Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Quarter to Midnight


Quarter to Midnight

No one is awake
when the coyotes take up howling
on the next hill north, or maybe the next,
it’s hard to tell in this frigid air,
minute ice crystals hovering around the humpback
moon transmitting sound farther
than the towering thunderheads of summer.

I say no one is awake
but what I really mean is no other human,
for certainly the trio of coyotes are awake,
the lead singer sliding up the scale,
the second and then the third joining the fugue.
Also the mouse scurrying back and forth
under the snow-capped hummocks,
the barred owl coasting away from a dead
snag, the gray tabby greeting me at the door
but not stepping out, the ghost 
spider climbing along the edge
of the lampshade as I turn the light
back on to write these words 
before they slip away
into the ebb and flow of silence,
which never sleeps.

Monday, February 1, 2016

runnels in the snow


runnels in the snow
a mouse crisscrosses the paths
of a rabbit, a cat

Reading the map of tracks in the subliming snow, I can see where each creature was going, but not when. A mouse's curvy furrow, alternating with oval prints like beads on a string,  crosses a rabbit's long lozenges, a cat's blue roses. None of the prints lie on top of any others in this busy crossroads. All these comings and goings, witnessed only by a lone oak leaf, sticking up like a flag.


Friday, January 1, 2016

bulbous yellow spider


bulbous yellow spider
bearing tribal black designs
perches on red striped legs

No doubt the color and patterns on the back of this spider are meant as a warning to predators. But to me it is an amazing example of the creative artistry of nature.

in a glass vase roses


in a glass vase roses --
petals fallen -- sprouting
new leaves from cut stems

Yellow roses for a birthday ceremony have been living in a glass vase on our dining table for two weeks. Before the petals began to wither, I was surprised to see leaf buds appearing along the stems. By the time the petals fell off, new leaves began sprouting.


I have never seen this happen, cut roses growing new leaves. No roots on the cut ends. Yet water is surging up the the stems, turning to sap, feeding this revival.


Devoid of petals, the center of the blossom reveals its hidden beauty.


It seems like a miracle, but perhaps this unexpected vigor is simply the result of these roses being grown organically.


Each sunny remnant is surrounded by five sepals, like a green star. Yesterday, as the old year ended, my uncle passed away. And now, on this first day of the new year, I reflect on how life springs anew from what appears to be dead roses.

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.