april 30/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
40 degrees
light rain

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

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

Two Sewing
Hazel Hall

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

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

april 29/RUN

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

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

What a poem:

Anti-Elegy/cameron awkward-rich

She was:

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

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

The trouble with elegy
is that it asks the dead

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

Walk again among those
who could not bear

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

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

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

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

Never mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have so many questions:

Who are

What does

Why

How does it feel to

I’m sorry, I just think

I

And, define

I’m sorry

Your anger

You’re afraid of

Can fear be

Define

knife

Define

Fear is

Please

Forgive

me

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

april 28/RUN

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

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

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

1.

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

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

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

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

      2.

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

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

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

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

      3.

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

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

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

april 27/RUN

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

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

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

Wondrous/sarah frelight

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

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

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

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

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

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

This poem is one sentence. What a sentence!

april 25/RUN

5.45 miles
ford loop
60 degrees

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

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

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

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

How to Identify Birds by Sounds

april 23/RUN

5.4 miles
franklin hill turn around
49 degrees

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

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

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

Lizzo on Apple Music

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

Discovered this beautiful poem this morning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

april 21/RUNHIKE

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

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

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

april 20/RUN

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

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

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

WEIGHT
by Carolina Ebeid

(hush listen)

Is a caesura a quiet hallway

in a church? Is it a silence

with commandments to hush,

listen? Was it composed for

two voices? Is that silence

like the time you said stop it

wait to the boys, how you

should have said stop, but

you said nothing behind

la carnicería that sold live

chickens? When a boy picked

up the brick throwing it at

the hen—wait— from a near

distance? Is the caesura that

near distance a brick travels

from hand to head? Is white

space like piano keys playing

softer & softer until zero

decibels? Is it the cleared

sweep after a missile falls

no more green? Does it share

the pull of gravity? Is it the living

body of Ana Mendieta? Dropped

—stop—out of a window?

Is she in a kind of white now?

Is it composed of no & no?

Wouldn’t you say the white

is like the space of an envelope?

Where the postage must go?

Dear person who won’t write

back, Most esteemed ghost

matter, My darling inventory

of nature? The white lie

white whisper hearsay flickering

all reaching the moment of

a candle blown out? Is the white

break like a hospital door

swinging open & there your father

delivered back to you? Linen

white muzzle across the face?

Does the break assemble into

a waiting room? One woman asks

for the housekeeper’s name

while her friend replies:

aren’t they all named Maria?

Is the white space clean

with the smell of ammonia?

Is there dizzying laughter? Say

stop it, wait. Is it like a hurricane

with the same name? Has it become

marble-quite like a wall

for interning ashes? Is it the sound

of rubble? Isn’t the empty white

more like moons growing brightest

from right to left? Right to left

like a message in the Arab

side of town, spray-painted

on a curfew night? Won’t you say

it’s composed for more than two

voices? Like a chorus that speaks

in unison there? Aren’t they all

named Maria? Do they make

the sound of rubble? The nothing

you say, is it dressed in white

like the guy in your group punching

the girl from the rival group who

talks trash at us & he hits her

because a woman is liberated just

like a man? Liberation?

Is it blurred & blank with flight?

Wasn’t it composed for a pyro-

technic finale? Whites of eyes

like the white of a room you walk into

& no one seems to be grieving?

Isn’t the white, the whites of human

teeth glossed with blood

on the concrete?

april 19/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin bridge loop
52 degrees!

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

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

looking at the mississippi/lake street bridge

transcript from recording:

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

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

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

SAME SUN, SAME MOON, SAME RIVER
BY NEIL CARPATHIOS

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

april 17/BIKERUNBIKE

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

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

a fuzzy screenshot from my recording

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

homage to my hips
BY LUCILLE CLIFTON

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

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


april 16/RUN

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

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

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

THE LONGEST YEAR/james laughlin

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

april 15/RUN

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

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

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

How do you keep

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

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

Thinking of Frost
Major Jackson, 1968

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

april 14/RUN

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

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

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

THE POET TO THE READER/james laughlin

These poems are not I
hope what anyone ex-

pets and yet reader
I hope that when you

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

it was such a natural
think it was too plain

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

IN THE SNOW/james laughlin

The track of the ermine
the track of the mouse

tracks of a deer in the
snow and my track that

wanders and hesitates
doubling and crossing

itself stops to burrow
and circles trees this

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

crack in a mirror and it
cries seems to cry cries

to the sun cries sun sun
touch and burn cries sun

touch and save cries to
the snow–and then snow

falls covering everything
new snow covers my track

covers the track of the
ermine mouse and deer.

LITTLE BITS OF PAPER: AN ARS POETIC/james laughlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

won’t come back I write in darkness.

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

april 12/RUN

2 miles
basement, treadmill

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

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

Inside Out/Bill Yake

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

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

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

april 11/RUN

2.8 miles
basement, treadmill

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

Ballad in A
BY CATHY PARK HONG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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