may 31/BIKESWIM

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

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

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

She Spent a Year Hallucinating Birds
BY JILL ALEXANDER ESSBAUM

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

may 30/RUN

3 miles
downtown loop
82 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

may 28/RUN

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

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

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

So Many/John Pluecker

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

may 28/RUN

6.2 miles
to the flats and back
50 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

may 26/RUN

3.1 miles
austin, mn
55 degrees

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

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

A DEW POINT HYGROMETER USING A SYSTEM OF PRIMARY MEASUREMENT

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

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

may 24/RUN

3.1 miles
downtown loop
71 degrees

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

may 23/RUN

4.15 miles
falls loop
58 degrees

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

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

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

may 22/RUN

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

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

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

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

How to Get There
BY PHILIP LEVINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

may 21/BIKE

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

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

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

Things To Do In The Kitchen/Miriam Solan

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

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

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

may 20/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
54 degrees

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

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

Emily and Walt/Campbell McGrath

may 17/RUN

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

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

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

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

The Poetry of Place

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

Field Guide to the Chaparral
Leah Naomi Green

The fire beetle only mates
when the chaparral is burning,

and the water beetle
will only mate in the rain.

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

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

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

that I love you with.
When we get home,

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

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

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

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

The Buddhists say
that the front of the paper

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

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

and the tattered chaps
the mappers wore

through it because they had to,
to keep walking without

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

Chaparral needs fire.
(The pinecones would not open

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

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

may 15/RUN

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

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

What else do I remember?

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

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

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

may 14/RUN

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

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

Birds Punctuate the Days
Joyce Clement

apostrophe
the nuthatch inserts itself
between feeder and pole

semicolon
two mallards drifting
one dunks for a snail

ellipses
a mourning dove
lifts off

asterisk
a red-eyed vireo catches
the crane fly midair

comma
a down feather
bobs between waves

exclamation point
wren on the railing
takes notice

colon
mergansers paddle toward
morning trout swirl

em dash
at dusk a wild goose
heading east

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

period
one blue egg all summer long
now gone

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

may 13/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
59 degrees

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

Some other things I remember from the run:

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

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

Joy
BY MILLER OBERMAN

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

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

may 11/RUN

4.8 miles
to stone arch bridge
62 degrees

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

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

from Haiku Journey/Kimberly Blaeser

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

from Blue Octavo Haiku/Rachel Wetzsteon

In fat armchairs sat
indolence and impatience,
plotting my downfall

  *

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

  *

may 10/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin loop
52 degrees

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

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

Winter Trees
William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963

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

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

may 9/BIKERUNBIKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

may 7/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

Leg of Lamb / Bernadette Meyer

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

may 6/RUN

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

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

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

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

experiment

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

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

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

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

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

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

may 4/RUN

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

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

some 3 beat phrases:

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

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

Summer Haibun
Aimee Nezhukumatathil

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

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

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


may 3/RUN

6 miles
franklin hill turnaround
54 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

Life is Beautiful
BY DORIANNE LAUX

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

may 2/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

ANOTHER POEM ABOUT A MOUNTAIN/joseph rios

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

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

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

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