Monday, April 26, 2010

Wild Beauty

I want to write something beautiful about you,
to remember you were beautiful to me once,
in the days when our eyes could not
slake their thirst for
the other.

We were lovers in the most elemental of ways,
carved from the embrace of crimson
clay bed and balmy breeze
beneath the blazing
sun's heat.

But I will always remember the night you
leaned into my lips and sighed, "Qué
delicioso y tan peligroso,
mi amor,"
before you

To this day I don't know if your leaving was
blaming or saving you, but I believe in
fate too. It goes down smoother
than rejection and/or

Surely fate is the only way to tame your wild beauty,
confine it to a frame of reference that gives
deference to the capricious graces
of love, lest it escape into

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earthquake in Yushu

Below is an email I've sent to some friends to update them on the situation in Yushu, some borrowed from another friend's blog. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Hello friends,
I have heard from some of you who were concerned for my safety, so I wanted to send out a short note saying that I am ok. I live in the same province, but Xining is about 800 km north of the earthquake zone in Yushu, which is where I attended the Horse Festival in 2006. It's been a tense couple of days, with people waiting to hear word from family and friends who live in the area. All of my friends are ok, but most have lost friends and relatives.
Many who live in the region have lost everything, as 85% of the houses and buildings collapsed. Yushu is at 12,500 ft. elevation, with temperatures hovering around freezing. Since the earthquake hit early in the morning, many people are stranded outside without warm clothing or blankets. Tents, blankets, and medical supplies should make their way to the area in the next 24 hours. I think the latest news reports I've read put the death toll at around 600 with 10,000 injured, but the word I'm getting from folks down there is that the death toll is well over 1,000, including a four-storey schoolhouse that has yet to be excavated.
As it stands, the government seems to be responding quickly with rescue efforts, but damage to infrastructure is hindering their progress. The Yushu government issued a call for all trained medical personnel to come as quickly as possible, but there has been bureaucratic resistance in Xining to allowing foreigners on student visas to respond to this call. A large number of these medically trained expats are on student visas, so this resistance could have devastating effects. *Update - immediately after writing the last sentence, I heard from my friend, who is a nurse and student, and she was able to get permission to go. Hopefully more will have success tomorrow.
There is an organization here doing fantastic work on the Tibetan plateau called Plateau Perspectives . "P.P." is a non-profit team of scientists and medical personnel working with Tibetans in southern Qinghai on development initiatives (agricultural, educational, etc.) and environmental conservation. P.P. is (as of today) the ONLY non-profit organization that has been directly asked by the government to participate in the relief effort. There is a group that is heading out today from P.P. to start the advance work.

Last night, a friend created a website for P.P. to give daily updates on the earthquake. It is also set up to allow PayPal donations, if you want to give financially to the relief efforts. Will you take a moment and click on the following link that says "Yushu Earthquake Relief"?
Thank you for your concern, friends. Please keep the people of Yushu in your thoughts and prayers,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Politics and Poetry

It is National Poetry Month, and the torrent of poetry that I was hoping to unleash on my unsuspecting readers has not materialized. It's been two years since my poetry took a great leap forward through regular deadlines for production, but I'm finding it hard to set that time aside this year. Perhaps studying Chinese is enough for now; it can certainly be poetic at times (i.e., the idea of jealousy can be expressed by saying "eating bitterness").

In lieu of being a productive writer, I have been trying to keep up with international news. The U.S. government has been undertaking enough provocative political maneuvering to raise China's hackles and eyebrows, that I find it necessary to stay abreast of global happenings in case visa troubles are on the way. In so doing, I came across two recent stories dealing with political resistance and the role of violence. The first is from the familiar Israel/Palestine conflict, but it reveals another side to the story that we don't often get to hear. The second is about the recent violence-tinged overthrow of the government in Kyrgyzstan (highlighted in U.S. news sources due to uncertainty surrounding a US Air Force base used for operations in Afghanistan). This is the same government which came to power as a result of the peaceful Tulip Revolution in 2005, but has failed to deliver on promises to turn away from autocracy.

What does it take to live in peace? What does it take for an enemy to become a neighbor, or even more astonishingly, a friend? These questions have deep political, sociological, philosophical, and even theological underpinnings. But, I will let poet Khalil Gibran's parable "Peace and War" from his collection The Wanderer speak to that issue as only Gibran can:

Three dogs were basking in the sun and conversing. The first dog said dreamily, "It is indeed wondrous to be living in this day of dogdom. Consider the ease with which we travel under the sea, upon the earth and even in the sky. And meditate for a moment upon the inventions brought forth for the comfort of dogs, even for our eyes and ears and noses."

And the second dog spoke and he said, "We are more heedful of the arts. We bark at the moon more rhythmically than did our forefathers. And when we gaze at ourselves in the water we see that our features are clearer than the features of yesterday."

Then the third dog spoke and said, "But what interests me most and beguiles my mind is the tranquil understanding existing between dogdoms."

At that very moment they looked, and lo, the dog-catcher was approaching.

The three dogs sprang up and scampered down the street; and as they ran the third dog said, "For God's sake, run for your lives. Civilization is after us."