july 6/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
77 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 71

And yet another hot morning. Had to wait a few hours until the thunder storms stopped. Not much shade, several annoying groups of walkers taking up almost the entire road. For a long stretch at the beginning, I was able to run right above the river on the trail. It almost felt normal. A wall of green made it nearly impossible to see the river but near 38th street, where some steps wind down to the part of the Winchell Trail that’s paved, I saw it! Blue, beautiful. I miss water–seeing it, swimming in it, hearing it.

Lots of puddles on the path. Not much dripping from the trees, already evaporating in the hot air. Tried reciting “Before I got my eye put out” again but it was too hot. Also tried “Love Song of the Square root of Negative One”– “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/ tremble but I am invisible, bloom without flower, knot/ without rope, song without throat in wingless flight, dark/ boat in the dark night, pure velocity.” I love this poem and I love reciting it even as I still don’t understand it. Would it make more sense in the context of the whole collection? I’d like to buy this collection, War of the Foxes. I do know that the square root of negative one is an imaginary number and so I wonder if this is a love song to the imagination, which makes the leaves tremble while still being invisible? I’m not sure it needs to make sense; it’s fun to memorize and recite. Such great flow and rhythms.

This morning, I found a great article from the New Yorker on Why We Should Memorize poems. Here’s one reason the author gives:

The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. Robson puts the point succinctly: “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”

Then, while looking up the term “ars poetica,” I found this wonderful poem about memorizing a poem:

Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne/ BILLY COLLINS

Every reader loves the way he tells off 
the sun, shouting busy old fool 
into the English skies even though they 
were likely cloudy on that seventeenth-century morning.

And it’s a pleasure to spend this sunny day
pacing the carpet and repeating the words, 
feeling the syllables lock into rows
until I can stand and declare, 
the book held closed by my side,
that hours, days, and months are but the rags of time.

But after a few steps into stanza number two,
wherein the sun is blinded by his mistress’s eyes, 
I can feel the first one begin to fade 
like sky-written letters on a windy day.

And by the time I have taken in the third, 
the second is likewise gone, a blown-out candle now,
a wavering line of acrid smoke.

So it’s not until I leave the house
and walk three times around this hidden lake
that the poem begins to show
any interest in walking by my side.

Then, after my circling,
better than the courteous dominion 
of her being all states and him all princes, 

better than love’s power to shrink
the wide world to the size of a bedchamber, 

and better even than the compression
of all that into the rooms of these three stanzas
is how, after hours stepping up and down the poem,
testing the plank of every line,
it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.

I’d like to memorize this poem, I think. So I can spend more time with it, figuring out my favorite lines and what works, what doesn’t. In addition to his great lines about the process of memorizing the poem– “after hours of steeping up and down the poem,/ testing the plank of every line,/ it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within”– I love how it engages with Dunne’s poem, weaving it into his own lines. I’d like to do something like this with Mary Oliver’s poem, “Invitation.”

july 5/RUN

3 miles
47th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/38th st, west/edmund, north
76% degrees
humidity: 86%/ dew point: 69

Another hot, still, sunny morning. I was able to run right above the river for a small stretch. I saw a few streaks of blue and heard the rowers! Well, just the coxswain speaking into the bullhorn in a deep, creaking voice. Not too long after that, I heard the clickity-clacks of some roller skiers. Very exciting–it almost felt like summer. (Any other summer, I’d be at open swim right now on this perfect-for-swimming day, but I’m trying not to think about that. Too sad.)

Recited “Before I got my eye put out” for another day and thought about this stanza:

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

Sometimes I am very sensitive to bright light, but much less lately, it seems. Does that mean my vision is getting worse? It’s hard to tell because I adjust to things gradually and without much effort. Like, reading. Now I mostly listen to audiobooks, with the occasional ebook. I started the one physical book I am reading, Love in the Time of Cholera, way back in March. So far, I have read about 200 pages of it in 3 1/2 months. The good thing about this gradual shift is that I don’t feel like I’ve lost something. When I can no longer see the words–when and if that happens–I won’t be reading books anymore anyway. Ah, the wonder of the body/self and their ability to accommodate!

I have more to say about this stanza involving too-muchness, safety, the need for caution, the dangers of being too cautious, what it might mean to have your soul (and why just your soul) on the window pane, but I couldn’t put all the ideas into words yet.

Came across this wonderful little poem the other day:

Ars Poetica/ Aracelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.

Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record

of the foot’s silver prayer.
             I lived once.
             Thank you. 
             It was here.

I love this poem and its definition of poetry. The foot’s silver prayer — Wow! I’m thinking about Mary Oliver and her poems as little alleluia on the page, breathing and giving thanks.

july 4/RUN

3.25 miles
ford bridge and back
78 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 71

So hot! Humid! Thought I might have trouble breathing but it wasn’t too bad. Lots of shade and lots of people– running packs, bikers, walkers. Ran south on the river road towards the falls, turning around just past the ford bridge. Saw the river once or twice. Also saw a black nondescript bird flying high in the sky and 2 bikers in long pants–in this heat!? Recited “Before I got my eye put out” again. I was hoping to reflect on the meaning of some of the phrases but it was too hot for that.

Right after finishing my run, I did a recording:

Before I got my eye put out, July 4

My favorite stanza today:

The Meadows — mine —
The Mountains — mine —
The Forests — Stintless Stars —
And all of noon that I could take
Between my finite eyes

And my favorite parts about that stanza? The slant rhyme between Stars and eyes, the rhythm of “and all of noon that I could take” and the idea of taking in as much of noon as my eyes could allow–although I’m not sure I’d pick noon, too bright and severe, I’d take dawn instead. But, I like the sound of noon with its long os better than the shorter aw of dawn.

Last year I created a cento out of poems I memorized. I used most of this stanza in one of the sections:

I’m Not Asking for Much/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

xi.

I’m not asking for much
A white, indifferent morning sky
Unsentimental sleet
A lamentation of geese
Less hatred strutting the streets
To feel a little less, know a little more
Enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night
A way out, the one dappled way, back
Paradise, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold

The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take
Gorged, engorging, and gorgeous.

The theme of this series of poems on vision that I’m memorizing is: Loving Eye/Arrogant Eye. The idea of owning the meadows or mountains, forests, stintless stars seems arrogant to me–to possess/own/have something through a glance. I like the idea of the soul upon the window pane, feeling/experiencing/taking in the view instead (loving perception). The idea of the power of the glance to own/control/possess reminds me of another poem I picked in this series. I was planning to recite it later, but I think I should do it next.

Natural Forces/ Vicente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

Two glances
to hold back the landscapeat the river´s edge

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

Four glances
to hold down the train
that falls into the abyss

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong the life
of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

Ten glances
to see the beauty that shows up
between a dream and a catastrophe

july 3/RUN

2.5 miles
a different loop
76 degrees
humidity: 76%/ dew point: 70

More heat. More humidity. More sticky air. Still, I didn’t mind the run although I was glad to be done after 2.5 miles. Don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing the river. Saw a few big groups of runners, some roller skiers, lots of bikers, walkers, dogs. No woodpeckers or black-capped chickadees. Recited the new poem I memorized yesterday: Before I Got My Eye Put Out/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 —
And 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 better — guess — with just my soul
Opon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes
Incautious of the Sun —

Reciting the poem I was struck by how rhythmic it is until the line “for size of me.” Almost as if to demonstrate the line just before, “my Heart would split.” The beat stops (or is split open) and it’s awkward and difficult to fit into the rhythm. I like Dickinson’s slant rhymes and her refusal to let the reader continue on in a happy flow. Reviewing the poem, double-checking capitalizations and punctuation, I just noticed how even though she capitalizes many things like, Heart, Today, Sky, she doesn’t capitalize soul or eye.

On my walk back, I recorded myself reciting. Needs more practice:

Before I Got My Eye Put Out, July 3

july 2/RUN

2.5 miles
a figure 8 + extra*
77 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 75

*43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/33rd st, west/edmund, south/river road, south/38th st, west/edmund, north/river road, north/river road, south

Same temperature as yesterday but higher dew point and sun. Hot. Managed to recite all of the bird poems in my head as I ran. Pretty cool. Made sure to check out the aspen eyes as I ran by them. Was able to run in the shade for more than half of the run. Wanted to find a sprinkler to run under up on edmund, but the only one on wasn’t watering the street or the sidewalk today. Encountered a few other runners, walkers, 1–or was it 2?–roller skiers, bikers. Didn’t see the river. Felt strong and relaxed until around a mile and a half when I started feeling the heat. I remember hearing a black capped chickadee right before I left the house but not near the gorge. I am sure there were many birds chirping away as I ran but I don’t remember hearing them. Also don’t remember what I thought about.

black capped chickadee

This is my bird of the summer. I hear it all the time. Last night, sitting on the deck with Scott, I heard it call, “chickadeedeedeedee” right before it landed in the tree above my head. Usually, I struggle to see these small birds, but I was able to see this one. Nice!

The World Has Need of You/ Ellen Bass

everything here
seems to need us

Rainer Maria Rilke

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.

O, this poem from Bass’s collection Like a Beggar! I love how she describes walking as “the ancient/prayer of my arms swinging/in counterpoint to my feet” and being “suspended between the sidewalk and twilight.” Invisible tug is great too–another IT acronym. And, “we know too much/and too little” seems like a great theme for a set of poems to memorize.

The line, “If you’ve managed to do one good thing,/the ocean doesn’t care” reminds me of this Mary Oliver poem, which has a slightly different meaning but still speaks to the wonderful indifference of the water:

I Go Down To The Shore/ Mary Oliver

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall–
what should I do? And the seas says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

july 1/RUN

2.4 miles
river road, south/north
77 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 72

Hot today. No sun. Oppressively green. Decided to do a short run with headphones. Listened to Lorde and Beck and can’t remember who else. Saw some runners, walkers, bikers. No river views. No bird songs. No Daily Walker or the tall octogenarian in his running shorts, walking the trail. As I ran down the hill above the tunnel of trees glanced down–a thick blanket of dark green. It would probably be fine to run in that tunnel, even if I encountered someone; it seems like the real risk is being inside with other people. Still, I’m not planning to run it anytime soon.

Finished my third plague notebook–a black medium sized Field Notes notebook. These notebooks are a mix between my own notes/thoughts + quotations from books I’m reading + poems I’m liking. A commonplace book or M Foucault’s huponemata. I’d like to scan the notebooks and put them online but that seems pretty tedious and challenging for me, with my questionable vision.

Found this interesting one word image poem the other day by Aram Saroyan:

Very cool, although difficult for me to see, with my weak central vision. Makes me think of my Snellen Chart poems. I would still like to try and publish my chapbook–when I cannot see straight, I will see sideways.

Saroyan also did this poem, which I encountered on twitter about a year or two ago:

The eye word poem is also a play on a palindrome.

Palindromes

  • eye
  • eve
  • madam
  • tot
  • poop
  • refer
  • racecar
  • level
  • kayak
  • never odd or even
  • Madam, I’m Adam
  • Do geese see god?
  • Sara’s or Saras

In looking up palindromes (I was having trouble figuring out my own), I discovered this delightful variation: semordnilap. A word that spells another word backwards.

  • stressed (desserts)
  • dog (god)

june 30/RUN

3 miles
42nd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river, south/river road, north
75 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 74

Very hot and humid today. Overcast, thick and green. Didn’t notice many bugs or have any difficulty breathing. Heard a cardinal and a black-capped chickadee in the distance. No view of the river. Saw some roller skiers, a kid biking with an adult, several other kids biking together, a few other runners. Forgot to notice the aspen eyes by the school but I do remember wondering why there were so many cars parked in the lot.

Recited the last poems in my bird series: Turkey Vultures/Ted Kooser and Perhaps You Tire of Birds/Donika Kelly. Started with Donika Kelly’s beautiful poem, reciting it for the first half of my run, then switched to Kooser’s for the second half.

Perhaps You Tire of Birds/Donika Kelly

but the yellow-beaked night bird—

in the moonlight,
in the clover,
in the deep deep grass—

could hold me
always, in the swell
of her little eye.

O, my scouring eye
that scrubs clean

the sky and blossomed tree.

O, my heart that breaks
like a bone. O, my bones
full and flying.

What a gorgeous poem. I love the flow and the rhythm at the beginning–“in the moonlight/in the clover/in the deep deep grass”–especially the deep deep grass. As I recited it in my head, I couldn’t remember if the last line was flying and full or full and flying. I decided it was flying and full. I was wrong. Later after I was done running and after I recited the poem into my phone, I thought about the scouring eye–the eye that sees, scrutinizes, dissects with its sharp focus the things within it’s gaze. I don’t have a scouring eye because nothing is ever completely in focus for me. Images are soft and fuzzy and never sharp. What would I call my eye–the dirty eye? the gentle eye? the generous eye? Maybe I want to memorize some vision poems next?

Perhaps you Tire of Birds, June 30

june 29/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
69 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 70

Happy Birthday to me. Found out yesterday that I am one day younger than Derek Jeter; he turned 46 yesterday, I turned 46 today. Glad to be done with the number 45. Rained all morning so I had to wait to run until after noon–12:36 to be exact. Hot and humid and wet. I didn’t mind. Managed to catch a few glimpses of the river–at least, the blue of the river through the green leaves. It was very windy, which helped make the heat less oppressive. Do I remember anything else? Not sure if it was still raining a little or if I was just feeling drops from the trees.

Recited the latest poem I memorized: Turkey Vultures/ Ted Kooser:

Circling above us, their wingtips fanned
like fingers, it is as if they were smoothing

one of those tissue paper sewing patterns
over the pale blue fabric of the air,

touching the heavens with leisurely pleasure,
just a word or two called back and forth,

taking all the time n the world, even though
the sun was low and red in the west, and they

had fallen behind with their making of shrouds.

I love the line, “smoothing one of those tissue paper sewing patterns over the pale blue fabric of the air.” It reminds me of going with my mom to the fabric store, sitting in the chair at the slanted table, looking through pattern books–Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick–finding something I wanted her to sew for me, making note of the number and then finding the corresponding pattern in a big filing cabinet. I have never learned to sew but I will always remember how exciting it was to pick out patterns and then the fabric, and have my mom sew for me. In my early 20s I wanted to learn to sew. For my birthday that year, my mom gave me an elaborate sewing kit, with a how to sew book and several very nice scissors, needles, pins, a pin cushion, measuring tape, thread. I still have the kit and sometimes I use it, like earlier in the quarantine when I comically attempted to patch my son’s favorite pajama pants. I was amazed that I could thread the needle. How did I do that with my central vision almost gone?

In reciting this poem, I also thought about the word leisurely and how to pronounce it–with a short e or a long one? I prefer the long e–leeesurely.

june 27/RUN

2 miles
river road, south/north
76 degrees

Ran with Scott on the rive road. Warm in the sun. Crowded. Saw a peloton turn onto the road and whizz by. Heard the crack of ski pole as a roller skier prepared to roll down the hill just past the welcoming oaks. While Scott was talking about XTC and their strange side projects, I though I heard the cackle of either Emily or Agatha (the pileated woodpeckers I named the other day).

When we returned home, I sat on the deck and recited Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” into my phone. For some reason I keep thinking it’s “you only have to let the SMALL animal of your body” instead of “you only have to let the SOFT animal of your body.” Not sure why because soft makes much more sense.

Wild Geese, June 27

june 26/RUN

2.2 miles
river road, south/river road, north
73 degrees
humidity: 75%/ dew point: 65

Hot and muggy this morning. No sun, just clouds and a few rain drops. Decided to do a shorter run. Listened to a playlist with lots of Lizzo songs. Felt strong and fast and happy to be outside. At the end of the run, I passed through the welcoming oaks, turning around at the old oak tree that stands at the top of the hill, above the tunnel of trees. Stopped at the overlook and was able to almost see a few slashes of river. The green was thick and opaque and unrelenting.

Today I was planning to memorize the next bird poem on my list, Mockingbird by Randall Jarrell. But I realized that we don’t have any mocking birds near the gorge so I’m switching it out for a poem about a bird that is common, and one of my favorites: the goose. And I’m picking one of my favorite poems about the goose–another one by Mary Oliver that I memorized a few years ago but can’t quite remember: Wild Geese. Love this poem!

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.

june 25/RUN

3.1 miles
47th ave to 32nd st to river road, south to edmund to river road, south to 42nd st to river road, north
64 degrees
humidity: 82%

Ran at 8 and it’s already feeling warm. Sunny. I think I saw my shadow a few times off to the side. Ran by the aspen eyes on 32nd. Encountered runners, bikers, walkers, a few roller skiers. Always at a safe distance. Heard some birds–the cackling of a pileated woodpeckers, perhaps. On our walk last night, Scott and I (well, mostly him) saw 2 pileated woodpeckers sitting on a branch. Even though they were probably male, I named them Agatha and Emily, after one of the best Bugs Bunny cartoons ever–the one where Bugs Bunny takes a wrong turn and ends up at a castle with a vampire. I didn’t see the river or hear the river or even smell the river today. Too far away–two paths, a lot of grass, and a thick line of trees between me and my view.

Recited “Invitation” and “Crows” while I ran. Got stuck on one line from Invitation–I couldn’t remember what came right before, “it is a serious thing/just to be alive.” I finally remembered it when I got home–“believe us, they say.” Didn’t have any problems remembering the lines from “Crows.” Last night I recited it for Scott and we talked about the structure of the poem, the first part as philosophical reflection, and the second part as details from specific memory of the is.

the IS

to stack each is up against emptiness–
images collected in consciousness

the images collected

the food’s here of the first crow to arrive
numbers 2 and 3 at a safe distance, then approaching the hand-created taste of leftover coconut macaroons

I’d like to try writing a poem using this structure. Not sure how I feel about the phrase, “hand-created.” I like it better than hand-crafted but it sounds awkward, which is probably intentional?

I’ve decided to add two more poems to my bird list, and remove one. Here’s the new list:

june 24/RUN

3 miles
36th to 42nd to 34th to 38th to 36th
63 degrees
humidity: 83%

Another beautiful morning. Didn’t notice the wind or any bugs. No large groups of runners or roller skiers or bikers, although there were a lot of walkers and runners. My route was all on the road, so no views of the river. I did notice the open air above the river and imagined it below. Before heading out, I heard at least one black-capped chickadee but I don’t remember hearing any birds while I was running. What else do I remember? A squirrel crossed the road in front of me–not too close. Saw 2 runners heading down to the Winchell Trail. Stepped on a few clumps of grass and the end of a twig. Didn’t see any ridiculous performances–no exuberant bikers or strangely gaited runners or snazzy dogs and their owners.

loops

Today I ran some strange loops–from 36th to 42nd and back past 36th, down the hill until the road is closed for construction near 34th, then back again past 36th to 38th and finishing at 36th. This wasn’t too bad. Originally I was planning to do a lot of the loops this summer, but I realized I struggle to do repeat loops. Maybe I’ll try one more time? I’ve been thinking of doing shorter loops around 38th (about .1/2 mile)–maybe 6th of them, some fast, some slow?

reciting while running

Yesterday I memorized Marilyn Nelson’s “Crows,” the second poem I’m memorizing for my birds series.

Crows/ Marilyn Nelson

What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity–
images collected in consciousness
like a tree on the horizon–
is the main reason we’re on this planet?
The food’s here of the first crow to arrive.
Numbers two and three at a safe distance,
then approaching the hand-created taste
of leftover coconut macaroons.
The insight sparks in the earth’s awareness.

It is helpful to spend time with this one–partly because I love the first sentence, but mostly because, on my first several readings, I couldn’t understand the lines about the crows. The food’s here of the first crow? hand-created taste? Having recited it dozens of times, I’m starting to understand these lines a little better. Still not sure I like them, or crows for that matter, but they are making more sense.

When I stopped running, I recorded myself reciting the poem as I walked home:

Crows, June 24

There are 2 books (or at least 2 that I can recall right now) I have read and adored in the last 10 years that feature crows: 1. Wildwood/ Colin Meloy. A murder of crows serve as henchmen for an evil baby-stealing queen who lives in a wood in Portland, OR. When a “murder of crows” appeared for the first time in the book, I remember imagining that Colin Meloy, who loves to sing dark, Victorian lyrics in The Decemberists, wrote the entire story around this phrase because he loves it so much. 2. Bellman & Black/ Diane Stterfield. On a bet, a boy kills a crow with a stone from his slingshot. The other crows don’t forget and haunt him when he grows up. (Looking it up, I realized that the bird is not a crow but a rook. Oops.)

Now that I realized it was a rook and not a crow, I want to know the difference between them. According to Woodland Trust, crows, ravens, and rooks are all part of the crow family/corvids (the family also includes jackdaws and magpies). Crows are all black and are often alone; ravens are less common, much bigger, and gather in flocks; and rooks are social and have a gray bill and gray feathers on their face, near the bill.

june 23/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
64 degrees

Cloudy this morning. Felt cool when I started, warm when I stopped. Ran north on edmund until I crossed over to the river road at 32nd. Saw the river for about a minute, peeking through the green. I miss being able to pay attention to the gorge, listening for rowers, admiring the river’s shine. Before crossing back over to the road, I glanced at one of the dirt trails leading into the gorge–so dark green and thick! You could get lost in there…and bit–lots of bugs near the gorge right now. They didn’t bother me while I was running, but they did last night during my evening walk with Scott and Delia.

yesterday’s rather ridiculous performance: super chill man on bike, singing

Speaking of last night, about halfway through our walk, we saw a man biking, nearing the top of a hill, just past the welcoming oaks. He was singing–what was he singing? a show tune or a love song or something like that–and had his hands resting on his knees while he was biking. He looked calm and chill and unworried about the fact that he was about to bike down a hill without having his hands on the handlebars. He looked rather ridiculous but his embracing of this ridiculousness was wonderful and delightful and brought me some joy. Usually I would judge this behavior as reckless, but he was so relaxed and ridiculous that I all I could was marvel at it. I wasn’t the only one. About a minute later, I heard some other people talking excitedly about him too. This idea of a “rather ridiculous performance” is a line from Mary Oliver’s “Invitation”: “I beg of you/do not walk by/without pausing/to attend to this/rather ridiculous performance.” Maybe I’ll try to make a list of the rather ridiculous performances I encounter/witness?

I recited “invitation” a few more times on my run. I did a better job of not getting distracted. I thought about the line, “you must change your life” and about how much (and sometimes how little) COVID-19 has changed my life. And I thought about how many of the changes have been less about will and more about letting go–staying home, doing “nothing,” listening. When I finished my run, I recited the poem into my phone. Listening back to it, I’m struck by my mistakes, especially my saying “competition” instead of winning. Winning sounds so much better rhythmically. Also, my choice to say “this” is a serious thing instead of “it” and “their” ridiculous performance instead of “this”.

Invitation, june 23

I love Ours Poetica and I love this poem about aphids and foolishly telling off the nosy, stern older lady–“the town’s most successful corporate attorney’s mother”:

june 22/RUN

3.4 miles
47th st loop
64 degrees

Ran the 47th street loop for the first time in awhile. At turkey hollow I saw a turkey! Recited Mary Oliver’s “Invitation.” All I remember about it was that I couldn’t recite it straight through. I kept getting distracted by the effort of summer running or of trying to avoid other people. One other thing I remember–I struggled with the line “a field of thistles.” I kept thinking it was a thistle filled field. Also struggled with the line about the strong, blunt beaks. I kept thinking it was sharp, blunt beaks which demonstrates how little I was actually thinking.

Recording myself reciting the poem a minute or two after finishing my run, as I walked home.

Invitation, june 22

I think I’d like to start a new series of memorized poems with this one. I had planned to memorize poems about water but it’s too difficult to think about water right now; it makes me sad about missing open swim this year. I’m not sure what my theme will be yet–probably second person poems, although I’m always thinking about transformation or attention or maybe birds or what about advice/how to? It’s a tough one.


Okay, spent a few minutes thinking about it and I have decided to (at least) start with a series on birds. I might then move onto You poems and How to poems (and, when I do how to poems, it must include Dickinson’s “To Make a Prairie”. Here’s a tentative list (taken from poems I’ve already read and have wanted to memorize):

Birds

june 21/RUN

3.5 miles
47th ave to 32nd st to river road to edmund to river road
66 degrees/ humidity: 83%

A beautiful morning for a run. Calm, sunny, cooler. Lots of birds, a nice breeze. Did some triple berry chants–strawberry, blueberry, raspberry–for a few minutes, then some 3/2–mystery/is solved, running on/the road. For a stretch, I listened to all of the sounds–black capped chickadees, cardinals, crows, a woodpecker. Wind gently shaking the leaves in the trees, a rock song blasting from a bike radio. Saw one stray bit of white fuzz from a cottonwood tree and a few aspen eyes. Didn’t see the river or hear any rowers down below. No roller skiers. Also, no troops of synchronized roller-bladers this year. For the past 2 or 3 summers, I’ve noticed a group of 4 men roller-blading on the bike path, sometimes accompanied by a coach on a bike. So fast and graceful and in sync–swinging their arms in unison. Not this year. Maybe I’m not running early enough this summer?

I’m still thinking about You (second person) in poems. Here’s one of my favorite You poems by Mary Oliver. I love this poem so much, I wrote a poem about it–a poem I’m not quite happy with but might be someday. Anyway, here’s Oliver’s poem:

Invitation/ Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
I beg of you

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant when he wrote,
You much change your life.

june 20/RUN

2 miles
36th to 42nd to 36th
65 degrees

A short run with Scott this morning. Crowded out on the road with lots of groups of bikers and runners and walkers. Not too hot or windy. Still green. Very green. Don’t remember hearing any birds, although I’m sure they were making noise. What else did I miss while Scott and I were busy cranking about a biker biking too close or walkers social distance-ing across the entire road? A lot, I’m sure. Fairly certain I didn’t see any floating cottonwood. No roller skiers, no Daily Walker, no music blasting from bike speakers.

Oh, this beautiful poem I found on twitter yesterday, “The Stuff of Astounding: A Poem for Juneteenth.” Patricia Smith is amazing–the words here and the form. I love the idea of making another poem out of the last word of each line.

june 19/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/river road, south
65 degrees
dew point: 60

Ran north on the river road today towards downtown. A little cooler, sunny, less wind. Listened to some birds–I can’t remember if they were cardinals or bluebirds or finches or something else–and the rush of the traffic on the freeway a mile down the road. Didn’t think about any of the poems I’ve been memorizing or the significance of doors as ways into something. Didn’t think about COVID-19 or whether or not the schools would be open in the fall. Didn’t think about much of anything. Remember my feet striking a few clumps of wet leaves on the road, running over some mud on the grass. Everything was wet from the rain last night. I wonder how muggy and buggy and dripping the tunnel of trees is today?

I am writing this log entry on my deck and it is delightful. So many sounds! Cardinals close by, another type of chirping bird farther away. A plane, some traffic–is it on lake street or across the river? Sizzling leaves. Buzzing flies. The clicking of my computer keys. A random wind chime. A kid whining. The pop–or thud? or crack?–of an air conditioner starting up next door. A car door closing, the door to a house slamming. The rumble of a motor, needing to be serviced. Feet shuffling through some grit in the alley.

And I am sitting here, thinking about You–writing in second person–wondering what poem to post as a great example of it. Then, I came across this one (which I had already seen on an instagram post earlier this morning) and knew I had found it:

won’t you celebrate with me/ Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

june 18/RUN

2.5 miles
river road path, south/north
74 degrees

One more day of hotter weather. Decided to run with my headphones in, listening to an old playlist. Was able to run right by the river for a few minutes. So much green, barely any view through to the river. Felt strong. Read somewhere that the river road will open back up in about a month because they will have used up all they money they had budgeted for it (apparently the money was for renting road closed signs?). Bummer. Better enjoy it while I can.

Because I’m feeling the stress of COVID-19 and how many people don’t seem to be taking it seriously and how Trump is pushing for schools to reopen too soon in the fall, I need a delightful poem so here’s an abecedarian from one of my favorite poets:

HUMMINGBIRD ABECEDARIAN/ Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Arriving with throats like nipped roses, like a tiny
bloom fastened to each neck, nothing else
cuts the air quite like this thrum to make the small
dog at my feet whine and yelp. So we wait—no
excitement pinned to the sky so needled and our days open
full of rain for weeks. Nothing yet from the ground speaks
green except weeds. But soon you see a familiar shadow
hovering where the glass feeders you brought
inside used to hang because the ice might shatter the pollen
junk and leaf bits collected after this windiest, wildest of winters.
Kin across the ocean surely felt this little jump of blood, this
little heartbeat, perhaps brushed across my grandmother’s
mostly grey braid snaked down her brown
neck and back across the Indian and the widest part of the Pacific 
ocean, across the Mississippi, and back underneath my
patio. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been silent in my lungs,
quiet as a salamander. Those times I wanted to decipher the mutter
rolled off a stranger’s full and beautiful lips. I only knew they
spoke in Malayalam—my father’s language—and how
terrific it’d sound if I could make my own slow mouth
ululate like that in utter sorrow or joy. I’m certain I’d be 
voracious with each light and peppered syllable 
winged back to me in the form of this sort of faith, a gift like
xenia offered to me. And now I must give it back to this tiny bird, its
yield far greener and greater than I could ever repay—a light like
zirconia—hoping for something so simple and sweet to sip.

aspen eyes

Every day, in the late afternoon around 5, Scott and I take Delia the dog on a long walk between Edmund Boulevard and the River Road. This week, while stopped near the upper campus of Minnehaha Academy–the one that was recently rebuilt after the old building exploded a few years ago, Scott noticed all the eyes on an aspen tree and took a picture of it:

I remember remarking, “oh, I bet there’s a name for that. I’ll have to look it up.” I finally did just now. The most popular answer? Aspen eyes. According to several sites I found, these eyes are formed through self-grooming, when aspens shed their smallest branches. I wanted to see if one of my favorite nature writers had a name for it. Of course, Rob Macfarlane posted it as a words of the day on twitter. He calls it, “The Watchful Tree.”

june 17/RUN

3 miles
36th to 42nd to 36th
74 degrees
dew point: 57

It’s going to be another hot one today. Already before 8 it’s 70 degrees. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me that much. A nice run near the river road. Green and shady. Was able to glance over at my shadow a few times. She was running beside me today. Don’t remember hearing any birds just a few random people and hovering helicopters to the south. I wonder what’s happening? Briefly thought about running on the tunnel of trees trail but then decided I didn’t want to risk getting that close to another runner or walker. Not sure if I’ll ever get down there this year.

Right now, I have two poems I recently memorized that I want to think about while I run: Carl Sandburg’s “Doors” and Mary Oliver’s “Praying.” Decided to recite “Doors” for the first half of the run, “Praying” for the second half.

Doors

I noticed the rhythm more. I like how the line, “Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors”–partly because the rhyme of go through with the previous line’s “who are you” and partly because he begins with shadows (shadows and ghosts) instead of ghosts (ghosts and shadows). It sounds much better this way to me. Also thought about the use of shut instead of closed for the doors that aren’t open. Shut is a much firmer, sharper, stronger sound than closed.

Praying

As I recited Praying I thought about how simple and beautiful it is as a statement about paying attention. In her book Long Life Oliver talks about her poems as little alleluias. In one of my chapbooks, I turned her explanation into a tanka:

an alleluia
on the page that’s what these poems are
not trying to
explain anything just here
breathing and offering thanks


Oliver’s poem is a little alleluia. Nothing elaborate, intended to be mined for hidden meaning, but an offering of thanks. A prayer to be repeated and lived and remembered. This fits with her own language in the poem–“this is not a contest”. Yes! I love the idea of writing for these reasons and not about being elaborate or clever or deep. I think I’d like to recite a series of poem on the idea of joy, delight, and thanks. (I have too many ideas and not enough little gray cells to devote to them!)

I also love her image of the doorway here–a doorway into thanks. I’ve been thinking about doors as possibility in general terms, but haven’t thought specifically and concretely about them-what doorways does moving and paying attention and reading/writing/breathing poetry give me and where do those doorways lead–into what?

After finishing my run, as I was walking back, I recited both poems into my phone. There were a few minor errors in the Oliver that I need to work on:

Doors and Praying, june 17

june 16/RUN

2 miles
36th to 42nd to 36th
70 degrees

Ran the short loop with Scott this morning. We talked about the fall, whether or not schools would open, how complicated and messy and difficult it is, and how much the federal government has failed us. It’s warmer today and we could feel it, especially in the shade-less stretches. Still nice to be outside and start the morning running near the river.

After the run, walking through the neighborhood with Delia the dog, I recited the poem I memorized yesterday to Scott: Praying/ Mary Oliver. Another door poem.

Praying/ Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t 
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

I love this idea of a doorway into thanks and how paying attention to the world can lead us through it. Also like the idea of silence and other voices speaking and how paying attention can help us to listen.

june 15/RUN

3 miles
36th to 32nd to 42nd to 36th
65 degrees

Another windy day. Not too warm, some sun, some clouds. Was able to briefly glimpse the river through the trees. It was glowing white. Heard many cardinals. Lately–or has it been happening for a long time?–I’m having more trouble seeing people approaching me. Today, I ran up on the grass, planning to head down a hill to where the river road opens up again, and suddenly I noticed a runner there. They weren’t too close and I was able to move far out of the way when I finally saw them. Still, I had looked and should have been able to notice them. I wonder how bad my vision is these days? It’s easier not to notice because I am not driving or going into strange buildings with signs I can’t immediately read or trying to recognize people or make eye contact with them. Some morning, when it’s not too crowded, I should try biking somewhere, just to see if it’s possible. That would be a good test of my vision.

Memorized Carl Sandburg’s doors yesterday. Recited it a few times in my head as I ran. Didn’t really think about the rhythm as I ran. Is that because summer runs are always more difficult for me and I can’t think about anything else but how I’m hot or tired? Right before leaving for my run I read someone’s brief analysis of the poem; they believed Sandburg’s doors symbolize opportunity–opportunities taken or squandered. In my own thinking about doors, I’ve imagined them as symbols of possibility and freedom, but never opportunity. Opportunity seems like a business/career/success/progress symbol which narrows its scope too much for me.

Doors/ Carl Sandburg

An open door says, “Come in.” 
A shut door says, “Who are you?” 
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors. 
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
why open it? 
If a door is open and you want it open,
why shut it? 
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
doors forget.

I like the line about shadows and ghosts going through shut doors. Speaking of shadows and ghosts, I saw my shadow today but in the cloud-covered light it was so faint it almost looked like a ghost of a shadow, or a trace of where a shadow had once been. Very cool effect. At first, I thought I saw it there, but when I paid closer attention it was gone. Then, in the next minute, it was back–a vague outline of me.

Right after finishing my run, I recorded myself reciting the poem. Just a few errors.

doors, june 15

june 14/RUN

2 miles
river road, south/river road, north
61 degrees
wind: 15 mph, gusts up to 28 mph

Sunny, cooler, windy. Ran straight into the wind heading south. Thought I’d have it at my back on heading north, but it had already changed direction. Wind used to bother me a lot. Now, I don’t mind as much. Listened to a playlist as I ran–heard “Black Wizard Wave” by Nur-D. Love that song, especially the line, “I’m so high. Levio levio levio sa.” Thought about the terrible anti-trans hate JK Rowling has been spreading lately and then thought about Nur-D and all the positivity they bring to the world and decided to stay with the joy and still hear “levio levio levio sa” with delight.

Was able to almost see the river through the trees–more like the promise of the river instead of the actual river. The faintest hit of blue peeking through a thick weave of green. Heard some bikers and runners. It felt fast but not effortless.

june 13/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
58 degrees

Cool and sunny and wonderful. Repeated my run from yesterday. Encountered a few roller skiers near the trestle. Was passed by a mini peloton. Noticed some dogs with their owners. Heard some guy walking and talking very loudly into his cellphone. Also heard lots of noise coming from the gorge or the tunnel of trees trail. Could it have been some rowers–or people watching the rowers? Didn’t see the Daily Walker or hear any music. Did hear a woodpecker and the crunch of feet striking some piled up sand near lake street.

Recited the new poem I memorized yesterday, Anne Sexton’s “I Remember.”

I Remember/ Anne Sexton

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began to
snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color — no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of june and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

Became easily distracted with my running or the road or avoiding people on the road, so I couldn’t recited it straight through in my head without stopping. Still managed to think about and enjoy many of the lines in the poem–the invisible beetles snoring, wearing bare feet bare, taking gin warm and neat from old jelly glasses, the sun blowing out of sight. Thought about how much I liked her choices of “taking gin” and “from old jelly glasses” instead of drinking gin out of jelly glasses, although I would have liked “old jelly jars” instead of jelly glasses.

Perhaps the line that stumped me the most was “like a red picture hat.” Googled “what is a picture hat?” (tried red picture hat first but that search returned a lot of pointless pinterest posts) and found this useful post on a site called the Dreamstress: “Terminology: What is a picture hat?” I’m very glad I looked this up. Fun and fascinating. Here’s the Dreamstress’s basic definition: “A picture hat is a large, broad-brimmed hat, usually rather elaborately trimmed.” They were popular from the 1890s until the 1910s and were extreme and ostentatious and very irritating to theater goers sitting behind the hat wearer. I have often thought it would be fun to wear a big hat like this; it would probably help with my vision too, blocking out extra visual noise.

Now I’m thinking about Sexton’s referencing a vintage, out-of-fashion hat and her mention of winding up (as opposed to setting) an alarm clock and tying her hair back, looking almost like a Puritan lady. All of this makes her memories seem old, out of reach, way in the past.

After I finished my run, walking back home, I recorded myself reciting the poem. A few mistakes, some extra words:

I remember, june 13

june 12/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
65 degrees

What a beautiful morning! Sunny, not too warm, not too windy. Managed to run mostly in the shade. Thought about running through the welcoming oaks on the trails but decided it might be too crowded. Greeted them silently from afar. Didn’t see my shadow or the river. Didn’t hear any rowers or roller skiers. No birds circling the sky. No cottonwood sticking to the sweat on my face. No annoying gnats or squirrels. Don’t remember thinking about anything. Ran near a sprinkler–the one that has been watering the grass, the sidewalk, the street, every morning this week. On Wednesday I was able to get a quick shower on my shins from the sprinkler. Not today.

Decided to stop at the bottom of edmund to recite the Emily Dickinson poem before running up the hill. I talked with more confidence into the phone, not carrying if any of the runners or walkers nearby heard me. I’m getting better.

I dwell, june 12

And here’s another alphabet poem. I love playing around with the alphabet!

O/ Claire Wahmanholm

Once there was an opening, an operation: out of which oared the ocean, then oyster and oystercatcher, opal and opal-crowned tanager. From ornateness came the ornate flycatcher and ornate fruit dove. From oil, the oilbird. O is for opus, the Orphean warbler’s octaves, the oratorio of orioles. O for the osprey’s ostentation, the owl and its collection of ossicles. In October’s ochre, the orchard is overgrown with orange and olive, oleander and oxlip. Ovals of dew on the oatgrass. O for obsidian, onyx, ore, for boreholes like inverted obelisks. O for the onion’s concentric O’s, observable only when cut, for the opium oozing from the poppy’s globe only when scored. O for our organs, for the os of the cervix, the double O’s of the ovaries plotted on the body’s plane to mark the origin. O is the orbit that cradles the eye. The oculus opens an O to the sky, where the starry outlines of men float like air bubbles between us and oblivion. Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen. O for the mussels opening in the ocean’s oven. O for the rising ozone, the dropping oxygen, for algae overblooming like an omen or an oracle. O Earth, out-gunned and out-manned. O who holds the void inside itself. O who has made orphans of our hands.

My love of alphabets reminds me of the collection of kids ABC books I inherited from my mom when she died. I should look at them, be inspired by them. Should I do an ABC book about the gorge (or the gorge in a pandemic, or running by the gorge, or running by the gorge in a pandemic?).

june 11/RUN

3 miles
2.5 mile loop + extra
65 degrees

About once or twice every month during this pandemic, I’ve had a day where I feel really unsettled and uncomfortable. A little fatigued, tightness in my throat, harder to breathe–not in my lungs but in my nose and throat. That is happening today, so I decided to listen to a playlist during my run and try and forget about it. Success. Felt much better during and right after my run.

What a beautiful morning, although I wish it wasn’t so windy. Sun, some clouds, a few glimpses of my shadow, some shade. No river views. Lots of green. Encountered bikers, walkers, runners, and a troop (6 or so) roller skiers on the road. Didn’t see the Daily Walker or any cottonwood floating through the sky. No sparkling water. I don’t remember what I thought about while I ran–anything? Don’t trip in that pothole, maybe?

Here’s another poem that mentions a door: “What if we wake one shimmering morning to/Hear the fierce hammering/Of his firm knuckles/Hard on the door?” Door as entrance to willful ignorance/exit leading to truth

truth/ GWENDOLYN BROOKS

And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?

Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?

Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.

The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.

Woke up this morning thinking in alliteration: Some Saras sit, some Saras stand, some Saras stretch their limbs in the sand. Why? Not sure. Spent a few minutes in delight, writing out some more lines. This exercise is distracting me, making me feel better.

Alice asks Agatha about Aunt Anne’s asthma.
Bob better buy butter.
Claudia cuts cuticles carefully.
Derek doesn’t do dishes.
Even Evelyn eagerly eats eggplant.
For fourteen fortnights Fred farted ferociously (or Fred fretted fervently?).
Generous Gretel gives giant gifts.
How high Harold’s hats hang!
Isabel ignores idiots.
Joking Jackie jests.
Kissing Kate kills.
Lecherous Lonnie’s lascivious laughter lingers loudly.
Millie mutters malevolent mantras.
No nonsense Nancy needs normal neighbors.
Oliver organizes outrageous outings.
Please plant Patty’s precious petunias promptly!
Quit questioning quarantines Quint!
Rosie recognizes rude Ricks readily.
Susan soothes sad, sobbing Sandra.
Terrible Todd taunts timid toddlers.
Ursula’s urges unsettle us.
Veronica Vaughn’s vests vanished.
Walt Whitman wanders west.
Xavier xeroxes xylophones.
Yolanda’s yurt yellowed yesterday.
Zach’s zesty zebra? Zero zen.

june 10/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
60 degrees
humidity: 77%/ dew point: 52

Felt much cooler today. Windy. Overcast. Ran all the way to the falls for the first time in several months. Managed to see the river. Noticed how one of my favorite views during the winter–the spot just past the oak savanna, where the mesa dips down to meet the river–was completely hidden behind a wall of green. The falls were gushing. Someone was setting up the bike surreys as I reached it. Minnehaha creek was rushing. Heard at least one woodpecker; don’t remember any other birds. Encountered some bikes, walkers, runners. Heard but didn’t see the clickity-clack of at least one roller skier. Anything else? Happily ran over some grit and listened to it crunch. Almost tripped on a pothole on the other side of turkey hollow.

While I ran, I recited “I dwell in Possibility” several times. Thought about pulling out my phone and reciting it as I ran but didn’t. One day, I’ll finally do it. Love the rhythm of: “And for an everlasting Roof/The Gambrels of the Sky–” About a minute after I finished running, I recorded myself reciting it into my phone. How could I mess up the last line?

I dwell in Possibility, june 10

I really appreciate the prowling Bee’s analysis of the poem:

What is possible is, again by definition, more vast and varied than the Prose world of observation and logic. It is the world of imagination and of poetry. Little wonder Dickinson finds her imaginative world – her true dwelling – “fairer” than the cramped quarters of the prosaic, that is to say, her actual, physical house and home. Possibility has more doors and windows – the better to let in light and to look out of!

Yet there is a wonderful privacy, too. Those “superior” doors have a dual purpose. And despite the numerous windows, there are private “Chambers” as “Impregnable” to the eye as a cedar tree. The poet can be as reclusive as she wishes in this marvelous house.

I love the idea of the freedom the doors and windows bring and the privacy they allow. They’re both an entry into a bigger, fairer world and an escape/protection from an restrictive, oppressive one.

Found a poem on twitter this morning from Donika Kelly who wrote Bestiary–which I just checked out of the library and that has a poem about a door. Here’s the one I found and the door one:

Perhaps you tire of birds/ Donika Kelly

But the yellow-beaked night bird–

in the moonlight,
in the clover,
in the deep deep grass—

could hold me,
always, in the swell
of her little eye.

O, my scouring eye
that scrubs clean

the sky and blossomed tree.
O, my heart that breaks

like a bone. O my bones,
full and flying.

Self-Portrait as a Door/ Donika Kelly

All the birds die of blunt force trauma—
of barn of wire of YIELD or SLOW
CHILDREN AT PLAY. You are a sign
are a plank are a raft are a felled oak.
You are a handle are a turn are a bit
of brass lovingly polished.
What birds what bugs what soft
hand come knocking. What echo
what empty what room in need
of a picture a mirror a bit of paint
on the wall. There is a hooked rug
There is a hand hard as you are hard
pounding the door. There is the doormat
owl eye patched by a boot by a body
with a tree for a hand. What roosts
what burrows what scrambles
at the pound. There is a you
on the other side, cold and white
as the room, in need of a window
or an eye. There is your hand
on the door which is now the door
pretending to be a thing that opens.

Wow! I’m looking forward to reading Bestiary today. What a wonderful poet!

june 9/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
humidity: 56%/ dew point: 59

Warm, but low humidity. Sunny, green, calm, relaxed. Encountered many bikers and walkers but was able to keep a good distance from all of them. Couldn’t get close enough to the river to see it but did hear the coxswain calmly directing the rowers, her voice amplified by a bullhorn. I wish I could have seen the rowers and the sparkling water. How many rowers were in the shell? Can you properly social distance in those things?

note: was planning to write about how sad it is that open swim is starting today and I won’t be doing it and how frustrated and confused I am by how so many other people seem to think we don’t need to social distance or be careful anymore, but I decided to leave it out. Still, I wanted to make note of it and how it casts a shadow over this time and my log entry today.

Didn’t recite “voiceover” as I ran today…it’s probably time to move onto another poem. Because of the heat and humidity and how difficult that makes it to think about anything but how hot and humid it is, I’m wondering if I should adjust my poem list and memorize some that are short and rhythmic. Yes. I think I’ll memorize some more Emily Dickinson. When I didn’t feel motivated to recite “voiceover” today, I recited “It’s all I have to bring today” instead. I love Emily Dickinson. And I love this poem about possibility, especially after reading the prowling Bee’s analysis!

I dwell in Possibility – (466)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

This poem fits with my theme of inner and outer–it, along with Smith’s “Threshold” and Dove’s “Voiceover” feature doors.

Smith: “passing through doorway after doorway after doorway” and “but any open space may be a threshold, an arch, of entering and leaving.”
Dove: “We walk back and forth without a twitch…with only the occasional stubbed toe…The keyhole sees nothing”

Door as a way in, way out, to pass through, to close, to open, to protect, to retreat, to keep private, a barrier, a limit.

june 8/RUN

2 miles
36th st to 32nd st to 38th st to 36th st
75 degrees
humidity: 76%/ dew point: 67!

It’s going to be a hot one today. 96? 97? Already now, before 9, it’s over 80 degrees. Decided to do a short run this morning before I have to retreat to the air conditioning this afternoon. Not too bad, considering the dew point is 67. That’s way up there on the misery index. Heard lots of birds, a sprinkler, some bike wheels. No geese or Daily Walkers or roller skiers or music or chainsaws cutting down trees. No sirens or rushing car wheels. No rowers on the river or voices rising up from the gorge. Lately I’ve been noticing cotton from the cottonwood trees flying around. Is the floodplain forest white with it yet? Will I be able to get down there to see?

At the end of my run, about 2 minutes after I stopped, I recorded myself reciting “Voiceover.” Thought about the title and how voiceover can refer to the voice of an unseen narrator speaking and the voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts. So it can be a voice outside oneself narrating the scene, or a voice inside oneself revealing inner thoughts.

voiceover/rita dove (june 8)

Feeling frustration over how everything is opening back up–even the beaches at the lake–and disappointment that so many people seem to have given up on trying to be prevent the spread of COVID-19. I’m seeing too many pictures of people getting together without social distancing. I don’t understand. Maybe most people are being careful and I’m only seeing/hearing about the ones who aren’t? Whatever the case, I’m not letting up on keeping my distance from people.

Minneapolis City Council voted to dismantle the Minneapolis Police yesterday (with a veto-proof 9 votes)! Very exciting. Here’s a few things I read/watched that are related to what’s happening:

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It’s not just that police are ineffective: in many communities, they’re actively harmful. The history of policing is a history of violence against the marginalized– American police departments were originally created to dominate and criminalize communities of color and poor white workers, a job they continue doing to this day. The list has grown even longer: LGBTQ folks, disabled people, activists– so many of us are attacked by cops on a daily basis.

And it’s bigger than just police brutality; it’s about how the prison industrial complex, the drug war, immigration law, and the web of policy, law, and culture that forms our criminal justice system has destroyed millions of lives, and torn apart families. Cops don’t prevent crime; they cause it, through the ongoing, violent disruption of our communities.

It’s also worth noting that most social service agencies and organizations that could serve as alternatives to the police are underfunded, scrambling for grant money to stay alive while being forced to interact with officers who often make their jobs even harder. In 2016, the Minneapolis Police Department received $165 million in city funding alone. Imagine what that kind of money could do to keep our communities safe if it was reinvested.

from MPD150 Frequently Asked Questions

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Daniel Bergin, documentary filmmaker for Twin Cities PBS: This paradox goes to the very founding of the state: the colonization and the displacement of Dakota and Ojibwe, which is its own complex and deep and insidious story. But in terms of the African-American experience, even after the territorial period, there was this tension around abolitionist culture from the New Englanders who had largely made up Minneapolis at the time, and the businessmen who were seated in St. Paul.

from Revealing the Divisive History of Minneapolis

june 7/RUN

3.75 miles
river road, north/river road, south
65 degrees
humidity: 72%

Started the run by myself but at the halfway point I encountered Scott and decided to run with him the rest of the way. Sunny. Windy, feeling warmer than 65. Remember hearing at least one woodpecker, a lone goose up high honking, “wait for me!” or “where is everybody?” Caught a quick glance of the river before having to move to the road to avoid an approaching walker. Forgot to look at the trestle–no trains above. More than once I thought the fast, whirring wheels of a bike were an approaching car.

reciting while running

Before meeting up with Scott, I recited Rita Dove’s poem a few times. Almost memorized it enough to dig into the meaning of the words. Today I liked the line “If you think about it,/everything’s inside something else;/everything’s an envelope/inside a package/in a case—/and pain knows its way into every crevice.” Need to think some more about what that means. Also liked, “There are spaces for living/and spaces for forgetting.”

A few minutes after returning home, recited the poem into my phone. I need to work on the line about standing outside of your skin–I said body.

voiceover/rita dove (june 7)

A few hours later, sitting in red lounge chair in the shade of the crabapple tree, I thought some more about Dove’s poem and the lines about everything being inside something else. Wrote in my plague notebook #3: There is no ultimate outside of everything. No pure objectivity, free of pain or perspective. No access to the Big, complete picture.