march 22/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
41 degrees
feels like spring!

We are more than midway through the Great Melt of ’19 and everything is starting to feel springy. Sunshine. Warm air. Brown ground. Even though it’s only 41 degrees it still felt warm enough to be in short sleeves for the second half of my run. It’s been a long time since my arms have had direct contact with the sun. Slowly, I’m losing layers. The river was completely open. The path, clear. I went to the right instead of the left today so I didn’t see the Daily Walker or the Man in Black. Encountered a few dogs and their humans. Some bikers. A runner in shorts and a tank top. At least, I think he was wearing a tank top–it was the color of his flesh, so it was hard to tell. I don’t remember hearing much as I ran–a few voices, approaching me from behind. I wondered if they were running or biking (they were biking). And some kids having fun at the playground. I don’t remember dripping or airplanes overhead or the hum of traffic on the other side of the river or grit crunching under my feet or my heavy breathing or crows cawing. Forgot to think about anything else but how beautiful it was and how my back was a little sore. Someday soon, I should record myself talking as I run or give myself something to try and think about.

addendum: I almost forgot about the black glove I saw lying on the edge of the path looking forgotten. Why is it always black? How long has it been there–was it buried under the snow or lost today? Is it missed? Was it dropped right on the spot where I saw it or had it traveled from somewhere else, carried by the snow? Did a runner lose it? A walker? At night? In the morning? During a snowstorm? So many questions!

I’ve started checking out Poetry Daily every day. Last week, I discovered the poem, Hearing Loss by Noah Balding. They cannot hear the human voice, but only other, peripheral sounds. This reminds me of my vision problems and my inability to see faces.

march 20/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
38 degrees
99% clear path

The first day of spring! The snow continues to melt, the path continues to get clearer. Listened to my playlist so I didn’t hear any birds or melting snow or gabbing geese. Ran faster. Smiled more. Felt overheated–too many layers. Sometimes the sun was out, sometimes it wasn’t. Never enough for me to see my shadow. Everything is still brown. No green yet. Definitely no flowers. Hopefully no more snow.

Before going out for my run, worked on a poem I’m doing about vision and my inability to see when/if people are trying to make contact with me. Mostly I can see people’s eyes–at least that they have them and the whites and the pupils. But I can’t see when the pupils move, when they shift, expand, contract. So I can’t always tell when people are looking at me. It makes reading people difficult.

As I’ve been think/write/research more on vision, I’ve encountered some interesting stuff, including a few articles about Emily Dickinson and how her temporary vision problems influenced some of her poetry, like this poem:

Before I got my eye put out – (336)
BY EMILY DICKINSON

Before I got my eye put out –
I liked as well to see
As other creatures, that have eyes –
And know no other way –

But were it told to me, Today,
That I might have the Sky
For mine, I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me –

The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take –
Between my finite eyes –

The Motions of the Dipping Birds –
The Morning’s Amber Road –
For mine – to look at when I liked,
The news would strike me dead –

So safer – guess – with just my soul
Opon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes –
Incautious – of the Sun –

march 19/RUN

4.25 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
39 balmy degrees
1% super slick barely frozen slippery spots, 5% puddles

Officially, spring starts this week. And, unlike many past Minnesota Marches, it feels like spring is starting too. Still barely reaching the 40s. Still snow on the ground. But birds and bright sun, more melting snow and a vague sense of warmth/warmish air is all around. A good run but one tinged with some worry. Scott has arthritis and unless he’s able to change the way he runs, he might have to stop running altogether. Most likely he won’t be able to run the marathon. I am sad for him and for the possibility of not running with him. And worried, wondering if the marathon might be too much for my body too. Before my run, I felt every ache–in my lower back, my right calf and knee, my left foot–more acutely.

What do I remember from the run? Slip-sliding over barely visibly shiny slick spots. Hearing the birds. Marveling at the river’s surface shimmering in the sun. Watching my shadow run ahead of me. Getting passed by someone running much faster than me and watching their graceful gait. Thinking about my form, trying to keep my feet straight and my arms even. Listening to the dripping and melting. Feeling too warm. Encountering a runner in shorts. Tried to think about what I had been pondering pre-run after finding a fun poem by Sharon Bryan: the body and the soul. What is their relationship and what is a soul? Walt Whitman says the body is the soul and Michel Foucault claims the soul is the prison of the body. And here’s how Bryan imagines it:

Body and Soul
BY SHARON BRYAN

They grow up together
but they aren’t even fraternal

twins, they quarrel a lot
about where to go and what

to do, the body complains
about having to carry

the soul everywhere as if
it were some helpless cripple,

and the soul snipes that it can go
places the body never dreamed of,

then they quarrel over which one of them
does the dreaming, but the truth is,

they can’t live without each other and
they both know it, anima, animosity,

the diaphragm pumps like a bellows
and the soul pulls out all the stops—

sings at the top of its lungs, laughs
at its little jokes, it would like

to think it has the upper hand
and can leave whenever it wants—

but only as long as it knows
the door will be unlocked

when it sneaks back home before
the sun comes up, and when the body

says where have you been, the soul
says, with a smirk, I was at the end

of my tether, and it was, like a diver
on the ocean floor or an astronaut

admiring the view from outside
the mother ship, and like them

it would be lost without its air
supply and protective clothing,

the body knows that and begins
to hum, I get along without you

very well, and the soul says, Listen
to that, you can’t sing worth a lick

without me, they’ll go on bickering
like this until death do them part—

and then, even if the soul seems to float
above the body for a moment,

like a flame above a candle, pinch
the wick and it disappears.

Love these lines: the diaphragm pumps like a bellows/
and the soul pulls out all the stops—
/sings at the top of its lungs, laughs/at its little jokes

I tried to think about the body and the soul while I ran, but I mostly thought about my body only: my knees, back, shoulders, toes, feet. Were they sore? Was I landing on my foot correctly? How’s my right knee? Are my shoulders too tense?

The other day, I wrote about running in the fog. Here’s a poem someone posted on twitter this morning. It’s from The New Yorker, May 2012.

Confessions of a Nature Lover
By Bob Hicok

Back then I was going steady
with fog, who could dance
like no one’s business, I threw her over
for a leaf that one day fluttered
first her shadow then her whole life
into my hand, that’s a lot
of responsibility and a lot
of relatives, this leaf
and that leaf and all the other leaves
hung around, I told her
I needed space, which was true,
without it I’d only be a soul,
and no one’s sure that wisp
is real, that’s why we say
of real estate, location, location,
location, and of speech,
locution, locution, locution,
and of live, yes, yes, yes,
I am on my knees, will you have me,
world?

So much to think about in this poem. For now, I’m just thinking about his reference to fog. After running in the fog last Thursday, I did some free writing around fog and my log entry. Here’s a draft of a poem:

march 14/4 miles/heavy fog/43 degrees

Liquid-y layers
drip drop drape

the Forest’s floor. Fog
reaches Road’s ribbon,

the river’s edge.
Everything is enveloped.

Shrouded. Cocooned. Consumed.
Light, devoured.

Only a single bike lamp carves out
a bright circle in the thick air

while several sirens sing
an invisible song.


march 16/RUN

3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
25 degrees
20% super slick thin ice covered

Birds! Sun! Almost clear path! 50 degree weather next week! Finally. This last month of winter has been rough. Too much snow. Too much cold. Too much ice. It’s still cold. And there’s still snow and ice. But spring is coming someday soon. My run today felt good. Hardly any wind. Long stretches of clear path. Heard some trickling water and lots of disembodied voices. Behind me on the path. Below me in the gorge. The river was completely open, sparkling in the sunlight. Do I remember anything from the run? Taking my gloves off around mile 2. Pushing up my sleeves too. Feeling my ponytail flapping as I picked up the pace. Running/gliding/sliding over a short stretch of sheer ice between the lake street bridge and the greenway. Passing lots of pedestrians.

My poem for today is WS Merwin’s Sight. He died yesterday. A wonderful poet. I love the form of this poem. 5 quatrains. Each one starting with a one syllable word.

SIGHT
W. S. Merwin


Once
a single cell
found that it was full of light
and for the first time there was seeing

when
I was a bird
I could see where the stars had turned
and I set out on my journey

high
in the head of a mountain goat
I could see across a valley
under the shining trees something moving

deep
in the green sea
I saw two sides of the water
and swam between them

I
look at you
in the first light of the morning
for as long as I can

march 15/RUN

2.75 miles
basement, treadmill
100% icy sidewalks outside

Back to the treadmill today. After the Great Melt of 2019–9 inches of snow gone in just 2 days!–it got cold again. Too icy on the sidewalks for me. Maybe someday the treadmill will inspire great thoughts or provide awesome runner’s highs, but not today. That’s okay. I’m just happy to be moving.

Last night I had my first advanced poetry class. The best! I am so excited to be taking it and to get to be with other writers. In our first session, we read and discussed Naomi Shihab Nye’s prose poem Yellow Glove about a girl who loses one of her yellow gloves. I was reminded of a little poem I wrote about a black glove that I used to see running south on the river road:

black glove

for the past month
every time I run south
on the river road I greet
one black glove
fitted over a branch
upright and open
waving hello.
where did the runner go
who left this here?
don’t they miss it? and
why not leave the pair
together to keep each other company?
maybe the glove isn’t saying hello
but pleading with me to stop
to listen to its lament
to look for its partner.
someday I’d like to find the trail
with the right one—
the one that isn’t left
on the path I run regularly—
and rescue it
reuniting it with its twin.

I’d like to do more with this idea of abandoned gloves and other items of clothing on the trail. What might they be doing when we’re not looking?

Here’s a poem I encountered this morning. What a poem. I love her use of the abecedarian form. So many wonderful lines: “wherever he stops, kids grow like gourds from women’s bellies””some white god came floating across the ocean” and “You better hope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they’ll be marching you off to
Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they’ve mapped out for us.”

Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation
BY NATALIE DIAZ

Angels don’t come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.
Coyotes, too. They all mean the same thing—
death. And death
eats angels, I guess, because I haven’t seen an angel
fly through this valley ever.
Gabriel? Never heard of him. Know a guy named Gabe though—
he came through here one powwow and stayed, typical
Indian. Sure he had wings,
jailbird that he was. He flies around in stolen cars. Wherever he stops,
kids grow like gourds from women’s bellies.
Like I said, no Indian I’ve ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel.
Maybe in a Christmas pageant or something—
Nazarene church holds one every December,
organized by Pastor John’s wife. It’s no wonder
Pastor John’s son is the angel—everyone knows angels are white.
Quit bothering with angels, I say. They’re no good for Indians.
Remember what happened last time
some white god came floating across the ocean?
Truth is, there may be angels, but if there are angels
up there, living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearing
velvet robes and golden rings, drinking whiskey from silver cups,
we’re better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and
’xactly where they are—in their own distant heavens.
You better hope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they’ll be marching you off to
Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they’ve mapped out for us.

march 14/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
43! degrees
100% soaked socks 25% deep puddles

Decided I was done running in the basement. I needed to get outside and be by the gorge and I didn’t care that everything was saturated with snow or ice or cold water. I’m very glad I went even if my socks got soaked before I left my block. My right shoe made this really cool squishing sound every time I took a step. Too bad I didn’t get a recording of the noise. Everything everywhere was so wet. Dripping. Gushing. Trickling. Seeping. Even the air. Almost 100% humidity. And the fog–wow. Thick. The river looked so beautiful with the fog hovering above the water that I actually gasped as I ran above it. Got to say good morning to the Man in Black. Encountered only one biker, their bike light cutting through the thick air. Heard some sirens but couldn’t see the flashing lights until they were almost right beside me. It started raining around the 2 mile point. A light rain that I hardly noticed. What I remember most about the run: the haunting, hovering fog

Fog
BY CARL SANDBURG

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

I do also remember encountering 2 dogs with their human, walking in the rain.

The Rainwalkers
Denise Levertov

An old man whose black face
shines golden-brown as wet pebbles
under the streetlamp, is walking two mongrel dogs of dis-
proportionate size, in the rain,
in the relaxed early-evening avenue.

The small sleek one wants to stop,
docile to the imploring soul of the trashbasket,
but the young tall curly one
wants to walk on; the glistening sidewalk
entices him to arcane happenings.

Increasing rain. The old bareheaded man
smiles and grumbles to himself.
The lights change: the avenue’s
endless nave echoes notes of
liturgical red. He drifts

between his dogs’ desires.
The three of them are enveloped –
turning now to go crosstown – in their
sense of each other, of pleasure,
of weather, of corners,
of leisurely tensions between them
and private silence.

Love the last sentence: “The three of them are enveloped–turning now to go crosstown–in their sense of each other, of pleasure, of weather, of corners, or leisurely tensions between them and private silence.” Enveloped. Such a better word than surrounded or consumed or covered or layered. In what was I enveloped today above the gorge?

march 13/RUN

2.5 miles
basement, treadmill
100% huge puddles hiding invisible slick spots outside

Happy to have the treadmill again today but disappointed in the weather. As Scott pointed out when I complained, it could be worse. Farther west today in the Plains and Denver winter storm Ulmer–yes, that’s what they’ve named it–is hitting. A nasty blizzard. Even so, the conditions here suck. We have flood warnings. Rain + melting snow + clogged sewer drains = yuck. So dreary to look out of my upstairs window and see a grayish brownish sludgy soup on the street. Managed to walk the dog for one block and almost fell at least 3 times. Deep puddles hiding sneaky slick spots. Didn’t think about much on the treadmill. Just stared at the letters on a box on a ledge in front of me and listened to my running playlist. Well, I did think about how much faster I thought I was running than the treadmill or my watch say. Also wondered how the gorge was doing today.

My poem for today comes from Didi Jackson. I heard it on Tracy K. Smith’s wonderful podcast, The Slowdown. It’s called Listen, which is something I’ve been working on doing ever since I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease in 2016. It’s even more important now since I found out from my eye doctor on Monday that my central vision has gotten worse. In my left eye, my central vision is 98% gone. The 2% remaining is in the very center and is almost gone too. I saw it on a scan of my retina–a pale yellow dot in a sea of darkish grayish black. My right eye is a little better. Only 70% totally gone. My doctor’s prediction: My central vision will be totally destroyed within the next 5 years. His suggestion: “Get your hearing checked. You’re going to need it.” So, I will listen. I read a tip on a low vision site for how not to spill when you’re filling up a cup: Listen. You can hear when the cup is full. I’ll have to practice that.

Listen
by Didi Jackson

Like a hundred gray ears
the river stones are layered

in a pile near the shed where mourning
doves slow their peck and bobble to listen

to a chorus of listening.
Small buds on the lilac perk up.

A cardinal’s torpedoed call comes
in slow waves of four,

round after round. It’s a love call;
a call to make him known to himself.

The stones listen harder,
decipher the song; attempt

to offer back its echo.
But fail.

This is not a poem of coming Spring.
This is a poem well aware

that gray flesh is dead flesh.
All of the ripe listening

comes at a cost. The first
sky is in all skies.

The first song
is in all songs.

march 12/RUN

2.5 miles
basement, treadmill
100% cold, gloomy, icy rain outside

Scott finally decided he was over this winter. So he bought a treadmill. I hope I don’t have to use it very often, but it was nice today. Give me 15 below and blowing snow. I’ll go running. But freezing drizzle, blustery wind, jagged ice rutted paths, and slippery sidewalks? Nope. Too dangerous. And miserable. What a mess outside! And so dreary.

Cell
BY NAOMI COHN

The blood of language moves through the word cell from monk’s cell to prison cell to biological cell. I don’t know why a Braille cell is called a cell. I don’t know how many blood cells Louis Braille lost when the awl he was playing with as a small child slipped and injured his eye.

Red blood cells live some hundred days before they are worn out by their silent hustle—looping and looping, pounded through the heart’s chambered cathedral, rushing out to the farthest reaches of the body with the good news of oxygen, squeezing single file along capillaries, like anxious deer probing their tracks through the woods. Rushing, silent, looping the circuits of the body. Again, again, again. Load iron. Dump iron. Load dump squeeze hustle.

Red blood cells pushed through the capillaries that pushed through my 
retinas. They broke loose to run a green swarm in the corral of my eye. But that is history. Today cells still push through the capillaries fenced off by my calloused fingerprint. This one that I run over the Braille cell, the pattern of bumps.

A red blood cell is measured in microns. A solitary prison cell is measured in feet. Six feet by nine feet or less. I don’t know what the unit of measure is for how living in solitary changes a person. We know that living in a confined space, without access to the long view or landscape, changes the eye. The eye, for lack of practice, loses its ability to make out what lies in the distance. I don’t have a unit of measure for what this does to the heart.

A Braille cell is measured in spaces in a grid—two across by three down—that can be filled with a raised dot or bump. Different combinations of dots represent different letters, punctuation, symbols, shorthand.

The oldest cell I find in the dictionary is the monastic cell, a place for contemplation. From the concealed place where wine was stored. As in cellar. I find Braille contemplative. I touch my index finger to a bumpy piece of paper. My hand advances slowly left to right, the touch receptors in my finger triggered by the uneven contact of paper and skin. Messages run along nerves, finger-to-brain, brain-to-finger. Cognition sizzles. Mind notices this feels different than the pathway of sound in ear to auditory processing. Listening pulls me out into the world in an infinity of directions. Touching my reading educates me on my exact location in the world, feet in shoes, weight of foot on ground, weight of bones and flesh in chair.



march 11/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
24 degrees
65% snow-covered
25% rough, ice shard covered

Oh beautiful sun! It seemed much warmer than 24 degrees. Too bad it snowed a heavy, wet snow this weekend that melted and then refroze in sharp, jagged ruts or almost refroze in glassy, slippery surfaces on the path. So treacherous! I slipped a lot, but never fell. The hardest part was navigating the sidewalks for the 4 blocks to the river. Once on the river road path, it was easier. Some bare pavement and only a few stretches of jagged ice. It is very difficult to notice anything or think about anything or sink into a deeper layer of connection with the world when you have to focus so much attention on avoiding ice shards or mini ice rinks or deceptive puddles that are deeper than you think or slicker than you think. I did hear the geese honking. Smelled some almost burnt toast. Saw that the river was open along the east shore. No Daily Walker or Man in Black. Did see the older woman who walks with ski poles and a few speedy runners. A dog and its human. A bike–can’t remember if it was a fat tire.

The Chairs That No One Sits In
BY BILLY COLLINS

You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone

sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed   
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one   
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs   
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.

The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning—
it passes the time to wonder which.

I want to place my deck chairs on my deck and look out at the tree down the alley and try to hear the sound of me looking. What does that sound like? Also, I wonder, are the chairs forlorn? Maybe they are relieved to not have the burden of some human’s butt sitting heavily on them?

march 8/RUN

3.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
24 degrees
75% snow-covered

Sun! Sun! Sun! Birds. Warmer air. Melting ice. Impending snowstorms. Soft, shifting, slick snow. A gaggle of gabbing geese. Good mornings exchanged with the man in black. 5 seconds of bare pavement–a jagged strip in the middle of the path. Ran without headphones. What did I hear? The geese, my ponytail gently hitting my jacket. What did I think about? How draining it was to run on the path, slipping in the snow. How much nicer it will be once the path is clear. Don’t remember smelling anything–no burnt toast drifting down from the grill on lake street.

Thinking again about layers. After a winter of double shirts and double running tights, I’m ready to have less of them. What freedom! But what layers can we never lose?

march 7/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
95% snow-covered
16 degrees/feels like 16

Wow, the birds really think it’s spring. So chatty! I guess nobody told them we’re getting a foot of snow this weekend. Didn’t wear my yaktrax, which was a big mistake. The path was extra snowy because the plows had come through again, moving out more snow and making little mountains in the process. Greeted the Daily Walker and a few other runners. The soft, small mounds of snow all over the path made it much harder to move my legs. Listened to a playlist and felt a happy buzz around mile 2. Jamie Quatro’s first layer of the runner’s high (from “Running as Prayer”). I think I only get these highs when I’m listening to music–the ones where I feel intensely euphoric, invincible. Glanced at the river but I can’t remember what it looked like–was it open? I think I heard the geese honking at some point, but it was hard to tell with Fleetwood Mac singing about mountains and getting older and needing to change and snow-covered hills.

clothing layers: black shirt, orange shirt, vest, buff, gloves, visor. A rare occasion of wearing just the right amount of layers.

path layers: the smallest sliver of bare pavement near the lake street bridge, slick ice, hard packed snow, soft not quite settled or compressed snow, snow ledges on the edges of the path, big chunks of old snow, little mounds of snow scattered all around

I’ve been mentioning hearing geese honking a lot lately. Here are 2 very different poems that feature geese:

Wild Geese/mary oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Seasons/John Haag

1

Clouds so thick
they put down
roots

Young aspen
practising
quakers

Incoming geese
Periwinkle sign passports
brings remission with a V
of the blues

Feel the sun
butting the buds
open

Blossoms
Trout lilies nod expand
they know the sky
they know

Lilac
a scent by which
we mark the calendar

Weather report
May? showers
By all means and fresh rainbows
Yes. You May

2

Crickets
ventriloquists
of summer

Loon cries
increase the loneliness
of lakes

It’s untrue
They leave that that bats
to the silence make it darker
of owls

Morning warblers
refresh
the joy of hearing

Comes the hedgehog
And the bumblebee who lives on pins
non-aerodynamic and needles
existentialist

Horses stand
awash
in the setting sun

Anticipate
Nighthawks if you can
swoop the firefly’s flash
gathering the evening

3

Prophetic winds fill
the graveyard
with signposts

Then a scurry
of stormspurred
sparrows

A lamentation of geese
Hummingbird leaves in the early
to cruise dusk
the Carribean

Squirrels
pad
their acorn accounts

Cedar waxwing
Blue jay insists feathered scholar
it’s never too late knows his berries
to scold

Grackle
predicts a turn
for the worse

Flies buzz
in this cast-iron against the chill
autumn pane
stained with rust

4

Fly husks on sills
reflect
the year’s demise

Ptarmigan advises
“kuk-kuk-kuk
go back-goback”

Deer bundle
Coyote lingers in the laurel
to school us thickets
in survival

Fashionable spruce
knows how
to wear snow

Strange angels
Frostfeathers leave their three-D
lace shadows
the cabin glass

Cabin Fever
medicine
runs low

As
Days does
begin the woodpile

Oliver’s “Wild Geese” was one of the first poems I memorized while I was injured 2 summers ago. I still love it. Today is my introduction to John Haag–I did a search on poetry foundation for “geese.” So much fun. They only had one other poem of his online. It’s great too.

march 6/RUN

5.3 miles
franklin hill turn around
95% snow-covered
16 degrees/feels like 5

More sun. Blue sky. Birds chirping. But no snow melting. No bare pavement. No running on the walking path, dipping below the road, above the floodplain forest. Only running on the bike path right by the road. Wasn’t able to greet the Daily Walker because we were both running the same direction. Did get to say “good morning” to the man in black. Wow, he’s tall and lean and friendly. Heard the geese by the railroad trestle. Saw a spazzy squirrel dart across the road and the path. Listened to my vest rustling as I moved. Sounded like a soft brush on a snare drum. Wore my yaktrax again. The path was slick and slushy, making it harder to fly, especially as I ran up the franklin hill. The river was mostly covered with snow but as I neared the franklin bridge, it opened up and I could see gaping black holes. Encountered 2 fat tires and a walker–a woman bundled up with a mask over her mouth. No dogs. No snow blowers or trucks backing up. No cars revving their engines or disembodied voices traveling up from the gorge. I don’t remember thinking about anything as I ran–did I?

layers: green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket, black vest, hood, buff, gloves–which came off around mile 2.

Almost forgot–at some point, it started snowing big fluffy flakes. In my face as I ran south. Running under the interstate bridge I looked up and thought I saw them swirling like static–was it too much sun in my eyes or did they actually look like that? Watched a truck barrel across the interstate and wondered: do they see this staticky snow too? I liked the snow–looking at it, but not when it landed on my eyelashes. By the time I was done running, I think the sun was out again. Can you believe we might get another foot of snow this weekend?

I recently discovered Linda Hogan. She is amazing. Here are two poems from her collection, Rounding the Human Corners:

from Eucalyptus

Some of the religious say the five senses are thieves
so let’s say I am stolen
and like the tree I can lose myself
layer after layer
all the way down to infinity
and that’s when the world has eyes and sees.
The whole world
loves this unlayered human.

The Way In

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth, be plant
desiring sunlight, believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

march 5/RUN

3.35 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
10 degrees/feels like -3
100% snow-covered

Cold. Windy. Wonderful! It was tough running straight into the wind on the way out, but it felt great being outside above the gorge. The river is frozen over. The path is still completely covered. Wore my yaktrax today. Imagined that I was tall, strong. Wanted to think about how the cold felt but it was difficult because I had so many layers on.

layers: green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket, gray jacket, 2 pairs of running tights, 2 pairs of socks, buff, hood, visor, mittens, gloves

Didn’t feel the cold. Not even in my fingertips. Just warm. And encumbered by layers. Too many sleeves. Bulky, heavy gloves. A jacket zipped up too high. What will it feel like without the layers? Bare legs? Hopefully in a month or two I’ll get to remember.

Before heading outside, I read the article, Counting Feet: On Running and Poetic Meter. Love the ending line:

both running and poetry are ways of feeling, inside ourselves, that steady beat of being human—the marker that, yes, we are alive, and living, and carrying ourselves forward on ever-moving feet.

I can’t stop thinking about inside/outside and their complicated relationship.

Last night, I read a new poem that I don’t quite understand yet but with which I am enchanted. It’s about salt–which, by the way, is something I can feel right now on my face, caked post run. I am a salty sweater.

Salt
BY HUANG FAN
TRANSLATED BY HUANG FAN AND MARGARET ROSS

Grain by grain, salt’s frozen tears
Help me count history’s disasters
I can’t blame salt for telling food
You’re full of wounds

Salt misses the freedom of the ocean
Remembering waves, salt jumps into a soup
But it finds there only my reflected face
It hides by making itself too soft to chew

Sometimes, salt follows a cold sweat
Waking me from a nightmare
Dreamed blood tastes like salt
As if in human failure lay the silence of God

Having swum in the ocean
Salt considers soup a shallow pond
For salt, every meal is a jail

One day, an extra salty flavor
Makes me cough and cough
It feels like cold fish bones scraping my throat
Maybe it’s salt telling me
I’m going to prison in your body
Don’t ever forget who I am!

Translated from the Chinese

I almost forgot to mention that it was my mom’s birthday. If she were alive, she’d be 77. I imagine she wouldn’t have wanted to run today in this cold and wind, but she might have gone cross country skiing. Oh to be out in the wintery world with her, talking and laughing and admiring the snow decorating the trees!

march 4/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
6 degrees/feels like -3
100% snow-covered

Totally snow-covered path. According to my log, the last time the path was half covered was feb 2 and 0% covered, jan 25. That’s a long time (for me at least) to be running on snow. There’s a possibility of another 7 inches on Saturday. Wow. The run started slow and I felt cold. Right around the time I reached the railroad trestle, when I was planning to run around, I suddenly felt really good. So I kept going for 1/2 mile longer. Heard some geese–and saw them in a flash–somewhere between the lake street bridge and the railroad trestle. Also heard my feet crunching on the path. Watched my shadow. Didn’t see another runner or the Daily Walker. Did see one walker. No fat tires or skiers. Just me and the ice chunks scattered on the side of the path. The other day, when Scott and I were running, we saw a brown mouse unsuccessfully try to scale a mountain–probably 4 feet high–of snow. I wondered what happened to it. It scampered up the side but then fell backwards onto the path.

march 2/RUN

1 mile
mississippi river path, south/north
20 degrees
100% snow-covered

Was planning to run 3 miles with Scott but the path was terrible. Mushy, uneven, slick. Yuck!

From a Window
BY CHRISTIAN WIMAN

Incurable and unbelieving
in any truth but the truth of grieving,

I saw a tree inside a tree
rise kaleidoscopically

as if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close

to the pane as I could get
to watch that fitful, fluent spirit

that seemed a single being undefined
or countless beings of one mind

haul its strange cohesion
beyond the limits of my vision

over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.

Of course that old tree stood
exactly as it had and would

(but why should it seem fuller now?)
and though a man’s mind might endow

even a tree with some excess
of life to which a man seems witness,

that life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in.

march 1/RUN

3.35 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
12 degrees/feels like 12 degrees
99% snow-covered

It’s March. Finally. The month of many birthdays.

Dear March – Come in – (1320)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

Dear March – Come in –
How glad I am –
I hoped for you before –
Put down your Hat –
You must have walked –
How out of Breath you are –
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –
Did you leave Nature well –
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –
I have so much to tell –

I got your Letter, and the Birds –
The Maples never knew that you were coming –
I declare – how Red their Faces grew –
But March, forgive me –
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –
There was no Purple suitable –
You took it all with you –

Who knocks? That April –
Lock the Door –
I will not be pursued –
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied –
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame –

A wonderful run that helped my mood tremendously. Very gray–one of those pewter mornings that Margaret Atwood mentions in “February.” You could tell snow was coming. It started when I reached the turn around. Big flakes. No sharp daggers. Wore my yaktrax today and it helped. I hardly slipped at all. Still difficult to run in certain stretches where the snow was sloppy. Felt strong and free and grateful to be outside moving. Greeted the Daily Walker and a few other runners. No fat tires. Heard some geese honking near the lake street bridge. They like to congregate there.

from The Black Maria
Aracelis Girmay

Body of sight. Body of
breaths. Body of trying.

Beloved, to
day you eat,
today you bathe, today
you laugh

Today you walk,
today you read,
today you paint, my love,

Today you study stars,
today you write,
today you climb the stairs,

Today you run,
today you see,
today you talk,

You cut the basil
You sweep the floor

& as you chore, touch
the ankles & hairs of your befores
who look up from their work
in the field or at the chisel
to tell you in their ways: You Live!

What a poem! Here’s a blurb about Girmay’s book:

Taking its name from the moon’s dark plains, misidentified as seas by early astronomers, the black maria investigates African diasporic histories, the consequences of racism within American culture, and the question of human identity. Central to this project is a desire to recognize the lives of Eritrean refugees who have been made invisible by years of immigration crisis, refugee status, exile, and resulting statelessness. The recipient of a 2015 Whiting Award for Poetry, Girmay’s newest collection elegizes and celebrates life, while wrestling with the notion of seeing beyond: seeing violence, seeing grace, and seeing each other better.

feb 28/RUN

5.1 miles
Franklin hill turn around
10 degrees/feels like -1
100% snow-covered

feels like: an ice rink then loose sand on the beach then too hard concrete; spring if you close your eyes so you can’t see the snow and you just feel the bright sun, hear all the birds warbling and cooing and chirping

Scott and I signed up this morning for the Twin Cities Marathon next October. It’s happening!

Even though the path was difficult–slippery, loose, hard–I had a good run. Ran 5 miles. I haven’t done that much since Jan 12th, when I ran a 10k. Very bright. Saw my shadow, her tassels fluttering in the wind. Looked down at the river: open water. Listened to my feet snapping on the path. Greeted the Daily Walker. Ran up the Franklin hill for the first time in a few weeks. Noticed how blue the sky was. So bright! Wore my sunglasses the entire time, wondering how much bluer the sky and the snow looked through these lenses. Was passed by a runner after the turn around. Such a beautiful gait. So relaxed and rhythmic. Gracefully bobbing up and down. I love watching a good runner’s feet as they rise and fall, up down, up down, up down. Started chanting my numbers again. First, 123/45 then 123/45 It’s interesting how much easier it was to get the rhythm straight when I was moving. Sitting here now at my computer, I’m struggling. After chanting numbers I added some words: mystery is solved/suspects are captured/Shaggy & Scooby/Velma too

On the final day of February, here are 2 poems entitled February:

February
BY JACK COLLOM

It is all kind of lovely that I know
what I attend here now the maturity of snow
has settled around forming a sort of time
pushing that other over either horizon and all is mine

in any colors to be chosen and
everything is cold and nothing is totally frozen

soon enough
the primary rough
erosion of what white fat it will occur
     stiff yellows O
beautiful beautifully austere
     be gotten down to, that much rash and achievement that
             would promote to, but

now I know my own red
network electrifying this welcome annual hush.

I must admit, after reading this poem–both out loud and in my head–many times, I still don’t understand these lines: “what white fat it will occur/stiff yellows O/beautiful beautifully austere/be gotten down to/that much each and achievement that would promote to” Guess I’ll have to read it a couple dozen more times–I like that he’s making me work for it. The confusion is a nice contrast to the pleasing/easy/comfortable/welcoming rhymes: know/snow, chosen/frozen/erosion

February
BY BILL CHRISTOPHERSEN

The cold grows colder, even as the days
grow longer, February’s mercury vapor light
buffing but not defrosting the bone-white
ground, crusty and treacherous underfoot.
This is the time of year that’s apt to put
a hammerlock on a healthy appetite,
old anxieties back into the night,
insomnia and nightmares into play;
when things in need of doing go undone
and things that can’t be undone come to call,
muttering recriminations at the door,
and buried ambitions rise up through the floor
and pin your wriggling shoulders to the wall;
and hope’s a reptile waiting for the sun.

Many February poems focused on signs of spring. I read one that featured the green tips (or leaves or something) of a crocus on Feb 28! Where is this magical land of flowers in February? Certainly not in Minnesota. I like my February poems bleak, bemoaning the endless winter, with barely any hope of spring ever coming.

feb 27/BIKE

30 minutes
bike stand

Snowed another 2.5 inches last night. Wow. So much snow. Thought about going out for a run but it feels like -2 and I already ran yesterday and the day before. So I biked and watched the Super League Triathlon Championships. Before biking, worked on adding words to the beats I created while running on Monday: 123/45, 123/45, 123/45, 123 and 54/321, 54/321, 54/321, 321. Decided to make them about the cold.

0 degrees/feels like -11

i.
Up from the gorge floor
Down from the gray sky
Under a jacket
Cold sharp air

Even through layers
it comes to linger
right on the surface
of warm skin

Suddenly shocking
jolting those deadened
deeply distracted
dazed and dumb

Sober up quickly!
Sharpen your senses!
Notice the river!
Smell! Hear! See!

ii.
Cold air heavy sky
Hard path muffled steps
Trees sing lullabies
Go to sleep.

Not sharp only soft
Dense thick covering
All thoughts frozen, stopped
Shhhhh. Hush. Dream.

Sink deep settle in
Dull numb blanketed
Wrapped in frigid air
Hibernate.

Took me a long time to select a poem for today. Finally decided on one about winter branches, which are some of my favorite things to study in winter.

Winter Branches
Margaret Widdemer

When winter-time grows weary, I lift my eyes on high
And see the black trees standing, stripped clear against the sky;

They stand there very silent, with the cold flushed sky behind,
The little twigs flare beautiful and restful and kind;

Clear-cut and certain they rise, with summer past,
For all that trees can ever learn they know now, at last;

Slim and black and wonderful, with all unrest gone by,
The stripped tree-boughs comfort me, drawn clear against the sky.

feb 26/RUN

3.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
2 degrees/feels like -8
100% snow-covered

Snow again. All set to go, heading out the door, looked down at the sidewalk and it was white. What? Looked up at the sky: falling snow. Wasn’t expecting that. Oh well, went out for a run anyway, wondering what the people in the cars driving by were thinking about me running and slipping on the icy sidewalks, scaling tall, misshapen mounds of snow created by the snow plow. Listened to my playlist today, which was a nice distraction from the wet, sharp shards of snow hitting my face and settling on my eyelashes. Didn’t feel much wind, but the light snow was always in my face, coating the slightly unzipped part of my jacket and the tops of my gloves. Greeted the Daily Walker and a few other runners. Encountered at least 2 fat tires. Quickly glanced at the river. All I could see was grayish white, whiteish gray. Devoted a lot of attention to watching the path and avoiding big ice chunks or slick spots. Wanted to think about the cold today and how it feels but it was hard because I didn’t really feel that cold. Maybe because of all of the layers?

layers: green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket, gray jacket, 2 pairs of running tight, extra long light weight fish scale socks, shorter heavier dog paw socks, a buff, a hood, a visor, gloves, mittens, headphones

I don’t remember breathing in the cold deeply. And it wasn’t cold enough for the snot to freeze in my nose. My face burned a bit but my fingers were fine. So were my toes. I guess the thing I remember most about the cold is how it lingers. Taking off my running layers when I got home, my torso was very cold, so were my legs. Now, an hour later, I still feel cold.

Listening to a poem about winter by Mark Strand (Lines for Winter), I wrote a few phrases in my journal that I liked:

“gray falls from the air” “the dome of dark” “the tune your bones play” What tune do my bones play?

Yesterday I mentioned the rhythms I started chanting at the end of my run: 1 2 3/45 or 54/321. I wrote them in my journal and translated them into meter: 1 2 3/45 becomes an anapest/troche or unstressed unstressed stressed/stressed unstressed. This afternoon, as I look out my upstairs window–the half of it that isn’t yet blocked by packed snow on the porch roof–at the snow, I’ll try adding words to the beats.

My poem for today is a wonderful Ars Poetica (a poem about the art of poetry):

To the New Journal
Susan Rich

after W. S. Merwin

Let’s just listen—

before the spent words and the hidden nests
of sentences begin, before the musical count

of vowels and consonants, the ink

not yet slippery with wild grief
or souped-up grandeur.

I wish to arrange you—

with a few half-formed couplets—
inquiries without answers.

But what can we do? These mountains are still

young and rising, I write. Yet,
even the fields call to an orchestra of stars.

Even the birds sing to-do lists.

Even the birds sing to-do lists. Love this line.

feb 25/RUN

3.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
0 degrees/feels like -11
100% snow-covered, 40% ice-covered

Cold today. Not much wind, but lots of ice on the sidewalk and the trail. Reached the river road and encountered something strange: the path, right at the entrance, was covered in black, smoky snow and jagged black ice–like something had made the snow quickly melt then reform. Must have been some sort of fire–what happened? Heard lots of birds while walking to the river. Greeted the Daily Walker and a few other runners. Tried not to worry about my right knee which grumbled with short, sharp pains a few times. Didn’t look at the river even once. Did I look at the floodplain forest? (at least once, I remember now). I did look down at the Minneapolis Rowing club building. Spent most of my time watching the path, making sure I wasn’t running on extra slick spots or over chunks of snow. With less than a mile left to run, I started chanting a rhythm in my head: 123/45, 123/45, 123/45, 321 then 54/321, 54/321, 54/321, 321. How would these beats work in a poem? I’ll have to play around with them…

It is almost the end of February–the snowiest February in recorded snowfall history and the 6th snowiest month since they started keeping track in 1872. We started the day with a feels like temp of -23 and are facing a week of cold cold cold. Another snow emergency has been declared and then, after that, cars will only be able to park on the right side of any street until April. In light of this bleakness, I want some darkly hopeful poems. Here are two:

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
BY ROSS GAY
an excerpt

Friends, will you bear with me today,
for I have awakened
from a dream in which a robin
made with its shabby wings a kind of veil
behind which it shimmied and stomped something from the south
of Spain, its breast aflare,
looking me dead in the eye
from the branch that grew into my window,
coochie-cooing my chin,
the bird shuffling its little talons left, then right,
while the leaves bristled
against the plaster wall, two of them drifting
onto my blanket while the bird
opened and closed its wings like a matador
giving up on murder,
jutting its beak, turning a circle,
and flashing, again,
the ruddy bombast of its breast
by which I knew upon waking
it was telling me
in no uncertain terms
to bellow forth the tubas and sousaphones,
the whole rusty brass band of gratitude
not quite dormant in my belly—
it said so in a human voice,
“Bellow forth”—
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?

I want to have this dream, although I imagine my bellowing would be more woodwinds than brass–deep throat-toned clarinets, trilling piccolos, a jaunty bassoon.

Instructions on Not Giving Up
Ada Limón, 1976

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

I love how she reads it on the poets.org site. Click on the link in the title to hear it. Spring isn’t here for awhile. But, it’s coming. The greening of the trees and the green skin growing–so much green soon!–will come in a few months.