid gold.

On the north side of the river near the bridge, someone has constructed an amazing sculpture composed of driftwood and river trash, set among the limestone boulders of the flood bank.


The river hones the wood, revealing the grain, turning it silver. And the river casts up the junk that has been thrown, dropped, lost in the water, so that humans with beauty in their eyes can turn it into art.