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.