august 20/RUNSWIM

3 miles
two trails

Another good run. Down below, on the way back north on the lower trail, I noticed how the first sewer drain I ran by vigorously trickled while the second one sporadically gushed. Heard a bird making the classic bird call through the trees, deep in the gorge, that I imagine when I think of a bird chirping in a forest. So bird. Didn’t take the steps at 38th street again and planned to continue on to the gravel hill just past the social justice keys but took a wrong turn at the fork in the trail and ended up climbing sooner, conveniently right by the water fountain at the 36th street parking lot.

Yesterday I posted a poem with a wonderful use of the word O. (O, to take what we love inside/to carry within us an orchard, to eat/not only the skin, but the shade,/not only the sugar, but the days, to hold/the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into/the round jubilance of peach.) So when I saw a poem that takes on the O even more, I wanted to post it. I love the unbridled enthusiasm of an O! (and of the exclamation mark!!)

O, She Says
BY HAILEY LEITHAUSER

O, she says (because she loves to say O),
O to this cloud-break that ravels the night,
O to this moon, its mouthful of sorrow,
O shallow grass and the nettle burr’s bite,

O to heart’s flare, its wobbly satellite,
O step after step in stumbling tempo,
O owl in oak, O rout of black bat flight,
(O moaned in Attic and Esperanto)

O covetous tongue, O fat fandango,
O gnat tango in the hot, ochered light,
O wind whirred leaves in subtle inferno,
O flexing of sea, O stars bolted tight,

O ludicrous swoon, O blind hindsight,
O torching of bridges and blood boiled white,
O sparrow and arrow and hell below,
O, she says, because she loves to say O.

swim: 1.3 miles
cedar lake

Another great swim! I am really enjoying how much smaller cedar lake is. I heard someone say a loop is 600 yards. It’s easier to swim longer and farther and faster. The water was choppy again, which is great. I love battling the waves. I had no problem swimming straight today and had fun passing people.

august 19/RUNSWIM

3 miles
two trails +
59 degrees
humidity: 85%

Ran up above listening to another audio book, down below listening to a bird, my breathing and water gurgling out of the sewer–not gushing or rushing, falling? When I got to the leaning tree trunk and the 38th street steps I didn’t go up but stayed on the lower trail. No mud, only dirt, an occasional stone and wildflowers. Not too overgrown. Think I could see my breath as it hit the sunlight streaking through the trees–was this because of steamy humidity? Ran past the railing where the keys with social justice messages painted on them used to hang and up the gravel hill to the paved path, near the overlook, the welcoming oaks and the two old boulders. No stacked stones on the taller one. Saw the dark-haired woman I usually pass and the old lady in the straw hat. She wasn’t listening to any TED talks today.

From Blossoms
BY LI-YOUNG LEE

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

O, what a poem! I want to spend some time memorizing these lines so I can remember them when I need them. I want to carry within me an orchard and live from joy to joy to joy!

swim: 1 miles
cedar lake

A great evening for a swim. The water was choppy, which I liked. The sun was blinding, which I didn’t. Again, couldn’t see anything on the way back to the start except for an opening in the trees which I determined was where the beach was. So I swam straight towards it and was right. When I was done, I swam through the swimming area. Suddenly it got much darker below me–is it deeper? The attitude at the lake is more laid back than at Nokomis. Kayaks in the swimming area, a dog swimming out to greet the swimmers as they made their way to the first buoy, lifeguards sitting in camp chairs. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me. Next year I will try to make it to more of these cedar lake swims. Almost forgot: too many scratchy, pesky vines floating in the water, getting tangled on my shoulders, in my fingers as they entered the water.

august 18/SWIM

2 miles
cedar lake

Open swim is over at Lake Nokomis but it’s still happening at Cedar Lake. So glad I found out how great it is to swim at Cedar. Next year I’ll have to swim here more often. Starting my swim, I couldn’t see at all. No landmarks–no roofs of big buildings or light poles. Only trees. Just swimming into the void of blueish gray water. Luckily I had lined up the buoys before I left so I was okay. The water was opaque and warm enough. Only a few bits of milfoil reaching out to grab my arm. These water weeds are surprisingly scratchy on your skin. It was mostly cloudy. A few times the sun broke through, other times the clouds darkened. On the second half of my last lap it suddenly became very choppy. I love swimming into the waves! Felt strong and fast, then tired. A nice, glowing burn even now an hour later. Overheard one woman say she was leaving soon for Maine to swim there–was it for a race? Not sure. My breathing was mostly every five, sometimes every 3, sometimes 3 then 4 on repeat or five then six. Didn’t see any fish or hear any planes.

In all of my searches for “lakes” or “water,” how have I never encountered this poem before? Love how she captures the reverse world that water creates!

Water Picture
May Swenson – 1913-1989

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don’t fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.
A baby, taken to feed the
ducks, dangles upside-down,
a pink balloon for a buoy.

Treetops deploy a haze of
cherry bloom for roots,
where birds coast belly-up
in the glass bowl of a hill;
from its bottom a bunch
of peanut-munching children
is suspended by their
sneakers, waveringly.

A swan, with twin necks
forming the figure 3,
steers between two dimpled
towers doubled. Fondly
hissing, she kisses herself,
and all the scene is troubled:
water-windows splinter,
tree-limbs tangle, the bridge
folds like a fan.

august 17/RUNBIKE

run: 2.6 miles
lake harriet

Ran around Lake Harriet with Scott while our son was having his first behind-the-wheel driver’s ed lesson. Crowded. Lots of dogs and walkers and runners and cracks in the paved path.

bike: 14 miles
hidden falls/crosby farm/river road

Biked to Hidden Falls in St. Paul. So cool! Walked by the river first. Watched a kayak leisurely paddling until a motorboat roared by. Saw the dogs at the dog park across the river. Got bit by at least 4 mosquitos. Finally found the trail to the falls. A beautiful, small waterfall, lined with rocks. We timed it right so we were alone. Reminded me of Emerald Pools in Zion–one of my favorite places. Walked up the stone steps–definitely a WPA project. Thought about my grandfather who lived in West St. Paul and worked for the WPA. Did he help stack these stones? 110 steps up–Scott counted. I wonder if any of the men making these steps thought about how long they would still be here and who might be walking over them in the future?

august 16/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
64 degrees
humidity: 90%/dew point: 62

Sometimes, less often in the last year, when I wake up I feel regret or shame about some intangible thing that I didn’t actually do. This makes me uneasy until I’ve fully woken up and restored my sense of exuberance. Usually a run or a walk or just being outside helps. Today, running while listening to Lizzo, worked. Ran by the welcoming oaks, through the tunnel of trees, which isn’t really a tunnel but 2 walls of green, past the old stone steps. Heard a dog barking deeply and persistently in the gorge. Felt strong running up the hill after the lake street bridge. Wanted to sing along with Lizzo being 100% that bitch but didn’t. Smiled at several runners and walkers. Didn’t see the river. Avoided a stupid squirrel. Tried to keep my shoulders relaxed and my right arm swinging as much as my left.

Saw this poem on Instagram. The poet, Crystal Williams, offers this explanation for why she wrote it:

“Many years ago I heard someone describe Aretha Franklin’s voice as the voice of God, which was an amazing thing to say. This meditation is my attempt at understanding why that statement struck me as profoundly true. In the end, Aretha’s voice is an aggregation of the choruses of the natural world—all of their harmony, complexity, and distinctiveness—and it is as close to the divine as I can imagine.”

I really love her description of the diving here: the aggregation of the choruses of the natural world

The Voice of God
Crystal Williams

      Poem for Aretha Franklin

when she opens her mouth
our world swells like dawn on the pond
when the sun licks the water & the jay garbles,
the whole quiet thing coming into tune,
the gnats, frogs, the dandelion pollen, the
pebbles & leaves & the whole world of us
sitting at the throat of the jay
dancing in the throat of the jay
all of us on the lip of the jay
singing doowop, doowop, do.

august 15/RUN

3 miles
two trails
63 degrees

A nice and easy run. Cooler. Not too much sun. Not that crowded. Didn’t see the little old lady shuffling by that I’ve been writing about but I did encounter a woman I’ve seen at least 2 or 3 times before who walks the opposite way I run. While I start by running south on the upper trail, north on the lower trail, she starts north on the upper trail and south on the lower. I get to greet her twice. Don’t remember much about the upper path run, but I remember noticing how bright and glowing the river was below me on the lower trail. Heard some roller ski poles clicking-clacking. A car horn aggressively honking–at least 5 or 6 times. Some bikers talking. The leaning tree trunk is still leaning near the 38th street steps. After taking them up and running north, I noticed 3 rocks stacked on the ancient boulder near the tunnel of trees.

On the Dirt Path Near Folwell Avenue Haibun
Sara Puotinen

Even if you try to time it just right when you climb the steep, short hill up to the dirt packed path, you cannot avoid the swarming swath of sex-crazed gnats or the little old lady slowly shuffling by, swinging her hiking poles, a voice TED-talking out of her phone’s speaker reminding you that this is why we are all here. Do not bother the bench resting on the rim of the gorge to ask what this is. If looking through the thickly thatched oak leaves to gather glimpses of the silvery river sparkling in the morning sun doesn’t already answer everything, the bench certainly won’t be able to help.

Bugs and old ladies
wake up early in June but
so does the river.

august 14/BIKERUN

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

A great ride early in the morning before it was too crowded. Thing I remember most: not once but twice some dumb squirrel darted out right in front of my bike, forcing me to use my brakes. I hate squirrels.

run: 2.7 miles
two trails

Such a beautiful morning! Not too hot or windy or humid. Decided to do a quick run even though I’d already biked to the lake and walked around it. Up above, encountered at least one roller skier, some bikers, a dog and their human, a few other runners. Down below, an unleashed dog running ahead of its owners, a few solitary walkers. Watched the river out of the corner of my eye. Avoided muddy, mucky leaves. Ran cautiously under the leaning, yarn-bombed tree trunk.

swim: 1 mile
cedar lake

Finally decided to try out open swim at Cedar Lake. I’ve never been because it’s a lot farther from my house. Really wonderful. Not too many people there, which was great. Smaller loops–not sure, but I think a loop was 400-500 yards? (instead of 1200 at Lake Nokomis). I liked mixing it up with smaller loops. Easier to not get off track even when you couldn’t see, which I couldn’t on the way back because of the sun. Why are so many of the beaches east/west, with one way always being in the sun? No big, crazy beach filled with too many people. Found out after I finished swimming that the rest of lake nokomis open swims will be at cedar. It’s very sad to be done for the season at nokomis without being able to say goodbye to the lake but I’m glad I can still swim–if I can make it over to Cedar. It’s about a 16-18 mile bike ride round trip. Breathed every five strokes. Felt strong and fast and free.

Lake Water
By David Ferry July 16, 2007/ The New Yorker


It is a summer afternoon in October.
I am sitting on a wooden bench, looking out
At the lake through a tall screen of evergreens,
Or rather, looking out across the plane of the lake,
Seeing the light shaking upon the water
As if it were a shimmering of heat.
Yesterday, when I sat here, it was the same,
The same displaced out-of-season effect.
Seen twice it seemed a truth was being told.
Some of the trees I can see across the lake
Have begun to change, but it is as if the air
Had entirely given itself over to summer,
With the intention of denying its own proper nature.
There is a breeze perfectly steady and persistent
Blowing in toward shore from the other side
Or from the world beyond the other side.
The mild sound of the little tapping waves
The breeze has caused—there’s something infantile
About it, a baby at the breast. The light
Is moving and not moving upon the water.
The breeze picks up slightly but still steadily,
The increase in the breeze becomes the mild
Dominant event, compelling with sweet oblivious
Authority alterations in light and shadow,
Alterations in the light of the sun on the water,
Which becomes at once denser and more quietly
Excited, like a concentration of emotions
That had been dispersed and scattered and now were not.
Then there’s the mitigation of the shadow of a cloud,
Phrases and even sentences are written,
But because of the breeze, and the turning of the year,
And the sense that this lake water, as it is being
Experienced on a particular day, comes from
Some source somewhere, beneath, within, itself,
Or from somewhere else, nearby, a spring, a brook,
Its pure origination somewhere else,
It is like an idea for a poem not yet written
And maybe never to be completed, because
The surface of the page is like lake water,
That takes back what is written on its surface,
And all my language about the lake and its
Emotions or its sweet obliviousness,
Or even its being like an origination,
Is all erased with the changing of the breeze
Or because of the heedless passing of a cloud. When, moments after she died, I looked into
Her face, it was as untelling as something natural,
A lake, say, the surface of it unreadable,
Its sources of meaning un”ndable anymore.
Her mouth was open as if she had something to say;
But maybe my saying so is a figure of speech.

I’d like to read this poem several more times. Wow, that ending!

august 13/RUN

2.4 miles
two trails
62 degrees

Slightly cooler this morning. Noticed the river sparkling in the sun. Saw the old woman in the straw hat sitting on the bench that I’m writing about in my most recent haibun as I ran south, but by the time I turned around and reached the bench again she was gone. No rowers. No roller skiers. Not many bikes or runners. A few walkers. Only the leaning, yarn-bombed trunk is here.

note: No open swim tonight due to bad water quality. No!!! Hopefully the lake won’t be closed for the rest of the season. What a bummer.

When I Am Asked
BY LISEL MUELLER

When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.

It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
everything blooming.

I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.

I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

august 12/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Biking to the river, it was strange to see smoke coming out of the sewers; they’re testing for leaks. Not too crowded on the bike path. Just past 44th street, I encountered a bike surrey, about to cause a traffic jam in the double bridge. Later on the way home, I think I passed 5 or 6 surreys. So many today!

swim: 1.3 miles
lake nokomis

Swam 8 little loops off the big beach. Wonderful! The lake was nearly empty, only a swimming class in the shallow area. A few paddle boarders out in the middle. Overcast, looking like rain any second. Not too windy or warm. Nice. Swam for 40 minutes. Smooth, strong, steady. Realized that the swimming breathing stroke poems I’m working on aren’t quite right. The rhythm is not 5/6/3/5 like I’ve been doing but 5/6/3, 5/6/3. Maybe I’ll work on some 5/6/3 or 5/6/3/5/6/3 verses today. After I stopped swimming, standing in the sand in the swimming area near the shore, it started drizzling. I almost went back out to swim some more, but I was too tired. …After the 6th loop, I stopped briefly and noticed the silence. So calm and peaceful! I love this lake.

august 11/RUN

1.3 miles
longfellow neighborhood

Still keeping my filling all 3 rings streak going. Now at 76 (or is it 77?) days. Went out for a quick run with Scott to earn the last 11 exercise minutes. I rarely ever run this late in the day (6:30 pm). It’s later in the summer so the light isn’t lingering as long in the evening. Soft, beautiful.

Encountered this poem in a book about line breaks, discussing the effect of breaking the line “they taste good to her” in 3 different ways.

To a Poor Old Woman
William Carlos Williams – 1883-1963

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

august 10/RUN

2.6 miles
two trails

A quick run before the rain starts. All day drizzle then showers. I like how the greens look–so dark and soothing and mysterious!–when it’s just starting to rain. Encountered a few runner’s groups and a peloton on the road. Heard the rowers–the coxswain calming giving instructions through the bullhorn. Also heard the trees shaking off the water from an earlier rain. Running through the dark green I wondered if I might meet up with a coyote or a fox. (I didn’t). Very humid, but cooler. Lots of liquid everywhere–in the air, up in the trees, dripping through the drain pipes, soaking my back and my neck and my head.

Speaking of liquid, I found this poem while searching on the poetry foundation’s site for “dark green”. Emily Hunt’s collection of poems is titled Dark Green.

Property
Emily Hunt

There are these flowers
with centers like liquid

hollows up close
and the outline

melts like a trick.
An illusion is usually

dark by the end.
An illusion is thin

curving for some
spark, along it to trace

a straight
shot to the rigged

bones of the plot,
to drink the quiet, like dirt.

august 9/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

I never plan it, but according to my workout app, I’ve been averaging 12.7 mph for almost every bike ride I’ve done to the lake for the past month. 12.7 mph is not fast but it’s fast enough for me. And it never feels slow. No run-ins with jerks biking too fast or taking over the whole path or yelling at me. Can’t remember why now, but some cars or bikers did prompt me to shake my head disapprovingly. The dreaded middle-aged mom’s head shake!

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

Swam little loops off the big beach today–4, or was it 5? I can’t remember. All I know is that I swam for about 25 minutes. The water was great. Smooth. Not too cold. A couple bright yellow paddle boats hovered just off the swimming area–actually, they weren’t that close but with my depth perception they looked like they were right on top of the white buoys. The water looked yellowish brownish green. There was another swimmer swimming loops. Spent a lot of my sighting time making sure I didn’t run into him. Breathed every five for most of it, occasionally 3/6/3/6 or 5/6/5/6. Felt so powerful and fast slicing through the water and easily rounding the buoys. What a wonderful feeling! Almost convinced myself that it was too much of a hassle to swim today. So glad I didn’t.

every five
Catch pull push release
five times then a breath

three/six/three/six
powerful
strong shoulders and straight strokes
jubilant
generous lungs stay filled

five/six/five/six
swimming little loops
well–not little loops but
loops that are smaller
than loops across the lake

“welcome!” says water
“join us!” cry out the fish
“hello!” calls the bird
perched on the white buoy

Boy Crazy/Carmen Giméndez Smith

The echoes of sirens and cicadas,
and the drunk boys who howl
into the trees at 2 a.m. infect
my window while I sleep,
and I’m pulled into a girl I once was,
calling for love into a sky transected
by power lines until sunset when the town
tightened into itself. I prayed for a boy’s
wolf life, the dream of skulking along
streets with hunger and immunity.
I wanted to cup the moon’s curve
in my hand like it belonged to me,
that was how young I was.

Love the unexpected meaning of the title here and so many of the phrases–infect my window/pulled into a girl I once was/when the town tightened into itself/a boy’s wolf life/skulking/hunger and immunity.


august 8/RUN

2 miles
austin, mn
61 degrees

Did a quick run with Scott in his hometown. Felt humid but not too hot. Ran on the slanted city sidewalks. Lots of shade. Not too hard, but not too easy either. My left leg felt tight again at the end. Encountered one walker, no bikers, and one runner when we were almost back to the house. Not too many people out here on this beautiful morning.

Writing a Poem
by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

The air is buzzing. Some one near by
is operating a giant machine. He’s scrubbing
a just sold building with a high-
powered hose. None of us are listening,

although we are each hopeless before
the dizz-dizz-dizz. If it was a monstrous
radiated beetle, we couldn’t be more
helpless. It’s eating up the hours

as if they were the sweet nectar of day,
which they are. It is impossible
to think or write. Its buzz takes away
feelings, takes over ears, is drilling a hole

in a loose tooth as you sit in history’s
dental chair, frantic and still, the drill
hammering the gums until only
spit oozes, dribbles, spills over, fills

cavities you didn’t know you had,
only the drill lives in your head
only the dull sharp dizz-dizz-dizz.
This is how the poem ends, dizz-dizz….

This poem captures the annoyance and frustration I feel when I hear leaf blowers. So overwhelming and insistent in their buzzing! (And so pointless in their efforts to clear out every single speck of leaf or debris.) I despise leaf blowers.

swim: 1.4 miles
lake nokomis

3 1/2 little loops + a big loop. Loved how choppy it was today, like swimming into a wall of water. Again, couldn’t see the buoys at all on the way back. Still swam straight. Even though it was 77 degrees, the air felt cold. The buoys were weirdly off, with the one closest to the little beach too far to the right. Don’t remember seeing any fish or hearing any airplanes or being stalked by any sailboats.

august 7/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
70 degrees

Ran for 20 minutes, then walked a little, then ran again. Listened to my audiobook. Looked down at the river. Noticed that one rock was placed on top of the old boulder. Encountered some walkers and runners, at least one roller skier. So many cars on the river road. No Daily Walker today.

Found this wild erasure poem the other day. Pretty cool. I need to keep messing with forms.

Raging Girls/Keey Cressio-Moeller

august 6/RUNSWIM

run: 2.5 miles
two trails

Writing this a few days late, so I don’t remember much. Listened to my audio book up above, nothing down below. Was hoping to encounter the woman with the radio for another writing prompt. I did, but I passed her from behind and couldn’t hear anything. Bummer. Looked a little closer and saw that the yarn hanging off the leaning tree trunk is yellow and pink.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Swam a few little loops, then one big loop. A great swim. Absolutely couldn’t see the buoys until they were right next to me on the way back, but I could occasionally see a lifeguard on their kayak and the sparkling roof of the changing room building so I managed to stay on course the whole time. Felt strong and relaxed and happy to be swimming.

august 5/RUN

2.5 miles
two trails
72 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Last night my weather app told me there would be scattered thunderstorms this morning but when I woke up they had been pushed back to noon. Cloudy this morning and feeling like stepping into a sauna or the bathroom after someone has taken a too long hot shower. Listened to my audio book (another Agatha Christie) up above, everything else down below. Heard trickling and some rowers, car wheels whooshing and ski poles clickity-clacking up above. For the third time, encountered the little old lady walking with her hiking poles listening to a radio show or an audio book or something. Today I heard, “which reminds us of why we are all here.” Decided that I should create a poem or some piece of writing around this phrase. This phrase could be the title or the ending line of the whole poem or a sentence or a refrain. A week or so ago I posted a cliffhanger about the tree trunk leaning over the path near the 38th street steps. It’s still there and still continuing to lean lower. Someone has yarn-bombed it–yarn in colors I can’t remember are dangling down as decoration or warning. Will anyone ever take this trunk away?

Had a thought about my vision problems and their impact on how I see the gorge. My deteriorating vision has helped me to pay more attention to everything–to hear more, smell more, see more. It has also twisted/warped/made strange what I see which can make it more interesting or fantastical.

august 4/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Hot and sunny this morning. The bright light was hard on my eyes, but I could still see enough to bike. I love easy Sunday morning bike rides to the lake for open swim.

swim: 2.2 miles
lake nokomis

A great morning for open swim. Did a little loop off the beach then 3 big loops. It was hard to see the buoys, swimming into the sun on the way to the little beach, but there were enough people around and my stroke was straight so I made it without any problems. So much easier to swim when I don’t worry about how I can’t see. Noticed how, when the light shines just right on the bright orange buoy, it loses its color and becomes a dull gray hulking shape. I couldn’t see the orange until I was almost right next to it. Is that my vision or do people with normal vision lose the orange too? Most of the time, the water felt good. Smooth, easy, light. And I felt fast. But in a few spots, it felt a lot thicker and slower. Sometimes, as I’m nearing the buoy, it seems like I’ll never reach it like the Mom in Poltergeist when she’s running down the hall to save Carol Ann. The water was filled with random leaves and twigs and vines of milfoil. Didn’t swallow any but I could feel them brush past me as I swam. The minuscule minnows were swimming at the big beach again, greeting me as I entered the water. “Have a good swim! Enjoy being a fish for an hour,” I imagine they might have said if they weren’t already too occupied in their own enjoyment of being fish.

The August Preoccupations
Catherine Barnett

So this morning I made a list

of obsessions and you were on it.

And waiting, and forgiveness, and five-dollar bills,

and despots, telescopes, anonymity, beauty,

silent comedy, and waiting.

I could forswear all these things

and just crawl back into the bed

you and I once slept in.

What would happen then?

Play any film backwards and it’s elegy.

Play it fast-forward it’s a gas.

I try not to get attached.

But Lincoln!

I see stars when I look at him.

I love lists and poems as lists and the breezy way this poem starts and the line about Lincoln and seeing stars. I remember listening to a podcast in which the artist/author/all around awesome human Maira Kalman talked about how much she loves Abraham Lincoln. I googled it and found this article.

august 3/RUN

2 miles
to dogwood coffee
76 degrees

Hot and humid again. Ran with Scott north on the river road, west on the greenway, through Brackett Park, then to Dogwood Coffee. Felt fine. On the way, we talked about the trail and road surfaces. They put red gravel on the road just past the lake street bridge after patching it. Where did they quarry it, I wonder? Where do the materials for the asphalt trail come from? Are they local?

august 1/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.2 miles
two trails
69 degrees
dew point: 62

It’s hot again. Ran the two trails. Listened to an audio book (Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage) on the upper trail. Nothing on the lower–excerpt for an older woman’s radio (the same woman I passed last week). Instead of taking the steps up at 38th, I kept running on the dirt trail to the savana. Sometimes this trail is muddy, today it was not. I think I quickly glanced at the river only once or twice. Mostly, I don’t remember what I saw or heard. No interesting smells or sounds.

Let us for a moment call this pain by other words/Dominik Parisien

Ask, How many roses does the hammer weigh

when it bears down on your skull?

Does the sword seem toothed like a toddler’s smile

or sharp as your first ice skates?

On a scale of anglerfish to northern lights

how bright are the flashes in your head?

When I touch this, here, which constellations

light the sky behind your eyes?

Would you say that pulsing is the flicker of a satellite

or the stubborn heartbeat of a newborn chick?

Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty

the measure of our pain? and I will answer.

This poem is so great. Immediately reminds me of Eula Biss’s The Pain Scale essay. I don’t think I have a favorite line, they’re all beautiful. Maybe, “which constellations light the sky behind your eyes?”

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Great weather for a bike ride. Especially fun after the swim, on the way home, when it was almost twilight. The final stretch up the river road is always tricky at this time–so crowded. Bikers/runners/walkers spreading out over the path, disregarding the lines or the rules of which path to stay on. It makes it so much more dangerous for me. I’m fine biking in my lane, following the lines, but I can’t always see darting people or judge the amount of space I need to get around someone. Very frustrating.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Did a little loop before open swim started, then 2 big loops. Might have been able to do more, but my brain got tired of not being able to see much. Still, a great swim. The water felt nice–not too warm or cold–and the waves weren’t bad. For the first time, I ran into someone. Not hard, just a tap on their leg before I veered off. The buoys were too far off the main beach but in a straight line. Easy to follow. The sun was blinding heading back from the little beach. I wonder, does it get better or worse the longer you stay in the water? I can’t remember because I usually stop swimming by 6:30. Next time, I should stay until 7:30. Heard some clangs underwater, roaring planes in the sky. Several sailboats. Breathed every five strokes for the first loop. Second loop: every five to the little beach, every 6 to the right on the way back to the main beach. After I finished, met Scott at Sandcastle for a beer and watched a sailboat, with a brightly colored sail, slowly drift closer to us. What a great night! What a great lake!

july 31/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

A wonderful morning for a bike ride! No altercations with assholes! Noticed, as I biked over a bridge, how much the creek was rushing. Sometime soon, I’d like to bike along the creek to Lake Harriet.

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis

Swam a mile this morning off the big beach. It was windier than I expected. And chillier. Just 70 degrees. I had goose bumps as I entered the water. Swam 6 little loops/38 minutes. Swimming into the wind and the waves, I breathed every 6 on my right side. Swimming away from it, every 5. The water was yellowish, greenish, brownish and opaque. Couldn’t see anything below me, no streaks or flashes or shafts of light. Had no problem seeing the vertical white buoys–well, I couldn’t see them through my central vision until I spotted them with my peripheral vision. I think I saw one kayak out there. No other swimmers. Just me. Very relaxing and mechanical, steady. 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left. Metronomic. Maybe a little less than a quarter note = 60? Not sure. I like turning into a machine, gliding through the water. About 30 minutes in, I felt like I could swim for a few more hours. I liked how the wind rocked me.

Last year, I discovered Roger Deakin’s fabulous book, Waterlog. I finally bought it this summer, using a birthday gift card. Here’s a passage I’d like to think/write about:

…swimming is a rite of passage, a crossing of boundaries: the line of the shore, the bank of the river, the edge of the pool, the surface itself. When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim. …You are in nature, part and parcel of it, in a far more complete and intense way than on dry land, and your sense of the present is overwhelming.

I like the idea of the water world being a reverse, almost an upending. I’ve played around with that in some poems already. I’d like to push it some more. I’m particularly interested in the lack of gravity and weightlessness. Deakin’s also writes:

In water, all possibilities seemed infinitely extended. Free of the tyranny of gravity and the weight of atmosphere…

july 30/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3 miles
trestle turn around
59! degrees

Ran much earlier this morning–at 6:45. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to be out so early. I love summer mornings. I’d like to try and get up early more often in August. Ran without headphones. Made sure I noticed the river, slivers of sparkle in the sun. Difficult to see through all of the trees. Running past the Welcoming Oaks noticed a new stump, almost level with the ground. Oh no! Which one of my friends has been chopped down? I fear it might be my favorite: the tree that leans, arching its back, almost as if to say, “Heyyyyyyy” or “Watch out!” I hope not. I’ll have to go back and take a closer look. A motorcycle rumbled by, blasting the news on their radio. Saw other runners, walkers, roller skiers, bikers and 3 in-sync rollerbladers. Noticed in the tunnel of trees that, in addition to the clearing I’ve been writing about, there’s another one, created by the stone wall that Delia the dog likes to jump up on. Could really smell the sewer this morning, especially above the rowing club. Yuck! Heard some birds. Whooshing cars. Ran the 3 miles straight without stopping, even though my left leg felt tight. Wish it wasn’t so difficult.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Mostly, biking isn’t too bad, except for when someone is going really slow and I need to pass them. It’s so hard to pass with my vision. I can’t trust that I’m actually seeing if a bike is coming. Today I didn’t see the bike coming, tried to pass, and almost got in the way of another biker. He was so mean about it, his yell still echoing in my head. At first, I was devastated, feeling so bad about my vision and my mistake. But then I remembered how many bikers I had encountered who did the same thing I did and I didn’t scream at them. My conclusion: this guy was a big asshole.

swim: 1.2 miles
lake nokomis

Made it to the lake early and did three little loops. They were late setting up the buoys so it was a wetsuit rebellion. People just started swimming, not waiting for the lifeguards to announce the start. I joined them and did only one loop. So many swimmers! So many swimmers unable to swim straight, almost routing me! But who cares? The water was wonderful. Warmish and calm. Clear. Smooth. I felt strong and powerful and relaxed. Did a lot of breathing every 5 and sometimes 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right. There is something special about swimming loops outside at a lake. One of my top 5 all-time favorite things to do.

MORNING SWIM
(from Where I Live – New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, W.W. Norton, 2010)

Into my empty head there come
a cotton beach, a dock wherefrom

I set out, oily and nude
through mist, in chilly solitude.

There was no line, no roof or floor
to tell the water from the air.

Night fog thick as terry cloth
closed me in its fuzzy growth.

I hung my bathrobe on two pegs.
I took the lake between my legs.

Invaded and invader, I
went overhand on that flat sky.

Fish twitched beneath me, quick and tame.
In their green zone they sang my name

and in the rhythm of the swim
I hummed a two-four- time slow hymn.

I hummed “Abide With Me.” The beat
rose in the fine thrash of my feet,

rose in the bubbles I put out
slantwise, trailing through my mouth.

My bones drank water; water fell
through all my doors. I was the well

that fed the lake that met my sea
in which I sang “Abide With Me.”

Love the line in this poem about there being no line or roof or floor to tell the water from the air. And the fish! I almost forgot about the tiny little minnows I saw at the big beach. Swimming in the shallow water. Pretty cool.

july 29/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
66 degrees
humidity: 89%

Forgot to look for the river again today. Instead saw lots of green. A few slashes of light purple. What are those wildflowers? Green with purple all over the edge of the path. Didn’t hear any rowers. Car after car after car passing me on the river road. No birds or annoying squirrels. No rollerbladers or roller skiers. No Daily Walker.

Babel
Kimberly Johnson

My God, it’s loud down here, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whine loudly to the shocked air? O who
can think of heaven in such squall, shrill wind
of trees, magpie wings, and throats in fracas,

the bluebottle static, the air stupid
with the shrieks of devils,— of angels,—
who in such squall can think of anything

but heaven?

Love this description of the noisy outdoors and the air, which feels so much about it all: rattled, stunned, shocked, stupid. And those hissing, applauding, blustering trees!

july 28/BIKERUN

bike: 5.7 miles
to lake nokomis/1/2 way back

Biked to the lake for open swim. As I arrived, it thundered and I heard the lifeguard call out, “Open Swim is delayed for 30 minutes.” Bummer. Then, after waiting for a few minutes, the sky unzipped and it began to pour. Waited under the overhang of the building with Scott until it stopped. Thundered again. 30 more minute wait. So we left. Double bummer. At least I got to see a rafter of wild turkeys in a field across from Locks and Dam #1 as I biked to the lake. Pretty cool!

run: 2.4 miles
river road path, north/south
75 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 70

I am currently on day 62 of filling all three rings on my apple watch. Decided to run so I could keep up the streak. So hot and humid! For the first time this year, I saw haze hovering around the tunnel of trees. It was raining as I ran. Not too hard and offering no relief. Encountered some idiot teenagers playing catch on the running path under the bridge. Two of them almost threw a ball over my head as I ran by them. I gave them one of my vigorous disapproving head shakes which my daughter says are very effective in shaming. Why did she say that? Have I given her one before?

What Lights Up…?
BY KEKI DARUWALLA
excerpt

what lights up
the lightbulb filaments
of your recall Old Man
this streak of fire
through the thin wire
of memory and mind
what line
from which poet?

I love this opening stanza! Definitely one to memorize.

july 27/RUN

3.1 miles
two trails
80 degrees
dew point: 61

Another hot one. Listened to my audio book as I ran, partly because I’m enjoying it and partly because I need to finish it so I can move onto the next one. It’s hard to keep up with books these days. Audio books are great but I can’t skim them like I could a regular book. And regular books make me tired so quickly. Lots of traffic out on the upper trail: bikers, walkers, other runners, strollers, dogs. Was happy to turn at the 44th street parking lot and run back on the lower path. So much cooler and quieter and calmer! Turned off my audio book. Glanced down at the river, through the trees, a few times. Think I heard–but didn’t see–some rowers. Encountered a few walkers but no other runners. Startled a squirrel–at least I think it was a squirrel. Marveled at the green and the occasional breeze.

Summer Breeze/Seals and Croft

See the curtains hangin’ in the window
In the evening on a Friday night
A little light a-shinin’ through the window
Lets me know everything’s all right

[Chorus]
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ though the jasmine in my mind

[Verse 2]
See the paper layin’ on the sidewalk
A little music from the house next door
So I walk on up to the doorstep
Through the screen and across the floor

[Chorus]
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ though the jasmine in my mind

[Bridge]
Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune
And I come home from a hard day’s work
And you’re waiting there
Not a care in the world

[Verse 3]
See the smile awaitin’ in the kitchen
Through cookin’ and the plates for two
Feel the arms that reach out to hold me
In the evening when the day is through

[Chorus]
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ though the jasmine in my mind

july 26/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
70 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 65

Hot and humid again. Legs really sore 2 miles in. Listened to an audio book instead of the gorge. What do I remember from the run? Encountering one of those annoying lime scooters on the walking path with the tunnel of trees. Feeling strong for the first mile. Trying to avoid wandering branches with wet leaves. Don’t think I saw the river at all. Noticing how the clearing in the middle of the tunnel of trees constricts as the days thicken. More leaves, more green, less light and space and room to breathe. Sweating so much with the high humidity and dew point.

july 25/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

So windy! Gusts up to 23 mph. Biking the last stretch around the lake to the big beach, I could feel the wind wanting to blow me off my bike.

swim: .7 miles
lake nokomis

Got to the lake early. The plan was to swim small loops until open swim started then do one big loop, but it was so windy and choppy–even white caps!–that it was difficult. Going one direction, I was swimming straight into the waves. Tough. Almost stopped after one loop, but decided to keep going and did a few more. Watched the lifeguards trying to set up the orange buoys on the choppy, wavy, windy water. It was taking so long that I didn’t have time to stay. As I biked up the hill, 15 minutes later, I could still hear them trying to line up the buoys. Oh well, I still swam some. It would have been fun to swim in the choppy water. I like swimming in choppy water. A fun challenge. Plus, it’s a cool experience to be gently (or vigorously) rocked. Last fall I wrote a lot of lines about waves. Here’s a few that I especially liked and that I’m hoping to put into a poem:

In the summer I swim across the lake.
When the wind is just right it makes the water into a cradle.

And when the wind is wrong
the waves become a washing machine.

I swim through a spin cycle
and reach the far shore scrubbed clean.

july 24/RUN

5K race
downtown Minneapolis

View this post on Instagram

@torchlight5k

A post shared by Scott Anderson 📎 (@room34) on

Not too hot, but hot enough. Not my fastest race, but I finished strong.

What do I remember from the race? Very positive energy. Happy, joyful people. A better than average version of the National Anthem. A car trapped on the bike path because the road was jammed with runners. The woman driving calling out to her friends in frustration, “I just want to get out of here!” A woman wheezing than giving herself a pep talk. An annoying boyfriend calling out to his girlfriend, “You can do this! Only 2 minutes left. This is what all your training was for. How many people can you pass?” This was annoying because we had a lot less than 2 minute left and him saying that made me feel like we would never finish. Very demoralizing. I’m pretty sure his girlfriend was irritated too. I didn’t see her pass anyone. After the race, walking on the gravel trail through Boom Island, 3 runners passing us with such positive energy, so happy to be running on this trail.

We took the train downtown today, which was fun and much less stressful than driving. What do I remember from the train? Crowded heading downtown; Twins game tonight. A fantasy-fiction loving teenage girl trying to convince her mom to read more fantasy fiction. Her mom, calmly and repeatedly saying, “I’m more into real life.” The girl, relentlessly retorting, “Fantasy fiction is sooo much better than real life. You can learn a lot from the wise old wizards!” Okay, this isn’t exactly what she said, but close enough. On the way home, 2 pissed off Twins’ fans, complaining about the game and how slow it was going–over 2 hours in and only the bottom of the 4th! Dropping lots of f-bombs.

The Runners
BY IRVING FELDMAN

Here or there hundreds of them, phantom-like,
bobbing in place at street corners, then
lifting their knees suddenly and leaping
into the densest, loudest traffic
(of briefest trajectories, of shortest views),
in transit yet at ease, breathing, loping,
like bearers of distance and pure direction,
darting half naked out of nowhere and
where, where in the world are they running to?
swift and solitary, silent beings
who, should you now step into the path,
have dodged away, or, if you raise a hand
to stay them to speak, immediately
are gone: who are these runners who create
in their gliding such fine, singular spaces
among the street’s vociferous jargons?
—as if each one were a still, wordless message
or question one would answer if one could grasp it,
this one, that one, sliding past, going away,
while you stand there, your hand raised to no purpose,
your hidden heart rejoicing that the quick heel
won’t soon, won’t ever, be overtaken,
although you, as you have longed to, suddenly
disburden yourself and follow follow.

july 23/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3.1 miles
two trails
66 degrees

Cooler this morning. Listened to a playlist running above, some rowers running below. Noticed that the dirt path at the beginning of the lower trail is more old asphalt than I realized. How long ago did they stop paving this trail? Could see the river sparkling serenely beneath me. Heard the rowers. Encountered some walkers who had no idea I was there. When I called out, “excuse me,” one of them dramatically flinched. Never know how to handle these situations. Sometimes I find it funny, their frantic gestures. Other times, it’s annoying that they’re blocking the whole path and I can’t get past them without startling them. Encountered another walker, an older woman with hiking poles, listening loudly to a speech. The women speaking was calling out, “we’re not the problem, we’re the solution!” What is she referring to? Who is the we? What is the problem and what is the solution?

Cliffhanger update: the leaning tree trunk near the 38th street steps seems to be leaning more. I almost had to duck as I ran under it. Is it lower, or am I just forgetting how lean-y it already was? Will it lean even more or fall or be removed soon?

Ended my run right past the small clearing in the tunnel of trees. I’m stuck in my writing about it. Is it because it’s more magical in the early spring before the trees have filled in? When I look at it now, it’s still a clearing but it doesn’t make me feel dizzy or like I’m floating as I run past it. Maybe I should look at earlier entries about it?

A Kind of Meadow
BY CARL PHILLIPS

—shored
by trees at its far ending,
as is the way in moral tales:

whether trees as trees actually,
for their shadow and what
inside of it

hides, threatens, calls to;
or as ever-wavering conscience,
cloaked now, and called Chorus;

or, between these, whatever
falls upon the rippling and measurable,
but none to measure it, thin

fabric of this stands for.
A kind of meadow, and then
trees—many, assembled, a wood

therefore. Through the wood
the worn
path, emblematic of Much

Trespass: Halt. Who goes there?
A kind of meadow, where it ends
begin trees, from whose twinning

of late light and the already underway
darkness you were expecting perhaps
the stag to step forward, to make

of its twelve-pointed antlers
the branching foreground to a backdrop
all branches;

or you wanted the usual
bird to break cover at that angle
at which wings catch entirely

what light’s left,
so that for once the bird isn’t miracle
at all, but the simplicity of patience

and a good hand assembling: first
the thin bones, now in careful
rows the feathers, like fretwork,

now the brush, for the laying-on
of sheen…. As is always the way,
you tell yourself, in

poems—Yes, always,
until you have gone there,
and gone there, “into the

field,” vowing Only until
there’s nothing more
I want—thinking it, wrongly,

a thing attainable, any real end
to wanting, and that it is close, and that
it is likely, how will you not

this time catch hold of it: flashing,
flesh at once

lit and lightless, a way
out, the one dappled way, back—

I like how this poem demands many readings, some of them out loud, for me to begin to understand it. I have not yet read it enough. So far, here’s what I’m drawn to: trees and moral tales; trees as hiding/threatening/calling to; trees as Chorus; the double-meaning of stands (represents + a group of trees); the worn path as emblem; trees whose twinning of late light and the already underway darkness.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis

Today’s open swim was so crowded! Hundreds of swimmers. Too hard to see them all in the sun. So I only swam 2 loops and an extra mini loop off the big beach. The water was choppy but I didn’t care. Couldn’t see much but I kept swimming. I felt strong for most of the swim until suddenly my right shoulder hurt. Now, a few hours later, I am very tired. Swimming in the lake is the best. What joy to still be able to see enough to swim and bike!

july 22/RUN

2.75 miles
lake harriet
77 degrees
humidity: 46%

Ran around Lake Harriet with Scott this afternoon. Less humidity but still hot and sunny. Not much shade at 2 in the afternoon. What I remember most: the gross, fishy smell; dodging lots of people; the shshshsh of the sand on the side of the path as I ran over it; trying to sing The Commodores’ song “lady…you bring me up when I am down” and “na na na na na naaa na na na naaa” and having trouble mid-run; running an small extra loop to get my final exercise minutes and overhearing a man say to the woman next to him, “people are running right now?!”; running up hill a lot. A good run.

Postscript
Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Love this poem for so many reasons: the ocean wild with foam and glitter, head-strong looking heads, being neither here nor there but a hurry through which known and strange things pass, big soft buffeting catching the heart off guard. This morning, when I was walking with Delia, I thought about how different one’s experience of a landscape is depending on whether you are walking or running or biking or riding in a car.

july 20/YOGABIKERUN

bike: 5.2 miles
torchlight 5k packet pick-up and back

Biked on the river road, over the ford bridge, up the hills in highland park to the packet pick-up for the july tradition: torchlight 5k. So hilly in St. Paul! Biking over the ford bridge is always beautiful–after the rain, the river was a calm, steel blue and the air was much cooler. Still not shifting into different gears when climbing. Speaking of climbing, thought about today’s stage of le tour de france and the brutal final climb while Scott and I biked. Those bikers are such bad asses.

run: 3 miles
trestle turn around
69 degrees
dew point: 59

Thunderstorms this morning, so I ran in the afternoon. Listened to my birthday playlist from last year and tried to stay relaxed. Ran all 3 miles without stopping, which was harder towards the end–my legs were sore, but I think it was more mental. Too easy to stop and walk. I didn’t today. Maybe it was because I got so mad at the two walkers that were hogging the entire path, cluelessly spreading out over the entire thing instead of sticking to one side? Felt pretty good. Ran each mile faster than the last. Kept running, but payed attention as I ran by the part of the tunnel of trees that I’m writing about. I’ve been thinking about it as a wide open, spacious room, but it’s more of just a break in the trees. A pause. I recorded some thoughts into my phone when I was done:

Only, just a brief pause. No room for rumination. Only breathing and being before the leaves lock? the leaves thatch? the leaves lattice? the vines envelop the forest again.

Found this great poem via twitter the other day:

Sixteen Theses on Walking and Poetry
by Mátyás Dunajcsik
translated by Timea Balogh1.

  1. Walking is the poetry of the urban space.
  2. Just as a poet uses the same language as everyone else, only for other things and in other ways, a walker walks the same city as other pedestrians, only with a different purpose and perspective.
  3. Walks, much like poems, are composed via selection and arrangement.
  4. Just as a poet sometimes uses strange, obsolete words, a walker often comes across seldom visited places.
  5. Just as poetry can sometimes cleanse trite words, calling them back to their original meanings, a walker can only really see a city if he keeps in mind the original purpose of the places and buildings in it, even if they serve new purposes now.
  6. Just as the poet has the power to give entirely new meanings to certain words, the walker sometimes also uses certain places for things other than they were originally designed for.
  7. The poet is always ambivalent about the grammatical rules of her native language. A good walk is always a little illegal.
  8. Important poems change the language in which they are written. A truly important walk leaves lasting marks on a city.
  9. Both walking and poetry are forms of catastrophe tourism: just as poetry begins where everyday conversation ends, likewise the walker looks for those places where the fabric of the city unravels.
  10. The empty spaces left behind by buildings demolished or never built are as sweet to the walker as the unsaid and the indescribable are to the poet.
  11. Poetry is a language’s living memory and conscience, just as walking is to a city.
  12. A reader most enjoys poems written in his native language. The most exciting walks are always the ones we take in our hometowns.
  13. But actually, all poems speak in their own mother tongues, just as every walk reveals a new city.
  14. The foundation of both walking and poetry is the breath. Its rhythm is determined either by words or by steps.
  15. Just as there are one-word poems, so can one step be considered a walk.
  16. Poets and walkers look up more often than other people.

Love all of this, especially the idea of poets using language differently, walkers walking differently; walking and poetry as forms of catastrophe tourism–looking for places where the city unravels; breath as the foundation for poetry and walking; poets and walkers looking up more than other people. Cool. I’m really interested in the connections between writing and movement, especially in terms of walking, running, swimming and biking.

july 19/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
82 degrees (feels like 89)
humidity: 76%
dew point: 74

Hot, so hot. Even though I was only doing a short run, I brought some water along. I drank some of it, the rest I poured on my head. It started out cool but by the time it reached my back, it was warm. I definitely struggle in the heat. Ran 1.25 miles, then walked a little, then mostly ran with some walking. Noticed that there were a few more stones stacked on the old boulder. The tunnel of trees was soothingly dark and deep and green. Not steamy. Made note of the fact that the part of the tunnel I’m writing about now is almost midway between the path openings and just before where the 4 fences meet. This part of the path is also just above the mid-story trees. I’m planning to play with the idea of mid/middle of the story in my prose poem. After turning around and heading back, I stopped for a few minutes to look at this same, mid-story spot. How the trees open up into a wide area that seems to float and breathe, not tight and confined but loose and spacious. Today I noticed (again) how you can just see a small bit of sky at the top. Could it be river instead? Surely it’s sky.

This Maggie Smith poem is the best. Reminds me of the recent interview with Aimee Nezhukumatathil and her idea of wonderment: (So I think it’s a practice. I think we forget how to be in wonderment. And I think it’s a great, I don’t know, responsibility. But also, it’s contagious. When you hear someone say, oh my gosh, I love how the silver on a silver oak is winking at me, that kind of thing, it’s hard to not notice something yourself. And then someone else will notice something and someone else will notice something.)

Poem Beginning with a Retweet/Maggie Smith

If you drive past horses and don’t say horses
you’re a psychopath. If you see an airplane
but don’t point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don’t
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox! If you hear a woodpecker
and don’t shush everyone around you
into silence. If you find an unbroken
sand dollar in a tide pool. If you see
a dorsal fin breaking the water.
If you see the moon and don’t say
oh my god look at that moon. If you smell
smoke and don’t search for fire.
If you feel yourself receding, receding,
and don’t tell anyone until you’re gone.

july 18/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

2.5 miles
two trails
77 degrees
dew point: 70

Hot! Thick air. Sluggish legs. Listened to an Agatha Christie audiobook on the upper trail, the gorge on the lower trail. Also heard some kids up above somewhere. The lower trail was a little muddy from the recent rain, especially the mulch-y leaves. Writing this a day later so I don’t remember much. Ran for two miles before stopping to take a quick walk break up the stairs. Pretty soon I’ll have all the ups and downs and turns of this short trail memorized.

Cliffhanger: a fallen tree leans across the path, near the steps up to 38th street, held up by the trunk of another tree. Will it fall soon and hit someone walking under? Will the parks department remove it? Will it stay here all summer?

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

On the way to the lake muttered “jerk” under my breath at one idiot driver. On the way back muttered to another clueless driver, “ass.” Aside from that, was hot and happy to be able to see well enough to bike. At one point I wondered, has my brain just memorized the path? I’ve biked it 100s of times and have carefully noticed all the curves and curbs and craters. At the last scan of my central vision, it was almost gone. How can I see anything? Brains are fascinating.

Cliffhanger: There’s a short stretch of trail, right before and after 28th, that’s “officially” closed for construction. Even though signs are blocking the trail, you can still get by them and the trail/road are still bike-able. When will they start construction? How many more times can I bike on this part of the trail? Will it take the rest of the summer? What path/trail/road/sidewalk will I bike on instead?

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

Another wonderful open swim. The water was too warm, almost like bath water. At times it felt heavy and slow, like swimming in place or through simple syrup. Other times, it felt fast and smooth. I stayed on course the whole time. Swimming to the little beach, I could see the buoys enough to know I was swimming straight. On the way back, I could only see them when they were right next to me. Instead of sighting with buoys, I used the kayaks to line up the path. The third time I was swimming back, my goggles fogged up and I really couldn’t see anything. I didn’t panic but I still don’t like swimming without being able to see something–the roof of the building, the light pole, other swimmers, buoys. Glad I only swam 3 loops. After biking home, I was exhausted!

Achingly Beautiful How the Sky Blooms Umber at the End of the Day, Through the Canopy
Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Summers spent practicing in the apartment
stairwell: hand on the bannister, one foot after
another. Did I ever tell you I couldn’t walk

until I was three and then sort of dragged
myself up and downstairs until I was seven
or eight? That burgundy carpet.

I’d stop to breathe and look out the window,
over brick tenements, toward the Capitol
building. Oak leaves so full of late summer

sun even I thought, “Obscene” and stood stunned
for a moment. My God. The urge to rest like the birds
on the phone wires, chatting like barristers

at the end of the day. Myself the useless
Ambassador from the third floor. I was the last one
up so the door was left open. I can still see it gaping

from two stories down. Sometimes music played.
Sometimes I’d smell supper. Neighbors stopped
to say hello. Achingly beautiful how the sky

looked as I stood after they left. Nicer somehow
in the middle. All the trees tucking blackbirds
into their darkness. It really did take this long.

What a beautiful poem! I love the oak leaves so full of summer that they were obscene–so true!–and birds chatting like barristers and blackbirds being tucked into the darkness by trees.

july 16/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

run: 3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
humidity: 83%
dew point: 66

Hot and harder today than yesterday even though the dew point was lower. Ran 2 miles without stopping then walked then ran again. Listened to headphones. Someone has placed another small stone on top of the ancient boulder. Noticed that at one spot in the tunnel of trees my view filled with a green canopy except for at the very top. I could see a thin line of sky. It looked like air at the surface with me under green water. Cool. Faintly heard the rowers on the river. By the end, felt slow and tired but happy to be outside and moving.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

Started my bike ride in a soft, steady rain. Ended it in sunshine. Didn’t mind biking in the rain at all. Less bikers on the trail. No chaos by the falls. The creek was high as I biked by my favorite part of the path, but not over its banks yet. By the time I reached the lake, it was much warmer and brighter and the buoys were already out.

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

An hour before open swim it was pouring rain and thundering so I wasn’t sure if it would happen. But it was clear by 5:30. I could see the buoys without any problems on the way to the little beach but hardly at all on the way back. Almost ran into the lifeguards on kayaks a few times–well not almost. I saw them in time, but I was headed straight for them. I blame the lifeguards. Too close to the buoys. I heard someone else complaining about how close they were. One lifeguard was almost on top of the final buoy. The water was warm. Too warm. I can’t imagine how hot it would have been swimming in a wetsuit. The water was also calm. No waves today. It felt thick and heavy at times. Breathed every 5 and sometimes every 6. Since it was the free night it was more crowded with lots of slower swimmers stopping and floating. I didn’t run into a single one which was amazing because I didn’t notice some of them until I was almost on top of them. Saw some planes in the sky. No sailboats or fish or ducks. Felt strong and straight and joyful. What a wonderful way to spend a Tuesday evening!

Springing
Marie Ponsot – 1921-2019

In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.

Swimming aimlessly is luxury just as walking
loudly up a shallow stream is.

As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.

Friends at hearths are drawn to the one warm air;
strangers meet on beaches drawn to the one wet sea.

What wd it be to be water, one body of water
(what water is is another mystery) (We are
water divided.) It wd be a self without walls,
with surface tension, specific gravity a local
exchange between bedrock and cloud of falling and rising,
rising to fall, falling to rise.

july 15/RUN

2.85 miles
two trails
79 degrees
humidity: 81%
dew point: 71!

I think 71 is one of the highest dew points I’ve ever run in. It felt hot, but it was cloudy, so that helped. It also helped that I ran less than 3 miles and that I ran the second half on the lower trail. I’m really beginning to enjoy this trail. I wish it was longer–only a mile and a half. When it’s not so warm I should try running the dirt trail down by the falls. As I’m writing this entry, a few hours after my run, I’m thinking about surfaces.

surfaces

sidewalk: smooth and cracked, partly covered with dead leaves, weeds, berries, containing seams between slabs, sloping down to the street

street: rough, hard, uneven, freckled with manhole covers

grass: soft, thick, concealing uneven ground

paved path: asphalt, mostly smooth and wide, separated from the road and the bike path, hiding a big dip between the 36th street parking lot and 38th street, hard to see until you remember it’s there

stone steps: awkwardly spaced, avoided if possible

dirt: soft, packed, soothing, slippery oozing squishy after rain, riddled with rubble, pockmarked with past pavement–abandoned, recycled by the gorge, angled leaning to the right, dropping off steeply

more paved path: half rotting leaves, hardly ever flat, up up up then down down up down up down up then over the small bridge with the tiny cave that Rosie and I walked by years ago and imagined was a troll cave where they fed you sprinkled donuts and gave you a bright yellow raft to float down the ravine to the river

more dirt: mostly dry under the canopy, held in place by thigh high retaining walls that double as obstacle courses for daring dogs who delight in appearing taller, flanked by black wrought iron and chainlink fences with tree trunks for posts, slowly sloping down to the savana where wildflowers stretch as high as my shoulders and (almost) smother the narrow trail

more stone steps, a slick iron grate, gravel, dirt, grass, then paved path again

Song of the Open Road, 3
Walt Whitman – 1819-1892

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.

Such unbridled enthusiasm! Oh, to be willing to embrace joy like Whitman! To be unashamed to relentlessly use exclamation points! I think I’d like to use his form here and write a poem to the gorge.

july 14/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis

Open swim! A wonderful morning for a swim, even if it was too warm and sunny and windy. The water was the choppiest it’s been this year, which didn’t bother me at all. The buoys were way off to the side but since they were in line, I didn’t mind. I swam strong and straight and steady. Mostly breathed every 6 strokes. The rough water gently rocked me. Sometimes the waves were off to one side, sometimes it was like swimming into a wall. At one point, near one of the buoys, I felt like I was swimming in one of those forever pools where you swim in place–is that what they’re called? Loved the swim today. Love being in the water. Always have.

Out of Water
BY MARIE PONSOT

A new embroidery of flowers, canary color,
dots the grass already dotty
with aster-white and clover.

I warn, “They won’t last, out of water.”
The children pick some anyway.

In or out of  water
children don’t last either.

I watch them as they pick.
Still free of  what’s next
and what was yesterday
they pick today.

july 13/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
76 degrees
dew point: 62

Hot! As usual, the first mile felt fine, but then I warmed up and it was hot. Still, a nice morning run. Started just before the elite triathletes in the Lifetime Tri race biked by. Got to see the leader zoom past. Heading north, he was only a few seconds ahead of the next racer, but by the time he passed me again, 15 or so minutes later (I think), he was way ahead. Pretty cool to see. I didn’t hear any helicopters so I’m pretty sure they no longer show this live on NBC. I remember watching it 15 years ago up in the UP at my parent’s house, when my mom was still alive. The first triathlon, other than Kona, that I ever watched.

No deep thoughts that I can remember. Spent a lot of time wondering when the racers would come by and then, when they did, when they would come back after looping around at Franklin. Also was distracted by a few runners up ahead of me. I think my second mile was a lot faster as I unwittingly tried to catch them.

Later, after the run, took Delia the dog on a walk by the gorge. Noticed that the 4 rocks usually stacked on top of the big boulder at the top of the tunnel of trees weren’t there. I think I’ve seen them missing another time too. Will someone stack some more before I run by the boulder again? And, if so, who? Walking down through the tunnel, I noticed the few times the sun filtered through and the gentle noise of cars and bikes whooshing above. Also, payed attention to the spot, right before the bottom and the 4 fences, when the path seems to float above the forest and where the trees open up into a wide, airy amphitheater-like space. Too layered with leaves to see sky. Up above is green, down below is too. Running by this spot, I feel like I’m flying or floating in green. Walking, I’m slow enough to notice the layers of green and brown, the lack of blue and the openness of it all.

Love how green works in this poem. Bright green sins, the tree still green.

Summer
BY CARLO BETOCCHI
TRANSLATED BY GEOFFREY BROCK

And it grows, the vain
summer,
even for us with our
bright green sins:

behold the dry guest,
the wind,
as it stirs up quarrels
among magnolia boughs

and plays its serene
tune on
the prows of all the leaves—
and then is gone,

leaving the leaves
still there,
the tree still green, but breaking
the heart of the air.

july 11/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
two trails
67 degrees

Just a few degrees cooler and an hour earlier makes a difference. An easier run. No walking. No headphones either. Lots of cars on the road, lots of bikers on the path. Heard the rowers but didn’t see them. Greeted some runners and walkers. Listened to water dripping out of the sewer pipe. Don’t remember thinking about anything except how, even with all the sun, the tunnel of trees seemed dark and thick and beautiful today.

Our Valley
by Philip Levine

We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: 1.7 miles
lake nokomis
water: 80 degrees

A great night for a swim! Mostly breathed every six to my right, but switched it up a little with some 5s on right and left. I need to write some more poetry inspired by these breathing patterns. The buoys were lined up very oddly–too far off the big beach, angled too sharply near the little beach–which made it difficult to sight, but I didn’t panic and swam without seeing. Well, I could see the first two buoys but not the third one closest to the little beach. Don’t remember hearing any planes or seeing any fish. Noticed a sailboat in my peripheral vision most of the time. Felt strong and a little sore in my right calf. Was really tired at the end of today. So much exercise!

Almost forgot about the water temperature. So strange: pockets of freezing cold water mixed with warmer water. The water was extra cold just off the little beach. I like swimming through this really cold water–a sudden surprise, very brief, then warmish water again. The water is 80 degrees, which is more than warm enough for me. I still hear people complaining about how cold it is. I can’t help myself from thinking, wimps!

Breathing
BY MARK O’BRIEN

Grasping for straws is easier;
You can see the straws.
“This most excellent canopy, the air, look you,”
Presses down upon me
At fifteen pounds per square inch,
A dense, heavy, blue-glowing ocean,
Supporting the weight of condors
That swim its churning currents.
All I get is a thin stream of it,
A finger’s width of the rope that ties me to life
As I labor like a stevedore to keep the connection.
Water wouldn’t be so circumspect;
Water would crash in like a drunken sailor,
But air is prissy and genteel,
Teasing me with its nearness and pervading immensity.
The vast, circumambient atmosphere
Allows me but ninety cubic centimeters
Of its billions of gallons and miles of sky.
I inhale it anyway,
Knowing that it will hurt
In the weary ends of my crumpled paper bag lungs.

                                                                                                                    July, 1988

Mark O’Brien, “Breathing” from The Man in the Iron Lung.

I like the connections drawn between air and water here. I often think about that while I’m swimming, imagining worlds reversed, where the air is water, water air. Writing this, I’m wondering: how much oxygen is in the lake? I looked it up and found an article about dissolved oxygen and how fish need it for breathing. Air typically has an oxygen concentration of around 21%, while water has less than 1%.

july 10/RUN

3.1 miles
the 2 trails
70 degrees

I think this is my new favorite running route, especially since my body doesn’t want to run more than a 5K. Listened to headphones as I ran south, up above the river, next to the road, and then took them out when I ran north, down below the road, still above the river. Overcast and windy. Felt cooler than 70. Heard some trickling water but no rowers. Encountered some dogs and their humans. Appreciated how willing the dogs were to stay on their side of the path and sit when their owners asked them to. Walked a little around 1.5 miles. Don’t remember much except for how different the tunnel of trees looks when it’s overcast. Darker and deeper. When it’s sunny, the light filters through the leaves and dances on the asphalt. But when it’s cloudy the greens are heavier and the air seems weighed down with water.

I listened to the poetry off the shelf podcast this morning with the delightful poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil (ne zoo koo ma tat hill). I love her poetry and what she has to say about the importance of wonderment and being jubilant:

I think there’s almost like a responsibility in some ways when the world and the news is so disgusting and so heartbreaking. I think that’s all the more reason to turn to—I ask my students, when is the last time you were in wonderment of something, when was the last time you had awe over something. And at first, the silence is deafening, you know? And they actually have to think about that and then they realize oh my gosh, it shouldn’t be taking me this long. And I keep asking them that, I keep asking them through the semester, until, you know, maybe by the fourth or fifth week they’re able to say it like right away. Or sometimes they can’t wait till class and they just email it to me like, you know, Professor Nezhukumatathil, on the sunset, I saw something called the green flash. Have you heard of it?

So I think it’s a practice. I think we forget how to be in wonderment. And I think it’s a great, I don’t know, responsibility. But also, it’s contagious. When you hear someone say, oh my gosh, I love how the silver on a silver oak is winking at me, that kind of thing, it’s hard to not notice something yourself. And then someone else will notice something and someone else will notice something.

july 9/RUNSWIM

run: 3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
dew point: 62

I’m pretty sure I wrote this entry already, earlier today, but now I can’t find it and it’s almost 9 PM and I don’t have a lot of energy to write anything else. But I’ll try. It was hot this morning but it didn’t bother me in the first mile. There was a nice breeze and it was overcast. Everything seemed fuzzy and dreamlike, out of focus. I remembered to notice the river–I saw it through the trees shimmering silver. Started feeling the heat in mile 2 but managed to keep running until 2.5 miles. There were so many cars on the river road. Must have been heading to work.

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

The forecast said rain and thunderstorms at 5:30, when open swim was supposed to begin, but it was clear with the sun promising to peek through the gray clouds. The first loop was a real challenge. My googles were fogged up and I absolutely couldn’t see any of the buoys. Not even a quick glance. Was it because the sun was gone and it was gray? Not sure, but I decided that I had to swim another loop to push through. The sun came out and suddenly I could see the buoys. Not all the time but enough of a glimpse to keep me on track. I felt strong today. No aching shoulder or sore legs. Breathing: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right. Didn’t see any fish, hear any planes, run into any other swimmers. Didn’t see any white sails or airplane sharks in the sky. Just me and the water. Wonderful.

Preface

Swimming is continuous, only the rivers are intermittent.

The river is something that happens,
like exercise or illness, to the body
on any given day
I am rivering.

Not that the river is like the body
or the river is the body
but ooooooooooo both have gone
and what is left is something else.

To not end where you thought you did,
not with skin but water
not with arms but meadow
of watercress, dropwort, floating pennywort,
against all odds to be buoyant.

To feel there is an upward force
greater than the weight of the heart
the knuckles the head to feel as in to feel
it physically push up the ribs which are bones now

everything remembering what it is
becoming is remembering
sinking in the silt is the sand
of the shell of the bone singing
in the reeds in the rushes
hordes of heartbeats not my own:

mollusc onto stone,
milfoil onto moss,
mayfly onto trout,

metal onto clay,
acid onto wire,
electrified chicken wire to keep the salmon in
the summer we’ll make a day of it,
fill the car up, make a day of it,
fill the river, make like mayflies

in the summer, swim
in traffic, swim in the car
in the river in the summer in the city
in the chicken in the acid in the salmon in the rain
in the silt in the sulphur in the algae in the day we’ll come
and part as friends

in the day in the river in the moss in the rushes we’ll come and part

in the river in the heather in the rushes in the rain we’ll stay and the day and the day
and the days dart over and summer is over
us salmon leap over
us all come apart
in the end
of the day
and the river.

july 7/BIKESWIM

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

Sunday mornings are always hard to sight with the sun in my eyes as I swim towards the smaller beach. It was supposed to be cloudy but instead there was bright sun. I swam without really seeing anything and I didn’t panic. Strange to be getting so used to swimming blind. My breathing pattern: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe left. I like staying under the water longer. Oh, to be a fish for a few minutes!

bike: 12 miles
twins’ stadium and back

Biked to the game. Didn’t feel too bad. I am still not changing gears, even on the big hills. Why not? Not sure, but it seems to be working. It doesn’t make it too hard.

july 6/RUN

3.1 miles
river road, north/lake street bridge/river road, south
70 degrees
humidity: 79%/dew point: 72

Turned left when I reached the river road. Ran past the welcoming oaks, down through the tunnel of trees, up past the old stone steps, then over the lake street bridge. Down the steps on one side of the bridge then up the other side. Back over the bridge and back towards home. Encountered many runners. Some alone, some in groups. Was passed by three rollerbladers and their coach biking behind them. In formation, arms swinging in unison. Did a lot of chanting: strawberry/strawberry/strawberry, raspberry/raspberry/raspberry, 123/456, 654/321, 12345/12345/12345. Made sure to look at the river. Saw some rowers just leaving the rowing club. Don’t remember thinking about much, except my breathing and whether or not I’d see any rowers, and when I was going to be done.

july 5/RUN

2.8 miles
two trails*
79 degrees
humidity: 79%/dew point: 69

* two trails = upper trail, near the road, paved; lower trail, below the road, above the river, dirt then crumbling asphalt then paved

Maybe because the sun wasn’t out, it didn’t seem too hot at first. But when I stopped for a quick text at the end of mile 1, I realized I was dripping with sweat. Running below for the second half was cool until the trail emerged from the trees. Then, it was hot and I was losing energy. I really need to start running earlier. Today I ran at 10 am. Encountered a few runners, walkers and roller skiers. Listened to a playlist on the upper trail, the water trickling on the lower. Also heard some kids playing way down in the gorge near the sewer pipe. No rowers or paddle boats on the river.

july 4/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 9 miles
to downtown race and back

run: 3.1 miles
red, white and boom 5K: 27:30

For the first time, Scott and I biked over to the race instead of driving. 5 miles on the river road. It would have been less but one road was closed and we had to backtrack. Not too bad. Much less stressful than driving. The race was hot and humid. I wimped out and walked a few times but finished strong, so that was okay. Gradually, I’m working to stop caring about time and not feeling bad about how much slower I am these days. Don’t remember much about the race. Started at the back so I did a lot of passing people. Weaving through the crowd doesn’t bother me most of the time. It’s a good distraction. Anything else I remember? No interesting conversations even though I wasn’t listening to headphones. Had a popsicle and a beer after the race and then slowly walked back to my bike. I’d like to try biking to a race again. Oh–saw some rowers down in the flats–that was cool. And, biked up several hills without ever changing my gear. Marveled at the beauty of the city on the 3rd Ave/Central Ave Bridge as I walked across with Scott after the race.

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My city.

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Here’s a poem I’ve tried to write about (so far, not quite successfully) for a couple of years now. So much I love about it. Today, I noticed the line, “…Raise your/heads, pals, look high,/you may see more than/you ever thought possible,” I love her use of pals here. I read it as an almost exasperated, “look pal” which I appreciate. Much better than friend.

Woman Waving to Trees
Dorothea Tanning – 1910-2012

Not that anyone would
notice it at first.
I have taken to marveling
at the trees in our park.
One thing I can tell you:
they are beautiful
and they know it.
They are also tired,
hundreds of years
stuck in one spot—
beautiful paralytics.
When I am under them,
they feel my gaze,
watch me wave my foolish
hand, and envy the joy
of being a moving target.

Loungers on the benches
begin to notice.
One to another,
“Well, you see all kinds…”
Most of them sit looking
down at nothing as if there
was truly nothing else to
look at until there is
that woman waving up
to the branching boughs
of these old trees. Raise your
heads, pals, look high,
you may see more than
you ever thought possible,
up where something might
be waving back, to tell her
she has seen the marvelous.

july 3/BIKE

14 miles
5k packet pick-up and back
85 degrees

A great bike ride! Biked to St. Paul on a dedicated path, then a dedicated bike lane, then the pothole-filled road to Summit Brewery to pick up my race bib for tomorrow’s 5k race. Then, took a bike path all the way back. Stopped at the Confluence, where the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers meet. Then checked out the fake falls near hidden falls which was actually a gushing storm drain. Ended at Minnehaha Falls where Scott and I ate at Sea Salt for the first time this year. I got thai red curry with shrimp and pineapple which was awesome.

While I’ve never been a hardcore biker, I’m extra chill these days. In fact, even though I have 12 or 15 gears or something like that on my road bike, I did not shift gears once. Not even when we were climbing the super steep, never-ending hill on Montreal. I guess I should, but it’s just easier to stay in the same gear and I don’t really care. I’m just happy that my vision is good enough that I can still bike.

Read this poem on poem of the day (poets.org) and loved it even though I don’t love cats.

For Katy
Rodney Jones – 1950-

When Milo was a kitten
and spent the night
with us in the big bed,
curled like a brown sock
at our feet, he would
wake before daybreak,
squeak plaintively
in his best Burmese,
cat-castrato soprano,
and make bread on our stomachs
until if one of us did not rise,
sleep-walk to the kitchen
and open his can of food,
he would steal under the covers,
crouch, run hard at us,
jam his head
in our armpits,
and burrow fiercely.

Probably he meant nothing by that.
Or he meant it in cat-contrary,
just as he did not intend
drawing blood the day
he bolted out the door
and was wild again
for nearly three hours.
I could not catch him
until I knelt, wormed
into the crawl-space
under a neighbor house
and lured him home
with bits of dried fish.

Or he meant exactly what he smelled,
and smelled the future
as it transmogrified out of the past,
for he is, if not an olfactory
clairvoyant,
a highly nuanced cat—
an undoer of complicated knots,
who tricks cabinets,
who lives to upend tall
glasses of Merlot.
With his whole body,
he has censored the finest passages of Moby-Dick.
He has silenced Beethoven with one paw.
He has leapt three and a half feet
from the table by the wall
and pulled down
your favorite print by Miró.
He does not know the word no.

When you asked the vet what
kind of cat it was, she went
into the next room
came back and said,
“Havana Brown.”

The yellow eyes, the voice,
the live spirit that plays into dead seriousness
and will not be punished into goodness,
but no—

an ancient, nameless breed—

mink he says and I answer in cat.
Even if I was not
born in a dumpster
between a moldy cabbage
and an expired loaf of bread,
I too was rescued by an extravagant woman.

july 2/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
railroad trestle turn around
73 degrees
humidity: 85%

Hot and humid and sticky and soaking. Had to stop and walk a little. Encountered the Daily Walker while I was walking and he called out, “it’s so humid!” Like yesterday, didn’t see the river. Too distracted by heat and sweat and my audio book, Dead Man’s Folly. The first Agatha Christie that I’m listening to that I don’t already know who did it. I have some ideas though….Anything else I remember from the run? Encountered a big group of camp kids biking somewhere–all single file on the bike path in their bright yellow vests. The other day, I encountered another group of camp kids biking. Not sure how old they were–maybe 10 or so? One of the kids called out to the other, “you’re a fucking asshole!” The swearing didn’t bother me, but it always sounds jarring to hear a young kid yelling those words. Why? Not totally sure. Anything else I remember? My left leg felt a bit tight or sore or something.

This poem! So delightful to read and listen to:

While Waiting for the Bus/Eliot Khalil Wilson

Under the eaves of the gas-mart—swallows
fall into the day, wheel before the headless
grooms of the formal wear shop, angle low
as my shoes, then comet up, sheer, careless
of traffic, all that is grounded or down.
A flight of leaf-blown cursives, blue coats
over dashing white, the red-rift of dawn
painted upon their crowns and busy throats.
I must learn to keep them with me, to hold,
somehow, their accomplished joy when I’m gone
to the city where I am mostly old
and their song, under the noise of hours, is done.
But now, auto exhaust cripples the air
as my grey somnambulant bus draws near.

Some things I love about this poem: swallows falling into the day, headless grooms of the formal wear shop, a flight of leaf-blown cursives, dawn painted upon, the noise of hours, auto exhaust crippling the air.

Also wanted to include a poem by William Carlos Williams. There’s a thing (is this called a meme?) on twitter right now in which poets finish the statement, “If I hit x number of followers this year, I’ll start a lit journal called …” I liked this one: If I hit 3,500 followers this year I’ll start a poetry journal called The Icebox Review which will exclusively publish parodies of “This Is Just to Say.” Of course, I had to look up the poem. It sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure.

This Is Just To Say/William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I like this poem but I’m not sure what makes it a poem, which seems to be my feeling about most of the poems I’ve read by Williams. Do I need to know it’s a poem to like it as a poem? I don’t think so. I just found a great anti-analysis to the poem on the great site, Eat This Poem: “THIS IS JUST TO SAY” BY WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS + INA’S PLUM TATIN I love this idea of resisting analysis while still deeply (critically and creatively) engaging with the poems. So delightfully undisciplined!

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: 1.35 miles
lake nokomis

What a wonderful swim (even if it was really crowded and the lifeguards were too close to the buoys)! Thing I remember most was the weird water and how it was cold then warm then cold again. Quick flashes of freezing water combined with luke warm bath water. I’ve experienced this before but never to this extreme. I think I preferred the cold water. I don’t mind swimming in cold water. I’d like to work on descriptions of this phenomenon. Maybe a whole poem?

The other thing I realized as I was focused on the buoy and almost ran into the lifeguard’s kayak: if I am focusing on one object, other objects disappear. It’s not just that I’m not paying attention to them so they seem like they’re not there. It’s that they literally aren’t there in my messed up vision with my chaotic cones and confused brain. I need to remember this and try to compensate for it, but it’s hard.

july 1/RUN

3 miles
river road path, north/south
70 degrees
humidity: 92%

Ran in the rain, or at least a drizzle that I hardly noticed because of all the sweat already on my skin. Felt pretty good for the first mile but then started to tire. Why is running so hard these days? Is it just the heat and the humidity? Am I running too fast? Listened to a birthday playlist from last year, so I hardly noticed anything. The tunnel of trees was dark and damp and green. I bet the parks department will be coming soon to trim back the vines. Pretty sure I didn’t even get a glimpse of the river. Too busy avoiding rain soaked branching blocking the path.

june 29/RUN

3.2 miles
austin, mn
79 degrees
humidity: 79%

A very hot and sunny run for my birthday. Ugh! I do not handle the heat very well. So much sweating. I guess I need to start getting up much earlier for my runs, or figure out ways to handle the heat. I ran loops around the park right by Scott’s parent’s house. 2 loops = 1 mile. Listened to a playlist to distract myself. Don’t remember much. Enjoying the brief shade and the occasional breeze. Not smelling anything. My legs feeling tired. Admiring the big, beautiful blue spruces. Hearing a dog bark. Noticing a box or a bag or a bin in the outfield.

The Month of June: 13 1/2
BY SHARON OLDS

As our daughter approaches graduation and
puberty at the same time, at her
own, calm, deliberate, serious rate,
she begins to kick up her heels, jazz out her
hands, thrust out her hipbones, chant
I’m great! I’m great! She feels 8th grade coming
open around her, a chrysalis cracking and
letting her out, it falls behind her and
joins the other husks on the ground,
7th grade, 6th grade, the
magenta rind of 5th grade, the
hard jacket of 4th when she had so much pain,
3rd grade, 2nd, the dim cocoon of
1st grade back there somewhere on the path, and
kindergarten like a strip of thumb-suck blanket
taken from the actual blanket they wrapped her in at birth.
The whole school is coming off her shoulders like a
cloak unclasped, and she dances forth in her
jerky sexy child’s joke dance of
self, self, her throat tight and a
hard new song coming out of it, while her
two dark eyes shine
above her body like a good mother and a
good father who look down and
love everything their baby does, the way she
lives their love.

I love this poem. I love how she describes this experience of being liberated from middle school and elementary school. I have a 13 year old daughter and I’d like to imagine her feeling this way when she finishes 8th grade next year.

june 28/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
70 degrees
76% humidity

Ran with Scott in his hometown this morning. Ran an easy mile to the high school track, then ran 3/4 of a mile around it, then kept running to the coffee place. My legs felt tired and not that fast but it was still fun. I’m thinking about heading there again tomorrow and trying to run a little faster. I think I’ve run around an outdoor track maybe 3 or 4 times in my whole life.

No Apology: A Poemifesto
by Carmen Smith Giménez

Isn’t there a line by Yusef Komunyakaa, “I apologize for the eyes in my head.” Maybe what I am trying to say is that I apologize for the sight in my eyes.
—Susan Briante

I would love to make a proposal, and it is out of love,
not patronizing love but true revolutionary love, and it won’t
upset the orbit tomorrow. So here’s where I’d like
to begin, and this might be the hardest thing you’ve tried to do,
or maybe you already do it and I’m grateful for you
because you’ve inspired me. I know it’s the hardest thing
for me because I haven’t done it consistently (not at all, sorry),
but I want to recommend that we stop apologizing.
Today I counted and I said I’m sorry approximately 22 times.
I apologized for my setting my stuff down on the counter at the Krogers.
I apologized for being behind someone at a copy machine.
I apologized for someone else bumping into a stranger.
I apologized for taking longer than a minute to explain an idea.
Suffice it to say I am sorry all the time.
I won’t tell you what to do because that makes me
an implicit solicitor of sorry. Personally,
when the word comes into my mouth, I’m going to shape it into
a seed to plant in another woman’s aura as love. I only ask
that we get started. This will be our first step in world domination.

june 27/RUN

3.2 miles
railroad trestle turn around
74 degrees
humidity: 68%, dew point: 60+

Sticky this morning. Storm coming. Right before I left the house, I ate a fig newton. Instant energy for the first mile. Maybe if I had eaten more or brought some with me to eat as I ran, I could have had that much energy for the entire run, but I didn’t. Listened to a playlist titled “Summer 2014” and briefly thought about how when I made this playlist, I had been running 3 years already and my mom had been dead for 5 years. Greeted the Daily Walker twice–once with a quick wave as I passed him from behind, once with a quick “good morning” as I ran towards him on the way back from the trestle. The gorge was pretty today. When I reached the tunnel of trees–the part of the path I have been writing about for the past week–I noticed how the trail dips down right after the old stone steps into a small stand of trees, then slightly up again in a clearing, then down again to the bottom of the tunnel. It was dark in the tunnel today, with the rain coming soon, and I couldn’t see the light at the end until the path had twisted and climbed a little. Then, there it was, a slash of sky.

[For a few days: frost]/jehanne subrow

For a few days: frost
remakes the lawn as frozen spines.
I’m stepping on small bones.
In these outlying parts
streets are named Whispering or Leaf.
I’m leashed to a small companion
who leads me from one message to another,
squats in the grass, rubs
against a hydrant’s iron neck.
I’m bundled in feathers,
the downy air, to prove
what breed of animal I am.

I love this poem. Her description of frost as spines and walking on frosted grass as stepping on small bones. The dog leading her from one message to another. Being bundled in feathers. I want to be able to write a poem like this.

june 26/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
74 degrees

Overcast on the way there, sunny on the way back. Hardly any wind. Not too many other bikers. A few annoying surreys on the way back. I’m very happy that I’m not having trouble seeing things–like curbs or other bikers.

swim: 1.2 miles
lake nokomis
7 loops around the white buoys

What a wonderful day for a swim! The water was so calm and I had it all to myself. Every year I intend to swim at the lake as many mornings as I can. Then I find reasons not to do it. I’m hopeful that I can remember how great this swim was today and commit to more morning swims in July. My right shoulder hurt a little but otherwise it was a peaceful, relaxing swim. Just me and the water–and a steady stream of planes in the air. Again, lots of counting: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left. No deep thoughts. Mostly, I kept thinking: sight the buoy, stay straight. Or, is that the tree line I’m seeing or a kayaker? Or, are there any fish beneath me? Or, what distance have I gone? Lots of questions, I guess. When I got out, I felt strong and sore and satisfied. Swimming in the lake is the best. I prefer swimming across the lake the most–it’s more interesting and challenging–but swimming off the big beach is cool too.

Theory of Writing
Souvankham Thammavongsa

We all know two plus two equals four
And we begin with that. We learn to add
Before we learn how to take away, to lose.
It’s a great way to learn how to write. To
Have a formula, a line to follow. Before
We know what adding means, we have to
Know what two means. What two and two
Mean together. There are many ways to get to
Four. Five subtract one is equal to four.
One times four is equal to four. The square
Root of sixteen is four. A square root
Is a number that looks exactly like it, multiplied
By itself. Four divided by one also equals
Four. Four to the power of one is equal to four too.
We can get there through a derivative, if
That’s how you want it. The square of the
Hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares
Of the other two sides can also get you to four.
There are so many ways to get to four.
Once all these other ways of getting
To four is understood, it’s not really four
You’re after. Anyone can get to four. And
You know this. Maybe it’s the certainty of
Four. That you can always get to it. That it will
Always turn out the same. Maybe that’s what
You want. The certainty of four. Or maybe
It’s the ways in which you know how
To get to four that is the point of writing.
What you had to learn and build, the time it took
To hold open the possibility for yourself.

june 25/RUNBIKESWIMBIKE

3 miles
river road, south/lower path, north
68 degrees

Sun! Breeze! Low humidity! Strong legs and a good attitude. A nice run. Listened to my playlist for the first half, running on the river road path next to the road and another split rail fence. Next time I run this, I should count how many times the walking and biking paths diverge. Ran to the 44th street parking lot, just before the double bridge, and then turned down to the lower path. Took off my headphones and heard some trickling water and the rowers. I tried to look quickly at the river but I couldn’t see the rowers. I only heard the coxswain calmly directing them. Don’t remember much else about the run except encountering a bunch of dogs and their humans in the tunnel of trees. Oh–and so many cars on the road this morning! Was there a road closure? Was it the time that I was running? Something else?

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back

swim: .5 miles
lake nokomis

Open Swim was cancelled tonight because of high wind, which was very strange. They’ve never cancelled due to high wind before. I am trying not to worry too much about it all, but this is the third session in a row that has had problems–last Tuesday it was cancelled because of the threat of rain even though their policy has always been that you can swim in the rain, just not thunder, and Sunday started 30 minutes late. Open Swim is one of my favorite things and I would very upset if it stopped happening.

june 24/RUNSWIM

4.1 miles
river road path, north/south
66 degrees
humidity: 78%

What a great run! Partly because I felt good, but mostly because I was able to hold onto some thoughts about my poetry and then, 2 miles in, had a breakthrough about my larger goals in writing and how they connect with my earlier intellectual work. I had planned to run 4 miles without stopping but when the idea came to me I decided I should stop at 3 miles and record my thoughts on my phone. I did and then ran another mile. When I stopped the second time, I recorded a few more thoughts into my phone.

Here’s the transcript:

My poetry comes out of decades of work on an ethics of care and curiosity…a pedagogy and poetics of care…fundamental to the care is both the disrupting of knowing and vision and the posing of alternatives, other senses, other motivations for caring and curiosity. Not to know and to dominate but to feel and experience and that connects in with my vision problems and my earnest efforts to both explore the alternatives and to play and trouble the idea of knowing anything with my vision which often leaves me ignorant or produces fantastical or unreal images. That is what this project is all about, it is undergirded by this poetics and pedagogy and ethics of care as paying attention, being aware, being curious.

I’m interested in how our senses get disrupted and this ability to know becomes impossible or distorted through cone dystrophy or through running or swimming of walking or moving. How this impacts what we feel and know and what we can know, how we know it. And some of this exposes the inability to ever really know or the undesirability of striving to know, but it also opens up new ways of knowing and thinking and being that breathe and move.

Cool. I need to work on this stuff some more, but it’s a good start!

This morning it’s overcast. Rain is coming. Thunderstorms this afternoon. Everything is dark and green and out of focus. Soft, not sharp. Fuzzy. Saw several people parking under the lake street bridge and walking down the road to the rowing club. Will I get to hear some rowers on the river? (No.) Caught glimpses of the river through the trees. With all the green up above, you could run miles on this trail and forget that the river was below. Was able to greet the Daily Walker. Encountered a few dogs and their humans. No man in black–does he walk earlier in the summer? Or is he on vacation? Encountered several runners, one flashed a big smile as a greeting. Running by the construction site for Minnehaha Academy, upper campus, I thought about when the old building exploded 2, or was it 3?, years ago.

The Rules
Leila Chatti

There will be no stars—the poem has had enough of them. I think we can agree
we no longer believe there is anyone in any poem who is just now realizing

they are dead, so let’s stop talking about it. The skies of this poem
are teeming with winged things, and not a single innominate bird.

You’re welcome. Here, no monarchs, no moths, no cicadas doing whatever
they do in the trees. If this poem is in summer, punctuating the blue—forgive me,

I forgot, there is no blue in this poem—you’ll find the occasional
pelecinid wasp, proposals vaporized and exorbitant, angels looking

as they should. If winter, unsentimental sleet. This poem does not take place
at dawn or dusk or noon or the witching hour or the crescendoing moment

of our own remarkable birth, it is 2:53 in this poem, a Tuesday, and everyone in it is still
at work. This poem has no children; it is trying

to be taken seriously. This poem has no shards, no kittens, no myths or fairy tales,
no pomegranates or rainbows, no ex-boyfriends or manifest lovers, no mothers—God,

no mothers—no God, about which the poem must admit
it’s relieved, there is no heart in this poem, no bodily secretions, no body

referred to as the body, no one
dies or is dead in this poem, everyone in this poem is alive and pretty

okay with it. This poem will not use the word beautiful for it resists
calling a thing what it is. So what

if I’d like to tell you how I walked last night, glad, truly glad, for the first time
in a year, to be breathing, in the cold dark, to see them. The stars, I mean. Oh hell, before

something stops me—I nearly wept on the sidewalk at the sight of them all.

I love this poem. Unsentimental sleet? So great.

swim: .68 miles
1200 yards/4 small loops
big beach, lake nokomis

Went swimming at the big beach this afternoon while Scott ran around the lake. Cold(er) and windy but still great. I love swimming gin the lake. As always, a little unsettled, wondering what fish are swimming below me. It was only 70 degrees with a few random showers, so I had the lake to myself, except for a few kayakers and paddle boarders.

june 24/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 4.25 miles
to lake nokomis

Biked over early to open swim. Wasn’t sure when (or if) the thunderstorms would start. As I began, it began drizzling (or spitting as I like to say to my daughter). Not too many people biking on the trail. More runners trying to beat the storms. A nice, easy ride with no vision problems even though it was really gray and my sunglasses made it look even grayer.

swim: 1.6 miles
lake nokomis
68 degrees/drizzling

Wore my wetsuit which was much harder to get on with all the humidity. Spent a few minutes trying to get it zipped up before I finally managed it. Got in early and did 4 loops (.75 miles) off the big beach. The lifeguards were 30 minutes late setting up the course. Once the course was open, I did a loop + an extra trip around the first buoy. The water was wonderfully smooth. The buoys were easier than usual to see. A great swim. I was wiped out when I was done, which felt good. Thought about doing another loop but I wasn’t sure when it might start storming and I still had to bike home–of course, 1 1/2 hours later it still hasn’t stormed. I don’t remember thinking about much while I swam. Mostly I counted: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left, or 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe left. I like counting. It’s relaxing and distracting. Didn’t see any fish but I did see one duck. No boats. I didn’t hear any planes. Didn’t run into anyone. No kayaks off course. Saw some bright pink, bright yellow, glowing green buoys tethered to swimmers. Most swimmers were wearing wetsuits.

bike: 4.25 miles
back home from lake nokomis

Couldn’t stop smiling on my bike ride back. Happy to have missed the thunder/rain. Happy to have had a good workout. To be in the wonderful water. To see the buoys and not get off course. To bike without the fear of running into someone or the curb.

Right before I started swimming, it began to rain. Soft, slow, steady drops for only a few minutes. I love rain on the lake–what it does to the air hovering above the water, what it does to the water hovering below the air. I searched for “rain on the lake” at the Poetry Foundation site and found this lovely poem:

Song
BY LLOYD SCHWARTZ

rain on the lake
room at the lodge
alone in a room
in the lazy light

loons on the lake
geese in the air
moose in the woods
aware    awake

a cry dislodged
from the musty woods
the gamy musk
of the one aroused

the roaming moose
the rooms lit up
the woods awake
in the loony light

the moon dislodged
the lake aflame
the Muse amazed
amused     aroused

june 22/RUN

3.1 miles
river road path above, south/below, north
65 degrees

What a beautiful morning! Not too hot or humid or windy or sunny. Didn’t listen to music or an audio book or the gorge–except I did hear the coxswain’s bullhorn, a man’s voice today. Ran on the path next to the road on the way to the falls then turned at the double bridge parking lot (44th) and ran below, on the path that starts as dirt then mulched leaves then uneven, barely intact asphalt then newer asphalt. This path undulates, climbing up by 42nd, then down, up by Folwell, then down, then mostly flat until the steps at 38th street. You can take these up and run by the road again or take your chances running down on the dirt path of the Winchell Trail–usually there’s a muddy, mucky spot halfway to the bottom of the Oak Savanna and then too many wildflowers crowding out the already narrow path. Sometimes I take my chances, today I climbed the steps and then kept going past the turn-off and down through the tunnel of trees. Felt pretty good and was happy to run 3 miles without stopping to walk. I like trail running. Sometime this summer I’ll have to convince Scott to run the limestone trail at Pike Island near Fort Snelling.

Tried to think about my writing goals and what I want to do with my vision poetry, but couldn’t hold on to any thoughts.

I really like the storytelling in this poem and the light, easy way it packs so much into a story about sitting around in doughnut pajamas on your 39th birthday.

Lounging on the Couch on my 39th Birthday in Pink Flannel Donut Pajamas/Julie Danho

Surely birds would love to peck
at the dozens of donuts adorning
my arms and legs: the glazed, the jellied,
the vanilla frosted scalloped at the edges
like the worn lace tablecloth in Sito’s
tenement apartment where my mother
father sister aunts uncles cousins
would cram in Sundays, post church,
and I’d eat the frosting off two, return
the bottoms to the box while Sito frowned
and Gido insisted I should disfigure
as many donuts as made me happy. After
he died, she pulled the walls around her
like an afghan and didn’t leave. Sundays,
when I delivered the church bulletin
to her recliner, she’d clasp my face
in both hands, grateful. It’s been decades
since I sat in a pew, but I brought my mother
to the last church hafla, where she won
these pajamas instead of what she wanted
(the platter of walnut baklawa). And maybe
I’ve lived too long to be lounging in pink
flannel donut pajamas, but I love how they
rub against my legs like a cat’s head,
love that someone spent time dreaming up
improbable donuts, like this one here
frosted blue-green, then crosshatched
with piped white stripes, topped with pink
and red sprinkles, a sugared inner tube
floating the middle. How can’t I be hungry?
In the next room, my birthday cake sits
on Sito’s old table, mine since the day
we emptied her apartment and I opened
dresser drawer after dresser drawer to find
hundreds of crocheted dishcloths, stacked
as neatly as cash for a ransom. We knew
she must have made them in her recliner
by the window on those days none of us
were there. It’s almost noon and I’m still
in pajamas, waiting for my daughter
and husband to march into the room
and play me the birthday song they wrote,
her on toy guitar, him on mandolin. I hear
them practicing and it’s so sweet my teeth
ache. Sito, was it once like this for you?

june 21/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
67 degrees

Decided to run the Franklin loop, which I haven’t done in a while. Felt cooler this morning because it was cloudy and breezy. Proud of myself for making it 4.2 miles before stopping to walk for a few minutes. At some point, on the way to the Franklin bridge, I heard the rowers–or at least the bullhorn of the coxswain, so I paused my audio book, took off my headphones and listened. Tried to see the rowers while running across the bridge, but they were gone. Heard some trickling water on the east side of the river and noticed that the Meeker Island dog park was still closed. Still flooded or flooded again? Walked over the Lake Street bridge and stopped at the overlook to admire the deep gray water. Looked at the west shore and couldn’t tell if I was seeing a person or a plant. Looked at my watch at the bottom of the final hill, the one that climbs up through the tunnel of trees and ends by the two ancient boulders, to figure out the distance of this climb: .2 miles. Thought about how the trees seem thicker and the need to be out of the tunnel and in the open air much greater when you’re climbing up the slight hill then running down it. I should try to incorporate that idea into my haibun about the place.

13 Lines about Walls —Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton

Frost: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
Joyce: and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall.
A wallflower, I peeked at Mr. Popular leaning against a brick wall.
Wallowing, I wept for Ms. Popular as if desire were a wall-
paper pattern Charlotte Perkins Gilman traced decades before Stonewall.
What? Have we all become proverbial balls to some caterwauling wall
of fake news? After each hurricane, I replace the drywall
as if any wall stands a chance against nature. What’s a wall
but a makeshift “fuck you,” waves walloping the seawall
like walleyes bent on survival. Some walls are metaphorical walls
in the mind of a tyrant who promises a nation concrete walls.
Cavafy: Ah why did I not pay attention when they were building the walls?
Emerson: Murder will speak out of stone walls.

june 20/RUN

1.7 miles
mississippi river road, north/33rd/Edmond/35th
65 degrees
humidity: 84%

Was supposed to have open swim today but it rained and there was a threat of more severe weather so it was cancelled. Big bummer. Decided to do a quick run instead. Listened to my playlist and had fun running faster–or at least feeling like I was running faster. It was darker in the tunnel of trees below the road and dripping with the soft, steady drizzle that had just stopped. Can’t remember if I saw anyone else while I was running. I think I did, or am I remembering another run? I know for sure that I got bit by a few mosquitoes. It’s that buggy time of year.

Speaking of mosquitoes, here are two poems I found on the subject:

[mosquito at my ear]
BY KOBAYASHI ISSA
TRANSLATED BY ROBERT HASS

Mosquito at my ear—
does he think
I’m deaf?

Mosquito
Myronn Hardy

She visits me when the lights are out,
when the sun is loving another
part of the world.

She passes through the net I sleep under like
a cloud its holes are easily navigable.

Her buzzing tells me that
she doesn’t want my legs arms cheeks
or chest.

No.

She craves adventure wanting to travel through
the dark canal the spiraling cave
where earthquakes are wind.

Her prize is in sight the gelatinous mass controlling this machine.
How beautiful she thinks it is her needle mouth
filling with water.

Her children will know physics geometry will understand
English Spanish perhaps Portuguese. They will be
haunted their whole lives by trees guns
and a boom that won’t cease.

She cries before drinking the fluid is
salty-sweet. Oh if my mother had
done this for me I would have lived.

june 19/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
70 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Not too hot or humid or windy. Ran towards downtown, past the welcoming oaks, the two ancient boulders left behind from the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the path above the floodplain forest. Under lake street bridge, up above the minneapolis rowing club, under the railroad bridge, along the split rail fence for 2 miles until I reached a dirt path that cut down through some trees to another dirt path. Walked for 1/2 a mile back towards the railroad bridge, climbed some steep wooden stairs that reminded me that my right knee was sore, then ran back on the paved path to the 36th street parking lot and home.

Nearing the railroad bridge I heard a honk. A truck on the other side? A big boat on the river? No, a train! I wondered if it was coming or going and if I’d be able to see it when I reached the bridge. With all the trees, it’s hard to see the top of the bridge until you’re almost right under it. When I got there, a train engine! Only the engine so my timing was lucky. Any sooner or later and I would have missed it. I think this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a train on the trestle. Will I ever see one again? Mundane I guess, but really cool to me.

The dirt path below the split rail fence was mud free and mostly bug free. Much steeper than some of the paths further south. In a few stretches, there was a chain link fence, leaning out. Another stretch had a plastic, make-shift fence. One small section, right above a sewer pipe, had a wrought iron fence. As I reached it, I could hear voices up above and water trickling below. Next time I’d like to run this stretch. I had planned to walk the short part that passes under the trestle and then take the steep stone steps up but didn’t. I was nervous that someone might be down there. Maybe next time? I always struggle to find a balance between being too scared and being safe.

In 2002, Alice Oswald published a book-length poem about the River Dart in south west England–in Devon. She took a tape recorder and interviewed people she encountered on the river. Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt:

Dart/Alice Oswald

The Dart, lying low in darkness calls out Who is it?
trying to summon itself by speaking…

the walker replies

An old man, fifty years a mountaineer, until my heart gave out, so now I’ve taken to the moors.
I’ve done all the walks, the Two Moors Way, the Tors, this long winding line the Dart

this secret buried in reeds at the beginning of sound I
won’t let go of man, under
his soakaway ears and his eye ledges working
into the drift of his thinking, wanting his heart

I keep you folded in my mack pocket and I’ve marked in red where the peat passes are and the
good sheep tracks

cow-bones, tin-stones, turf-cuts
listen to the horrible keep-time of a man walking,
rustling and jingling his keys
at the centre of his own noise,
clomping the silence in pieces and I,
in the pit of his throat, I
summon him just out of earshot

I don’t know, all I know is walking. Get dropped off the military track from Oakehampton and
head down into Cranmere pool. It’s dawn, it’s a huge sphagnum kind of wilderness, and an hour
in the morning is worth three in the evening. You can hear plovers whistling, your feet sink right
in, it’s like walking on the bottom of a lake.

What I love is one foot in front of another. South south west and down the contours. I go slipping
between Black Ridge and White Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out.

Listen,
a
lark
spinning
around
one
note
splitting
and
mending
it

and I find you in the reeds, a trickle coming out of a bank, a foal of a river

one step-width water
of linked stones
trills in the stones
glides in the trills
eels in the glides
in each eel a fingerwidth of sea

in walking boots, with twenty pounds on my back: spare socks, compass, map, water purifier so I
can drink from streams, seeing the cold floating spread out above the morning,

tent, torch, chocolate not much else.

Which’ll make it longish, almost unbearable between my evening meal and sleeping, when I’ve
got as far as stopping, sitting in the tent door with no book, no saucepan, not so much as a stick
to support the loneliness

he sits clasping his knees, holding his face low down between them,
he watches black slugs,
he makes a little den of his smells and small thoughts
he thinks up a figure far away on the tors
waving, so if something does happen,
if night comes down and he has to leave the path
then we’ve seen each other, somebody knows where we are.

june 18/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

The bike ride to the lake is only 4.25 miles and only takes 20 minutes but it seems much longer. I think it’s because of all the different places I bike by: south on the river road, through the crowded minnehaha falls, by the Dairy Queen, over the mustache bridge, on the creek path, close to lake hiawatha, up the hill, then around lake nokomis. I didn’t have any problems with my vision today as I biked. Nice! I should make sure to bike more this summer while I can still see. The bike ride back, after my swim, was good too. I just barely missed getting stuck in the narrow bike part of the double bridge at 44th street with a surrey.

swim: 2 miles/3 loops
lake nokomis
75 degrees

What a great night for a swim! Not too much wind so the water was calm. The buoys were positioned well. I could barely see them on the way back but there were enough people around to see the way and I could always see the top of the building at the big beach. My sighting is good this year, which is such a relief. Lot of swimmers because it was free night–first timers preparing for their first triathlons. Heard lots of people calling out, “I can do this” or “I’m swimming in 3-2-1….I mean it this time…3-2-1….okay, here I go.” Didn’t have too many run-ins (or swim-ins?) with other swimmers–I fear I might have routed a few. I was tired by the end. Breathed every five or five on the right side, 3 on the left. Or five then six. Didn’t see any fish or ducks. One sailboat before open swim started. Heard lots of planes roaring overhead. Got to the lake almost an hour early so I sat on the beach and listened. Heard people talking, dogs barking, and a swing rhythmically creaking. As it went up it sounded like Rs rolling. On the way down: mmmwwwooowww. Over and over again.

Just looked at my notes and saw that I wrote down swarming bugs. Little gnats dancing around, flying in my face. A few years ago, Scott looked it up and discovered that they’re not swarming but mating.

Just read that Joy Harjo will be the next US Poet Laureate. So cool! In honor of her, here’s one of her poems:

Ah, Ah
BY JOY HARJO
for Lurline McGregor

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.

Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.

Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.

Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.

Ah, ah tattoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.

Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.

Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

june 17/RUN

3 miles
austin, mn
65 degrees
humidity: 76%

Ran with Scott in Austin. My legs felt weird at the beginning, heavy at the end. No hot sun or humidity. Nice. Don’t remember much except feeling really tired around 2.6 miles and wanting to stop and walk (we didn’t). Later in the day, we decided to walk some more. An extra 5+ miles. We were both sore by the end.

june 16/SWIM

1.38 miles/2 loops
lake nokomis
61 degrees (air) 70 degrees (water)

The air was colder than the water. Wetsuit weather. The light was strange and the buoys were hard to see–only 2 of them today, but I did fine. I could see just enough to not get off course. Just barely glimpsed the bottom of the rowboat at the little beach, overturned under the lifeguard stand, and the top of the lifeguard building at the big beach. I felt buoyant, floating on top of the water. My back hurt a little. Didn’t see any fish or ducks or sail boats. I don’t think I heard any airplanes. Didn’t run into any swimmers. No weeds floating in my face. What did I think about? Mostly, I hoped my back wound’t hurt and my leg wouldn’t cramp up or the buoy wouldn’t disappear or I wouldn’t end up way off course. I only did 2 loops but I was tired at the end. Now my body burns, a glowing, welcome ache.

june 15/RUN

3.5 miles
river road path, north/south
63 degrees
87% humidity/dew point: 61

Even though the humidity and dew point were high, this run wasn’t miserable. It helped that it was only 63 degrees. Ran a little faster than I realized. Spent a lot of time trying to slow down my breathing with chanting: “strawberry/yogurt” in 2 3/out 2. Couldn’t see the river or hear any rowers. Greeted other runners. Didn’t see any roller skiers or rollerbladers or many bikers. No dogs. No squirrels. Only one large-ish group of runners. Thought a lot about the stretch of the trail (my favorite part, which dips below the road) that I’m writing at least 2 haibuns about. I’ve written one about descending into it already. The second one is about ascending. After stopping to study it, I’ve realized that the season for the haibun is late August, when the trees are thick with leaves and heavy with trapped humidity/insects. When you can’t see the river or the road or the forest because of all of the green.

Almost forgot–a bug flew on my face and then into my mouth mid-run. I was able to spit it out, which was gross. At least I didn’t gag on it, like I have in the past. Yuck!

Summer/Ronald Johnson (1967)
excerpt

2
What the Earth Told Me

No surface is allowed to be bare,

& nothing to stand still. A man could forever study a pebble

& at last see dilations & expansions of the hills—

to pull the most slender stalk, is to jostle the stars,

& between the bearded grass

& man ‘looking in the vegatable glass

of Nature’, is a network of roots & suckers

fine as hairs.

I threw a stone upon a pond

& it bounded the surface, its circles interlacing

& radiating out to the most ephemeral edge.

Flint & Mica, Lichened Limestone, Shale & Sarcens, Sandstone, Soil.

I saw the wind moving on a meadow

& the meadows moving under wind—

lifting, settling & accumulating.

Flint & Mica, Lichened Limestone,

Shale & Sarcens, Sandstone, Soil.

3
What the Air Told Me

It is breathed into Orpheus’ lyre & as rocks & trees & beasts

is divided there. Its origins strain

precedes the sound, by as much as echoes follow after:

the quivering of ‘cow-quake’, a ‘loud audible

humming of bees on the down’, stresses within the sustaining earth,

clouds of fleece & mare’s tail.

I saw with single eye, the facet of the fly—

the infinitesimal mechanics & all the metallic sheens

of a blue-bottle. In a land where the sun grows fat on cloud

& summer hasn’t come

till your foot can cover twenty daisies,

she came to the dark, open beak

& laid a myriad of eggs. And in two day’s time the dead

bird’s body simulated life: maggots in eye-socket &

under feather, in a subtle movement.

The White & The Glistening.

4
What the Leaf Told Me

Today I saw the word written on the poplar leaves.

It was ‘dazzle’. The dazzle of the poplars.

As a leaf startles out

from an undifferentiated mass of foliage,

so the word did from a leaf—

A Mirage Of The Delicate Polyglot

inventing itself as cipher. But this, in shifts & gyrations,

grew in brightness, so bright

the massy poplars soon outshone the sun . . .

‘My light—my dews—my breezes—my bloom’. Reflections

In A Wren’s Eye.

june 13/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 2.25 miles
river road up above, south/down below, north
63 degrees

So beautiful this morning! Sunny, calm, cool, low humidity. Decided to do a quick, easy run. Stayed up above, next to the road running south and took the lower, rougher trail on the way back, running north. Noticed the boulders and the split trail fence that stretched alongside the walking path up above. Heard some yelling, laughing kids at a school. Running back, on the lower path, I payed attention to the wrought iron fence and how bushes and vines and wildflowers were reaching through the bars. Will this be trimmed back anytime soon and who will do it, volunteers or the parks department?

bike: 4.3 miles
lake nokomis

Biking by Minnehaha Falls park the parkway was so crowded. Very happy to be on a bike and not in a car! Also, noticed as I turned onto the lake biking path that the flooding is over and the walking path is open again. All that’s left is a mucky mess.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis
70 degrees (air and water)

A great second open swim at lake nokomis. Decided that 2 loops with one extra trip around the first buoy (an extra 200 yards) was enough. Cold in the water without a wetsuit. The water felt very thick and slow at the beginning–extra dense, which is strange because I think that’s supposed to happen when the water is warmer. Couldn’t really see the buoys at all on the way back because of the sun but it didn’t matter because I could see the tops of the building at the big beach. Saw several swimmers swimming way off course and realized that I swim straighter than a lot of people who can see much better than me. Coolest thing I remember: watching the bubbles from my hand slicing into the water make funky shapes and lines.

Looking for a poem about lakes, I found this one. I like the idea of wind and the sound of wind being two separate things and the soft, simple way this poem reveals itself–oh and the line: “these creatures robed/in your parents’ skins.”

At the Lake House
BY JON LOOMIS

Wind and the sound of wind—
across the bay a chainsaw revs
and stalls. I’ve come here to write,

but instead I’ve been thinking
about my father, who, in his last year,
after his surgery, told my mother

he wasn’t sorry—that he’d cried
when the other woman left him,
that his time with her

had made him happier than anything
he’d ever done. And my mother,
who’d cooked and cleaned for him

all those years, cared for him
after his heart attack, could not
understand why he liked the other

woman more than her,
but he did. And she told me
that after he died she never went

to visit his grave—not once.
You think you know them,
these creatures robed

in your parents’ skins. Well,
you don’t. Any more than you know
what the pines want from the wind,

if the lake’s content with this pale
smear of sunset, if the loon calls
for its mate, or for another.

june 12/RUN

3 miles
downtown loop
65 degrees

Ran with Scott downtown this afternoon. With the wind, it was cold enough that I had goosebumps before we started. My legs felt heavy and strange. Plodding along. I remember it being hot at Boom Island with no shade and loud on Plymouth–music coming from some sort of festival. They’re setting up for an art festival this weekend. Extra porta potties were everywhere and scaffolding too. Lots of tourists and segways and motorized scooters. Some other runners. A huge log jammed in the river near Nicollet island. Scott and I wondered how far it had traveled from up river? Running over the Stone Arch Bridge, I looked down at Mill Ruins Park and saw emerald green grass. Felt the spray from the falls, carried by the wind.

Here’s a poem about the Missississippi River from Bao Phi, a poet from Minneapolis.

A poem from Bao Phi


M I S S I SS I PP I
M I SS I SS I PP I
M I SS I SS I –
OKAY, BAO
the elementary teacher roared, and my delight at the staccato flow of the letters
evaporated.
This was over thirty years ago – I don’t hold her ghost to grudge.
How many times have I sat above that water, walked beside it
and wondered about its history all
the while taking for granted
I could spell its name.
The first time I saw its tail was after Katrina,
the wide water in New Orleans,
the houses drowned, and yet Vietnamese ate trays of boiled crawdad
tipping skinny neck bottles of Tabasco,
squeezed lemon slices until they bled out.
Somewhere some river is always running
and who chooses to run beside what river in what country,
and who gets sent down them.
Me and my teenage friends, we found a rotted railroad bridge,
climbing over its barriers, the no trespassing sign,
sat with our legs dangling over but hugging the round cylinder iron guardrails
laughing with one another as the brown and white foam curled far beneath us.
For many years I thought if I ever had a child I would
name them Song, river, but in my language
which makes the word sound like
a song.
So I did.
And she does.
Just this past year I learned of Bdote,
the concentration camps now a green field.
In a canoe, my daughter and a teacher
slowly sliced our way across its green gray skin
we three floating in history
water to some, blood to others
a part of everything
belonging to no one

june 11/SWIM

.85 miles/1500 yards
1 loop + extra
lake nokomis
60 degrees (air) 68 degrees (water)

Open swim! Open swim! Open swim! Finally, open swim has started. Tonight it was a little windy, overcast and cool. I was nervous, wondering if I would be able to see the buoys. Almost didn’t come because it was cold and we were going to a twins game later. It was great. I wore my wetsuit and saw the buoys–not all the time but enough. I think I’m getting better at swimming without seeing them. It felt great to be swimming across the lake again. Out in the middle, the water was dark, but in the beach area it was clear enough that I could see the bottom. Cool. I only swam one loop (with an extra trip out and back to the first buoy) because we were going to the game and because it was extra choppy heading back into the big beach and I was tired.

Anything else I remember? The water wasn’t too cold. My wetsuit squeaked a few times. I got routed by a breast stroker. The water temperature was warmer than the air.

june 10/RUN

4.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
68 degrees

Slightly cooler this morning. A better run. Still struggled to keep going but I made it over 3 miles without stopping to walk for a minute. Then I ran again for the rest of the way. Didn’t see the Man in Black or the Daily Walker but I did encounter some roller skiers, walkers, bikers, and a person I met early in the spring who identified as trans but wasn’t yet ready to be out–pretty sure they didn’t remember me but I remember them because of their two dogs and the stories they told (then and again today) about 2 sisters who had run marathons in Amsterdam and were now training for an Ironman. Payed close attention to the part of the path I’m writing about right now and noticed the streaks of sun on the asphalt, making leaf shadows–I had imagined most of the light to be lost in this extra green-y tunnel of trees. Maybe in August it will be darker?

Felt like I was in a daze, running in the soft green light. Everything was slightly out of focus. Listened to the road and the river and the trees instead of an audio book or a playlist. Heard lots of cars gently rushing by. Might have also heard some rowers at one point, but didn’t see them. The river is mostly hidden behind layers of green now. Chanted in triplets to myself to keep my rhythm: raspberry/blueberry/strawberry, 4 way stop, split rail fence, railroad bridge, 2 oak trees, garbage can (I turned everything I saw into triplets). Then I thought about how the new trash and recycling cans Minneapolis Parks got for the path look a lot like early Star Wars droids–the ones from 1978. Can I work that into a poem? And am I the only way that thinks this?

Perhaps the most memorable thing I heard was a version of “ain’t misbehaving” coming from a bike radio that passed me from behind. I could hear the music clearly until he was too far away. Why no doppler distortion? Was it because of the wind? The speed of his biking?

Lakes Rivers Streams/Michael Dickman

This poem! Too long to include it all. So long and fabulous and strange! Here are a few lines I especially like:

At the same time spring pushes up against the windows
a green screen

And sleep

Pooled at the top of the stairs

Just upstream from a cell tower and a box of  Huggies

Just upstream from a can of  Red Bull and a pollen allergy

The cool floors of grocery stores

Just upstream from a pair of headphones and a Weight Watchers

Chirrup-chirrup my tree makes syrup
syrup so sweet

Upstream from a can of Aqua Net and a Pepsi

Bees in the lilac tree have something to say and say it without giving
away the ending

Just upstream from a gallon of  2% and a yellow pack of American
Spirits

Just upstream from a buffet-style weekend special and some notable
losses

june 9/RUN

3.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
68 degrees
70% humidity

Felt warm this morning. Decided to listen to the gorge instead of an audio book. Nice. I should do this more often. Greeted every welcoming oak with a “good morning!” or “hello friend!” Glimpsed the sun sparkling on the river through the trees above the floodplain forest. Passed a few rowers walking down to the rowing club–will I get to see (or hear) them rowing later in my run? (no) Made it to the railroad trestle and stopped to walk for a minute. So hot! So tired! Felt wiped out–I think I need to eat a big breakfast before my runs (I didn’t eat anything this morning). The highlight of the run–probably the month so far–was not just greeting but talking to the Daily Walker! I was walking at the time and he said, “you’re walking?” When I said it was so hot he agreed and we talked for a few seconds more. I think this is the first time I have actually talked to him. Pretty cool. Everyone of my runs was tough this week but I don’t care that much. Still great to be outside and be beside the mississippi.

Almost forgot to mention something I noticed yesterday and today: The cotton from the cottonwood tree is not white, at least not once it hits the ground. It looks green to me–a pale green–willow perhaps? Is it green or is it my vision or a trick of the light or its close proximity to the grass and so many green leaves?

So much green. I’m always looking for green poems and I’ve found a few. Here’s another one to add to the list:

Green/Maggie Nelson

Screams from an Italian family up the street
That stupid kid hitting rock after rock with his metal bat.

I’d be a shitty boyfriend, you said, as if
making a promise. I said, It’s not the content

I’m in love with, it’s the form. And that
was tenderness. All last year

I planned to write a book about
the color blue. Now I’m suddenly surrounded

by green, green gagging me
pleasurably, green holding onto my hips

from behind, digging into
the cleft, the cleft

that can be made. You have no idea
what kind of light you’ll let in

when you drop the bowl, no idea
what will make you full

Also found this useful article about green in poetry.

june 8/RUN

3.25 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
72 degrees

Another warm morning when it was difficult to breathe. Stopped to walk for 1 or 2 minutes at 2.5 miles, then finished strong. This summer I don’t care if I have to walk. More opportunity to check out the gorge. Listened to my audio book because I’m enjoying it (and trying to finish it). Encountered a lot of runners on the path. Saw the Daily Walker but wasn’t able to greet him. No Man in Black. I think I heard the rowers but I’m not sure because I was listening to my book. Noticed my shadow a few times. Saw 2! groups of rollerbladers, a group of 5 and a group of 7 or 8, zooming down the path gracefully. Love watching them fly by with their rhythmic arms.

Morningside Heights, July
BY WILLIAM MATTHEWS

Haze. Three student violists boarding
a bus. A clatter of jackhammers.
Granular light. A film of sweat for primer
and the heat for a coat of paint.
A man and a woman on a bench:
she tells him he must be psychic,
for how else could he sense, even before she knew,
that she’d need to call it off? A bicyclist
fumes by with a coach’s whistle clamped
hard between his teeth, shrilling like a teakettle
on the boil. I never meant, she says.
But I thought, he replies. Two cabs almost
collide; someone yells fuck in Farsi.
I’m sorry, she says. The comforts
of loneliness fall in like a bad platoon.
The sky blurs—there’s a storm coming
up or down. A lank cat slinks liquidly
around a corner. How familiar
it feels to feel strange, hollower
than a bassoon. A rill of chill air
in the leaves. A car alarm. Hail.

I know I’ve read this poem before but I don’t think I’ve posted it. I love how it seems like simple reporting of the mundane but offers much more. Some great lines–sweat as primer, heat as the coat of paint. The rill of chill, the lank cat slinking, the couple on the bench interrupting the scene repeatedly, the coming storm–literally and metaphorically, the hollow bassoon. So good! I want to try to write a poem like this about my neighborhood.

june 7/RUN

2.75
mississippi river upper path, south/lower path, north
84 degrees

Ugh, this heat. I have a lot of trouble running when it’s this hot. Listened to my audio book and tried to take it nice and slow. Ran above on the way to the falls and down below on the way back. Don’t remember much except for being hot.

Earlier this morning, I took Delia the dog for a walk to the gorge. On the lower path to the left, past the big sewer drain, below the path with the Welcoming Oaks. Kept going to the part of the running path that dips below the road. Before heading down, stopped at the top and studied the two boulders. 4 small stones make up the cairn perched on the taller rock. No plaque on this rock. How long has it been here? The boulders rested beneath a sprawling oak tree with a branch that bent down to greet me. The leaves were perfect forms of the classic oak leaf–like the cartoon versions I used to see at my elementary school in Northern Virginia–Oak Hill Elementary. Walking down into the tunnel of trees, there was so much cotton in the air and on the edge of the path. I realized, this doesn’t look like snow but feathers, like someone was in the midst of a big pillow fight or a goose had flown off in a hurry or a seam from my winter coat had ripped and spilled out the feathery lining. The fuzzy white cotton softened the rough edges of the path and decorated the dirt patches in the grass.

june 6/RUNSWIM

3.1 miles
railroad trestle and back
75 degrees

So hot and hard to breathe! Not sure if it’s all the cottonwood flying but I had a lot of trouble breathing. Time to start running earlier–good thing school ends for the kids tomorrow. Listened to my audio book as I ran, so I don’t remember much–except it was hot, I was sweating a lot and my throat needed to be cleared all the time. Came close to tripping over a dog.

Stopped running at the spot I’m trying to write a haibun about. 4 fences–wrought-iron, stone retaining wall, wood retaining wall, split rail. These fences stand at the start of the ascent into the tunnel of trees. Noticed some small maples (I think) on the edge of the path. Not sure what the other trees are. I did see some broad leaves with jagged edges. What are those? At the beginning, the slope isn’t too steep or high but it gets steeper and higher and darker and narrower as you climb. Wondered why this not so steep spot was the place where a wrought iron fence was placed when there are much steeper spots farther up and decided it was for the cars coming around a curve up above. Not sure if that’s correct. Did a car crash through the split rail here too as some point? In the winter, when this lower path is not cleared and I have to run above on the biking path, I sometimes worry that a car might slip on ice, slide up on the path and hit me. At the end of the tunnel of trees and almost the top of the hill are too boulders (I need to go back and study them some more) and a welcoming oak tree. On top of the taller rock is a cairn of 3 or 4 rocks stacked on top of each other. Who put them there? I think I first noticed them last year. At the top of the hill, is a porta potty, a parking lot, an overlook, some benches, more boulders and the welcoming oaks.

Breathe. As in. (shadow)
Rosamond S. King

Breathe
. As in what if
the shadow is gold
en? Breathe. As in
hale assuming
exhale. Imagine
that. As in first
person singular. Homonym
:eye. As in subject. As
in centeroftheworld as in
mundane. The opposite of spectacle
spectacular. This is just us
breathing. Imagine
normalized respite
gold in shadows
. You have the
right to breathe and remain
. Imagine
that
.

swim: 1000 yards
lake nokomis

More shafts of light. Such a cool effect. Tons of cottonwood on the water surface (and in my suit after I got out of the lake and took a shower). A few strange floating objects–wood or something else? The sun was creating this weird red tint effect on everything. I think I saw a few fish swimming below me and another swimmer next to me. Lots of boats encroaching on the designated swimming area. Nearing the shore, swimming inside the wading area, the water was clearer and I could see the bottom. Really cool. I didn’t see all the things on the bottom, like hairbands, but just where the bottom began.

june 5/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 1050 yards/.6 miles
lake nokomis

Back again at the beach today. Only one small, puffy cloud, the rest of the sky was a bright, blameless blue. Lots of people at the lake but not many in the water. I didn’t think it was too cold–I wonder what the temperature is right now? Whatever it is, I didn’t need a wetsuit and I wasn’t freezing after I got out of the water. Did 3 big loops without stopping and then, after a quick break, one more loop. Maybe a mile is only 6 loops?

The water was turgid and light brown with several shafts of paler brown light beaming down from above. A cool effect. A few times I saw some silver flashes below me. Big fish? Every swim right outside the big beach is tinged with mide trepidation–what’s below me? and what if it decides to surface? Planes heading to MSP Airport roared overhead. Was able to mostly spot the smallish, vertical white buoys. I think I’ll practice more sighting (and not panicking when I can’t sight) tomorrow. Feels good to be in the water again. Hopefully I can keep up my goal of swimming almost every day.

In honor of the fish I may or may not have seen but certainly swam above, here’s Elizabeth Bishop’s classic and marvelous poem:

The Fish
Elizabeth Bishop – 1911-1979

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

june 4/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
to lake nokomis and back
swim: 1000 yards/.57 miles
lake nokomis main beach

Yes! Summer is here. My first real swim of the year at Lake Nokomis. Thought about doing a mile but since I haven’t swam since October, I thought I’d better take it easy. I did 5 loops in my wetsuit which I don’t like wearing because it feels tight and too constricting. But today it was nice in the cold water. The water was not clear at all and a bit choppy. Noticed a few kayaks just outside the swim area. Was able to see the white buoys some of the time. The real test will be when I try to sight the orange buoy a week from today. I’d like to go swimming as many as I can before that. My goal is to regularly do at least 10 loops.

Don’t remember thinking about much except for whether or not my legs were cramping up or if water was getting in my ear or if there were any fish below me or boats approaching or how my yellow backpack was doing propped up against the big light post. A few times the waves in the water looked like other swimmers.

Swimming/Sarah Arvio

“Our relationship to you is the same as
that between abstraction and metaphor,
between the idea of a clear lake

and the citing of the lake to describe
the clear idea,” one said with a laugh.
Oh, I said then, what a fine idea

and now what lake will embody its fact?
And this: Aren’t we tired of comparisons
to the natural world? Then this: “And what

world isn’t natural?” “Only the world
of the mind is unnatural.” And this:
“It defies nature and defines nature

and won’t be defined. The life of the mind.”
“But its death“ one punned: “Perish the thought.”
“In the deep all these questions sink away,

and only the swimming matters: water
sliding around the head and heart and hip,
arms cresting and curving, with not against;

carried along on the roll and the rush,
a good swimming knows water won’t resist,
swift or even slow but yes, effortless.”

“Are these words merely pretty? No, my dear.
Water is the principle of pleasure
and of pain, the receiver of the touch,

for the cells and tissues are waterbound.”
With the splash of a smile one turned to me:
“What bodies do we choose? A glacial lake,

cold as ice, aqua-blue and vaporing,
on which one red leaf is a gash of joy,
a sultry southern sea warm as a bath

and carrying its weight in liquid salt.
We covet water through which light will ride
and you, my dear…” Here his words drifted off.

june 3/RUN

2.9 miles
north to railroad bridge/stairs to path below/white sands/rowing club/upper path
68 degrees

My legs are sore today. Partly because it’s my third day in a row running and partly because I decided to start runner’s world’s squat challenge this morning (since my lower back has been bugging me intermittently for the past 6 months, I’m always looking for ways to strengthen it). Decided to listen to my audio book and run past the part of the path above the floodplain forest and towards the railroad trestle. Noticed right away that it was hard to breathe–the cottonwood trees are snowing cotton. The edges of the path were a soft white and little bits of fuzz floated in the air in front of me.

Ran to the railroad trestle and felt wiped out. Took the steps down below and walked the Winchell trail, halfway up the gorge. Beautiful! I was a bit uneasy because after seeing no one but one man, I looked up at the sides of the limestone gorge and realized, in all the green, how hidden I was and how steep any path out would be. No steps leading up. No winding dirt trail. But my unease wasn’t too bad. I started running and caught quick glimpses of the river through the breaks in the tree line. Made it to the Minneapolis Rowing Club and walked up the steep driveway. Started running again and kept going until I returned to my favorite part of the run: where the walking path dips below the road and follows the edge of the bluff right above the floodplain forest.

I stopped on the edge to look down at the forest and noticed that I was in the midst of three fences: a wrought iron fence on the edge of the hill, a stone retaining wall dividing the lower walking path from the upper biking path, and a split rail fence above the wall beside the biking path. So cool to have all 3 fences here, especially since I’ve been wanting to write about this section and about the different types of fences on this route.

The other thing I noticed as I walked up, along the edge, was how green everything was. Different shades (or tints?) of green covering the ground, blotting out the sky. No river, no sky, no forest floor. Only green with the occasional brown trunk or branch. Disorienting, but really cool. At this part, the footpath is flanked on both sides with green–a tunnel of trees, with a smallish circle of light up the hill (the opposite direction of this picture), leading out to 2 big boulders and a porta potty at the northern edge of the 35th street parking lot.

The Prose Poem
Campbell McGrath

On the map it is precise and rectilinear as a chessboard, though driving past you would hardly notice it, this boundary line or ragged margin, a shallow swale that cups a simple trickle of water, less rill than rivulet, more gully than dell, a tangled ditch grown up throughout with a fearsome assortment of wildflowers and bracken. There is no fence, though here and there a weathered post asserts a former claim, strands of fallen wire taken by the dust. To the left a cornfield carries into the distance, dips and rises to the blue sky, a rolling plain of green and healthy plants aligned in close order, row upon row upon row. To the right, a field of wheat, a field of hay, young grasses breaking the soil, filling their allotted land with the rich, slow-waving spectacle of their grain. As for the farmers, they are, for the most part, indistinguishable: here the tractor is red, there yellow; here a pair of dirty hands, there a pair of dirty hands. They are cultivators of the soil. They grow crops by pattern, by acre, by foresight, by habit. What corn is to one, wheat is to the other, and though to some eyes the similarities outweigh the differences it would be as unthinkable for the second to commence planting corn as for the first to switch over to wheat. What happens in the gully between them is no concern of theirs, they say, so long as the plough stays out, the weeds stay in the ditch where they belong, though anyone would notice the wind-sewn cornstalks poking up their shaggy ears like young lovers run off into the bushes, and the kinship of these wild grasses with those the farmer cultivates is too obvious to mention, sage and dun-colored stalks hanging their noble heads, hoarding exotic burrs and seeds, and yet it is neither corn nor wheat that truly flourishes there, nor some jackalopian hybrid of the two. What grows in that place is possessed of a beauty all its own, ramshackle and unexpected, even in winter, when the wind hangs icicles from the skeletons of briars and small tracks cross the snow in search of forgotten grain; in the spring the little trickle of water swells to welcome frogs and minnows, a muskrat, a family of turtles, nesting doves in the verdant grass; in summer it is a thoroughfare for raccoons and opossums, field mice, swallows and black birds, migrating egrets, a passing fox; in autumn the geese avoid its abundance, seeking out windrows of toppled stalks, fatter grain more quickly discerned, more easily digested. Of those that travel the local road, few pay that fertile hollow any mind, even those with an eye for what blossoms, vetch and timothy, early forsythia, the fatted calf in the fallow field, the rabbit running for cover, the hawk’s descent from the lightning-struck tree. You’ve passed this way yourself many times, and can tell me, if you would, do the formal fields end where the valley begins, or does everything that surrounds us emerge from its embrace?

june 2/RUN

3.1 miles
railroad bridge and back
62 degrees

Wow. Sunny. A slight breeze. Low humidity. What a wonderful way to celebrate 8 years of running. Saw the Man in Black and the quartet of in-sync rollerbladers (what should I call them? first thought: the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, but that doesn’t quite fit–I need to think of another famous group of four–the Beatles?). Encountered a lot of runners, a large group of walkers and some bikers. Busy on the trail this morning. The run felt easy then hard then easy again. Let gravity do the work as I ran down the hill under lake street bridge. Then managed to outrun two bikers up the hill–I think one of them was around 10 so maybe it’s not that impressive? Listened to my audio book for most of the run then switched to Lizzo on my running playlist. The only time I looked at the river was when I briefly stopped to study the railroad bridge. Even then, I barely saw it. I was too busy studying the trestle. Turning around and running south, I noticed the black metal fence on the other side of the trestle and I started thinking about the different types of fences that line the trail: wooden split rail, abandoned chainlink (on the lower path), black wrought iron, stone. I want to add some of that detail into my haibun or write something else about these different types (or do both).

Mending Wall
BY ROBERT FROST

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

june 1/RUNBIKE

run: 3.5 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
55 degrees
84% humidity

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis and back
68 degrees

Felt cool this morning after last night’s thunderstorms. Green and dark and dripping. Listened to a new audiobook, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which was a nice distraction. Ran to the split rail fence and noticed the crumbling stone wall at the railroad bridge. Also noticed that the slivers of river looked very white through the thick vegetation. Encountered various pairs of runners–almost always in pairs–and my favorite: the group of 4 hardcore rollerbladers. Every summer they train on the river road path. They’re so fast and synchronized. With about 1/2 mile left, I heard the rowers on the river so I turned off my audiobook and listened. Running up the last hill I twisted my foot slightly on an invisible stick. And a few minutes later remembered that tomorrow is my 8th runniversary. On June 2nd, 2011, I started running.

Beehive
by Jean Toomer

Within this black hive to-night
There swarm a million bees;
Bees passing in and out the moon,
Bees escaping out the moon,
Bees returning through the moon,
Silver bees intently buzzing,
Silver honey dripping from the swarm of bees
Earth is a waxen cell of the world comb,
And I, a drone,
Lying on my back,
Lipping honey,
Getting drunk with that silver honey,
Wish that I might fly out past the moon
And curl forever in some far-off farmyard flower.

Found this on The Slowdown podcast. I love Tracy K. Smith’s reading of it.

may 31/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 100 yards?
lake nokomis

Yes! Open water swimming is here! Well, not officially until June 11th when open swim club starts, but I briefly swam in the lake today so I’ll count it. Water temperature was probably 65 or 70 degrees. It was pretty cold and my goggles were fogging up so I only did a quick swim out to the white buoy and back. Unlike last year, the water was not clear at all. Guess it must be because of all of the rain and flooding? I was hoping to get freaked out by seeing everything. Oh well. When I got out I felt a bit dizzy. Was it because of the cold? Not enough food? I hope it’s nothing to worry about. I’m hoping to swim a lot more this summer. 4 or 5 times a week.

Still thinking about prose poems. Here’s another one. Wow, does it get dark.

She Spent a Year Hallucinating Birds
BY JILL ALEXANDER ESSBAUM

They perched on roofs and fences and sills. They posed statue-still on catenary lines. They aligned along cables like prayer beads on rope. They amassed en masse on the cemetery lawn and marauded the broad, yawning fields like cattle. Their cackles were black. Each shadow dove and pecked. They nested in chimneys and chirped at the chime of the church bell. They worked in shifts. Clocked out at odd hours. They laid their eggs in the Vs of trees. They teemed on the dry-baked banks of creek beds, streams the sun had overseen. They teetered on the bed-knob tops of flagpoles. They pitched like pennies into founts. They pitched like babies into wells. They thumped at doors then skulked away like hoodlum teens. They jabbed her. When she cried they did it faster. Everyone knows what happened next. Some grew big as sunflower stalks, others tall like bonfire flames. Or moving vans. Or the sick, brick houses people die inside of every night. Their hatchlings canopied the sky. Was it her fault, then, when they pinned her to the ground and thrust their feathers down her throat? Or wormed between her legs in bad-man ways? Or rattled plumes and whooped and beat her body with their wings? Or locked their talons to her thighs and tra-la-la-ed that ditty from the old-time music box? Or forced their whiskies past her lips? Or put her in the pillory? This was foreplay, in a way. They rolled in rabid packs and woofed like dogs. She couldn’t throw a bone. The meat was gone. They chased her and they named her and they boiled her tears and bathed her. Then they ate her.

may 30/RUN

3 miles
downtown loop
82 degrees

Hot! Ran 2.5 miles, walked 1/2 mile with Scott on the downtown loop. Not too bad–probably because we stopped to walk at the hottest, sunniest, hilliest part. Focused a lot on avoiding clueless pedestrians, big cracks in the pavement and lunging dogs. Discussed wilderness, the gorge, climate change, Margaret Atwood, our inability to ever successfully tame wild green spaces.

The river was moving fast. Running over it, on the stone arch bridge it was swirling and foaming, creating these cool white waves. In Boom island it was grayish blueish brown and smooth, swiftly traveling the opposite direction we were running.

Other things I remember? A toddler losing their shit at a playground on the west side of the river road. A few people going fast on lime scooters. 3 Segways going even faster around a corner–I think I hard someone yell out, “hey, that’s too fast!”

Since I’m writing a haibun about fog right now, here’s a fog poem to consider:

The Trees Delete Themselves Inside a Fog-Sphere
BY FRANCIS PONGE
TRANSLATED BY KAREN VOLKMAN

In the fog which surrounds the trees, the leaves are stripped—leaves defaced already by slow oxidation, deadened by the sap’s out-seeping for flowers’ and fruits’ gain, since the harsh heats of August made of them a less.

In the bark, vertical furrows crease and slit where dampness drains to the earth’s base, indifferent to the living citizens of the trunk.

Flowers scattered, fruit conferred. Since youth, this relinquishing of breathing attributes and body parts has become for the trees a standard practice.

Such detail! Now I want to return to my poem and be much more specific.

may 28/RUN

3.5 miles
end of the split rail fence and back
63 degrees

Right now I’m writing about fog and the split rail fence just past the railroad bridge heading north on the mississippi river road path, so I decided to run to it and check it out. Reaching the welcoming oaks, about 3 minutes into my run, noticing the green leaves crawling up the trunk like hungry relentless ants, I thought about how green everything is. Green consumes the view, the gorge, all the trees. Different, yet similar, to the fog I’m trying to write about it. An idea: maybe my prose poem should link gray fog and green vegetation?

Still running towards the railroad trestle and the split rail fence. Wasn’t sure when to stop and study it so I kept going until a small dirt trail opened up, leading down to unpaved path behind and below the fence. Started running again, made it about 50 feet, then encountered mud. Yuck! Gloppy muck, standing water, slimy path. Was able to avoid getting stuck or slipping but did squish down a few times. Noticed how steep the gorge is here. A few trees, an old chain link fence barely hanging on. Not much to brace your fall. I wonder which tree caught the car that crashed through the fence a year or so ago? I think I spotted it but I’m not sure.

So Many/John Pluecker

so many this mornings so many movement so many breezes
so many cypress so many doorways demolished so many brush
so many vines crawl up the front of that house and so many
spaces so many wide open between one structure and another
so many ditches so many cars parked in the grass in front of a home
supposedly abandoned where people live so many branches
piles at the curb so many beat-downs so many row houses
gone and so many porches so many cut-throughs so many feeling
still in the wood so many highways invade so many train horns
blow softly so many autumn morning so many springtime dusk
so many pink afternoon as the sun peeks through the blinds so many
pick-up trucks so many suvs so many milk factories and so many
18 wheelers so many tiny plastic bottles of milk and so many oaks
and so many farms and so many concrete and so many cracked
and so many peeling paint so many thickness so many depression
so many joy so many angry pinpricks so many back-ups so many
give me a hug so many late night drunken driving so many early
morning so many mourning doves so many cooing so many police
sirens so many listening so many humans walk the middle of the road
so many cars wait to pass so many anger and so many smile so many
apprehension so many thistles so many concrete slabs so many gape
so many lost and so many nights so many grandmas so many grandkids
so many people just trying to remember what used to be there
so many new people who just got here so many things to misremember
so many escape memory so many brains so many bodies so many
bodies gone and so many cemeteries marked and unmarked so
many ditches so many huevo con papa and cake so many deep
deep breaths so many sighs so many pauses so many moments of
silence so many marches so many meetings god so many meetings
so many attempts so many failures so many new townhomes so many
dispossessed so many carwashes so many cowboy hats so many persons
forced out so many barbecues so many coolers so many bags of ice so
many country ballads so many accordions so many quiet so many loud
so many noisy so many silent so many germans so many telephone road
so many lasagna so many pupusa so many gordita so many jaywalkers
and so many dance moves at the bus stop so many jiggling and so many
cars pass by so many stares and so many awkwardness so many
good mornings so many fuck you’s so many fights and so many love-
making so many graffitied so many murals so many old doors so many
lintels so many country people come to the city so many bulldozers
and so many work crews so many dusty lifts into air so many hardhats
and so many pallets so many pine and so many sheet of metal
so many buses so many stray dogs so many mean-mugging
and so many evictions so many eminent domain so many minimizing
and so many excuses so many money so many reasons so many justify
so many sadness so many let it go and so many so-called misunder-
standings so many moldy and wet so many floodlines so many hurricanes
so many attitudes so many perspectives so many sung and un-sung so
many panaderías demolished so many pushing and so many pulling
so many mechanics so many broken down cars so many lay in the sun so
many wait so many trees blow in the early morning wind so many
speed up and so many people go home so many people go to work so
many undone so many bulldozers so many hoses spray water on wreckage
so many shovelfuls of metal and lumber so many precious objects discard so
many lost in the tumble so many feelings so many yellow and red so many
silver and gold so many blue and green so many green things so many grass
so many suns beat down so many heatstrokes so many city moves on
so many layers so many accumulations so many things a street a street remember

may 28/RUN

6.2 miles
to the flats and back
50 degrees

Mississippi river road path, north/greenway bridge/franklin hill/river flats/top of 4th street/mississippi river road path, south

A longer run this morning. Bright sun. Not much wind. No rain! Cooler. Listened to Murder on the Orient Express again. Really fun. Greeted the Daily Walker. Heard lots of trickling water. Noticed how high the river was down in the flats–and flowing so fast. Encountered some bikers, walkers, runners, a rollerblader. Checked out the progress at Annie Young Park in the flats. They’ve finished the path and added some picnic tables. Didn’t see the bald eagle perched on a tree, only a crow flying high. Felt okay running up the franklin hill. Made a bargain with myself: keep running for 40 minutes, then take a 2 (or was it 3?) minute walk break. After that, ran the rest of the way home. Looked closely at the split rail fence near the railroad trestle–I’m writing about it in a haibun. It’s the spot where a car went off the road and landed on top of a tree last year and where I remember the fog being the thickest on march 14th of this year.

this beginning may have always meant this end
BY CAMILLE T. DUNGY

coming from a place where we meandered mornings and met quail, scrub jay, mockingbird, i knew coyote, like everyone else, i knew cactus, knew tumbleweed, lichen on the rocks and pill bugs beneath, rattlers sometimes, the soft smell of sage and the ferment of cactus pear. coming from this place, from a place where grass might grow greener on the hillside in winter than in any yard, where, the whole rest of the year, everything i loved, chaparral pea, bottle brush tree, jacaranda, mariposa, pinyon and desert oak, the kumquat in the back garden and wisteria vining the porch, the dry grass whispering long after the last rains, raccoons in and out of the hills, trash hurled by the hottest wind, the dry grass tall now and golden, lawn chairs, eucalyptus, everything, in a place we knew, every thing, we knew, little and large and mine and ours, except horror, all of it, everything could flame up that quickly, could flare and be gone.

I like the listing of so many named things in this prose poem. And the twist at the end. And how it flows.

may 26/RUN

3.1 miles
austin, mn
55 degrees

Not too humid or too hot or too stinky from the Hormel plant. A great morning for a run in Austin. Ran past the high school track, the high school, downtown, Paramount theater, and the creek with Scott. Don’t remember much except for feeling strong and steady and that it wasn’t too hard.

Looking through diagram, I found this piece about the dew point. It’s in the schematics section. I don’t quite understand it (yet), but I’m interested in the dew point and have written about it before so I thought I’d include it here.

A DEW POINT HYGROMETER USING A SYSTEM OF PRIMARY MEASUREMENT

Franklin W. Kirk and Nicholas R. Rimboi, Instrumentation, Third Edition, American Technical Society, 1975

The typical instrument for measuring dew point is shown [at right]. It uses a gold-plated mirror surface which is bonded to a copper themistor holder. This assembly is chilled by a Peltier effect thermoelectric cooler. (The Peltier effect is discussed in Chapter 10.) The air or other gas being measured for dew point is passed by the mirror. A neon lamp is beamed on the mirror which reflects the beam toward a photoelectric resistor. As dew forms on the mirror and clouds it, there is a change in the amount of light reflected. This change is dected by an optical sensing bridge.

may 24/RUN

3.1 miles
downtown loop
71 degrees

Writing this log entry several days later so I’m not sure I remember much. Warm. With my lingering cold, it was hard to breathe. Ran with Scott up the river road, over the plymouth bridge, through boom island park–the paved path, recently restored wooden bridge, the dirt trail–on nicollet island. Took a walk break under the third avenue bridge in st. anthony main, started running again through father hennepin park and ended on stone arch bridge. Lots of people, mostly walkers. A few runners and bikers. At least one rollerblader. Everything was green and looked like spring. No bugs yet. The thing I remember most is: running over the plymouth bridge. The railing was just at the right height to be constantly in my peripheral vision. It was a bit disorienting as my right eye noticed each pole (or slat or whatever you want to call it) as it flew by.

may 23/RUN

4.15 miles
falls loop
58 degrees

Listened to my audio book again as I ran towards the falls. Nice, easy run. Noticed all the boulders as I ran by them. The falls were rushing. Don’t remember hearing them, but saw the water flowing fast. Will it go over the banks on the creek path headed to Lake Nokomis? Turned around at the falls and headed back, up the hill, then down to the lower trail. Turned off my book and listened to the gorge. Heard water gushing in spurts out of the sewer pipe. Then some kids at the school playground yelling and laughing. A few bikers talking. One runner saying to his companion: “I’m trying to see how many miles I can put on my legs this week. I’m running everyday.” Ran over wet leaves, uneven ground. Up and down the slight swells of the path. Glanced at the river–a beautiful blue framed by green. Early on the trail was mostly dirt. My messed up vision made it swim and swirl in and out of focus. So trippy.

Earlier today, I took the dog for a walk. Near 7 Oaks I saw a tall, narrow, rectangular sign that said, “VOTE,” propped up next to a scarecrow. If I had brought my phone, I would have taken a picture of it, but I didn’t. I’ll have to take Scott back there soon. The image of this scarecrow–which I can’t quite picture, I can only remember the feeling of delight I had when I encountered it–is my memory of the day.

Currently I’m reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory. It is amazing. Instead of a poem, I wanted to post an excerpt from Powers in which he contrasts human and tree time. I love how he collapses the human history of a family into one packed paragraph and then describes the same amount of time from the perspective of a Chestnut tree.

may 22/RUN

4.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
57 degrees

Ran at noon today. Had to wait for the rain to stop. A bit windy and wet–a be-puddled path–but otherwise okay. Just green green and more green. Not many bugs…yet…so haven’t acquired the persistent itch that irritates summer Sara. Decided to run with an audio book that I checked out of the library–Murder on the Orient Express. Pretty great. I’m trying to slowly acclimate myself to audio books so that when I can no longer see to read (most likely within the next 5 years), it won’t feel like as big of a loss. Listening to the book was fun and distracting. I wouldn’t want to do it every time because it’s harder to pay attention to the path and the river or listen to the wind and the scratching grit, but it would be nice to add into the mix.

Do I remember much from the run? Some dripping. Greeting the Daily Walker and the Man in Black! Glancing at the green gorge. Catching a few fleeting glimpses of the river. Wondering when the wind would hit me (once I turned around). Not much else. Too focused on listening to Hercule Poirot examine the clues and contend with his idiot assistant.

I just remembered one cluster of thoughts I had as I neared the Lake Street Bridge, heading south. Listening to Agatha Christie talk about Poirot and his eagle eyes (or hawk eyes or some sort of extremely observant bird eyes), I started thinking about how much these old sleuths rely on reason and vision. Then I remembered the show “Lie to Me” and how the detectives used almost imperceptible visual cues (or tells) to determine when a suspect was lying. What if you can’t see very well? What about other ways to sense what is happening–like hearing. I remember reading a brief article earlier this year about how people are more emphatic when talking to a person on the phone (not seeing but only hearing them) than on FaceTime–something about being able to focus on the pauses in their voice, etc. Are there famous literary sleuths who are blind (or who don’t use vision but other senses)? I googled it and so far I found this: Mourning the Little Dead. Also found this helpful link: Disabled Isn’t Unable

How to Get There
BY PHILIP LEVINE

Turn left off Henry onto Middagh Street
     to see our famous firehouse, home
          of Engine 205 and

Hook & Ladder 118 and home also to
     the mythic painting “Fire under
          the Bridge” decorating

the corrugated sliding door. The painting
     depicts a giant American flag
          wrinkled by wind   

and dwarfing the famous Brooklyn Bridge
     as it stretches as best it can
          to get a purchase

on Manhattan. In the distance a few dismal
     towers and beyond the towers
          still another river.
          
A little deal table holds a tiny American
     flag—like the one Foreman held
          as he bowed to

receive gold at the ’68 Olympics in Mexico
     City—; this actual flag is rooted in
          a can of hothouse

roses going brown at the edges and beginning
     to shed. There’s a metal collection
          box bearing the

names of those lost during the recent burnings.
     Should you stop to shake the box—
          which is none

of your business—you’ll hear only a whisper.
     Perhaps the donations are all
          hush money,

ones, fives, tens, twenties, or more likely
     there are IOUs and the heart
          of Brooklyn

has gone cold from so much asking.
     Down the block and across
          the street, a man

sleeps on the sidewalk, an ordinary
     man, somehow utterly spent,
          he sleeps through

all the usual sounds of a Brooklyn noon.
     Beside him a dog, a terrier,
          its muzzle resting

on crossed paws, its brown eyes wide
     and intelligent. Between man
          and dog sits

a take-out coffee cup meant to receive,
     next to it a picture of Jesus—
          actually
    
a digital, color photograph of the Lord
     in his prime, robed and
          though bearded
    
impossibly young and athletic, and—
     as always—alone. “Give
          what you can,”  

says a hand-lettered cardboard sign
     to all who pass. If you stand
          there long enough

without giving or receiving the shabby,
     little terrier will close his eyes.
          If you stand

there long enough the air will thicken
     with dusk and dust and exhaust
          and finally with

a starless dark. The day will become something
     it’s never been before, something for
          which I have no name.

I picked this poem because I’m thinking about my running route project and creative ways of describing place. Love the line, “dusk and dust and exhaust” and the mention of hush money and the description of Jesus, in his prime, young and athletic. I’ve been working on a haibun that includes a framed image of Jesus, found in the gorge. I think I’ll add some more detail to my description.

may 21/BIKE

5 miles
the falls loop
62 degrees
wind: 14 mph/21 mph gusts

I biked outside today! The first time this year. It might not seem like a big deal but I was very nervous to bike, afraid that the decline in my central vision would make it too difficult. But it didn’t. I was fine. Sure I didn’t see that one runner until she was right there but I had enough time to correct for it and we didn’t collide. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see here because I was too focused on the approaching biker. Next time, I need to try and remember to stay alert to more than the object approaching. Is this possible? Not sure. I can’t really multi-task anymore. But I’ll keep trying.

It’s hard to convey to others–or to understand myself–what I can and can’t see. I still have vision and I can still see almost everything. It just takes a lot longer to see it and requires deliberate, careful effort. What a drag–it’s tiring having to pay attention to so much when you’re biking, but as long as I can still bike, I don’t care.

Things To Do In The Kitchen/Miriam Solan

light the oven.
wear a low neckline.
sprinkle pepper on the red snapper’s tail.
breathe in lemon wax rubbed on the wood cabinets.
pull your stockings up tight.
open the tin of biscuits and spread on Boursin
cheese with herbs. take a bite.
hear the poem in your mouth.
stand on a stool to get the wine glasses.
let him help you down.
sit back on the high leather chairs and swivel.
polish the copper pot, let the handle remain dark.
stuff mimosa in the pot and hang it from the beam.
with an eggbeater mix 3 tbs. Bertolotti olive oil,
1 tbs. wine vinegar and 1 tbs. ketchup.
pour on an endive opened like a flower.
poke garlic into tiny pockets of leg of lamb,
spread mustard all over.
unclog salt. pinch rosemary.
hull raspberries and blackberries sprinkled with
sugar. serve with freshly whipped cream.
defrost refrigerator. warm smile.
eat and make love.
count the angels on the walls.
cup the little round vase made by the sailor who
became a potter, who fell in love with a Russian
beauty and married a pot.
practice making a puff pastry.
honest talk. lick honey with lemon.
hold the fisherman from Mouse Hole.
think of the stone at the edge of the sea.
stare at the faucet with snake eyes.
open the window and let the birds in.
look at T.V. antennas, R.C.A. building and
the Empire State Building luminescent in the mist.
make a cutting from the spider plant.
let it root and plant it. wind
the old 8 day clock and listen to it tick.

I love this poem for its movement, its casual attitude, its form. How it nestles a story between mundane details. I love the verbs: sprinkle, breathe, stuff, polish, spread, hull. And this group of lines: “open the tin of biscuits and spread on Boursin/cheese with herbs. take a bite./hear the poem in your mouth.” And the title–“Things to Do in the Kitchen” That sounds like a fun prompt for a poem.

Earlier today, walking with the dog, we encountered 3 BIG turkeys chilling out in the bottom of a neighbor’s yard (or would you call it a ravine? It dips down way below the road–maybe it was a sink hole?). Delia the dog didn’t bark or even take much notice of this rafter of birds (rafter or flock is what a group of wild turkeys is called). But I did. Watching them, mostly in delight, with a dash of trepidation. Then I thought: this is it–the thing that I want to remember about today. Seeing three random turkeys in someone’s yard.

may 20/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
54 degrees

Nice to see the sun after the gloom on Saturday and the rain on Sunday. It got down to 36 degrees yesterday. Boo. That lake water is going to be cold in a few weeks when open water swimming starts. Today it felt like early spring. Mid April not late May. A gentle breeze. Lots of green. So many green layers by my favorite part of the path. Running through it is disorienting. Can’t tell where the ground is or the river, sometimes even the sky. Just floating in green and brown air. Greeted the Daily Walker. Noticed a plaque on the big boulder by the bench almost under the lake street bridge–asked Scott about it, it says “1938, WPA.” Did my Grandpa work on this project? I know he worked for the WPA, but I’m not sure where or when.

The run was a little difficult with my lingering cold and the crap trapped in my chest. Crossing the Franklin bridge I stared at the sparkling water and the shadows near the railroad bridge. Later, running on the rim of the east side, heard water gushing down the rocks. Crossing back over to the west side, had to run on the other side of the bridge because the side I usually run on was closed. A little longer but a different view: downtown instead of the Ford Bridge.

Emily and Walt/Campbell McGrath

may 17/RUN

4.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
61 degrees

Yes! A good run. Felt strong and fast even though I wasn’t going that fast. Listened to headphones and tried to tune out everything. Enjoyed the 10 mph wind keeping me cool. I think I saw the man in black and I think it’s the same guy that I passed twice last week on the other side of the river. No longer in black (black pants, black jacket, black hood) but in dark shorts and a light colored shirt. I don’t remember much else from the run except for noticing the river a few times. Oh–and wanting to stop 2 tenths of a mile early because I was tired. I could feel myself almost stopping but then I didn’t. I kept running up the hill and made it to the top and my goal. A small victory.

Read an article about the poetry of place and encountered this line:

The achievement of oneness with nature in poems (and in life, for that matter) is more often than not, fake. Much more convincing is an honest failure.

The Poetry of Place

In running, I try to lose myself, to become one with the path or the wind or the river. It never works, usually because my body aches somewhere or I start worrying about something. But I do have flashes of forgetting, when I am just breathing and being. These flashes are hard to describe even as I’ve tried. I don’t think I’d like to be that untethered or lost all the time. And I’m not sure I’d call the lack of oneness a failure.

Field Guide to the Chaparral
Leah Naomi Green

The fire beetle only mates
when the chaparral is burning,

and the water beetle
will only mate in the rain.

In the monastery’s kitchen, the nuns
don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am,
that you were married before.

The woman you find attractive
does not believe me when I look at her kindly.

There are candescent people in the world.
It will only be love

that I love you with.
When we get home,

there will be our kitchen, the dishes undone.
There will be our bedroom.

What is it you eventually recognized
in my face that allowed you to believe me?

Beauty that did not come from you—
remember how it did not come from you?

As white sage does not come from the moon
but is found by it and lit.

The Buddhists say
that the front of the paper

cannot exist without the back.
Because there is a there,

there is a here. Chaparral,
the density of growth,

and the tattered chaps
the mappers wore

through it because they had to,
to keep walking without

being hurt. It is OK if we hurt
one another.

Chaparral needs fire.
(The pinecones would not open

otherwise.) Love needs lover,
whose last lover was flood.

The first time I read this poem, I didn’t know if I liked it, but now I know I do. I found it when I was looking for field guides and poetry. (I’m exploring forms for my running route poems/essays.) I love how she weaves in the insects and the chaparral. Speaking of field guides, I found some cool projects to do with younger kids–you can create a field guide of your local park or your backyard. Identifying the birds or trees or types of flowers. I wish my kids were 7 or 8 years younger. I’d create some field guides with them this summer. Maybe I’ll see if RJP’s up for it even though she’s 13 and too cool for stuff like that.

may 15/RUN

2.75 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
68 degrees

I caught the cold that’s been lingering in my house for a few weeks. Decided that a run might help and it did. Counted the number of biggish boulders on the way to the falls: 5–3 bigger, 2 smaller. Ran above, by the road, on the way there, then down below on the way back. Heard some trickling water coming out of the sewer pipes. Well, the first time was more drip drop drizzling while the second was more streaming. Not quite gushing or rushing but more forceful than seeping or trickling.

What else do I remember?

  • Hearing one woman say to her biking partner, “I’m good at running…” and then anticipating her answer: “a marathon.” Her actual answer? “a small business.” Thought about the different uses of run.
  • The bright orange (or were they pink?) running tights on a woman who passed me near the end of my run.
  • Feeling my blood pounding in my ears after I stopped because of my cold.

I Don’t Know What You’re Called, I’ll Call You by Your Sounds
Susan Landers

dew grass a fire shine
mountain a lung
pine cone the bone
tsunami rock hawk jaw
gravity a fall all consuming
a song chirp for sunlight
spine daggers cracking
the sky an ocean paused in its crashing
creature shake trip whistle
rustle nut squirrel swish
stump thunder or thump
thump a swallowing
you beautiful urchin
you rot mound of moss.

may 14/RUN

3.25 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
66 degrees

A nice morning for a run. Hardly any wind. Clear paths. Today, running south, I noticed the big boulders lining the path. How many? 5 or 6 spread out on the way to the falls. Ran the first half with headphones up above. The second, without down below, on the old path. Didn’t really look at the river much because I was tired and too focused on avoiding potholes and cracks. Heard the water falling (not trickling or gushing) down through the sewer pipe near 42nd street. Stopped at the drinking fountain at 35th street parking lot.

Birds Punctuate the Days
Joyce Clement

apostrophe
the nuthatch inserts itself
between feeder and pole

semicolon
two mallards drifting
one dunks for a snail

ellipses
a mourning dove
lifts off

asterisk
a red-eyed vireo catches
the crane fly midair

comma
a down feather
bobs between waves

exclamation point
wren on the railing
takes notice

colon
mergansers paddle toward
morning trout swirl

em dash
at dusk a wild goose
heading east

question mark
the length of silence
after a loon’s call

period
one blue egg all summer long
now gone

I love these haikus. My favorite? exclamation point/wren on the railing/takes notice

may 13/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
59 degrees

A beautiful morning. Sunny, calm, warm. A difficult run. My legs felt very tired and my nose was stuffed up from allergies. Walked several times. Told myself not to feel bad about it so I didn’t. Hard to feel bad when it’s so nice outside. Stopped at the overlook on the Lake Street Bridge again to watch the water. Calm, smooth. Maybe this is my new thing for the spring/summer? Check out how the river is doing from the bridge?

Some other things I remember from the run:

  • So many big boulders. This morning, while reading up on the history of the Mississippi River Gorge, I encountered this sentence about the 36th street parking lot: “Boulders deposited as glacial ice retreated.” Thought about this as I ran by many big rocks, which were mostly not too big–only 2 or 3 feet high. Amazing to try to think about how old these rocks are. And how heavy. And how much they’ve witnessed.
  • The dude I passed on the St. Paul side, right by the railroad trestle is tall! I passed him almost at the same spot on Friday and thought about how tall he was then too. Such long legs which looked a little strange combined with his shorter torso. I wonder, will I see him again at this spot?

I forgot to chant. Maybe that was my problem? No raspberry/strawberry/blueberry rhythm?

Joy
BY MILLER OBERMAN

Like the time I dreamt about a loon family,
just some common loons—not metaphors
in any way, just real loons in a lake swimming
near each other so it was clear they were a set,
preferring each other’s company in the cold
still lake with its depth of reflected pines.
The curve of their black heads and sleek
necks, black and white stripes then checks
on their folded wings, floating so low
atop their reflections they almost seem
inside them. Their wails like wolves, their
calls like an echo without origin, their
calls like an echo of lake, or what makes lake
lake. How nice to think the male and female
loons cannot be told apart by their plumage
and that they build a nest and sit on eggs
together. One of their calls is called “tremolo.”

This poem is in the May 2019 issue of Poetry. So many lines I love: “just some common loons–not metaphors” “just real loons in a lake swimming” “floating so low/atop their reflections they almost seem/
inside them” “wails like wolves, their/calls like an echo without origin” “an echo of a lake, or what makes lake/lake.”

may 11/RUN

4.8 miles
to stone arch bridge
62 degrees

Decided to run to Stone Arch Bridge and meet up with Scott and FWA after his clarinet lesson. Side note: I almost didn’t because I had a big breakfast (eggs, fake sausage, hash brown, english muffin) less than 2 hours earlier. But I went for it and surprisingly all the food didn’t give me cramps or make me feel sick. Another nice day for a run. Sunny. The wind off to the side. The path wasn’t too crowded. I heard some rowers on the river! Saw some roller skiers–one was going so slow up a hill that I almost passed them walking. Encountered lots of bikes going fast down the Franklin Hill–25 or 30 mph or more? One bug didn’t quite make it into my eye but got stuck in my eyelash. Another died on my nose. I could see some small black thing out of the corner of my eye. Everything is green. A nice yellowish green. Took a walk break at the bottom of Franklin hill right by the river. It’s so high this spring and moving fast. Took another walk break halfway up the 35W bridge hill. Then ran the rest of the way, finishing right after passing lots of people sitting on the steps outside the Guthrie for the Mill City Market.

For the past few days, I’ve been writing some haibuns (prose poem + haiku). Here are a few haikus I encountered while trying to get some inspiration:

from Haiku Journey/Kimberly Blaeser

may’s errant mustard
spreads wild across paved road
look both ways

from Blue Octavo Haiku/Rachel Wetzsteon

In fat armchairs sat
indolence and impatience,
plotting my downfall

  *

A wicked cage flew
across the long horizon
searching for a bird.

  *

may 10/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
52 degrees

Sunny. Calm. Hardly any wind. Noisy birds. Showy green grass. Modest trees, covering their bare branches with so many leaves. A great morning for a run. It felt pretty good at first, but harder as it went on. When I reached the river road, 1/4 mile in, I greeted every single oak lining the path. “Good morning!” “Good morning!” “Good morning!” “Good morning!” and a few, “hello friend!” “hello friend!” Tried continuing to good morning all the vegetation lining the rim of the gorge (in my head, not out loud). This helped to steady my running and was a nice way to warm up during the first mile. By the time I reached the Franklin Bridge 2 1/2 miles in, my left leg was feeling tight and a bit sore. I kept running, distracting myself by looking at the river and noticing a strange net near the railroad bridge. I planned to stop when I got closer to see what it was but I didn’t. Wanted to stop and walk just before mile 3 but didn’t. Noticed that the Meeker Dog Park was closed “due to high water.” Walked up the steep hill, listening to water trickling, then gushing out of the gorge. Took the steps up the Marshall/Lake St Bridge and thought about the eagle that used to perch on the dead branch of the tree next to the stairs. Where did it go? Also noticed on the stairs how the lamp posts have sharp looking spikes at the top. Is this to keep eagles and other birds off? Ran past the old stone steps in the final mile and chanted, old stone steps old stone steps–even though those steps aren’t that old. In the limited research I’ve done, I think they were put in around 2002. Were there other steps there before?

I liked my line above about the modest trees and their desire to cover up. Reminds me of a winter poem describing the unclothing of trees:

Winter Trees
William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

Now I’m thinking about layers and how, just as I start stripping down, taking off layers, wearing less clothing, the trees are doing the opposite by covering up. I think there’s a poem there–maybe a haibun!

may 9/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.2 miles
basement, bike stand/treadmill
raining and 25 mph wind

Cold and windy today. There was a possibility of snow, but thankfully it never happened. 2.5 hours north in Duluth they got 8.5 inches. Glad to have the treadmill and my bike in the basement. Soon the bike will be liberated and we will travel to lake nokomis–open swim starts in a month!!–but not today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Mississippi River and my running routes along it, wanting to create a collection of poems highlighting landmarks on my run. Here’s a poem about the Mississippi River Gorge for inspiration (I don’t think I’ve posted this before.) Did you know that the Mississippi River Gorge, 4 blocks from my house, is a National Park? So cool.

And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal
Wang Ping, 1957

Do not move. Let me speak of a river in paradise
A turquoise gift from fiery stars that is paradise

How do you measure a river’s weight, color, smell, touch?
How do you feel the veins of sand in a breathing paradise?

Eons of earth story, long before rocks, plants or bones
Bulging with flesh and blood in every corner of paradise

You call me Old Man, 12,000 years old, but really I’m a baby of
River Warren, swollen with glacier water flooding the paradise

My torso sloughed by old ice, two cities on sandstone bluffs
Headwaters of a 2350-mile road towards the gulf of paradise

A walk along the beach, a bag of rocks, fossils and agates
Each tells stories of the river, land & life—a kinship of paradise

Come to me at dawn or dusk, by foot, canoe or a single shell
To greet eagles, cranes, fox, trees…a ten-mile gorge of paradise

Gar, bass, goldeye, redhorse, bowfin, stoneroller, buffalo, drum, sunfish
Sickleback, darter, walleye, dace, mooneye…in the waves of paradise

The St. Anthony Fall that walked up 10 miles from Fort Snelling
Clams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sand
From the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise

From time to time, I take you into the amniotic womb
A reminder of our origin from a black, red, white, blue paradise

Do not dam me. To move freely is to evolve is to live
Lock feeds fear feeds hate feeds violence to the base of paradise

The Mississippi, temple on earth, home of all living things
Would you tread with love, through the heart of paradise?

We are water—H2O—two hands under an open heart
Pulsing, dissolving, bonding the earth to a green paradise

Stop seeking before or after life, for a paradise
Already in us, in each cell of being that is paradise

may 7/RUN

4 miles
one way to lake nokomis
61 degrees
28% humidity!

Wow. Nice weather. Loved being outside on this sunny, warm, just a slight breeze day. In certain moments, the run felt great. But only in moments. This week, the runs are much harder.

I came up with some more chants which I’m not sure I remember. Lots of raspberry strawberry blueberry creme brûlée vanilla butterscotch chocolate. Here are some more–some I composed mid-run, some right now:

I run down
river road
to the falls
then the lake
beautiful
gorge below
blue and green
magical
mystery
water’s high
path is low
creek is clear
echo bridge
walk the hill
ugly tree
thick black pods
locust tree?
startled mom
round about
little beach
missed my turn
double back
lift the knees
wipe the sweat
water please!
a slight breeze
leafing trees
a lone duck
Sea Salt smells
Dairy Queen
rushing cars
iced out lake
mucky shore
on your left
zooming bike

Here’s a great poem I found from the poet who changed my life (it was her “please add this to the list” book that re-ignited my love of poetry):

Leg of Lamb / Bernadette Meyer

A line
Break could reflect
The way the sun breaks
Through the clouds or breakfast
Or, this rainbow begins here
And then’s over
There
The aurora borealis can be
All over the sky
Wherever you look
Not in one place
Like north
Up and down
East and west, southwest
Sid-saddle, acrobatic as a squirrel
Is an e-mail directional?
I guess I’ll just think
And be as smart as in dreams
So they won’t come to get me
And take me away to
Zanzibar, the mental asylum, the hospital
The jail, turn the line’n you wind up in
Antarctica Australia Mesoamerica mesothelioma
The middle of nowhere somewhere
Where somehow you’ve left all the slush
Behind back there where the line begins, ends
Do we notice? Yes
Are we sorry? No, maybe, always
Sometimes never we will never come to an end because
Starting over’s our addiction, a dead
End and where does that leave
Us?
  

may 6/RUN

3.75 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
53 degrees

Another beautiful spring day. Windier but not too warm. Greeted the welcoming oaks at the beginning of my run, the Daily Walker at the end. It felt difficult–my legs were sore, my nose was stuffed up. Don’t remember much about the run except for that it was hard to be inspired and enjoy it when it felt difficult. Many more leaves on the trees. Bright, light green. Turning around, heading back, I took off my sweatshirt. As I ran I tried to remember what I noticed when I ran through one particular stretch of the path. I couldn’t remember anything. That minute or two lost forever. Saw the silver roof of the maintenance building on the St. Paul side–at least, I think that’s what it is. I noticed it a few times this year, so bright and blinding. Chanted my usual a few times: raspberry strawberry blueberry creme brûlée.

After finishing and walking back, I came up with a 3 beat chant:

I run through
the oak grove
and call out
to each oak
good morning
good morning
good morning
good morning
they call back
hello friend

experiment

Create 3 beat phrases, mostly based on the run. Write them on slips of paper, put them face down on the desk, pick twelve. Make a poem, using them in the order they were picked. Rearrange the phrases to make another poem.

too much green
difficult
mystery
take the steps
aching legs
in the gorge
climate change
up so high
be right back
old stone steps
good morning
stop and walk

good morning
too much green
in the gorge
difficult
mystery
take the steps
old stone steps
up so high
aching legs
stop and walk
be right back
climate change

hmmm…I’ll have to work on this experiment. Not great so far. Thinking about the old stone steps, this afternoon I took Delia for a walk down them to the river. First, we waited for a woman to come up. She paused about three steps down and gazed at the river, the forest, the deep gorge. As she left I remarked, “It’s beautiful.” She said, “like another world.” So true. Taking those steps down to the forest floor is magical. And that view–gorg(e)ous (groan).

Here’s a cool map poem I found this morning in an article about concrete poetry and poems as maps.

I’m thinking it might be fun to try one of these for a running route poem.

may 4/RUN

2.25 miles
mississippi river road, north/south/north
71 degrees

Is everyone in Minneapolis out biking today? It seems like it. I’m glad I ran instead. I would have been scared to be on such crowded bike trails with my bad vision today. Not being able to bike as much as I’d like sucks. Did a combination of running and walking because I just ran 6 miles yesterday. So warm and sunny! My legs felt sore. Do I remember much of the run? Big groups of bikes on the road and the path. Not too many runners. Lots of traffic. The river was beautiful. What a day!

some 3 beat phrases:

what a day
it’s so hot
lots of bikes
stopped to walk
sun beats down
not much wind
green abounds
afternoon
legs are sore

eat my shorts
dive right in
shut your mouth
eat your greens
take the steps
on your left
river road

Summer Haibun
Aimee Nezhukumatathil

To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night. Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air

the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light

I’ve talked about it for awhile but I’d finally like to try writing a few haibuns about my running routes. A goal for this month! This example from Aimee Nezhukumatathil is beautiful. I love the line, “There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night.”


may 3/RUN

6 miles
franklin hill turnaround
54 degrees

Almost an hour long run–my goal amount of time. An hour is not too long to be worn out but long enough to really sink into a run. I’d love to run an hour almost every day. Will my body ever let me?

I don’t really remember what I thought about but I do remember:

  • small, light purple (lilac?) flowers blooming in some bushes at the side of the path…I noticed them through my peripheral vision
  • the smell of warming earth, slightly fragrant (not too much or too little, just right)
  • a bald eagle perched on the branch of a tree in the flats…it stayed motionless the whole time I ran by it, almost as if it was doing it just to make sure I could positively identify it, even with my bad vision…once I had, I lost track of it either because it flew away or because it got lost in the dead zones in my central vision that my chaotic cones create
  • 2 different runners, one near the beginning of my run the other at the end, passing me, running effortlessly, inspiring me to pick up my knees more and try to spend more time flying, less time shuffling
  • unlayering: removing my orange sweatshirt mid run and tying it around my waist as I ran down the franklin hill
  • a group of school kids biking south on the river road…encountered them first in the flats, later past franklin, then again under the lake street bridge…one kid called out, “greetings pedestrian!”
  • so much green in the gorge!
  • a biker calling out to me as I ran up the steep, long franklin hill, “you’re doing a great job on a tough hill!”
  • a walker calling out to me as I walked at the top…not sure what he said, something about my legs?
  • chanting raspberry/strawberry/blueberry/creme brule to steady my tempo
  • chanting there’s a bridge/there’s a bridge/at the top/at the top/look at it/look at it/never stop/never stop to keep me running up the hill
  • trickling, gurgling water in the flats near the limestone hill where the mudslide occurred a few years ago
  • glancing at the beautiful blue river
  • running with my shadow, first at my side, then leading me

Speaking of chanting, I have a new exercise I want to try. First, I want to think up a bunch of 3 syllable phrases (down the hill, walk to work, eat down town, out the door, sunday best, monday worst, turnip greens, climate change, just say please, in and out…). Then I’ll write these on small slips of paper and put them in a hat or a bowl or a bag. I’ll randomly pick out 8-10 and turn them into a poem (either in the order I select them or in an order of my choosing). Maybe the phrases should be a mixture of things from the run and popular or whimsical expressions? So much fun!

Oh, this poem! “We are engorged, gorging, and gorgeous”

Life is Beautiful
BY DORIANNE LAUX

                             and remote, and useful,
if only to itself. Take the fly, angel
of the ordinary house, laying its bright
eggs on the trash, pressing each jewel out
delicately along a crust of buttered toast.
Bagged, the whole mess travels to the nearest
dump where other flies have gathered, singing
over stained newsprint and reeking
fruit. Rapt on air they execute an intricate
ballet above the clashing pirouettes
of heavy machinery. They hum with life.
While inside rumpled sacks pure white
maggots writhe and spiral from a rip,
a tear-shaped hole that drools and drips
a living froth onto the buried earth.
The warm days pass, gulls scree and pitch,
rats manage the crevices, feral cats abandon
their litters for a morsel of torn fur, stranded
dogs roam open fields, sniff the fragrant edges,
a tossed lacework of bones and shredded flesh.
And the maggots tumble at the center, ripening,
husks membrane-thin, embryos darkening
and shifting within, wings curled and wet,
the open air pungent and ready to receive them
in their fecund iridescence. And so, of our homely hosts,
a bag of jewels is born again into the world. Come, lost
children of the sun-drenched kitchen, your parents
soundly sleep along the windowsill, content,
wings at rest, nestled in against the warm glass.
Everywhere the good life oozes from the useless
waste we make when we create—our streets teem
with human young, rafts of pigeons streaming
over the squirrel-burdened trees. If there is
a purpose, maybe there are too many of us
to see it, though we can, from a distance,
hear the dull thrum of generation’s industry,
feel its fleshly wheel churn the fire inside us, pushing
the world forward toward its ragged edge, rushing
like a swollen river into multitude and rank disorder.
Such abundance. We are gorged, engorging, and gorgeous.

may 2/RUN

3.4 miles
mississippi river road path, south/mississippi river trail, north
46 degrees

About half of this run was on the paved path above the Mississippi River. I ran faster, listening to my latest running playlist, looking down at the river, leaning into the wind. The other half, after I turned around and made my way back up the hill and over the double bridge, was on a (mostly) abandoned trail midway above the gorge. First it was dirt, then broken chunks of asphalt mixed with mulching leaves, then slightly cracked asphalt sloping to one side. I put away my headphones and listened to water trickling. I watched the river flowing down to the falls. Studied the trail, trying not to twist my ankle or slip on some wet leaves. The first half was flat and faster, the second undulating mini hills winding around the gorge. I encountered runners and walkers and dogs and their owners. My most memorable interaction was with a chipmunk that darted out in front of me. A first–usually only squirrels cross my path. I can recall one other time a chipmunk darted in front of me. Biking with my daughter on the 5 mile wooded trail to Fort Snelling, a chipmunk scurried across the path and right into my wheel. Did it make it through the spokes or was it hit and then flung to the side? Just talked to my daughter about this story and she says that the chipmunk definitely made it through the spokes.I’m not sure, but it was knocked out or dead, lying on the side of the trail. Sad and strange.

Why are they called chipmunks? Here’s what Merriam Webster has to say: alteration of earlier chitmunk, probably from Ojibwa ačitamo·nʔ red squirrel

I call them chippies and, like squirrels and other rodents, find them to be irritating. They used to live in the garage of our old house and now, at our new one, they like to get trapped in the gutter on the side of the house, chirping and chipping and freaking out the dog.

I love this poem I found on The Rumpus for many reasons, including: the repetition and expansion and the flipping (and critique) of the nature poem about a mountain,

ANOTHER POEM ABOUT A MOUNTAIN/joseph rios

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a Mexican
fertilizing the lawn at a ski resort
at the foot of a mountain.

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a Chicano
attending a holistic retreat
at a ski resort looking out a window
at a Mexican fertilizing the lawn
at the foot of a mountain.

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a boy
who mows lawns with his father
then grows up to be a poet
looking out a window
at a Mexican fertilizing the lawn
at the foot of a mountain.

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a gardener
mowing the lawn outside a hospital
in Fresno, which, like this, sits
between two rows of mountain,
where the boy cried for his father
and his brother, the convicted felon
with dog paws tattooed to his neck,
hugged him for the first time, long before
the boy came to the ski resort to write about
the man fertilizing the foot of the mountain.

april 30/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
40 degrees
light rain

I love running when it’s lightly raining. I could hear the drops falling on the bill of my cap but didn’t really feel them. The wind was barely blowing so the drops fell straight down and not into my face. Passed the Daily Walker early on. Encountered a few other runners and walkers. Heard some geese high above. Some voices down below me–were they rowers on the river? Not sure. Felt relaxed and strong. Chanted some triplet rhythms: strawberry/raspberry/blueberry. Thought about the summer and other things that I can’t remember. Noticed that the turnoff to a street that I’d like to run up is 2.6 miles from my house. Marveled at the beautiful green down in the gorge and the slivers of river that I can still see. Listened to the shuffling of the sand under my feet. Almost forgot–I could really smell the rain: chemicals, earth, warmth.

Wanted to find a poem about spring rain. Love the imagery in this one:

Two Sewing
Hazel Hall

The Wind is sewing with needles of rain.
With shining needles of rain
It stitches into the thin
Cloth of earth. In,
In, in, in.
Oh, the wind has often sewed with me.
One, two, three.

Spring must have fine things
To wear like other springs.
Of silken green the grass must be
Embroidered. One and two and three.
Then every crocus must be made
So subtly as to seem afraid
Of lifting colour from the ground;
And after crocuses the round
Heads of tulips, and all the fair
Intricate garb that Spring will wear.
The wind must sew with needles of rain,
With shining needles of rain,
Stitching into the thin
Cloth of earth, in,
In, in, in,
For all the springs of futurity.
One, two, three.

april 29/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
56 degrees

An early evening run (or late afternoon, depending on when you think the afternoon ends and the evening begins). Really helped my mood and energy level. Wonderful to get some fresh air and move around. I’ve always been restless, needing to move, starting to pace if I stayed in the same spot too long, but now my body is revolting even more. Sitting in a chair for an hour or more, I get stiff and sore and my kneecap shifts slightly out of place. Boo. An aging body is no fun….Ran without headphones. Didn’t hear much, even though the river road was busy. Lots of cars commuting home. Runners, bikers, dogs and their humans. I felt overdressed in shorts and a jacket, but many walkers were wearing winter coats–one lady had on ear muffs. Ear muffs?! It was 56 degrees. By the end of my run, I had unzipped my jacket and had stripped down to a tank top. I noticed a lot of green, but not much of the river. Saw a bunch of people heading down to the road to the rowing club. A rowing class? I’ve been thinking that that might be fun to do. When I reached the turn around point at the greenway, I heard some loud bellowing just below the railroad trestle. What was going on? I didn’t stick around to find out.

What a poem:

Anti-Elegy/cameron awkward-rich

She was:

33, bullet.
35, bullet.
20, bullet.
25, stabbed to death & run over by a car.
66 blade.
22 bullet.
17 fist.
36 blade.
blade.
blade.
bullet.
bullet.
bullet
stone
found dead in a field
overdose
bullet
unknown
rope
stone
stone
bullet
oncoming traffic
his own good hands…

& it becomes a kind of music, doesn’t it?
Senseless litany, field of roses, blood red
upturned skirts. I open my mouth & here,
the pith of me. Here, a flock of names, a girl
spilling out onto the street.

The trouble with elegy
is that it asks the dead

to live, it calls them back.
& who am I to say rise?

Walk again among those
who could not bear

the sight of you? Your body.
Your one good dress.

Today, someone will walk into the night
& then become it. Someone’s heart

will crowd with beloved ghosts
& who am I to say, dance

with me here a little longer? Never mind
the bloodshed darling, never mind.

Never mind.

Once, a man said mine
& a woman became an empty room.

Once, a man said mine
& the ocean split & the endless passage.

Once, a man said mine
& there’s a genocide –

how strange. To make the world
with language. To wield desire

as a weapon. To watch one nation burn
& another rise up at your feet.

Once, a girl looked in the mirror
& called herself, said my name is

said I am / I am & a man said
mine / mine / mine

I have so many questions:

Who are

What does

Why

How does it feel to

I’m sorry, I just think

I

And, define

I’m sorry

Your anger

You’re afraid of

Can fear be

Define

knife

Define

Fear is

Please

Forgive

me

Wow. This whole poem, and especially these lines: he trouble with elegy/is that it asks the dead/to live, it calls them back./who am I to say rise?

april 28/RUN

3.5 miles
mississippi river road path, south/mississippi river trail, north
41 degrees

What a wonderful run! Sunny. Hardly any wind. Cool. No headphones. Ran south towards the falls but turned around before I got there then decided to take the lower trail on the way back. The first part of it wasn’t paved. The second part, barely paved. The third, paved but hilly. More interesting and distracting. Couldn’t think too much about how far I had left to run because I was concentrating on avoiding cracks or holes or unexpected dips. I liked it. I should try more trail running. More green today. A few geese. Lots of walkers and bikers.

Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?
BY TRACY K. SMITH

1.

After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being—a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure

That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?

Would I put on my coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired

And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.

      2.

He leaves no tracks. Slips past, quick as a cat. That’s Bowie
For you: the Pope of Pop, coy as Christ. Like a play
Within a play, he’s trademarked twice. The hours

Plink past like water from a window A/C. We sweat it out,
Teach ourselves to wait. Silently, lazily, collapse happens.
But not for Bowie. He cocks his head, grins that wicked grin.

Time never stops, but does it end? And how many lives
Before take-off, before we find ourselves
Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?

The future isn’t what it used to be. Even Bowie thirsts
For something good and cold. Jets blink across the sky
Like migratory souls.

      3.

Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
He’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.

I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions

When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
SHINE SHINE SHINE SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
Go ahead.

april 27/RUN

4.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
45 degrees

A good run. Could feel that my cadence was faster. More flying. Enjoyed listening to music. Not too many people out on the path. In southern Minnesota they’re expected to get 4 to 8 inches of snow but here barely even a drop of rain. Nice. I’m done with snow. Don’t remember much from the run except for enjoying going faster. Did my left thigh feel a little tight towards the end? I think so. Noticed all the green in the gorge. Pretty soon, my view will be covered. Looked at the river but don’t remember anything about it–brown, I think. Counted different layers of clothing left by the side of the path–overdressed runners? A black stocking cap. A black sweatshirt. Anything else?

I love this poem about remembering a dead mother. Such a beautiful capturing of that feeling–a sudden rush of remembering!

Wondrous/sarah frelight

I’m driving home from school when the radio talk
turns to E.B. White, his birthday, and I exit
the here and now of the freeway at rush hour,

travel back into the past, where my mother is reading
to my sister and me the part about Charlotte laying her eggs
and dying, and though this is the fifth time Charlotte

has died, my mother is crying again, and we’re laughing
at her because we know nothing of loss and its sad math,
how every subtraction is exponential, how each grief

multiplies the one preceding it, how the author tried
seventeen times to record the words She died alone
without crying, seventeen takes and a short walk during

which he called himself ridiculous, a grown man crying
for a spider he’d spun out of the silk thread of invention —
wondrous how those words would come back and make

him cry, and, yes, wondrous to hear my mother’s voice
ten years after the day she died — the catch, the rasp,
the gathering up before she could say to us, I’m OK.

This poem is one sentence. What a sentence!

april 25/RUN

5.45 miles
ford loop
60 degrees

Spring running! Overcast, so no hot sun. Hardly any wind. Low humidity. Decided to run the Ford loop for the first time in months. Reached the river, turned right instead of left, climbed up the hill just past Locks and Dam #1, ran over the Ford bridge, up the east side of the river road, up the hill just past Summit, down the other side, over the Lake Street bridge, then south on the west river road. Stopped at the Lake Street bridge and noticed the water again. A dark olive green this time instead of brown. Still cloudy–looks like the river has cataracts?–moving very slowly. I watched a big log drift down towards the falls. No birds or boats or other debris on the river. A nice, steady run. Managed to hold onto a few thoughts about the poem I’m working on but only for a minute. Lost again. Noticed my shadow. Heard some birds. Avoided a lot of cracks on the St. Paul side. Greeted at least one runner with a “good morning,” others with a smile. Became annoyed by the buzz of a leaf blower. No bugs flew into my eyes. Saw some hikers below me. Wondered about a lone bike propped up against a bench. Counted 2 runners with bright yellow, glowing shirts.

I have decided I am tired of writing “birds chirp” or trill or sing. I want to know more about bird calls, have more specific words for describing their various songs and calls. So I looked it up and found a great series on the Audubon Society’s site. Will this interest in bird calls last past this post? Not sure, but I would like to try to listen more carefully to them. Here’s a passage that was particularly enticing in part one of the series:

Are there American Robins in your yard or local park? In addition to their rich, caroling song, robins have a surprising number of different calls. Spend some time with them and study their repertoire; the knowledge will be useful practically anywhere you go in North America. Plus, it’s a method you can repeat with other familiar species.

To speed up the learning process, don’t just listen passively: Focus and analyze what you’re hearing. Describe the sound to yourself, draw a diagram, or write it down. If it’s a complicated song, figure out how many notes it has. Do all the notes have the same tone and vibe? Does the tune rise or fall? Can you adapt the “syllables” into words and make a mnemonic? The Barred Owl, for instance, hoots Who cooks for you, and the Common Yellowthroat sings Wichity-wichity-wichity. But you don’t have to just settle for published mnemonics; listen carefully and then invent your own. Little memory hooks like these will make birding easier the next time around. And as always, repetition helps.

How to Identify Birds by Sounds

april 23/RUN

5.4 miles
franklin hill turn around
49 degrees

Intended to think about the light (so bright today) or green but didn’t. Listened to my new playlist, including a few songs from Lizzo’s new album, and forgot about almost everything. When I want to get lost in the run and make time meaningless (and nearly measureless), I listen to my headphones–it also usually helps me to experience a superficial runner’s high. I did manage to think about a few things: No green above the forest floor. Greeted the Daily Walker. Felt strong and steady and hot–one too many layers. Can’t remember smelling anything or looking at the river more than once. Noticed two runners ahead of me. One walking, then running, then walking again. The other always running. Both faster than me. Studied the uneven path, making sure not to twist my foot. Encountered one goose, down near the flats, sitting in the grass.

Spending a few more minutes thinking about what I do/don’t remember from this run, I remembered something else. As I listened to Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” I thought about femininity and being bad ass (I sped up a little during this song) and what it means to be “like a girl.” For me, I’m not sure. I identify more as Sara than as a gender, but as a former feminist/queer theorist, I’ve thought a lot about performances of gender–read and taught Iris Marion Young’s iconic essay, “Throwing Like a Girl” and Judith Butler’s line from Gender Trouble (citing Aretha Franklin) about feeling like a natural woman. Lizzo has a line in the chorus: “if you feel like a girl, then you real like a girl.” So packed with meaning, powerful! Then I found a quote from her, which really speaks to why I noticed the line and like it so much:

When we got to the bridge, I realized there was an important piece missing: What if you identify as female but aren’t gender-assigned that at birth? Or what if you’re male but in touch with your feminine side? What about my gay boys? What about my drag queens? So I decided to say, If you feel like like a girl/Then you real like a girl, and that’s my favorite lyric on the whole album.

Lizzo on Apple Music

Found my notes for April 23, 2018 in my running notebook. All about layers and inner and outer weather. I’ve been trying to write about layers for over a year now. Will it ever click? Not sure. At the top of the page, I wrote: attention distraction/ distraction attention/ wandering between/ boundary/ border/ layer Two years ago, wrote a lyric essay about attention and distraction. Maybe I should turn it into a poem?

Discovered this beautiful poem this morning:

The End and the Beginning
BY WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA
TRANSLATED BY JOANNA TRZECIAK

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

april 21/RUNHIKE

2 mile run/.5 mile hike
mississippi river gorge above and below, north/south
72 degrees

Ran a mile with Scott to the Lake Street bridge then hiked below to the river for 1/2 mile, climbed up some stone steps by the greenway, then ran 1 mile back. Beautiful. Everything was brown–almost looked like fall but felt like summer. I’d like to do more run/hikes like this. This side of the gorge is similar to the east side, except the east side has paved paths, an abandoned parking lot and benches/picnic tables. Scott and I encountered some dirt mounds, halfway up the gorge, and wondered if they were burial mounds.

Spent some time looking through the archives of Boaat and found this cool poem: DRIFTING/aya satoh

april 20/RUN

3 miles
stone arch/pink bridge/river road/stone arch
62! degrees

Ran with Scott while FWA was in his clarinet lesson. Warm. Sunny. Windy. Crowded. Instead of our regular room through Boom Island, we decided to take the service road to the U and run across the pink bridge. That loop is only 2.2 miles so we added one more trip across Stone Arch bridge.

This week in my poetry class we talked about the caesura (a stop of pause in the metrical line). Here’s a great poem, by a wonderful person, about the caesura. Love it!

WEIGHT
by Carolina Ebeid

(hush listen)

Is a caesura a quiet hallway

in a church? Is it a silence

with commandments to hush,

listen? Was it composed for

two voices? Is that silence

like the time you said stop it

wait to the boys, how you

should have said stop, but

you said nothing behind

la carnicería that sold live

chickens? When a boy picked

up the brick throwing it at

the hen—wait— from a near

distance? Is the caesura that

near distance a brick travels

from hand to head? Is white

space like piano keys playing

softer & softer until zero

decibels? Is it the cleared

sweep after a missile falls

no more green? Does it share

the pull of gravity? Is it the living

body of Ana Mendieta? Dropped

—stop—out of a window?

Is she in a kind of white now?

Is it composed of no & no?

Wouldn’t you say the white

is like the space of an envelope?

Where the postage must go?

Dear person who won’t write

back, Most esteemed ghost

matter, My darling inventory

of nature? The white lie

white whisper hearsay flickering

all reaching the moment of

a candle blown out? Is the white

break like a hospital door

swinging open & there your father

delivered back to you? Linen

white muzzle across the face?

Does the break assemble into

a waiting room? One woman asks

for the housekeeper’s name

while her friend replies:

aren’t they all named Maria?

Is the white space clean

with the smell of ammonia?

Is there dizzying laughter? Say

stop it, wait. Is it like a hurricane

with the same name? Has it become

marble-quite like a wall

for interning ashes? Is it the sound

of rubble? Isn’t the empty white

more like moons growing brightest

from right to left? Right to left

like a message in the Arab

side of town, spray-painted

on a curfew night? Won’t you say

it’s composed for more than two

voices? Like a chorus that speaks

in unison there? Aren’t they all

named Maria? Do they make

the sound of rubble? The nothing

you say, is it dressed in white

like the guy in your group punching

the girl from the rival group who

talks trash at us & he hits her

because a woman is liberated just

like a man? Liberation?

Is it blurred & blank with flight?

Wasn’t it composed for a pyro-

technic finale? Whites of eyes

like the white of a room you walk into

& no one seems to be grieving?

Isn’t the white, the whites of human

teeth glossed with blood

on the concrete?

april 19/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin bridge loop
52 degrees!

Spring! Shorts, sun, Shadow, sparkling water, slight soft breeze. A wonderful run, even though it felt hard at times. Saw the Daily Walker but couldn’t greet him because we were running the same way. Encountered 2 separate groups of kids on bikes–one on the east side, one on the west. Heard some birds. Saw lots of brown. Noticed the white beach in the gorge, midway between the lake street bridge and the greenway. Watched my shadow for awhile. Mostly she was friendly but she irritated me on the franklin bridge right before I turned and she fell behind. Did a lot of counting: 1 2 3 45 1 2 345 then 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8…thought about how 7 is the only number with 2 syllables. Why is that? Convinced my self to not stop to walk until at least mile 4 and managed to do it. I think I saw the man in black in shorts and not all black! Looked for the eagle on the dead tree under the marshall side of the bridge.

Above all else, tried to stay focused on the river. Glad I could still see it–the leaves haven’t returned yet. At first it seemed still, not moving. But by the Franklin bridge I noticed its slow descent to the falls. I stopped on the lake street bridge to watch it more closely. Decided to talk into my smart phone. Maybe I can shape some of this into a poem? I’d like to try recording more of these moments this spring. A good way to force myself to slow down my runs.

looking at the mississippi/lake street bridge

transcript from recording:

standing here
on the lake street bridge
watching the river water
as it slowly moves
at certain spots it’s shimmering
at other spots
it almost looks like a pale ghost
ghostly ice just under the surface
or muddy swirls near the bottom
the dirt just being loosened
and brought up to the surface
the river is mostly brown and then blue
and everything’s brown
and the water just slowly moves
earlier it seemed
almost dead lifeless so still
and now I can see it’s just slowly
moving closer to the falls

With practice, I’m hoping to get better at these brief recordings. It was hard to capture with words the strange beauty of the river’s slow movement in many different forms. Part of the surface was sparkling, shimmering, undulating. Some was smooth, flat. A few vees were visible–was something in the water disrupting it? And then, the ghostly swirls. Speaking of vees, right after I finished recording, a skein of geese flew overhead, not too far above the bridge.

Here’s a poem I just found about the river (and Heraclitus!):

SAME SUN, SAME MOON, SAME RIVER
BY NEIL CARPATHIOS

It is easy to imagine Heraclitus
walking stone streets witnessing
life in Athens with no permanence,
stopping strangers to explain about the river,
being laughed at as they moved
from point A to point B fearing Apollo
and Hades then at dusk drinking wine,
waiting for the happy obliteration alcohol brings,
not realizing how lucky they were
to be stupid and so deep
in their bodies even the sun
and moon trading places over and over
meant nothing.

april 17/BIKERUNBIKE

18 min bike/.75 mile run/4 min bike
basement

It’s raining outside. Glad it’s warm enough not to snow. Decided to warm up on the bike and then record myself running to check out my form. Pretty good. I think my right hip is slightly lower. Just looked it up and this “hip drop” is caused by a weakness in the opposite leg, which makes sense because it is my left leg/hip/back giving me problems right now. Back when I started running, I never thought about my body. It worked fine, so why pay attention to it? Now, I have aches and pains and injuries. These are frustrating and painful and scary but I do appreciate the new, more informed, relationship I’m having with my knees and hips and back and the rest of my body. It’s difficult growing older and having to try harder to not hurt but, at the same time, I’m enjoying learning more and having the chance to pay attention to my body. So helpful and interesting!

a fuzzy screenshot from my recording

Since, I’m thinking about hips, here’s one of the best hips poem ever:

homage to my hips
BY LUCILLE CLIFTON

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Also, when I was biking, I watched the first episode of Shrill and I’m excited to watch the rest of the season. Hooray for unruly, excessive bodies making trouble!


april 16/RUN

3.5 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
51 degrees

What a day! Sunny. Light breeze. Warm. So long snow. Passed a woman early on, breathing heavily. Her loud gasps, almost echoing above the gorge, followed me for a few minutes. Celebrated with my shadow, both of us so happy to be outside this morning. Wondered what the workers in yellow vests were waiting for near the lake street bridge. Heard that same barking dog–the one I heard a couple of times a few months ago–pass by me in that same white truck. Weird. Stopped at the railroad trestle and took the steps down, below the trestle, still above the river. Hiked for a few minutes, climbing a few small hills–more like mounds. Heard a few woodpeckers. Turned around and had a wonderful view of the underbelly of the railroad bridge. Then started running again. When I was almost done, a squirrel decided to race me, not darting out in front of me but running beside me through the dead leaves. Was able to say good morning to the Daily Walker.

Here’s one other poem that I marked to remember from The Collected Works of James Laughlin:

THE LONGEST YEAR/james laughlin

Began with snowstorms, one after another.
In March a frantic night of wind took down
The huge sugar maple that showed a hundred
Rings when it was cut up for firewood.
Spring was dubious and too short, a hot
Summer too long. A child drowned in Tobey
Pond, it was horrible. Only in October
Were there a few perfect days with the leaves
Ablaze. Again before its time, baleful winter
Set in. Cars skidded on the icy roads.
At Christmas a false thaw deceived us
For a week before a deadly ice storm had
The branches of the trees cracking like
Rifle shots as they broke off all night.
It was a battlefield in the woodlot
Next morning. I didn’t count the days
Of that malevolent year, I only wished
Never to see such another. . . until,
Blessed miracles, it was true spring,
the lilacs blooming, the daffodils
Nodding, and you, Persephone, came up
From the world below to seek me out.

april 15/RUN

2.15 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
52 degrees

Watched the Boston Marathon this morning. Last year, when I was watching it, we were getting 17 inches of snow. This year, sun and above freezing temperatures. Did a short run with Scott this afternoon. Windy and overcast but warmer with a clear path. Felt pretty easy, like I was bouncing on the path.

Found a draft of a poem that I wrote a few years ago. It’s inspired by what I’d recently read on how different writers remember their thoughts when they’re walking or running.

How do you keep

an idea from running away? Grab a stick
and etch it in your arm? Pin a piece
of paper to your clothes? Jot it down
in a pocket-sized notebook? Speak it
into your smart phone? Why
not let it run away
instead of immobilizing it with words.
You might be able to follow it
into the woods or
over the creek or
down by the river or
under the bridge.
Words may not be fast enough to follow
but you might
with your flying feet.

And here’s a poem I read (and heard) this morning on the Poetry Foundation site. What a poem! I love the title and so many of the images–especially describing the field after harvest as a man’s unruly face. Even better than describing it as stubble (which I’ve often thought and read before).

Thinking of Frost
Major Jackson, 1968

I thought by now my reverence would have waned,
matured to the tempered silence of the bookish or revealed
how blasé I’ve grown with age, but the unrestrained
joy I feel when a black skein of geese voyages like a dropped
string from God, slowly shifting and soaring, when the decayed
apples of an orchard amass beneath its trees like Eve’s
first party, when driving and the road Vanna-Whites its crops
of corn whose stalks will soon give way to a harvester’s blade
and turn the land to a man’s unruly face, makes me believe
I will never soothe the pagan in me, nor exhibit the propriety
of the polite. After a few moons, I’m loud this time of year,
unseemly as a chevron of honking. I’m fire in the leaves,
obstreperous as a New England farmer. I see fear
in the eyes of his children. They walk home from school,
as evening falls like an advancing trickle of bats, the sky
pungent as bounty in chimney smoke. I read the scowl
below the smiles of parents at my son’s soccer game, their agitation,
the figure of wind yellow leaves make of quaking aspens.

april 14/RUN

4.75 miles
to top of franklin bridge and back
32 degrees
5% snow-covered

The snow is melting. The birds are chirping. The path is almost all clear. So quiet and calm today. Mostly cloudy, making the river look gray. The floodplain forest was all white. Occasionally the sun sat on the surface of the river leaving a bright circle of shimmering light. Saw a few squirrels. Heard some geese. Any crows? I don’t think so. A few voices below–a family hiking through the snow on the gorge. I wonder when the rowers will return?

Yesterday morning I started reading through The Collected Poems of James Laughlin. What a big book! 1214 pages. I’m reading through them quickly, marking the ones I especially like. In general, I like his simple, clear style. Brief lines. A quirky voice. Here are a few that I marked:

THE POET TO THE READER/james laughlin

These poems are not I
hope what anyone ex-

pets and yet reader
I hope that when you

read them you will say
I’ve felt that too but

it was such a natural
think it was too plain

to see until you saw
it for me in your poem.

IN THE SNOW/james laughlin

The track of the ermine
the track of the mouse

tracks of a deer in the
snow and my track that

wanders and hesitates
doubling and crossing

itself stops to burrow
and circles trees this

track I made twists like
the veins in a leaf of a

crack in a mirror and it
cries seems to cry cries

to the sun cries sun sun
touch and burn cries sun

touch and save cries to
the snow–and then snow

falls covering everything
new snow covers my track

covers the track of the
ermine mouse and deer.

LITTLE BITS OF PAPER: AN ARS POETIC/james laughlin

Most of them began with a few words
read in some book or a phrase over-

heard scratched on a bit of paper
these chits go into the side pocket

of my jacket usually they stay there
until the coat is so spotted it must

be sent to the cleaners when I empty
the pocket most of the slips go into

the wastebasket but a few are pasted
with Scotch tape on the bathroom mir-

ro where I see them when I’m shaving
some stay there a long time but with

some there is an urgency they come
into my head when I wake to pee in

the middle of the night more words
come with them almost faster than I

can scribble on the yellow pad on the
bedtable the words beget other words

(it’s like spilled milk spreading on
the kitchen floor) words making other

words I don’t make them they make
themselves into the poem but some-

times in the morning I can’t read
what I’ve written (because I wrote

in the dark) so that’s the end of
that one it’s had its say and it

won’t come back I write in darkness.

I picked this last one because it made me think of Susan Howe and her story about Jonathan Edwards and how he would pin ideas he had on scraps of paper to his clothes as he was riding around on his horse. A couple of years ago, I was thinking a lot about how runners hold onto the ideas that they have as their running–scribble it on pieces of paper, carry a small notebook, scratch it in their arm with a stick, talk into their smart phone. Maybe I should experiment with this some more? As I was trying to recall who Howe had been talking about (I had forgotten), I discovered that she wrote a book about Emily Dickinson, My Emily Dickinson. I might have to check it out of the library. Apparently, Dickinson wrote many of her poems on scraps of paper.

april 12/RUN

2 miles
basement, treadmill

Snowing again today. Wet, sloppy paths. But soon the snow will melt and it will turn green. Too green. Time to take up my project of collecting poetry about green and thinking about the Mississippi River Gorge in the spring.

Just found a wonderfully named essay, Green I Love You Green and this fabulous poem:

Inside Out/Bill Yake

trees are our lungs turned inside out
& inhale our visible chilled breath.

our lungs are trees turned inside out
& inhale their clear exhalations.

Love these ideas of trees and breathing and inside/outside!

april 11/RUN

2.8 miles
basement, treadmill

Winter storm warning outside. High winds, heavy snow, falling branches, covered path. School cancelled. So glad we have a treadmill. Although, if it weren’t so windy, I might have enjoyed running outside and hearing the satisfying squeaks and crunches of the heavy, water-logged snow. I’m not happy about this snow, but I also don’t really care. It will melt within a few days.

Ballad in A
BY CATHY PARK HONG

A Kansan plays cards, calls Marshall
a crawdad, that barb lands that rascal a slap;  
that Kansan jackass scats,
camps back at caballada ranch.

Hangs kack, ax, and camp hat.
Kansan’s nag mad and rants can’t bask,
can’t bacchanal and garland a lass,
can’t at last brag can crack Law’s balls,

Kansan’s cantata rang at that ramada ranch,
Mañana, Kansan snarls, I’ll have an armada
and thwart Law’s brawn,
slam Law a damn mass war path.

Marshall’s a marksman, maps Kansan’s track,
calm as a shaman, sharp as a hawk,
Says: That dastard Kansan’s had
and gnaws lamb fatback.

At dawn, Marshall stalks that ranch,
packs a gat and blasts Kansan’s ass
and Kansan gasps, blasts back.
A flag flaps at half-mast.

What a poem! I love writing under constraint, although limiting all vowels to A seems extra hard. (here’s a guide to the poem.) This technique of eliminating all vowels but A is a OuLiPo technique. Here are some others I found on Wikipedia–I’ll have to try them out.

S+7, sometimes called N+7
Replace every noun in a text with the seventh noun after it in a dictionary. For example, “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago…” becomes “Call me islander. Some yeggs ago…”. Results will vary depending upon the dictionary used. This technique can also be performed on other lexical classes, such as verbs.

Snowball
A poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer.

Lipogram
Writing that excludes one or more letters. The previous sentence is a lipogram in B, F, J, K, Q, V, Y, and Z (it does not contain any of those letters).

april 10/BIKE

28 minutes, bike stand
basement

After running four days in a row, decided to bike in the basement. Watched another Father Brown episode and had fun pedaling faster as Father Brown chased the murderer on a train. Before biking, took the dog for a walk on the Winchell trail. Before we got there, I looked up in the sky and saw a huge bird soaring high in the sky. After studying the Birds of the Mississippi River Gorge, I’m pretty sure it was a turkey vulture. Close-up this bird would probably not enchant me, but I loved seeing it’s wing span way above me. I stopped walking, looked up and stared until my neck hurt. Of course I briefly wondered what others might think of me, looking up so intently into the sky.

It is snowing right now. All the sun’s hard work, melting the snow for weeks, undone. No one is quite sure how much we will get. 3 inches? 5? A foot? Will it stay snow or turn into rain?

I’ve been working on a series of eye chart poems. Today I had a revelation. Sometimes images don’t make sense to me. They’re unformed. But how to explain what this feels like? Then it hit me. Sometimes images are only a cluster of dots, like standing too close to an impressionist painting–a Monet or Renoir. This sort of thing usually happens when I’m trying to make sense of a billboard image.

I love this poem by Jane Yeh. The overzealous/Cockatoo of her impatience/Flap flap. So great!

Bel Canto
BY JANE YEH

The opera
In her head

Runs with no interval,
A lot of people singing tunelessly

About the same things.
An overheard

Comment like
A rotting peach.

The overzealous
Cockatoo of her impatience,

Flap flap. The slab
Of blue behind her

Is a sea of
Her doubts. The squirrel

In her stomach
Trying to get out—

They say you have to be
Twice as good. They say

There are pills
For everything now. Enamel

Eyes to see all
The better with, my

Dear. Fur coat
For your tongue—

And, since it’s snowing in April, I decided to find a “snow in April” poem. There are many. Here’s one from 1941 that I like:

Snow in April/Leonora Speyer

I watched the blind attack,
The white invade the green,
I saw the green strike back,
A bough shake off the foe,
While on the ground below
The sharp young blades of grass,
A million strong,
Surged up and through . . .

The battle was not long:
I seemed to hear a shout,
And all the flags were out!

april 9/RUN

3.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
52 degrees

Decided to run again this morning because tomorrow winter returns: ice, snow, blizzard conditions. Hopefully it will melt quickly but if not, at least I was able to run just above the gorge today. It’s sunny and windy. My legs felt sore–not injured sore, just sore sore–and it was hard to just be in the run, not thinking. I tried chanting a little and that helped. Strawberry blueberry raspberry. Haven’t seen the Daily Walker in a while. Enjoyed listening to the grit scratch scratch scratch. Noticed a few stray patches of snow down below the lake street bridge. Marveled at the beauty of the floodplain forest, bare and brown. Didn’t really look at the river. Encountered a few dogs and their owners.

The daily poem over at poems.org is amazing:

Holdfast
Robin Beth Schaer

The dead are for morticians & butchers
to touch. Only a gloved hand. Even my son
will leave a grounded wren or bat alone
like a hot stove. When he spots a monarch
in the driveway he stares. It’s dead,
I say, you can touch it. The opposite rule:
butterflies are too fragile to hold
alive, just the brush of skin could rip
a wing. He skims the orange & black whorls
with only two fingers, the way he learned
to feel the backs of starfish & horseshoe crabs
at the zoo, the way he thinks we touch
all strangers. I was sad to be born, he tells me,
because it means I will die. I once loved someone
I never touched. We played records & drank
coffee from chipped bowls, but didn’t speak
of the days pierced by radiation. A friend
said: Let her pretend. She needs one person
who doesn’t know. If I held her, I would
have left bruises, if I undressed her, I would
have seen scars, so we never touched
& she never had to say she was dying.
We should hold each other more
while we are still alive, even if it hurts.
People really die of loneliness, skin hunger
the doctors call it. In a study on love,
baby monkeys were given a choice
between a wire mother with milk
& a wool mother with none. Like them,
I would choose to starve & hold the soft body.

I think I was that one friend to my mom. We would sit in the two matching chairs in her bedroom, watching bad tv–mostly The Real Housewives of New York–and good tv–the barefoot contessa–and laugh and talk, forgetting about how she was dying from stage four pancreatic cancer.

april 8/RUN

4.6 miles
to downtown
69 degrees
wind: 6 mph, gusts up to 30 mph

Not sure how much wind there was but I was running into all of it the whole way. It made it much harder. I stopped to walk several times but I still made it to downtown. Do I remember anything other than feeling sore and tired? The river was beautiful. I was able to make a satisfying shshshsh sound on the grit at the edge of the path. My back felt fine. I saw my shadow, running beside me. What a fabulous late afternoon. It is hard to believe that we are supposed to get over a foot of snow on Thursday.

Sitting by the open window writing this, I hear birds chirping and cooing and trilling. So I decided to look for a poem about birds and this is what I found:

Words are Birds
BY FRANCISCO X. ALARCÓN

words
are birds
that arrive
with books
and spring

they
love
clouds
the wind
and trees

some words
are messengers
that come
from far away
from distant lands

for them
there are
no borders
only stars
moon and sun

some words
are familiar
like canaries
others are exotic
like the quetzal bird

some can stand
the cold
others migrate
with the sun
to the south

some words
die
caged—
they’re difficult
to translate

and others
build nests
have chicks
warm them
feed them

teach them
how to fly
and one day
they go away
in flocks

the letters
on this page
are the prints
they leave
by the sea

april 7/RUN

3.25 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
53 degrees/84% humidity
shorts again! too warm!

A beautiful morning. Sunny. Warm. Not too windy. Ran towards the falls instead of downtown. Tried to hang onto some thoughts about my vision diagnosis from 2016. What did I feel when the doctor told me I was losing my central vision? Relief, mostly. Finally I knew what was wrong with me. It wasn’t something I was making up and it wasn’t neurological (my big fear). Now that I knew I could deal with it. This relief lasted for a few months and then the doubt crept in as I wondered if my vision was really as bad as the doctor said it was or if my easy acceptance of the diagnosis was too easy. Then, I discovered that what I had been diagnosed with (Best’s disease) was not actually what I had. Instead, I had a rarer, more vague form of cone dystrophy–pinpointing the exact disease might not be possible, wouldn’t change anything and would involve annoying, costly test. I had a great thought about this just as I was starting my run, but then forgot it. I should have stopped to speak it into my phone. Something about knowing and not knowing, embracing the uncertainty of never really knowing and accepting that knowing exactly what my vision problem is won’t make a difference in my treatment (there is none) or the speed at which my central vision deteriorates. And, in fact, knowing is not possible. This not knowing is not ignorance–more like never knowing enough, having perpetually incomplete knowledge, the impossibility of KNOWING.

As I was trying to think about what word to use for this phenomenon, I remembered “bewilderment”–first read in Fanny Howe’s great essay of the same name. Here are a few other sources that I bookmarked way back in August about bewilderment (confusion, uncertain, unknowing, wonder):

And here’s a source I found today: Unknowing Lyric

While looking through my old journal, I found this beautiful poem:

april 6/RUNBIKE

1.75 miles
basement, treadmill

30 minutes
basement, bike stand

Wanted to run outside this morning but it kept raining. Of course, now that I’m done, it has stopped. Still gloomy and wet. But my back doesn’t hurt and I feel good and I found a new show that I love watching–Father Brown–and I’m in the midst of an exciting writing project and open water swimming is only 2 months away, so I’m fine.

I love my poetry class. Amazingly, I feel totally fine about not being very good at analyzing poems or giving other people feedback about their poems. There is so much I don’t know or I can’t quite get (yet) about line breaks and rhythm and ending lines on strong words or soft words. The trick for me is to study these techniques without having them take over my writing.

Introduction to Poetry
BY BILLY COLLINS

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

april 4/BIKE

basement, bike stand
30 minutes

I wanted to run today but decided to rest my back and bike in the basement. I suppose I could have biked outside but its only 42 and windy and I’m not ready to take my bike off of its stand yet. I was planning to write about how I’m struggling today, worrying about my back and what might be wrong with it, but then I remembered: Taking a walk with Delia, I heard a wedge of geese (more on wedge in a moment) flying above me. Dozens or more. So high in the overcast sky. Then I heard another, smaller, group. So cool to watch. So exciting to see because they signal warmer weather.

About wedge: I was wondering what to call the group of geese so I googled it and found this wonderful answer:

If you come upon geese on land, you would refer to them as a gaggle. Gaggle, as we learned last time, was also recorded by Juliana Berners in the Book of Saint Albans to describe a group of swans. This is much the same as we would use ‘herd’ for a group of cows or deer. We can also refer to a group of geese on the ground as a herd and a corps.

If the geese are on water, they are a plump.

If in flight, geese are referred to as a skein. The online resource Dictionary.com defines skein as: a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.

A skein of geese would be a random in pattern in the sky – perhaps small clusters. If geese are in flight, and flying in a V formation, you would refer to them as a wedge, probably inspired by the shape.

Collective Nouns for Birds Near and Far

This small moment of beauty/joy/distraction/wonder reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

Dust of Snow
BY ROBERT FROST

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

And, this idea of small delights, reminds me of Ross Gay’s new book of essays (which I just requested from the library): The Book of Delights. Thinking about of all of this has made me feel so much better–less anxious, energized–and I have decided that finding ways to avoid darker thoughts by marking and meditating on the joys is what works for me. Maybe I should buy the Ross Gay book so I don’t have to wait a month or two for it to be returned? While I try to decide, I’ll read his essay in the The Paris Review, Loitering is Delightful.

april 3/RUN

3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
49 degrees
bare legs!

Took a few days off of running. Partly because my back was sore, partly because we took a mini trip to Duluth. All the snow is melted, all the paths are clear. Listened to my playlist and didn’t think about much. Looked down and noticed the white sand beach way below the path, between the lake street bridge and the greenway. I will have to explore it this spring. Wore shorts and wasn’t too cold. No gloves. No buff. Next Monday the high is supposed to be 71!

Encountered this poem a few weeks ago and wanted to remember it. Love the repetition and the exploration of metaphors and similes.

Neighbor Sweeping His Porch
Keith Leonard

He sweeps, and gray plumes of pollen
cloud waist-high behind him.
My neighbor sweeps the porch as slowly
as a gondolier rows at sunset.
His tie is loose at the neck
but still fastened to his shirt by a clip.
At the edge of the porch, he sweeps
in quick spurts like a telemarketer
before the customer quits.
He sweeps possibly without thinking.
He wears the crown of forgetting.
His kingdom is the name
of that actress in that movie.
He has swept so long
he is last September’s sunlight.
His broom replaces the wet leaves
with order, a second thing like snow.

march 29/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
43 degrees

Turned right instead of left and ran in the afternoon instead of the morning today. Felt harder. Hotter. A few more people out on the trail. Stopped at the halfway point to take off my sweatshirt then spent the second half of the run fiddling with the sleeves tied around my waist. Listened to headphones so I didn’t hear my shuffling feet or trickling water or barking dogs, chirping birds, whirring wheels or anything else.


march 28/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
41 degrees

Today I tried to listen. Some sounds I heard: the scratching of a metal rake on the bare pavement; a buzzing plane up above; birds chirping and cooing–any cawing? I can’t remember; the crunch crunch crunch of my striking feet on the gritty path; another plane roaring; dead leaves shuffling in the wind; car wheels whooshing. Then I forgot to listen and marveled at the earthy brown gorge. Why do I find this color so appealing? Looked through the floodplain forest all the way to the sliver of river. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks. Noticed a number of branches gone–must have been what the Minneapolis parks crew was doing in January with their chainsaws. Said good morning to the Daily Walker towards the end of my run. Chanted triplets. Wanted to stop and take a break at the 2 mile mark but didn’t. Decided that 40 degrees and slightly overcast are some of my favorite conditions for running.

I’m reading Craig Morgan Teicher’s lovely book, We Begin In Gladness: How Poetry Progresses and I just found this line:

It’s my puzzle to work out, and yours, and Szybist’s too, and where those bubbles overlap, where one interior meets another, and where inner meets outer, is poetry (29).

Again, the inner and outer. Where inner meets outer. Inside outside. Inner weather outer weather.

Lately I’ve been briefly waking up at 5:30 and then going back to sleep until 6:15 when the alarm goes off. This up too early then back to sleep again produces some vivid dreams. This morning, I dreamed about my mom, before she was sick. She was healthy and happy and wearing just the right shade of bright orange pants and red lipstick. We looked at each other and smiled. I woke up happy, thinking about how wonderful it was to see her again, especially in bright orange pants.

Are you sewing, Mom?
Angeline Schellenberg

my mother asks as
Grandma twines
her fingers through hospital sheets.
I’m planting marigolds,
she answers with a childish
grin. And tomorrow
you and I will bake
meat buns for Christmas.

I love this little poem that I discovered the other day.

march 26/RUN

5.1 miles
franklin loop
39 degrees
clear path!

Finally, after more than 2 months I was able to run the franklin loop! I checked and the last time I ran it was on January 7th. A wonderful morning for a run. It felt much warmer than 39 degrees. Sunny. I watched my shadow in front of me. Checked out the floodplain forest below me. Listened to the satisfying sounds of gritty sand crunching under my feet and the cars slowly approaching on the road from behind. Noticed several squirrels, too busy to dart out in front of me. Recited a few triplet melodies (raspberry/strawberry/chocolate) and a line or two from “Sick” by Shel Silverstein (I cannot go to school today/said little Peggy Ann McKay). Crossed the Franklin bridge and ran on a sidewalk stained white from salt. Glanced down at the East River Flats and a giant rock, almost taller than me, lodged in the grass between the walking and biking path. Made note of the terrible condition of the road between the Franklin bridge and the railroad trestle. So many potholes! Wondered if the eagle that used to perch on a branch near the marshall/lake street bridge was back (they weren’t). Decided to walk up the steps instead of running up the hill and crossing the road at the spot where a runner was hit by a car and killed two years ago.

Since it’s Robert Frost’s 145th birthday, I thought I’d post my favorite Frost poem. I read it in high school and I think it was one of the first poems I ever memorized. It helped me through my injury two summers ago.

Out, Out–
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them “Supper.” At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. “Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!”
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

march 25/RUN

4.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
99% clear walking path

Colder, causing an occasional slippery spot. Still felt like spring. Again, bright sun. Bare, brown ground. Open paths. Was able to mostly run on the walking path for the first time in months. I enjoyed the run but was always worried about my back. It didn’t hurt while I was running, but it’s been sore off and on for a few months. I don’t remember hearing the grit on the path or any rustling leaves. Too cold for dripping water. I think the most memorable thing about my run was the river. Dozens of ice floes slowly moving down the river. Beautiful and calming. At the halfway point, I stopped to watch their graceful progression towards Minnehaha Falls. As I ran back I wondered about our relative speeds–mine and the ice.

Layers: too many! 2 shirts, a vest, gloves, a buff, running tights, visor. The gloves came off after mile 1. My orange shirt, after mile 2. Pretty soon, I’ll be wearing shorts.

Shedding Skin
Harryette Mullen, 1953

Pulling out of the old scarred skin
(old rough thing I don’t need now
I strip off
slip out of
leave behind)

I slough off deadscales
flick skinflakes to the ground

Shedding toughness
peeling layers down
to vulnerable stuff

And I’m blinking off old eyelids
for a new way of seeing

By the rock I rub against
I’m going to be tender again



march 23/RACE

Hot Dash 5K
26:10
river front Minneapolis
30 degrees

Most of the races I run these days are on this route. St. Anthony Main to the Plymouth bridge, south on the West River Road, Stone Arch Bridge. A nice route, even if the cobblestones at St. Anthony Main are terrible. Avoided the many potholes and missing cobblestones, but ran into a big orange cone. Orange is one of the colors I struggle to see. Just happy I didn’t fall or injure myself. Perfect weather for a race–sunny, hardly any wind, cool but not too cold. Didn’t even consider running with headphones, which is funny because for the first few years of running I couldn’t imagine running without them. Don’t remember hearing any conversations or exuberant cheering. There were some drums banging near the Stone Arch Bridge. About 2.5 miles in there was a hill that I hated. Then another hill. Then, thankfully, the finish. I never wanted to stop and walk, but I was glad to be done.

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.

feb 22/RUN

4.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
19 degrees/feels like 19 degrees
100% snow-covered

feels like: this snow is here to stay forever, the white is too bright, a strange dream, slick, soft, sibilant

layers: (too much) green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket, black vest, buff, hood, visor, 2 pairs of tights, 1 pair of socks. gloves. 2 miles in, the gloves came off.

Not much sun but the snow was very bright. So white. White path, white walls, white sky. No snow on the river though. Walking, right before I started running, I heard the birds. Determined to make spring come soon. They started chirping a few weeks ago. The run was fun. I like running on snow, even if it is uneven in spots. Encountered a few other runners, the Daily Walker!, the man in black (the one I mentioned yesterday)–we greeted each other and he seems very nice so I’m not freaked out by how tall he is now, 2 fat tires, a few dogs. Thought about the marathon again as I neared the franklin bridge. Also thought about a poem I read this morning: Robert Duncan’s “Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow.” I was trying to think about the made place in my mind that I return to. I struggled to hold onto any thought about the poem or places I imagine. I kept thinking about my breathing and not slipping on a slick spot or twisting my ankle on an ice chunk.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
Robert Duncan

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down

whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

This poem is the first poem in Duncan’s 1960 book, The Opening of the Field. He was part of the Black Mountain Poets. Charles Olson was another member of the Black Mountain Poets. In doing some research on Duncan and this poem, I encountered Olson’s idea of projective verse: poetry shaped by rhythms of poet’s breath. So cool–I want to explore this more, thinking about breathing when I run vs. walk vs. sit.

Olson argues that the breath should be a poet’s central concern, rather than rhyme, meter, and sense. To listen closely to the breath, Olson states, “is to engage speech where it is least careless—and least logical.” The syllable and the line are the two units led by, respectively, the ear and the breath:

“the HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE
the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE”

poetry foundation introduction to “Projective Verse”

feb 21/RUN

4.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
13 degrees/feels like 5
100% snow-covered

feels like: freedom, solitude, quiet, I could run for another hour

Of course the amazing Minneapolis parks cleared the path already. It was difficult making my way to the river–several neighbors had not shoveled yet–but once I got there, it was fine. Better than it’s been for the last week, although there were still spots where the path was rough and uneven. Running above the river, I felt separated from everything. The plowed snow provided a hip high wall that divided me from the cars. And not many other people were outside. I only encountered 2 walkers, 1 runner and 1 biker (biking with thin tires on the road). One of the walkers was dressed all in black and was so tall–tall people unsettle me. Maybe it’s because I’m short? As I ran under the lake street bridge, on the way back, something strange happened: suddenly the sky turned lighter, from gray to brownish. After thinking about it for a moment I realized, it looked sepia toned. Weird. The wind picked up a little too. Maybe my eyes were seeing things after spending so much time staring at the bright white snow? The sepia tone made me feel like I was stuck inside a vintage photo of old Minneapolis. What did the river gorge look like 100 years ago? After a quick google search, I didn’t find any images of the west side of the gorge, but I did find a cool article about Bridal Veil Falls on the east side.

It was quiet today. There were cars, but they drove slower on the snow. No roaring or rumbling rushing. Not much wind. I did hear birds chirping as I walked to the river and a few geese honking deep in the gorge but mostly, everything was quiet, calm, slow–not in a thick way, just relaxed.

Keeping Quiet
Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

I discovered this poem last year. This morning, while looking through my running journal, I found it and my response. I like this poem but I feel like the advice is not universal.

Keep Quiet?
Sara Puotinen

Keep quiet
be still
stop moving
this impulse to still ourselves
to not move or do or be anything more
than a body with other bodies
does not feel liberating
it feels confining
maybe some of us keep too quiet
maybe some us stand too still
maybe some of us need movement—
need to be moving—to find the calm
to breathe
to feel less trapped

feb 20/SHOVEL

shoveling: 60 minutes
deck, sidewalk, front steps
26 degrees
8.5 inches

It’s official. February 2019 is the snowiest month in the recorded weather history of the Twin Cities. Almost 30 inches. No running today. I shoveled instead. The snow was light, fluffy, and abundant. So much snow! About an inch an hour. Not big flakes but still pretty to watch.

Snow-flakes
BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

note: The shape of this poem is pretty too, but WordPress isn’t letting me format it. Check out the shape of the lines–a snowflake, perhaps?–by clicking on the link in the poem’s title.

Snow as the poem of the air? Love it. Silent syllables revealed by a troubled sky? Haunting. You can listen to a beautiful reading of this poem on an episode of the Poetry Foundation’s podcast, Off the Shelf. As a bonus, here’s an essay about snow in poetry: Snow Days

A bonus poem: Windows

I’m including this poem because I’m thinking a lot about layers and insides and outsides/interiors and exteriors. What are some different ways that windows fit in here?

Windows/Randall Jarrell

Quarried from snow, the dark walks lead to doors
That are dark and closed. The white- and high-roofed houses
Float in the moonlight of the shining sky
As if they slept, the bedclothes pulled around them.
But in some the lights still burn.
There is the world-
Storm-windowed, or curtained in the summer wind-
That I have watched and wished to live within.

Those who live there move seldom, and are silent.
Their movements are the movements of a woman darning.
A man nodding into the pages of a paper,
And are portions of a rite, have kept a meaning
That I, that they, know nothing of.
As dead actors on a rainy afternoon
Move in a darkened living room, for children
Watching the world that was before they were-

The looked-at lives, the lives that are not lived,
The windowed ones within their window world
Move past me without doubt, and for no reason.
These actors, surely, have known nothing of today,
That time of troubles and of me. Of troubles.
Morose and speechless, valuable with elation,
Changing, unsleeping, an unchanging speech,
These have not lived–look up, indifferent,
At me at my window, from the snow walk
They move along in peace, on winter evenings,
On summer evenings. . . . If only I were they!
Could act out, in longing, the impossibility
That haunts me like happiness!
Some evening
I will push a window up and step inside.
Of so many windows, one is always open.
Next morning they will start to speak, and then smile speechlessly
And shift the plates, and set another place
At a table shining by a silent fire. . . .
When I have eaten they will say, “You have not slept.”

And from the sofa, mounded in my quilt,
My cheek on their pillow, that is always cool,
I will look up speechlessly into a-
It blurs, and there is drawn across my face
As my eyes close, a hand’s slow fire-warmed flesh.
It moves so slowly that it does not move.

feb 19/RUN

3.5 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
8 degrees/feels like 8
99% uneven, sharp, crusty snow-covered

Checked the weather before leaving and noticed that the actual temperature was the same as the feels like temp so no metaphors or similes or approximations today. Just the Is or the It or the This or whatever you want to call it. Is this possible? Hard to find meaning without metaphor.

Observations:

  • Running south, everything was sharp and crisp and brittle. Sounds were louder and harder and traveled farther. The crunch of my foot was a quick snap. I could hear the kids yelling and laughing at the school from several blocks away. The cars were rushing loudly.
  • Running north, it was much quieter. Muted. Soft. I didn’t hear the kids until I was right on the other side of the road from them. I hardly heard the cars.
  • Was there something about the quality of the air–how cold it was, how humid–that made the sound travel the way it did?
  • The sun was very bright. I could see my shadow.
  • The path was covered with crusty, uneven snow which was difficult to run on.
  • At first, it was very cold. Slowly I warmed up. The last part of me to not be cold were my fingers. By mile 3, I had folded my gloves over so they were only on my knuckles and the tips of my fingers.
  • I didn’t encounter any walkers or bikers and only 2 runners.
  • The river was completely covered over with snow. No open water.
  • I looked for the lone glove left by the side of the path. It’s gone. I wonder what happened to it?

Moment:

Running back north, I realized I was on the marathon route. Next October, I will be running this stretch around mile 16. I thought about that and how I wanted to remember what it looked like now in the middle of the winter, with the snow piled up on the side of the path, on the trees, on the trashcans. The river, covered. The path emptied of people. Will I be able to remember? Also gave future Sara a pep talk.

This was a wonderful run. It was cold and the path was too icy and uneven, but I loved being out there today. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow, maybe as much as 6 inches. Then more this weekend. Thinking about snow, I found a snippet of a poem in my notebook from last year:

Kinds of Snow/Su Smallen

There is snow that falls separate from the sky, and snow
that is the sky itself falling, the sky itself reaching down to us…

feb 18/RUN

3.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
15 degrees
100% snow-covered

feels like: a path for snowshoes not running shoes, it’s much warmer than it is, spring is in the next room

Decided to wear my yaktrax because the path is still covered with snow and ice and I thought they might help. They did but my feet aren’t used to wearing them so I think I got some blisters. Blinding sun. Bright blue sky. Hard, crusty path. Saw my shadow running ahead of me for awhile. Felt strong and sore and ready for the path to be clear again.

layers: green shirt, orange shirt, gray jacket, 2 pairs of running tights, 1 pair of socks, 1 pair of gloves, a buff and my mom’s teal hat with the hassles–the one she wore when she skied. After turning around and heading south, the gloves came off. So did the buff and the sunglasses, which had fogged up. How do people run with sunglasses on without having their sunglasses fog up?

My interest in inside and outside has me thinking about locating myself–what does it mean to be inside? outside? Inside of what? Outside of what? What does it mean when I’m running above the gorge? What does it mean when I can’t see the faces of the people I’m trying to talk with? Can “I” be outside, while I’m inside? So many ways to approach these fundamental questions–I’ve been posing and exploring them for 25 years, first as a student, then a teacher, now a writer/poet.

Speculations about “I”/Toi Derricotte

A certain doubleness, by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another.
— Henry David Thoreau

i

I didn’t choose the word — 
it came pouring out of my throat
like the water inside a drowned man.
I didn’t even push on my stomach.
I just lay there, dead (like he told me)

& “I” came out.
(I’m sorry, Father.
“I” wasn’t my fault.)

ii

(How did “I” feel?)

Felt almost alive
when I’d get in, like the Trojan horse.

I’d sit on the bench
(I didn’t look out of the eyeholes
so I wouldn’t see the carnage).

iii

(Is “I” speaking another language?)

I said, “I” is dangerous.
But at the time I couldn’t tell
which one of us was speaking.

iv

(Why “I”?)

“I” was the closest I could get to the
one I loved (who I believe was
smothered in her playpen).

Perhaps she gave birth
to “I” before she died.

v

I deny “I,”
& the closer
I get, the more
“I” keeps receding.

vi

I found “I”
in the bulrushes
raised by a dirtiness
beyond imagination.

I loved “I” like a stinky bed.

While I hid in a sentence
with a bunch of other words.

vii

(What is “I”?)

A transmission through space?
A dismemberment of the spirit?

More like opening the chest &
throwing the heart out with the gizzards.

viii

(Translation)

Years later “I” came back
wanting to be known.

Like the unspeakable
name of God, I tried

my 2 letters, leaving
the “O” for breath,

like in the Bible,
missing.

ix

I am not the “I”
in my poems. “I”
is the net I try to pull me in with.

x

I try to talk
with “I,” but “I” doesn’t trust
me. “I” says I am
slippery by nature.

xi

I made “I” do
what I wasn’t supposed to do,
what I didn’t want to do — 
defend me,
stand as an example,
stand in for what I was hiding.

I treated “I” as if
“I” wasn’t human.

xii

They say that what I write
belongs to me, that it is my true
experience. They think it validates
my endurance.
But why pretend?
“I” is a kind of terminal survival.

xiii

I didn’t promise
“I” anything & in that way
“I” is the one I was most
true to.

feb 17/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
26 degrees
50% loose snow, 35% packed snow, 15% ice

feels like: I might fall or my legs might give out or I might twist my ankle in the loose, uneven snow

The conditions on the path are pretty bad but I still enjoyed being outside, especially having spent my morning in too many stores. Heard tons of crows–probably hanging out in the flats. Saw the sun completely covered by grayish white clouds, making them glow as it tried to break through the gloom. Saw fat tires, several dogs, a few runners and some kids sledding down the hill. The favorite thing I saw happened after I was done running and was walking back. A man and woman were running with their dog. Their gaits were so graceful and rhythmic and effortless. I stopped and watched, mesmerized by how they gently bounced, their feet going up and down on the path. It hardly looked like they were touching the ground at all. So cool.

Here’s my poem for the day:

Spell to Practice Patience

What burns will burn, what’s left

is brick and the soot marring the brick—

what’s left is the rebuilding.

Become small as the seed, which waits

without speaking. Settle as the cicada does,

humming faintly in its dark bed of earth.

Count the pearls in the heirloom necklace,

each a grain of sand gilded by decades,

made in the murks under an ocean’s weight.

Practice moving your fingers through the air

so gently, you can hold a feather

without it touching your hand.

Stare at ice so long, it becomes the same

as water. Stare at water so long, it is gone.

Stare at the mark made after.

Parse apart the slung syllables of every book

until your tongue is nimble iron, then

teach your tongue the strength in silence.

Bridle your desire, halter and harness until

it stands at attention, taut as the rope

that leads to the bell that waits to be struck.

When you ring, ring loud, exactly when you need to,

bright note pitched as the phoenix hatches

and you burn and burn and burn and burn.

Such a lovely poem. I love the idea of poems as spells. If I had more time and energy right now, I’d like to add a stanza about the patience involved in standing and watching the runners and their graceful gaits.

feb 16/RUN

1.75 miles
downtown loop
11 degrees
100% uneven, slippery, awful snow

feels like: misery, uncertainty (will I fall? injure myself on this uneven snow?), no fun

It’s rare to have a bad run in the winter, but today I did. Not because of the company–I got to run with Scott–but because of the path. So uneven and snow-covered. And it felt colder than 11 degrees. Oh well, no more runs on this loop until more snow is cleared.

The other day, I decided to tag all of the log entries on here that have other people’s poems in them. There are 31. Only 31 for 508 posts. I have been reading lots of poetry, I guess i just haven’t been putting it in my log entries. Not cool. So for the next month (at least), I’d like to put in a different poem for each entry. Or, if not an entire poem, a line or stanza or more. Today’s poem is only 2 lines because this poem is very long.

from Hymn to Life/James Schuyler

The world is filled with music, and in between the music, silence   
And varying the silence all sorts of sounds, natural and man made

I think I’d like to use these lines as an epigraph for a poem or a series of poems about sounds. As I mentioned this poem is long. You can listen to the author reading it and it’s over 30 minutes! I would like to spend more time with it, though. Strange and captivating and clever.

Here’s a few more lines:

Change in everything yet none so great as the changes in   
Oneself, which, short of sickness, go unobserved. Why watch   
Yourself? You know you’re here, and where tomorrow you will probably   
Be.

feb 14/RUN

3.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
23 degrees
99% snow-covered

Ran with a playlist today so I didn’t hear anything but Beck, Lizzo, Ke$ha, Queen and Justin Timberlake. The path continues to be covered with snow and is slick. Very tiring on the legs. Not much traction. The wind was blowing in my face as I ran north so I knew it would be at my back running south, which made me smile. It was almost too bright when I started but by halfway, a few clouds had moved in and it was overcast. With quick glances, I noticed: the trail of open water in the Mississippi and the snow-laden branches of the oaks and maples and cottonwood in the floodplain forest. Anything else? I can’t remember.

Yesterday I started reading Linda Barry’s What It Is. I was struck by her mention of inside and outside. “Images are found in by through the action between inside and outside. I’ve been thinking a lot about inside and outside lately. What is inside? What is outside? What is it that separates them? Skin? The self? The body? Layers of clothing? A window? Door? The gorge? The leaves of the trees?

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Inside and Outside. Linda Barry/ What It Is

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Inner and Outer Weather

Ever since encountering Edward Hirsch’s great line about inner and outer weather–“Wandering, reading, writing–these three adventures are for me intimately linked. They are all ways of observing both the inner and outer weather, of being carried away, of getting lost and returning.”–I’ve been thinking about weather and the relationship between things like wind or humidity and my thoughts, feelings, writing. I’ve been thinking about making it the focus of another chapbook. The phrase, “inner and outer weather” was originally in a Robert Frost poem.

Tree at My Window

Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.

Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.

But, tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.

That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

Robert Frost, West-Running Brook (1928).

feb 13/RUN

4.4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
9 degrees/feels like 1
100% snow-covered

feels like: chunky, slick, crunchy, hard

I didn’t intend to, but I got to practice some hurdles today. Snow hurdles. I ran before the plows had returned to clear the mini snow walls they made when they plowed the crosswalks. Got to greet the Daily Walker. Saw a few fat tires, some other runners. No dogs or skiers. A few minneapolis parks trucks. My friendly shadow. The sun was too bright. Half the river was open, the other half covered in snow. Spent a lot of time paying attention to the path, trying to avoid ice/snow chunks. At times, the path was difficult to run on–too slick and uneven. Tried to not think about anything. I’m sure I didn’t for much of the run. Spent some time thinking about my form and wondering about my knees. Imagined running the marathon. Thought about my body and how little I noticed it when I was younger and didn’t have any aches or pains or problems. Now I notice it and think about what it is and how it’s me and not me. I wish I didn’t ache or have problems with my knees, but I like having a reason to think about my body–so many interesting questions to explore, so many new things to learn about joints and muscles and chemical processes!

layers: (too many!) green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket with hood, vest, 2 pairs of running tights, 1 pair of socks, a buff, visor, gloves. During the second half of the run, I was dripping sweat.

other layers: dirt, a thin hard sheen of ice, dusting of powdery snow, small clumps of snow, loose 1/2 inch of rough snow (the path); a woodpecker pecking, a truck backing-up, a car with a loose part rattling, a plow approaching, the fabric on my vest and jacket rustling, the quick crunch of my striking feet, a plane rumbling overhead (sound)

feb 11/RUN

4.25 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
22 degrees
100% snow-covered

feels like: a different world, one emptied of others; someone drained the color out of the landscape; running in soft sand

The snow was sloppy and loose. Even so, I smiled a lot and enjoyed my run. Greeted the Daily Walker. Didn’t slip on any of the ice patches, hidden beneath the snow. Felt strong and relaxed and empty of thoughts. After not thinking for awhile, I had a thought: How glorious it is to be running and not thinking about anything! Then of course, I had another thought about time, wondering if I was even noticing it pass at all. I ran for 40 minutes but it felt like 5. Heard some disembodied voices coming from some place I couldn’t see. There was so much snow–and it was so white. Hard to distinguish between the sharp crusty snow, the soft slushy snow, the mini piles of snow or the big hard chunks of icy snow. No contrast. My bad vision needs contrast. Can someone with good vision tell the difference between these snows? The sky was all gray. But not gloomy, at least not to me. Just peaceful and quiet and removed from everything. Noticed the river had some open water. Saw a few walkers and bikers. Again, no skiers. Will I ever see another cross country skier while I’m running by the river? With all the snow on the ground and in the trees, I suddenly remembered cross country skiing with my mom up in the upper peninsula of Michigan–in Houghton–on these amazing groomed trails a mile from her house. I always loved going there with her, when she was in her late 50s and I was in my mid 20s. So much snow everywhere. And so many beautiful trees–aspens (I think) and firs. There was one stretch that I especially liked where you skied through a forest. I called it the cathedral of trees. Today I didn’t run through a forest, but I felt that same sort of delight and reverence as I ran by the welcoming oaks, their branches loaded with snow. What a wonderful gift to be able to conjure up that memory and think about a time before my mom was sick.

layers: less layers today. Green shirt, orange shirt, black vest, 2 pairs of running tights, a buff, a visor, 1 pair of socks, 1 pair of gloves. Felt fine. The gloves didn’t come off, but I folded them over. Maybe if I had run for another mile I would have removed them?

feb 9/RUN

1 mile
mississippi river road path, south/north
8 degrees/feels like -5
100% snow-covered

feels like: my face is burning off, the wind is coming from every direction, more snow might be coming, colder than it is

Ran a mile with Scott this afternoon. It felt colder out there this afternoon than it did yesterday. Was it because it was later in the day? No sun? More wind? I’m glad we did it. It felt easy, like we could have run a few more miles. Noticed the river. Running south, I see more of the river than running north. Scott suggested that it’s because further north, there’s more land between the top of the gorge and the riverbank. I agree. Everything was white and gray and cold-looking. A little winter wonderland. Nice to be in it instead of just watching it through the window. Windows I watched it through today/what I watched: the writing desk in my bedroom/the snow-covered branch of the tree in my front yard; living room/snowy back yard; car window/river road, minnehaha parkway, south Minneapolis; the 3 story huge picture windows at Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Stevens Square Park.

feb 8/RUN

3.4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
0/feels like -15
100% snow-covered

feels like: victory, the inside of an ice cube

Wow, that sky. The brightest blue. Noticed it when I saw a bird flying in my peripheral vision and tried to track it in my central vision. So sunny and white. Thick slabs of snow on the side of the path. The trees coming up from the floodplain forest had snow slabs too. Bare brown branches, outlined in white, holding up the sky. Amazing. It was cold, I guess. Didn’t really bother me. My fingers were warm because I wore a pair of gloves and mittens. My toes were cold for the first mile. I think my butt was cold at some point too. Everything else was warm. Saw one other runner, a few walkers, no bikers, no skiers. Ran under the lake street bridge at the same time as the plows. The first plow hit a bump–such a loud noise. I flinched. Listened to my feet striking the snow. A constant, sharp crunch. Much quicker than when I walk.

layers: 2 pairs of running tights, a green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket, gray jacket, buff, balaclava, hood, sunglasses, 2 pairs of socks, 1 pair of mittens, 1 pair of gloves

Why do I like running in this weather? I like being (almost) the only one on the path. I like testing the limits of how cold is too cold. Mostly, though, I like running in the cold. Being out in the snow. Hearing it crunch. Admiring how it decorates the trees and the forest floor. Breathing in the winter air. I think I also like how there’s no pressure to run fast when it feels like 15 below. Just being outside is an accomplishment.

feb 7/XT

bike 30 min/shovel 30 min
bike stand/driveway, sidewalk, deck
5 or 6 inches, I think

No running today. It’s been snowing since early this morning. Waking up before sunrise, I looked out the window and it was a beautiful blueish white. Now this is the kind of snow that I love! It snowed last night too, but then stopped overnight. Leaning my head outside around 7 pm, I smelled it–fresh, quiet, pure cold. I love that smell and the feel of the cold on my face. This morning, the snow was falling in big fluffy flakes and I was happy to be inside watching it. Although I did enjoy shoveling it too. A nice, light snow. Not heavy at all.

Here are 2 poems I wrote last winter that seem to fit my thoughts about the snow today:

This morning’s view

a white so white 
it’s almost blue
or the slight feeling of blue.
Is that what happens when 
snow is new
pure still perfect?
No sun yet or ever today
but the hint of blue blinds

what a snow!

feb 6/RUN

3.4 miles
mississippi river road, north/south
15 degrees/feels like 8
100% snow-covered

Also feels like: too warm for double gloves, an ice rink, a winter wonderland, I’m the only one not in a car, yaktrax

I ran today! It snowed 4 inches last night. The path had been plowed, which was helpful, but the ice was still there. I think this is the most slippery path I’ve ever run on. Wore my yaktrax and that helped, but only a little. I wasn’t worried about falling, just about twisting an ankle or a knee. Harder to run. My legs will be sore soon. Still, it was beautiful and there was hardly any wind and I had the path almost all to myself. One or two walkers, a runner, and an actual cross country skier! Not a roller skier, but a skier with skis! I think this is the first time I have ever encountered a skier on the river road. I loved listening to the sharp crackling of their skis on the crusty path. Glanced quickly at the river and noticed it was covered with snow. Everything is white today, the river, the roads, the path, even the sky.

layers: 2 pairs of running tights, a green base shirt, orange thicker shirt, thin black jacket with hood, gray jacket, 1 pair of gloves, 1 pair of mittens, a running belt with my phone and key in it, a buff, a visor, no headphones. Slightly too warm. Mittens came off after a mile, sleeves rolled up/hood off by the turn around at the railroad trestle, the buff turned into a headband by mile 2.

I don’t remember thinking about anything except for: this is slippery, ouch! (when my right knee shot out a quick flash of pain), I am running slow, how far should I run?, this is slippery, is that the Daily Walker? (no it wasn’t), I like the crusty snow the best because my yaktrax can grip it, I wonder what people driving by think of me running in this?, I hope no car slides off the road and hits me. No big insights or nagging worries. All wonderfully mundane.

feb 5/BIKE

30 minutes
bike on stand in basement

Boo. It’s not too cold outside for me (although it does feel like it’s below 0), but too icy. Not even yaktrax work. So I’m keeping safe inside. Riding my bike in the basement. Then watching the snow–which is now very rudely hiding the ice–from my window. Not sure when I’ll be able to run. The last couple of weeks have sucked. Too cold to run, now too icy. Hope next week is better. I suppose taking some time off of running before really getting into training is not the worst thing. I’ve been doing yoga and trying to figure out the best way to make sure both of my legs (and hips) have recovered from my injury last year. Seems like my left hip is stiffer than my right. Saw some exercises today for strengthening the hips on YouTube, including squatting on one leg. Will I ever be able to do such a bad ass thing as squatting on one leg? Is it wise for me to even try?

feb 2/RUN

4.75 miles
stone arch bridge to home
28 degrees
50% snow-covered
feels like: spring, sun, dripping eaves

One way runs are the best. No loops or turn arounds or thoughts about how I’ll have to run back up the hill I just ran down. Ran from downtown, right by the Stone Arch bridge, through the flats, up Franklin, under Lake Street, above the gorge, to the 36th street parking lot on the river road.

things I remember noticing:

  • my striking feet sinking into soft mushy snow
  • very bright, warm sun but no shadow
  • running into the sun, I was blinded. All I could see were the sparkling spots of bare pavement on the path that the sun was illuminating
  • spots of slick but not slippery snow in the shade
  • passing under the light rail on the washington ave bridge, hearing it rumble then honk
  • water trickling off of eaves, bridges, down rocks in the flats
  • a dog’s collar clanging off to the side, turning and seeing it walking with its human right above the gorge
  • river was covered with snow and ice, no black holes today
  • heard voices coming from the hill up the U of M’s Wilson Library. Were they biking? Running? Walking? Not sure.

layers

two pairs of tights, green base shirt, orange warmer shirt, black vest, buff, hat, gloves, sunglasses. Today, the gloves came off, around mile 3, probably right after running up the franklin hill.

chants while breathing

I can’t remember when it happened but sometime in the 3rd or 4th mile, I started rhythmic breathing (in 3 out 2) and creating chants to match. I tried to remember them, but now I can’t. Except: raspberry/custard. mystery/is solved. who could it/be now? it could be/nothing. why is it/ something? These chants really helped by distracting me. I’ll have to remember to do these again.

Sadly, I spent a lot of mental energy paying attention to the path and thinking about which side I should run on. In the middle with the bare pavement but in the way of others? On the soft snow but out of the way of approaching bikers? Right next to the walking path? Close to the cars, on the edge?

feb 1/RUN

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

Finally I get to run outside again. A balmy 8 degrees. Ran without headphones and listened. My feet on the crunching snow in quick, sharp snaps. A woodpecker rapidly pecking a tree. Some other random birds chirping. A dog barking in a truck driving by under the lake street bridge (is this the same truck, the same dog as last week?). Park workers starting up their chainsaws, clearing out dead branches. Brittle branches breaking–such creaking and cracking!

Layers: two pairs of running tights, a black tech shirt, orange thick cotton shirt, thin black jacket with hood, gray outer jacket, a buff, a visor, 1 pair of gloves, 2 pairs of socks. Again, almost too warm, except for my fingers which were cold for a mile. Unzipped my jackets a little at the end of mile 1, took off my hood at the end of mile 2, put it back on I turned around and faced the wind at mile 2.5, zipped up jackets to my chin at mile 3. Kept my gloves on the entire time.

Wind: Running north it felt easy which meant, of course, that the wind was tricking me. Hiding behind my back, slightly nudging me along without me noticing. Encountered a runner running south, bundled up with their face covered and I knew I was in for it in the second half. Yep. Turned around into a cold wind. Just read yesterday that you should always run into the wind at the beginning of your run before you get too warm and sweaty. Running into wind with a sweaty face makes you get colder faster. Oh well. It wasn’t too bad. Wind doesn’t bother me anymore.

The Path: Totally covered with snow. Not icy or slippery but slick enough that I was sliding slightly. Now, an hour later, my legs are more sore than usual….A few times I noticed how the path suddenly felt different–more absorbent, soft, gentle on my striking foot. Then I realized the Minneapolis parks crew had dropped dirt on the edges of the path. Mostly it was already covered in snow but in a few spots the dirt was still exposed. What a relief it was to run on those few, fleeting stretches!

jan 30/BIKE

30 minutes
bike stand, basement
50 degrees inside?
-20 degrees/feels like -50 outside

Yes, it actually is an arctic hellscape out there today. School has been canceled for the kids almost all week–not sure about Friday yet. Stores, restaurants, the post office are closed. No running outside for me. Maybe tomorrow if it warms up in the afternoon. Today, biking in the basement. So glad I have a stand for my bike so my restless body can get some exercise. After biking spent some time researching the difference between wind chill and “feels like.” So, the wind chill, which was developed by 2 scientists in Antarctica in the 70s, is “how cold it actually feels on your skin when the wind is factored in.” I like the rhyme here. The feels like temperature considers other factors too: humidity, location, metabolism, time of year, type of ground cover. Not sure how it all works but, according to wikipedia (I think), it measures these in terms of how it would feel for an adult walking outdoors in the shade. Researching all of this makes me want to develop my own system for determining/describing the feels like temperature. Maybe a goal for this winter? Not today. To do it, I need to be outside running and figuring out what feels like what. For now, I’m trapped inside. Restlessness is creeping in slowly. Will it accelerate if I can’t go outside tomorrow? Would it be wise to read poems/articles about restlessness or better to avoid thinking about it?

Last week I posed the question: How cold is too cold to run outside? Here’s my response:

I have found it

the answer to the question–
how cold is too cold to run outside?
it is today
and tomorrow
wind chills reaching down to 50 below
maybe I shouldn’t have asked the question
maybe I shouldn’t have provoked winter’s curiosity
making them wonder just how cold cold would have to be
for me to declare, “this is too cold!”
maybe next time
I should keep my mouth shut.

jan 28/SHOVEL

49 minutes
4+ inches off deck, driveway, sidewalk
5 degrees/feels like 15 below

Okay, 4 inches is nothing in Minneapolis. But it might be the most we’ve gotten this winter and, combined with really cold temperatures that felt really cold, there was no way I was running. So I shoveled instead. I guess I shoveled slowly because we don’t have much of a driveway or a deck or a sidewalk and it took me almost 50 minutes. The only part of me that was cold were my fingers. I wore 3 pairs of gloves and still, they were cold. Had to stop halfway through to go inside and thaw them out under the faucet. Warming up, they burned. Stung sharply. Spent about a minute just chanting, “ow ow ow ow ow.” The snow was powdery and dry. Not heavy at all. Sliding easily under my sad, small shovel. We own a snow blower but it’s awkward and easier to just shovel. Plus, I like doing this kind of manual labor. Just a little bit of thinking–planning the best way to clear the path–and a lot of physical work. It’s very satisfying to clear a path. Shoveled the back first, then the side before heading to the front. Noticed that our neighbor had done it again–cleared their path by pushing all the snow into a mound at the end of their part of the sidewalk and the beginning of mine instead of shoveling it off to the side. Who does this? In fairness to my neighbors who are very nice, I don’t think they actually did it. Whoever they hired is responsible. This thoughtlessness bothers me a lot. Too much. I am bothered by how bothered I get by it. My brain almost melts as I try to find a logical reason for why someone would pile up a bunch of their snow on someone else’s sidewalk. I am trying hard to focus on other things, like how the neighbors on the other side always shovel beyond their sidewalk, sometimes shoveling almost half of mine. I would like to write a poem or an essay or something about the sidewalk and my (potentially) overblown outrage. Maybe I’ll add in a few lines about how bothered I am by my inability to confront my neighbors. Oh to have the skill to handle these situations without losing my temper, the ability to form coherent, generous sentences, and the temperament to not notice or care when something annoying like this happens!

jan 27/RUN

3.25 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
4 degrees/feels like -14
100% snow-covered

Today it was cold. I have run in colder weather at least once (jan 2, 2018) when it was 0 and felt like 20 below, but today’s feels like 14 below has to rank as one of the coldest runs. Mostly, I enjoyed it. I didn’t feel too cold. Started loosening my layers about a mile in. Was fine with only one pair of gloves. Listened to headphones and felt disconnected. Also felt distracted by layers covering my ears–headphones, music, a buff, a hood, a thick hat–and layers of concern clouding my mood–was my knee okay or was it a mistake to run today? I think my left knee is okay but I’m planning to take a few days off from running. Conveniently, we are expecting a big winter storm and dangerous wind chills until Thursday so even if I wanted to run, I couldn’t.  The path was totally covered with snow and a little slick. I didn’t slip but it was harder to get traction. Encountered a few runners, walkers and dogs. No fat tires. No squirrels. No sleds or skis. Don’t think I looked at the river even once. Too busy trying to stay warm and upright. When I started running, there were patches of blue sky but by the time I was done, it was all gray. A snow storm moving in. Barely noticed the snow crunching under my feet. Instead I heard Beck and Lizzo and Ke$ha.

Speaking of layers, which I’m doing a lot these days, I found a great poem about onions:

Monologue for an Onion
Suji Kwock Kim

I don’t mean to make you cry.
I mean nothing, but this has not kept you
From peeling away my body, layer by layer,

The tears clouding your eyes as the table fills
With husks, cut flesh, all the debris of pursuit.
Poor deluded human: you seek my heart.

Hunt all you want. Beneath each skin of mine
Lies another skin: I am pure onion–pure union
Of outside and in, surface and secret core.

Look at you, chopping and weeping. Idiot.
Is this the way you go through life, your mind
A stopless knife, driven by your fantasy of truth,

Of lasting union–slashing away skin after skin
From things, ruin and tears your only signs
Of progress? Enough is enough.

You must not grieve that the world is glimpsed
Through veils. How else can it be seen?
How will you rip away the veil of the eye, the veil

That you are, you who want to grasp the heart
Of things, hungry to know where meaning
Lies. Taste what you hold in your hands: onion-juice,

Yellow peels, my stinging shreds. You are the one
In pieces. Whatever you meant to love, in meaning to
You changed yourself: you are not who you are,

Your soul cut moment to moment by a blade
Of fresh desire, the ground sown with abandoned skins.
And at your inmost circle, what? A core that is

Not one. Poor fool, you are divided at the heart,
Lost in its maze of chambers, blood, and love,
A heart that will one day beat you to death

jan 25/RUN

4.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
-5 degrees
5% snow-covered

The other day I wondered how cold was too cold for me. I’ve decided to take this as a challenge and an experiment, part of my focus for this winter on layers. Last year, I paid careful attention to the crunching snow. This year, I’m curious about layers, literal (as in layers of clothing, layers of sound, layers of ice) and metaphorical (layers of anxiety, doubt, joy, ideas, meanings). What will this project look like? Not totally sure, but for now, I’m interested in layers in terms of clothing I wore today as I ran outside in -5 weather. There was hardly any wind so the feels like temp was -5 too. I’ve run in feels like 20 below so today wasn’t the coldest I’ve been. What is the difference between actual and feels like temp? I’ll have to research that some more. Today I was almost too warm. I wore 2 pairs of running tights, one green shirt, an orange sweatshirt, a black jacket with a hood, a gray jacket with big pockets, 2 pairs of socks, a buff, a stocking cap, sunglasses, gloves and mittens. Too much. Great for the first mile but after that, I unzipped the jackets a little, moved the buff from my head to my neck, took off the sunglasses and put the mittens in my pocket. Ice kept forming on my cheeks, just below my eyes, caused my water on my lashes. Ice also formed on the surface of my gloves. Pretty cool looking and feeling. I think it came from the ice on my cheeks that I kept wiping off. The sun was too bright. Blinding. Ran with my shadow for awhile. Greeted the Daily Walker. That dude is hard core. No coat, just double shirts. Holding his gloves while he walked. How can you get warm while walking? I can only do it when I’m running. Heard some geese so I looked up and saw them flying above me in a V. Also heard the noise of my feet crunching on snow, then thwacking the frozen, compacted path. And a dog barking in a truck as it drove by. Saw steam coming from the boat house below the lake street bridge and wondered who was there in the winter. Turned around and headed back south right as I approached a parks crew cutting down more trees. Remember looking down at the river once and noticing one small hole of cold black water and expanded into a gaping hole. How can there be more open water as it gets colder?

jan 23/RUN

3.5 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
17 degrees/feels like 10
50% snow-covered

Usually I don’t run 3 days in a row but it’s going to get very cold tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that—maybe even too cold for me!–so I decided to get one more run before the river road became an arctic hellscape (a phrase I read in a running article about winter). Sunny. Bright. Beautiful. Heard some geese honking. Smelled breakfast. Saw the path turn to sparkles in the sun. Good morning-ed the Daily Walker. Encountered some park workers chainsawing some trees near the Welcoming Oaks. Tried to look closely to make sure it wasn’t one of my favorites. I think they’re safe, but it was hard to tell. I was too far away and couldn’t focus fast enough. And I didn’t want to look like I was staring. Hardly encountered anyone on the path. Running north, my shadow was leading me. I guess she was tired today because it felt sluggish and difficult even though I wasn’t running that fast. On the way back, running south, I led her and we picked up the pace. Also on the way back, the sun was in my eyes. The path sparkled. Hard to tell when it was snow, wet pavement or ice.

I suppose 17, feels like 10 is cold but I was warm. Sweating. Less than a mile in, most of me was almost too warm. Except for my fingers, which always take the longest. Pushed my sleeves up after the lake street bridge. Then shifted my buff from my head to my neck. By mile 2, I wished I had worn a different hat–maybe a baseball cap instead of the thick teal stocking cap I had on. At the end of the run, I unzipped my jacket and took off my gloves. How cold does it need to be before I’m not hot at the end of a run? Not sure I want to find out, but I probably will if I try running outside later this week or early next week.

Writing that last paragraph makes me want to experiment with ways to describe the unlayering process that occurs as I run–both literally, as I shed gloves and buff, but also metaphorically as I remove layers of doubt, anxiety, restlessness. 

jan 22/RUN

4.15 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
18 degrees
100% snow-covered

Warmer. Snowing, slightly. Sometimes I felt the flakes as hard crystals, but mostly as wet drops. My feet crunched on the path, not crisply but sloppily. Because it was warmer, everything felt sounded smelled wet. The path was soft and muffled. Hardly any wind. So quiet. If this snow sticks and gets colder, like it’s supposed to on Thursday, it will become sharp and loud. Heard lots of birds. First crows cawing then other birds chirping. Wheels gently whooshing as they approached. No bikes or Daily Walkers or dogs. A few runners. Today I looked down at the river. So cool. Almost all covered in white with an occasional big gaping black hole of deep, cold water. As I ran, I followed a thin track made by other runners or bikers. Had intended to think about poetry and rhythms and chants but I forgot. I did pay attention to my feet though, noticing how and where they touched the ground. And then, after I was done running, I recorded the sound of my crunching feet. I held the phone down at my side and really captured the delightfully irritating crunching, grinding noise.

Crunching Snow/ Jan 22, 2019

jan 21/RUN

4.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
9 degrees/feels like -9
16 mph wind/0% snow-covered

Cold. Windy. Snow flurries in the air. Gray. Beautiful. I don’t remember the air burning my lungs but it did burn my face after I started overheating. Most of me didn’t feel cold, just both of my index fingers around the end of mile one. Encountered several runners, a few walkers, no fat tires, no Daily Walker, no dogs. Listened to a playlist and felt relaxed. Not sore or too tired or afraid of injury. Only running and breathing and being outside. Felt great running north. So fast and free! Forgot what that meant: the wind was at my back, pushing me along. When I turned around, it would be in my face. And it was. Much harder running on the way back. Was able to run on the walking path instead of the biking path for about half the time. Smiled a lot. Don’t remember much of what I thought about. Did I look down at the river? Don’t think so. Up at the sky? No. Notice any trees? Nope. I do recall glancing down at the gorge between lake street and franklin and wondering if any critter was down there.

jan 19/RUN

4.85 miles
left on river road to downtown
2 degrees/feels like -12
75% snow-covered

Winter running is the best. The sun was shining and the wind wasn’t blowing too much. Decided to listen to my running playlist even though I probably should have been listening to the crunching snow, so tightly compacted in the cold. It’s extra annoying when it’s this way–a constant grinding noise, almost sounding like twisting styrofoam. Anyway, I was happy to listen to John Legend and Barry Manilow and Justin Bieber and Gonzo and Crowded House and Styx. When I wasn’t carefully watching the path to avoid chunks of snow, I looked down at the river. Totally covered with ice. A beautiful, desolate gray. Didn’t see many walkers–no Daily Walker–but several runners, including 3 men all in red jackets gliding by so quickly and gracefully. The flats, just down from the Franklin bridge were colder and windier but not miserable. Was proud of myself for pushing through as I approached the big hill right before downtown. Nearing it, my legs were sore and tired. I told myself that it was fine to walk. But when I got to the hill I kept going. Still tired, I told myself that I could walk halfway up. Then I reached the halfway point and kept running. I told myself I could definitely stop at the top of the hill and walk for a minute. Then I reached the top and sped up instead. I’m always pleased when I can work on my mental toughness.

Anything else I remember? At one point, I realized I was just running and not thinking about my form. Of course, realizing that made me think about my form. Didn’t see any dogs or geese or squirrels or fat tires or groups of walkers or skiers. I did see my shadow though. She was just ahead of me, leading me down the franklin hill, having as much fun as I was. No smells. My feet felt cold. My face, flushed. My fingers, fine. My right ankle hurt a little but I think it was my shoe, not an injury, causing the pain.

jan 17/RUN

4.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
20 degrees/feels like 10
50% light snow covered

Snowed last night. Barely even a dusting, but still snow. It’s been a strange, bare January. The biking path was mostly clear, with streaks and stripes of light snow. Tried running on the walking path for a bit but kept stumbling over small chunks that I couldn’t see. Always wondering, is it my bad vision or does everyone have trouble spotting these chunks. Looked down at the river. Clear. Grayish-brown. Open with no ice floes. Also looked down at the gorge. Brown trees with a white sliver of trail winding through the woods. Heard chirping birds. Music from a bike’s radio. Some voices. A few squirrels scurrying around. Greeted the Daily Walker near the beginning of my run. Encountered a few fat tires. Any other runners? I can’t remember, but I don’t think so. A few walkers, some with dogs, some without. Most of my thinking was about my form and whether or not my legs were up for running again less than 24 hours after I had run at the stadium. At one point I thought: I should stop thinking about my body and running form and get distracted. And, I did. I think that’s when I focused on the snow in the gorge and noticed that the sky was mostly gray with a hint of blue. Almost forgot about the smells–walking out of the house, I got a whiff of fried something. Must have been coming from the bar a block and a half from our house. Later, a mile into the run, running under the lake street bridge, I smelled breakfast–toast, eggs, bacon–coming from longfellow grill. Found it strange that the smells were so strong when it was so cold. Usually, when it feels like 10 degrees all I smell is cold. At different points in the run, I felt smooth. Sleek. More machine than gangly human.

jan 16/RUN

4 miles
us bank stadium

Ran again with Scott indoors. It was great. Did an abbreviated version of my warm-up before we started, which helped, I think. Usually they play bad pop music very loudly. Today, it was quieter and they had turned it off in certain sections of the loop, which was nice. We could clearly hear our feet striking the concrete. In unison. What do I remember from the run? The bright orange shoes one runner was wearing. The loping gait of another. Three runners: 2 burly, loud guys and 1 very petite, quiet woman, running effortlessly on her toes. Two women running in matching bright pink shorts. A young kid running with their mom. Voices far behind us, some attached to runners slowly creeping up on us, some to runners who were staying far back but were just loud.

jan 15/BIKE

biking on stand, 26 minutes
basement

No running today, but indoor biking and 2 walks with the dog. Began reviewing year one of my log. Thinking about writing some sort of summary of it. Was planning to do this anyway, but now that I’m planning to run the marathon again in October 2019, I’m even more interested in revisiting what I wrote and thought about running in 2017. How much has my thinking changed? Were there any hints that I would get injured and be unable to race? So far, the entries are optimistic about the power of running slower for preventing injuries and maybe even running faster. This time around, as I think ahead, I have one goal: to make it to the starting line. I’m thinking that a lot of my writing this year might explore my complicated relationship to my body, especially my fear of it falling apart.

jan 14/RUN

4.25 miles (40 minutes)
minnehaha falls loop
31 degrees

Felt strong and relaxed. Slipped a few times on ice patches as I shifted from the running to walking path. Ran past a woman calling out, “there’s a bald eagle sitting in this tree!” Didn’t stop because I probably wouldn’t have seen it anyway and because I wanted to keep running. For about a minute I wondered what she thought of me for not stopping. The sky was light gray. Gloomy, I guess, but I liked it. Made the river seem even more vast, majestic, other-worldly. The falls were almost roaring. Minnehaha creek was flowing. There are some disappointed cross country skiers out there, missing the chance to ski on the iced over creek. I wonder if there’s any open water at Lake Nokomis? So strange. Saw the Daily Walker just starting on the path as I was ending. Too far away to greet.

This morning, just before sunrise, I took my dog for a walk. The sky was a smudged gray. Such a pleasing contrast to the bare branches of the towering trees.

jan 12/RUN

6.2 miles
the flats and back
23 degrees/feels like 16

Another good run. My second time trying a 7 minute stretching warm-up before sheading out. I think it helps. Heard lots of crows cawing–no ducks or geese honking or chickadees chirping. Overcast. No wind. Humid. Not too cold. Didn’t encounter that many runners. No Daily Walker. Several fat tires. Ran down the Franklin hill to the flats. The river was mostly open with an occasional chunk of ice. Beautiful. Desolate. Recited “sick” my Shel Silverstein again. Peggy Ann McKay had the measles and the mumps at least 10 times. It was helpful, but I think it’s time for a new poem. I need another one I can chant–nothing too deep just rhythmic and rhyme-y. Scott and I are thinking about trying to do the marathon again this year. Slowly the idea is creeping in and taking hold.

Anything else I remember? My zipper hitting my jacket. The faint sound of a key (or keys?) jangling somewhere. The stinky stench of the sewer near the lake street bridge. Almost slipping on a hidden patch of ice right as I was turning around to head back. Wanting to walk the entire franklin hill but keeping running by chanting, “there’s a bridge, there’s a bridge, at the top, at the top, look at it, look at it, never stop, never stop.” Feeling strong. My eyes watering from the cold. Dodging ice chunks on the walking path and trying to time my foot falls so I wouldn’t land on a slippery patch. No snow, dead, crunchy leaves. Thinking it was late November and not mid January. Stopping to stare down at the floodplain forest at the end of my run. Hearing some voices somewhere down below–maybe at the beach?

jan 10/RUN

4 miles
almost the franklin bridge turn around
15 degrees/feels like 6

What a day for a run! Sunny and clear and cold. Hardly any wind. Only small chunks of ice left on the side of the path. So calm and filled with noises. Everywhere. Chirping birds. Honking geese. Whooshing wheels. The low hum of traffic rumbling from across the river. Decided to listen today. My zipper pull made a small rhythmic thud as it hit my chest. My striking feet thwacked. Was able to run on the lower path, above the gorge. Looked down at the floodplain forest and enjoyed the cool visual effect of sun flashing through tall, thin tree trunks as I ran by. Said “hello” to a walker about 3 miles in. Encountered a fat tire just past the lake street bridge.

Stopped and took a minute video of the view from the end of my run. Had difficulty standing still and holding the camera straight. The camera rises and falls as I breathe.

mississippi river run jan 10

jan 9/RUN

3 miles
us bank stadium

Ran inside at the stadium with Scott. On the drive there, I noticed how big the franklin bridge looked from below, near the flats. The bright blue lights under the 94 bridge. The buildings downtown silhouetted in the twilight. The harsh white, stark, and sharp letters of the Gold Medal Park sign. Walking to the stadium, I saw a sliver of moon in the middle of the sky, framed by the window in the skyway. Then running, I heard a strange song lyric playing on the radio station at the stadium: “coming up daisies” instead of roses–were they talking about death? A loud crash as feet stepped on the metal threshold on the floor. Voices behind me approaching–or were they just hovering?

jan 7/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
38 degrees/98% humidity

Wet. Warm, but not warm enough. Lots of slick spots, more on the sidewalk than on the path. A gray day. Humid. Felt pretty good during my run, although I found myself worrying constantly about my back or my IT band or my knee. At one point I wondered, what would it feel like to not notice my body? To simply run? Of course, this did happen many times during the run, but I remember more the times when I was too aware of my body. Speaking of the body, when I crossed over the franklin bridge and was running on the St. Paul side, I started reciting Sick by Shel Silverstein in my head. All sorts of ailments: measles, mumps, wrench’d backs, crooked spines, chicken pox, cold nose, numb toes. This winter, I’d like to think more about my body (and the body) and my sometimes strained relationship with it as I’ve gotten older and it doesn’t work as effortlessly as it used to.

I looked at the river a lot this morning. Mostly frozen over, it looked like a weird wasteland. So gray and vast and empty.

Starting my run, everything was wet. Felt wet. Sounded wet. Whooshes and drips and gushing water out of drain pipes. Splashes. It was so humid I thought it was drizzling. Was it?

jan 5/RUN

3 miles
downtown loop
41 degrees

Ran with Scott downtown again. This must be our new Saturday morning ritual. We ran up the river road, over the Plymouth Bridge, through Boom Island and Nicollet Island, beside the cobblestones on St. Anthony Main and then stopped at the Stone Arch Bridge. The path was slick on the edges, wet in the middle. Hard to believe, but a lot of the snow has melted. I don’t remember much from the run except that it felt difficult. I also remember:

  • Feeling the bright sun on my face as we ran across the Plymouth bridge.
  • Being slightly annoyed by the flashing light from the sun as I ran by the railing on the bridge.
  • Watching our shadows ahead of us as we entered Boom Island park.
  • The shshsh sound of soft snow as we shuffled across it on the dirt path in the park. (As I learned last week, this shshsh sound is a sibilant sound. I like sibilant sounds.)

For the past 3 mornings, I’ve been starting the day with some yoga stretches–I’m using a 30 minute video on youtube. I took one yoga class in college but it was mostly meditation and sitting and breathing, not much stretching. Yoga is no joke. I thought I was flexible but I’m not that flexible…yet. I’m hoping that these stretches will help prevent injuries this year.

jan 4/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
33 degrees
less than 5% snow-covered

Sun! Warm(ish) air! Clear path! Almost clear lungs! A great morning for a run. Listened to a playlist and floated above the path. Saw my shadow a few times but focused more on the sky–some wispy white with bright blue. The river is almost frozen over. Saw the Daily Walker twice, but both times I approached him from behind, so no “good morning” greetings today. Also saw a few fat tires and a runner running far ahead of me with a glowing yellow shirt and black shorts (of course shorts, it is above freezing after all). Experienced a runner’s high around mile 3: a big smile spread across my body, from my head to my toes, and I felt Joy. Speaking of the runner’s high I was just talking with my son yesterday about endocannabinoids and how they contribute to our feelings of elation. I wrote a poem about it two years ago:

I See Wonder in the Chemicals

suddenly, without warning I am
exhilarated
euphoric
effervescent, bubbling over with feeling

sometimes I feel ecstatic
beside myself with joy
beside my shadow with delight
beside the world with reverence and awe
beside my mom with longing, regret, enduring love.

sometimes I feel enormous
capacious
if I stuck out my chest
and opened my mouth a bit wider
I could let in the whole world.

sometimes I feel electric
amplifying sounds
lighting up paths
nothing but pure energy,
a flow of electrons moving through the universe

how to explain these feelings?
are they chemically-induced delusions,
brought on by elevated levels of endorphins or endocannabinoids?
why do we need to explain?
can we bear witness to their wonder,
be curious about their origins and impacts
write about them
study them
experiment with them
propose scientific theories about them
without knowing them?
naming and classifying them?
reducing them to chemicals?
claiming that we own the Truth?

I see wonder in the chemicals
their poetic names
their purposes
their possibilities
but only when our theories about them
don’t foreclose
other explanations
other ways of feeling and being.

I reworked bits and pieces of this poem into other poems. I’m not happy with this poem as it is, but I would like to re-visit and further explore this idea of wonder in the chemicals.

jan 3/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
25 degrees
5% snow-covered

Much warmer today. Bright sun. Beautiful! But running was hard. Since my cold has settled in my chest I can’t take in enough oxygen. Oh well. Even with the difficulty breathing, I enjoyed the run. Glanced down at the river and noticed it was almost all frozen. Heard a dog barking in the gorge. Let my shadow lead me–she loves the sun. Heard a train horn blaring for at least 10 seconds. Saw the shadow of a bird flying overhead. Wondered whether the noise I was hearing by the Lake Street bridge was water trickling, wind blowing or a car driving by. Wiped out my fogged up sunglasses several times. Blew my nose, cleared my throat. Stopped at the halfway point to catch my breath. Tried to keep my shoulders relaxed and my hips high. Encountered a few fat tires, a stroller, some walkers and runners. No Daily Walker. No running groups. Couldn’t smell anything. Felt the warm sun on my face running north, a cold wind on my wrists running south. Can’t remember thinking about much else but breathing. Inhale deeply, slowly, through my nose and mouth.

jan 1/RUN

3.2 miles
greenway bridge turn around
2 degrees, feels like -10
95% snow-covered

Cold! Wouldn’t have minded it except that I have a cold and a bunch of junk in my chest. It was hard to breathe. So I stopped and walked a few times. Still glad I got out there. A beautiful morning without much wind. Listened to the snow crunching under my feet. Right before starting my run, as I was walking, I heard the 2 distinct sounds of crunching snow: the quick snap of the one foot striking and the perpetual grinding of the other foot leaving the ground. I heard these two sounds less when I was running. Much more snapping, less grinding. Noticed the river today–almost frozen. Greeted the Daily Walker-a great omen for 2019.

Learned a new word today: spoonerism. Named after Minister William Archibald Spooner, spoonerism is a term for of wordplay in which a speaker switches the first letters/sounds of words. Like a blushing crow instead of crushing blow or truck fump (or tuck frump) instead of…well, you know. Anyway, I’d like to play around with some spoonerisms in relation to running. Here’s one I just came up with: instead of long run, wrong lung.

Here I am in all of my layers:

dec 30/RUN

3.25 miles
greenway bridge turn around
30 degrees
15% snow covered

Much warmer today. The feels like temperature is 25 degrees warmer. The path was clear but wet. Lots of runners out there. What do I remember about my run? The sidewalks were slippery but the path by the river was not. Encountered 2 fat tires. Didn’t notice any birds or squirrels or the river–did I look down at it even once?

dec 29/RUN

3.15 miles
greenway bridge turn around
10 degrees/feels like -2
100% snow and ice covered

I think this is the coldest run of the season. Feels like -2! It didn’t seem too cold to me. But it was super slick. Decided to run in my yaktrax for the first time ever. Not too bad. With their spikes, they made a much louder crunch on the snow. I barely slipped at all. Encountered a handful of runners out on the trail. Not too many walkers and no bikers. Was this the last run on 2018?

dec 25/RUN

3.1 miles
austin, mn
35 degrees

Ran with Scott around Austin Christmas day. Hardly any snow and not too much wind. What do I remember? Wishing Merry Christmas to a man walking his dog that crossed our path. Noticing that the sky was almost all white with gray smudges. Checking to see if Bessie–the big plastic cow at the county fairgrounds–was wearing a scarf (she wasn’t). Watching a rabbit haul ass across the road–they can run fast! Listening to a dog’s bark echo across the open field. Cutting through the parking lot of the Japan Panda (Japanda) restaurant and noticing they were open and one car was in the parking lot. I don’t remember seeing that many holiday decorations. No Santa Claus. Didn’t hear any Christmas music. Or smell any good food.

dec 23/RUN

3.25 miles
greenway bridge turn around
25 degrees, 100% (light) snow-covered

The dustings have begun. A slow gradual accumulation of snow on the path, 1/4 of an inch at a time. I loved my run this morning. Cold, but not too cold. Slick, but not too slick. White ground, blueish gray water, grayish white sky. Listened to a playlist so I didn’t hear any gorge sounds. Greeted the Daily Walker. Saw a guy who sorta looked like Santa Claus walking a dog. Noticed that the river was clear, no ice. Didn’t smell any sewers or almost burnt toast. On the way back from the turn around, 1/2 mile left, 3 runners, dressed all in black, were running on the road. Very dangerous. I’m glad they decided, after the third car passed them, to move up onto the path.

dec 21/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
23 degrees
0% snow-covered

Decided to run the franklin loop because the weather was nice and almost all the snow had melted. Was able to run on the walking path for about half of the run. A nice gray day. Easy on the eyes–not too bright. I thought that we wouldn’t be seeing green grass again until spring, but the warmish weather (above freezing) has melted most of it. When will it snow again? Are we not going to have a white christmas this year? The run felt easy, which was good. I stayed slow and steady and somewhere on the st. paul side, I got the idea to repeatedly chant a poem I had just re-memorized: Shel Silverstein’s “Sick.” It was a little challenging because the poem has 218 words and 32 lines, but it was fun and made the run go by faster. Not sure how it would work with other poems that are less rhyme-y and rhythmic. I’ll have to try it next week!

dec 17/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
28 degrees
0% snow-covered

Ran the Franklin loop today. Noticed the river. Clear, moving. No ice. Not quite above freezing. Warm, well warm compared to last week when it was in the teens. The path was clear with only a few slick spots. The last time I ran this loop was on October 29th. And because they don’t clear the path as well over on the St. Paul side, I might not have too many chances to run it before spring. In addition to paying attention to the river, I looked at the Franklin flats, below me, and over to the Minneapolis Rowing Club. I heard a single goose honking, flying high above me. Also heard some music in the distance. Where was it coming from? A bike approaching me from behind. I played chicken with a few walkers who were supposed to move over for me but didn’t seem to want to until I made them. Anything else? Oh–I smelled toast up above, on lake street. Decided I didn’t like the smell but also decided that the toast wasn’t burnt, but just on the edge of being over-toasted.

dec 15/RUN

3.5 miles
downtown loop
30 degrees
10% snow-covered

For the third week in a row, Scott and I ran while FWA was at his clarinet lesson. It’s fun to run downtown by the river. Started on the Stone Arch Bridge. A wedding couple were getting their picture taken. The bride was only in her wedding dress, which had sleeves but no back. Brrr. Boom Island was beautiful, with the snow on the small hills and the sun and the wooden bridge. The light on the Mississippi was almost blinding–a sparkling path leading to shore.

dec 14/RUN

5.15 miles
franklin hill turn around
30 degrees
0% snow-covered

Hooray for Fridays and good weather and good runs and conquering big hills and paying attention to the river and noticing your shadow and imagining it leading you down the hill and then, when it’s behind you on the way back up, imagining it gently pushing you forward until you are all the way up and not exhausted and for not being bothered by bad smells like burnt toast or earth thawing near the sewer and keeping relaxed and remembering to smile and listening to Lizzo singing about being 100% that bitch and not slipping on ice because there isn’t any ice and not feeling pain or fear or doubt and for the Daily Walker who is always there on the path no matter what the weather walking and saying “good morning” to you as you run by and for the sun that decided to come out today and sparkle on the water and warm my back and make me believe in the beauty of mid December mornings.

Running Playlist

  1. Cry Me a River/Justin Timberlake
  2. The Flesh Failure/Hair
  3. Truth Hurts/Lizzo
  4. Don’t Stop Me Know/Queen
  5. Closer to Fine/Indigo Girls
  6. Landslide/Fleetwood Mac
  7. Get Lucky/Daft Punk
  8. Firework/Katy Perry
  9. I’m So Free/Beck
  10. TiK ToK/Ke$ha
  11. Can’t Stop the Feeling/Justin Timberlake
  12. Breathe/Anna Nalick

dec 13/BIKE

I ran on Tuesday and Wednesday so in an effort to not aggravate my back or knee or hip or IT band or whatever it is on my left side that is happy now but wasn’t for most of November, I did not run today. Even though I wanted to because the path is clear, there’s not much wind and no snow or ice. Instead I biked in the basement, which was fine. Biking in the basement is useful but rarely (if ever) exciting or beautiful or transcendent. I don’t really enjoy trying to pay attention to the hum of the heater or the dust as it creeps across the floor or the light as it filters through a dingy window, half blocked by cobwebs and a bush that should have been trimmed before fall was finished. But, as I write this, maybe I should start paying more attention. What sort of strange poetry could I create?

After biking, I started working on a poem about the versions of the wind that I experience out by the gorge. I re-visited the Beaufort wind scale and had fun thinking about wind that’s a 6 as causing wires to whistle and umbrellas to be difficult to open and wind that’s a 7 making walking inconvenient. I also learned that white horses are another term for whitecaps. Cool.

In continuing with my research on wind and poetry, I came across Theodore Roethke (because a name of one of his collections is Words for the Wind) and then discovered 2 of his charming children’s poems. I wanted to post them here to remember.

The Chair

A Funny Thing about a Chair:
You Hardly Ever Think It’s There.
To Know a Chair is Really It,
You Sometimes have to Go and Sit.

The Ceiling

Suppose the Ceiling went Outside
And then caught Cold and Up and Died?
The only Thing we’d have for Proof
That he was Gone, would be the Roof;
I think it would be Most Revealing
To find out how the Ceiling’s Feeling.

Here’s another poem I’d like to remember–I should memorize it–by Christina Rossetti, found after typing “wind” into the search box on the Poetry Foundation’s site:

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Another random thing found in my research:
sibilant: having, containing or producing the sound of or sound resembling an s or sh–like in sash. I discovered this word in the phrase, “sibilant drift of dried leaves” in Winter Journal: Wind Thumbs through Woods by Emily Wilson from her collection The Keep, which I am hoping to find at the library.

dec 12/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge turn around
27 degrees
less than 1% snow covered

A nice, easy run. Turned right instead of left today, running towards the falls. No headphones. No music. What sounds did I hear?

  • elementary school kids playing outside–lots of laughter and joyful yelling
  • the wheels of a fat tire approaching me from behind, not whirring but clunking or clanking, almost sounding like the wheels were studded
  • a snow blower and a truck pushing what sounded like pipes across the lot of a new house

What I don’t remember hearing: rushing water, birds, the grit on the path crunching, dogs barking, people talking, cars approaching

Took advantage of the lack of leaves to inspect the gorge as I ran above it. The river looked cold and still, more frozen than flowing.

dec 11/RUN

4.1 miles
greenway bridge turn around
18 degrees
5% snow-covered

A great run, very much needed. Helped to relieve growing anxiety over getting the girl to go to school. Winter is tough for anxiety, but wonderful for running. I breathed in the crisp, cold air and felt better. Listened to music and smiled a lot. Ran faster. Felt freer. Wore sunglasses that got fogged up and gloves that became too warm after a mile. Encountered lots of dogs with their humans. Started my run with a fat tire sighting. Didn’t notice the river, only the path and the cars on the road.

dec 9/RUN

3.35 miles
greenway bridge turn around
30 degrees
10% snow-covered

Ran again today, since I felt so good yesterday and because it’s so nice and warm–almost above freezing! Sunny skies. Clear path. Saw a few fat tires biking on the path. Several runners. Lots of walkers. A mom and her son singing holiday songs. No puddles on the path, but no slick spots either. Didn’t wear headphones, but don’t remember hearing anything–except for a runner passing me early on in my run, a biker alerting me to his approach with a always appreciated, “on your left” and the singers singing their holiday songs. Is that really it? I guess. I can’t remember any crunching snow or honking cars or trickling water or rushing wind or cawing birds. Guess I wasn’t paying attention today.

dec 8/RUN

3.5 miles
downtown loop
26 degrees
50% snow-covered

Ran with Scott again while our son was in his clarinet lesson. There were a few slick spots but nothing too bad. Lately my lower back has been sore so I’ve cut back on running. For now, 3 times a week. Seems like I’ve been in a fight with my body–at least my left IT band and lower back. Felt better today. Not sore when I was running. What do I remember about the run? Hearing water trickling down below the Stone Arch Bridge in Mill Ruins park. Being surprised that it wasn’t frozen by now. Mentioning it to Scott–he couldn’t hear it over a noisy truck driving by. Saw a couple squatting down, taking a selfie with a selfie stick. Was so distracted by talking politics that I forgot to notice Boom Island park at all. I don’t even remember running over the beautiful wooden bridge. Saw a group of bikers (peloton) and a pack of runners (a trot–that’s what I like to call a group of runners). Don’t remember hearing or seeing birds or any boats. No roller skiers. No loud, honking cars. No music or trains. Felt wind occasionally and a few wet flakes on my face. Didn’t smell anything that I can recall–no burnt toast or dead leaves or delicious donuts–not even my stale breath from under my buff.

dec 3/RUN

4 miles
greenway bridge turn around
27 degrees
50% snow-covered

Winter is here. It snowed a few more inches this weekend and I’m pretty sure that we won’t be seeing the grass until spring. It’s not too cold, but cold enough to make the snow stick and the path icy. I didn’t slip much but had to be cautious on my walk before I started running. Tried to remember to listen to the sound of feet crunching the snow but I kept forgetting. A distracted morning. I managed to look at the river a few times and greet the Daily Walker.

dec 1/RUN

3.4 miles
27 degrees
25% snow covered
stone arch loop, downtown minneapolis

After taking an extra day off because my hip hurt, I was able to run 3.4 miles this morning with Scott downtown. Hooray! Not too cold, but windy (14 mph with 24 mph gusts) and icy. It was beautiful running over the bridge in Boom island, even if I twisted my foot times on ruts. Ran up the hill to the Plymouth bridge on west river road, through Boom island and Nicollet island, over to St. Anthony Main and finally over the Stone Arch bridge. Almost, but not quite, the reverse of our race a week ago. After starting November with IT band issues, I’m very happy to be feeling better at the beginning of December.

addendum: Just read somebody’s facebook post in which they mentioned hearing lots of birds today. I did too during the run. Such a strange experience to hear so many birds noisily chirping in the cold and snow.

nov 28/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls
20 degrees

When I got to the river, I turned to the right today. Decided to check out the falls to see if they were frozen yet. Not quite. I could tell as I approached, hearing the rushing water. Half falling, half frozen. Beautiful. Waved at a cute little kid, bundled up in bright orange, as I left minnehaha park. Looked at the river a lot as I ran. Big ice floes. The gorge was burnt orange and brown. My lower back ached a little after I was done. Do I need to stop running for a few days? I hope not. Checked my watch and noticed I had a message from my daughter, “hands down, you are the best.” At first I was confused, then pleased, wondering what I had done to deserve such a sweet message. Then I read it closer and realized that she had gotten the alert for my completed workout and was sending me one of the stock responses. Oh well, I’ll take the compliment anyway. Anything else I remember? Running by some park workers in their bright yellow vests, doing some work around the park. Noticing how cold and lonely the empty playground seemed. Hearing a bus belching as it crossed the 46th street bridge, heading toward ford parkway. Listening to my feet striking the path, trying to make them softer by stepping lighter. Passing only 2 runners (I think), no bikers or roller skiers or daily walkers.

nov 26/RUN

3.3 miles
greenway bridge turn around, mississippi river road
16 degrees, feels like 4

Bundled up in my new favorite winter running outfit: two pairs of running tights, green shirt, orange pull-over, black vest, socks, buff, hat, gloves. Didn’t feel cold at all, except for my fingers around the 1 mile mark. Got to greet the Daily Walker. Forgot to notice the river. Did see steam rising up out of the rowing clubhouse below the lake street bridge. Did I see any other runners? I don’t remember. Saw at least 3 bikers. The ground is bare, except for some dead leaves. No snow. No ice. Just a cold path.

For some reason, I am suddenly into cinquains, a poetic form with 5 lines. I particularly like Adelaide Crapsey’s version (what a name!). 5 lines with the following syllable count: 2/4/6/8/2

Here’s one I found, that I especially like:

Triad

These be
three silent things:
The falling snow . . . the hour
Before the dawn . . . the mouth of one
Just dead.

And one of mine, inspired by this poem and my morning run:

A Late November Run

Running
by the river.
No snow. No ice. No leaves.
Just me and bare ground absorbing
my steps.

nov 24/RUN

6.2 miles
37 degrees
moustache 10K race, riverfront minneapolis

Ran the Moustache 10K run with Scott for the third year in a row. Didn’t take it fast just ran steadily. I feel pretty great considering I took 10 days off for an IT band injury a few weeks ago and experienced a knee subluxation a few days ago. Things I remember from the run:

  • The women who was running (running!) while holding a to go cup of Starbucks coffee and drinking it. I have never seen that before. She was probably running a 8:30/8:45 pace.
  • Twisting my foot on the cobblestones.
  • Overhearing a guy calling out to his friend as we reached the mile 1 marker, “Ugh, we’ve only run a mile” and saying to Scott, “Wow, we’ve already run a mile!”
  • Running up the big hill at mile 5 and listing off the muscles that make up the hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris) and the quads (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, rectus femoris) to Scott because he asked–well, he didn’t ask me to list the specific names, just to clarify whether the quads were in the front or back of your leg, but I couldn’t help myself. Forgetting the vastus intermedius and looking it up later.
  • Feeling good at the end, happy to be finished but not too tired.