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