You might already know that I am a fan of Poetry on Buses. I’ve loved the program in all of its incarnations, but the post-2014 version is the best yet. The 2016/17 theme, “Your Body of Water,” was so timely and compelling, it motivated me to sit my non-poetic self down, write an actual poem, and submit it. I am so glad I did.
There were “poetry buses” parked outside the theater, where attendees could read and listen to recordings of some of the selected poems. In the lobby, there were more poems, as well as an interactive display where people could pledge to protect water. (I didn’t actually visit that display; I was too focused on being nervous about my reading.)
The poems read onstage were presented in four phases to evoke the water cycle, with the Native Jazz Quartet improvising beautiful water sounds between readings. Several local artists also performed, including the incomparable writer/rider/rapper, Gabriel Teodros, who just so happens to be my bus friend from the 48.
The entire evening was masterminded by poet planner Jourdan Keith, whose mission in life is to remind us that “we are all bodies of water, connected to other bodies of water.” If there were ever a time when it was critical for us to understand this, it is now.
In her sobering 2010 Ted talk, Jourdan asks, “If you know you are a water body – capillaries, creeks, streams and rivers, containing runoff from farms, rooftops, airports, and driveways, your bladder, an estuary. If you knew you were as contaminated as Puget Sound, or the Orcas that swim in our waters, what would you do?”
This is the question we must urgently ask ourselves, as greed and disregard for life threaten the water all of us depend on – in Flint and Evart, Michigan; in Louisiana and North Dakota; and right here in Puget Sound.
Right now, Kinder Morgan is preparing to build a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Pacific Coast in British Columbia. Known as the Transmountain Expansion, it will be the second pipeline to travel this route, with more capacity than the original. The project was approved by Prime Minister Trudeau late last year, and if built, will increase tanker traffic in the Salish Sea sevenfold, further stressing our endangered Orca population and dramatically increasing the chances of a major oil spill.
And so much is at risk if the pipeline itself leaks, which they all eventually do. Thank God there are people with the courage to resist.
Would we allow corporations motivated only by profit to threaten our water if we understood that by doing so, they are threatening our lives? If we understood that the damage we inflict upon the planet shows up in our bodies? I am not confident of the answer, but I am grateful to Jourdan Keith and Poetry on Buses for reminding us of what is at stake.
Over 300 poems about our connectedness — to water and to each other — will be displayed on buses and trains throughout King County until this time next year. I hope they will inspire you to keep riding.