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The world has many divisions - one of them is between those who love the Olympics, and their idealism, and sporting opportunities for the youth of the world - and those who detest them, seeing mostly their propaganda value and their money-wasting potential.  Obviously, anyone in the second camp was going to be particularly indisposed to a winter games (the 22nd) held at a Russian resort in a land whose, shall we say democratic experiment (to be tactful) has yet to fully succeed (to be hopeful).  Many of these bitter commentators and protesters - often supporting the hard done by gay community in Russia, where to be gay is to be potentially killed or beaten - failed to see that Putin is not Stalin, and Russia is not Nazi Germany circa 1936.  Much more needs to be done in Russia, but it is not run by a madman who has published a book calling for genocide, nor does its society practise euthanasia of the mentally ill.

Indeed, as the games reminded us, Russia, despite its many faults (and all nations have faults - see, for instance, France, China, Britain, Israel, Germany, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, Greece, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the USA as a partial list) has produced some of the greatest music, art, drama, poetry, and fiction of all time, as well as major pioneers in cinema, science, and modernism.  To be Russian is to have much to be proud of. Further, Russia expended over 27 million lives defeating Nazi Germany around 70 years ago.  It has had great revolutions, being something of a history machine, and, after communism and the cold war has slowly moved out of gangster capitalism and shaky democracy and slavery, just as America did.

To expect Russia to be pristine and perfect, when America had Vietnam and lynching only fifty years ago and less is to expect a miracle.  Russia is more on the right path than the wrong one.  If the world had to have a second or third superpower, Russia would not be the worst choice, all things considered.  I am no apologist for Russia.  But the Sochi games were upbeat, fun, and safe for most people.  Shamefully, members of Pussy Riot were whipped by Cossacks in what was a bizarre spectacle.  Pussy Riot is the left's new Mother Theresa, a kind of secular series of female Popes of depraved impunity whose every antic is inherently sanctified by the assumption that all state sponsored things are evil, and all things done by those on the left are good.  Well, Kropotkin was on the left, and he was not all good.

As a Canadian I enjoyed seeing Canada's status as world's greatest ice hockey power re-affirmed.  As a Brit, I enjoyed seeing the Skeleton gold.  As a lover of figure skating, I wondered at some of the judging techniques.  And some of the new extreme sports are simply too cool for words.  I was moved, entertained, thrilled, and transported by these games.  Do they legitimise a gay-hating nation?  I don't think it is fair to sum up a nation of tens of millions of souls (of which millions are gay) as all bad.  Hundreds of gay athletes competed at these games.  The games themselves, as always, are both apolitical and nationalist - and, as we saw at the skating gala, there are moments when the nation is set aside and the Olympic family is held high.

I believe that Jesus - as philosopher let alone prophet - was correct when he suggested those without sin should throw the first stone, or snowball, in this case.  If Russia was the only problematic nation on earth, then perhaps we might have found another host.  But Russia is one of about 150+ troubled nations on earth (name one that is not a violator of human and environmental rights) - and either we decide to avoid any and all public displays of joy, humanism, athletics, and idealism, any grand occasions, or we allow ourselves the fictional uplifts that such games provide - ski jumps into the high blue yonder of crisp hope and effortful compromise against nature, and human nature, especially.  Below may be cold, hard ice, but while we are airborne, we can dream of higher, loftier, excursions.


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Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
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of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.