jan 31/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
basement

Stayed inside today. Not because it was too cold or too slippery but because I needed to do less running and because I wanted to watch more Cheer while I was working out. Sherbs dislocated her elbow in today’s episode. Ugh, this show. Very compelling. Also, watching it makes my knees and neck and all of my joints hurt. I guess I’m middle aged because all I can think about is how fucked up their bodies are probably going to be when they turn 40. I hope I’m wrong.

Enjoyed listening to “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Misery Business,” and “Can’t Touch This” while I ran. I’m glad to have the treadmill, but it really instrumentalizes the workout, reducing it to getting exercise and burning calories. I missed greeting the gorge and smelling the cold air and admiring the river today.

For the past month, I’ve been thinking about all I’ve learned through keeping this log and wondering how (or if) to put it into more direct conversation with my past academic work on being undisciplined, breaking bad habits, virtue ethics, troublemaking, and moral selfhood. I guess I’m afraid that if I try, I’ll get sucked back into talking/writing/acting like my former academic over-thinking self. I’m also afraid I will spend all of my time and energy trying to contextualize /justify/ theorize what I’m doing here and won’t have any time or space or energy left to continue actually doing the work I want to be doing.

I was thinking about this dilemma a lot before I went to the basement to work out. Did I think about it at all while I was down there? I can’t remember.

MAKING LISTS/Imtiaz Dharker

The best way to put
things in order is
to make a list.
The result of this
efficiency is that everything
is named, and given 
an allotted place.

But I find, when I begin,
there are too many things,
starting from black holes
all the way to safety pins.

And of course the whole
of history is still there.
Just the fact that it has 
already happened doesn’t mean
it has gone elsewhere.
It is sitting hunched
on people’s backs,
wedged in corners
and in cracks,
and has to be accounted for.
The future too.

But I must admit
the bigger issues interest
me less and less.

My list, as I move down in, 
becomes domestic,
a litany of laundry
and of groceries.
These are the things
that preoccupy me.

The woman’s blouse is torn.
It is held together
with a safety pin. 

Thrown away/ Imtiaz Dharker

They come back somethings, by mistake,
the lost, forgotten poems.
On the backs of estimates
for furniture, behind grocery bills,
black scribbles laid over fine print.
The ones on envelopes, of course,
keep turning up,
others fallen off the edge of maps.
Hardest to keep are the ones
written on paper napkins
with the name of the cafe
in one corner, bottom right,
the kind you could use so easily
to blow your nose,
and throw away.

Some go because they don’t
deserve to stay.

Is there a place where all
the lost words go?
Poems crumpled into balls and
tossed in wastepaper-bins,
poems left behind on trains,
poems flown into the wind,

a litter of kisses blown
on to your cheek,
that you have felt
and brushed away?

jan 30/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
21 degrees
100% clear path

Turned right instead of left today. Ran towards the falls. Love how the river looks like a giant empty crater right after the oak savanna. Overcast, no shadow. Heard lots of things today. Felt cold, but warmed up quickly, except for my index fingers. It took almost 2 miles for them to warm up. Annoying. Also, my right foot felt cold for the first mile.

Sounds

  • the banging of my zipper pull against my jacket
  • my breathing
  • the scratch scratch scratching of the sandy grit on the clear path
  • kids yelling on the school playground
  • the low, steady hum of traffic on the far away freeway
  • chirping birds
  • clanging and banging of something against metal–I think it was the chain/rope against the flagpole at the school?
  • A truck whooshing by on the Ford Bridge as I ran under it
  • A kid possibly freaking out at the falls
  • the buzzing of an airplane
  • did I hear the falls rushing? I can’t remember–I do remember seeing it gush. So cool
  • more clanging
  • some disembodied voices hovering near the parkway
  • 2 people deep in conversation

Other things I remember:

  • the cracked asphalt above the oak savanna, just south of a split rail fence and the big boulder that looks like an armchair, was easy to spot because its crater was filled in with ice
  • a guy looking up at a tree on the Winchell Trail near 42nd–what was he doing?
  • the stump of a tree in the tree graveyard–where the tree with teeth used to be, across from locks and dam #1–looked like a person sleeping or a person who had fallen or a person who was acting strangely. Had to stare at it for a long time to figure out what it was: just a tree stump
  • without any leaves it was easy to see the short hill that leads up to the ford bridge–in the summer, it is completely hidden
  • the view of the river from the bluff heading south is beautiful and big and breathtaking
  • thought about my form and how the right side of my body seems to lean slightly forward more than the left–is this why it always looks like I’m swinging by left arm farther back?

Natural Forces/ Vicente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

Two glances
to hold back the landscape
at the river´s edge

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

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

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong the life
of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

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

Such power with these glances! I read a little something about Huidobro and his belief in creacionismo and man as god/godlike and “a space where the poet could assume a role as the divine”. Wow, oftentimes because of my vision I feel the opposite with my glances: I’m unmaking the world. Oh–I want to think about this some more! Here’s some info about this poet from a google doodle on his 127th birthday.

Copied the poem into my notebook and wrote: The power of the poet! The power of one who notices, who pays attention! Love this idea of paying attention as a way to imagine/create a world. Is it possible to disentangle this making of a world from hubris and pride and power over?

jan 29/RUN

5.5 miles
Franklin Hill turn around
18 degrees/ snow flurries
100% clear path!

Another day with a clear path and not too cold weather and hardly any wind. Yes! Greeted Dave the Daily Walker twice–once at the beginning and then again at the end. The river was beautiful. Dark grayish brown with a few chunks of ice, moving slowly. The walls of the gorge were white and the air above it was misty with snow flurries. The sun was out, then gone, then out again. Not enough sun to see my shadow. The floodplain forest below my favorite spot was winter-perfect. White and woodsy and blueish gray. Heading south, right by the trestle, I heard a woodpecker pecking away. So loud. It echoed across the gorge. Encountered a few walkers and fat tires. Any other runners? I can’t remember.

Started my run with a sense of unspecified unease. It lingered for a few miles but got lost as I ran up the hill. By the time I reached the top, I felt better. I always feel better after I’ve run. Usually during it too.

Lines for Winter/ DAVE LUCAS

Poor muse, north wind, or any god   
who blusters bleak across the lake   
and sows the earth earth-deep with ice.   
A hoar of fur stung across the vines:   
here the leaves in full flush, here   
abandoned to four and farther winds.   
Bless us, any god who crabs the apples   
and seeds the leaf and needle evergreen.   
What whispered catastrophe, winter.   
What a long night, beyond the lamplight,   
the windows and the frost-ferned glass.   
Bless the traveler and the hearth he travels to.   
Bless our rough hands, wind-scabbed lips,   
bless this our miscreant psalm.

This is not how I feel about winter, especially today when it’s sunny and clear and not too cold, but I still like this poem. “Bless us, any god who crabs the apples”–Love this line! And “blusters bleak” and “frost-ferned glass” and “miscreant psalm”!

jan 28/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
18 degrees
5% snow-covered

A clear path! The Franklin loop! Hardly any wind! Yes! Loved my run today. Even the big dog that lunged at me and whacked my elbow with their skull making a loud cracking sound that echoed in my head for minutes didn’t bother me. Okay, it bothered me more than it should but not enough to make me mad about my run. Starting out, it felt cold. My index fingers were freezing and my face was burning. By the time I reached the Franklin bridge, 2.5 miles in, I was warm. The river looked cold and gray and thick. Running on the east side, I noticed how big the boulder between the walking and biking path is. Wow–I can’t imagine that thing ever moving.

I felt like I was in a dream for this run. Time wasn’t moving or dripping or doing anything. Strange and wonderful to just be for almost an hour. No thoughts–except for about the irritating dog–and no concerns. Just moving and breathing and feeling free.

excerpt from Ode to a Blizzard/ TOM DISCH

O! wonderful for weight and whiteness! 
Ideolog whose absolutes 
Are always proven right 
By white and then 
More white and white again, 
Winning the same argument year 
After year by making the opposition 
Disappear! 

jan 27/RUN

4.25 miles
river road, north/south
26 degrees
25% snow-covered

The path was much clearer then I expected. Shouldn’t have worn my yaktrax. Oh well. A great run. So wonderful to be outside again! It wasn’t cold or too windy but I felt my cheeks burning as I headed north. Noticed the river was half covered in a light blue sheet of ice, the rest was dark brownish gray. The light blue part almost looked like clouds or a mountain being reflected in the water, which was a cool effect. The path that winds through the tunnel of trees was so buried in snow that I began to doubt its existence. Encountered a few bikers, some runners, at least 2 or 3 big dogs and their owners. As I neared the trestle, I hoped a train might pass above (it didn’t). Turning around and heading south, I kept hearing a vicious bark in the gorge on the east side. As I encountered more runners and tried to steer clear of them, I thought about my lack of depth perception and how it makes me feel like people are much closer than they are. This misperception makes me uncomfortable, I’m always feeling crowded. Running near the Lake Street bridge I could smell some seriously stinky pot. Looked around, but couldn’t see anyone. No Daily Walker today.

I’m working on poem about Saras, inspired by this one:

Some Waynes/ WAYNE HOLLOWAY-SMITH

Magic Wayne with flowers; Wanye West; Box-of-Tricks Wayne; Wayne sad on Facebook, proving he loves his daughter; the sporty Wayne — loves himself skinny; Bald Wayne, head like a rocking chair; Amy Waynehouse; Wayne the ironic; Fat Wayne — tits pushed beneath a Fred Perry Wayne; Wayne from near Slough; Ugly Wayne — the unlikely mess of his wife Wayne — canned laughter; Wayne who renamed another Wayne Fleabag; Track-suited Wayne — your hubcaps, his pockets; Home and A-Wayne; Randy Wayne; Wayne, fountains of him, every drop snug to someone’s mum; Wayne, boyfriend of Stacey; Wayne-ker; Wayne the rap star, gold teeth, grime; Wayne the Superhero, Wayne the Cowboy; Dancing Wayne — in tights; It’s-Wayning-Men; a cavalcade of Waynes fucking each other up in a Geoff Hattersley poem — in a pub, in Barnsley; Purple Wayne; Wayne’s World Wayne; Wayne “Sleng Teng” Smith; A-Wayne in a Manger; all of them have stopped what they’re doing, all of them divided in two rows and facing each other, all of them, arms raised, they are linking fingers, all of them: an architrave through which I celebrate, marching like I am the bridegroom, grinning like I am the bride

jan 26/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2 miles
bike: 10 minutes
basement

It’s warm outside, hovering just below freezing, and the air feels great, but the path is an ice rink. Too icy to run outside today. Bummer. Started another episode of Cheer while biking in the basement. Wow, Monica the coach is hard core. She made one of the cheerleaders who had disobeyed her order to not cheer that weekend and then injured his back do practice anyway. It was hard to watch him grimacing and writhing and sobbing from pain. In an interview, Monica talked about how the kids need and want discipline and order in their lives, partly because they’ve never had it. I often think about this balance between the need for discipline, in the form of order and rules, and the negative effects of that disciplining–unquestioned obedience to those rule even when they might lead to permanent damage–like a seriously fucked up back and life long, agonizing pain. How do we navigate that? Can we have discipline without being disciplined? So much to say about what’s happening in this episode with discipline and civilized behavior and manners and looking respectable in the community and unquestionably following the rules of a coach! Maybe someday.

While I ran, I listened to a great audio book, The Changeling. Pretty intense. I am at the part of the novel where the protagonist, Apollo, is on an island of green-robed woman who are trying to kill him. Felt like I was in a trance, running at a steady, easy pace, staring blankly at the reflection of a light bulb in the window, listening to the author, Victor LaValle. Not as invigorating as being outside by the gorge, but still good to be moving.

jan 25/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin hill turn around
31 degrees
30-40% snow and ice covered

Hooray for great runs! Hooray for clearer paths! Hooray for strong legs and adequate knees and functioning feet! I wasn’t planning to run to the bottom of the franklin hill but I did. The path was not perfect–icy and slushy spots, but I didn’t fall or get too tired. Ran straight into the wind heading north. Had it at my back on the return trip. Encountered many other runners, a few fat tires. No skiers. A dog or two. Heard a few birds–no geese or crows. Glanced at the river at least once. Dark brown, then half white. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker near the end of my run. I called out, “What a great day to be out!” Anything else? Forgot to look at the river when I reached the bottom of the hill, so I have no idea if it was moving and how fast.

One of my sisters posted a link to a gigantic list of collective nouns for animals. So cool! My favorite from the Sea Animal list: a shiver of sharks, a glint of goldfish, and a squad of squid, or a squid squad.

This has me wondering what a group of Saras might be called.

  • a satchel of Saras
  • a sink of Saras
  • a swarm of Saras
  • a swath of Saras
  • a swirl of Saras
  • a shiver of Saras
  • a nest of Saras
  • a charm of Saras
  • a stand of Saras
  • a squad of Saras
  • a sedge of Saras
  • a stable of Saras
  • a surfeit of Saras
  • a string of Saras
  • a school of Saras

Maybe I’ll try to work this into my poem-in-progress, the Saras?

jan 24/WALKBIKE

walk: 3 miles
Winchell Trail
29 degrees
snow-packed

Walked with my wonderful sister this morning by the gorge. Checked out the Oak Savanna and the mesa at above the river. The water was gray with the feeling of warm blue. It looked still and heavy until you got closer and noticed it was moving fast. Trudging on the trail, we noticed ski tracks and snow shoe tracks. Any animal tracks? I don’t think so. We talked about fences and eroding asphalt and the gorge reclaiming the trails and illness and vision and kids and careers and aging bodies and the cost of college.

bike: 30 minutes
basement, bike stand

Finished another episode of Cheer while I biked. This one was about “making mat” and Jerry (I think that’s his name?) and his loving spirit and how his mom died from lung cancer. A moving story–not sad, just powerful and beautiful. Of course, it made me cry which is an amazing thing to do while you’re working out. So many emotions and endorphins. A great release.

Thinking about blue in winter and why I wrote about it as warm. What is it about blue? The blue hued views in early morning and twilight? Blue snow? The blue gray river? I’ve skimmed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets–maybe I should check it out again? Didn’t Anne Carson write something about blue? I looked it up and found this amazing book: The Blue of Distance.

Blue/ ROBERT L. JONES

I have seen enough blue-green 
for one day. My eyes are tired 
of peering at the busy speckled lines 
the lasered surface throws back. 
Outside, the light falls 
in jagged needles through raveled air. 
The world is gray. 

From up there, it’s blue, 
the tiny water world, where life 
climbed into the air and turned green, 
maybe from envy that it’s not 
somewhere else. It’s not easy, being 
this way. It’s impossible to rest 
with that great light going on 
and off always in the same place, 
knowing that it’s necessary, 
unless you want to turn 
white, in icy quiet, 
against the black still motion 
of the tattered specks of stars. 
It’s enough to send you running 
ragged, back to the sea. 

Down there it’s blue, too, 
the color of deep water 
when at eighty feet there’s no bottom 
and no sides to choose. Suspended, 
up-ended, you have no sense 
of proportion, lose perspective. 
There’s only drifting with the flow, 
until your bubbles rip a seam 
upward showing you where 
you have to go—back to the green, 
and then the yellow and the red, 
measured out in time for you 
to find, until you reach 
white, and you’ve got it all. 

All is too much to see. 
We must have shades. 
The separation of the light 
exists somewhere in particles, 
torn into fragmentary bits to play, 
scattered like the fall leaves, 
but moving in waves—hello, goodbye— 
on a collision course with white, 
and black, and gray. 

The green of life requires blue, 
not too deep or too intense, 
just a line of blue-green held in mind, 
to knit tatters of shrouded days, 
tint the darkness, 
and relieve the time of glare. 

Once in a while 
you know where it belongs, 
in the order of the sharp-edged 
double bow I saw this morning, 
cutting its way into gray memory 
to even up the edges 
of the ragged clouds. 

jan 23/RUN

2.3 miles
river road, north/south
32 degrees
100% sloppy wet be-puddled slushied unevenness

A great temperature for a run. An ideal what-you-imagine-when-you-imagine-a-pretty-snowy-winter scene. A terrible path. It snowed an inch or two last night. Wet, sloppy snow that’s half melted into a mess on the path. But I needed the fresh air so I put on my yaktrax and headed to the river, unsuccessfully dodging big puddles. Enduring the mess was worth it. My favorite part of the path was beautiful–the tall, slender trees had just the right amount of snow. Everything so white. I wonder what the river looked like? I didn’t glance at it even once. The air was warmer but not too warm. If the path had been clear, it would have been a wonderful day for a long run.

Read a great article about using figurative language yesterday, How to Use Simile and Metaphor Like a Boss

Metaphors and similes have two parts. There’s the tenor (the original subject we’re trying to describe) and the vehicle (the compared object we’re borrowing qualities from). So if we look at Robert Burns’s poem “A Red, Red Rose,” we see “O my Luve is like a red, red rose.” Love would be the tenor (subject) and rose would be the vehicle (object). Metaphors and similes work only when they illuminate, that is, when they help us better understand or see something by way of comparison. They should feel both apt and surprising—a hard balance! If the tenor and the vehicle seem too similar, the comparison won’t be surprising or illuminating for the reader. You really want to compare apples to oranges, not Fuji apples to McIntoshes. Or, better yet, try comparing apples to baby birds.

jan 22/RUN

4.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back
36 degrees
25% snow and puddle covered

So much warmer today. Lots of puddles and some soft, loose snow, especially at the double bridge. Gray sky. Air heavy with moisture. The oak savanna looked especially open and white and meadow-like. At its edge the dark brown, almost blackish-gray water resembled a big, empty crater not a river. Heard some kids at recess, playing on the playground. One was yelling “help” or “stop it” or something and I couldn’t tell if he was being serious and if I should be concerned. Decided he was just playing.

Encountered a man running and walking on the path. As I ran by he gasped, “you make it look so easy!” I wanted to yell back something about how I had been just like him 8.5 years ago when I started running, but I couldn’t get the words out in time. As I ran ahead I thought about how happy I am to have stuck with running and how wonderful it is to run over 4 miles and have it feel easy. A few minutes later I think I said hello to Carrie Tollefson, the former Olympian, as I neared Locks and Dam #1.

When I reached the falls I didn’t stop to look, but from my quick glances I could see the frozen water. Were the falls making any noise? I don’t remember. Did I see anyone else at the falls? I don’t remember that either.

Occasional Poem/ JACQUELINE WOODSON

Ms. Marcus says that an occasional poem is a poem
written about something
important
or special
that’s gonna happen
or already did.
Think of a specific occasion, she says—and write about it.

Like what?! Lamont asks.
He’s all slouched down in his seat.
I don’t feel like writing about no occasion.
How about your birthday? Ms. Marcus says.
What about it? Just a birthday. Comes in June and it ain’t
June, Lamont says. As a matter of fact,
he says, it’s January and it’s snowing.
Then his voice gets real low and he says
And when it’s January and all cold like this
feels like June’s a long, long ways away.

The whole class looks at Ms. Marcus.
Some of the kids are nodding.
Outside the sky looks like it’s made out of metal
and the cold, cold air is rattling the windowpanes
and coming underneath them too.

I seen Lamont’s coat.
It’s gray and the sleeves are too short.
It’s down but it looks like a lot of the feathers fell out
a long time ago.
Ms. Marcus got a nice coat.
It’s down too but real puffy so
maybe when she’s inside it
she can’t even tell January from June.

Then write about January, Ms. Marcus says, that’s
an occasion.
But she looks a little bit sad when she says it
Like she’s sorry she ever brought the whole
occasional poem thing up.

I was gonna write about Mama’s funeral
but Lamont and Ms. Marcus going back and forth
zapped all the ideas from my head.

I guess them arguing
on a Tuesday in January’s an occasion
So I guess this is an occasional poem.

I love the use of zapped in the second to last stanza: “zapped all the ideas from my head.” I love how “she can’t even tell January from June” rolls off of the tongue. And I love the idea of an occasion poem being about an argument between a teacher and student on an ordinary January day.

jan 21/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
15 degrees/ feels like 0
50% snow-covered

14 mph wind straight in my face, running south. Wasn’t expecting it to feel so cold today, so I underdressed. No hat, only a bright pink headband that covered my ears. Felt sore and a little tired, but better after having spent some time outside by the gorge. The river was open and flowing. The path was mostly clear. Noticed at least 2 dogs and their humans walking the lower path–the one that I like to run in the summer. Encountered a few other runners, no skiers or bikers. No geese. One spazzy squirrel.

I love this poem. I love how listing what you love makes you want to love harder and more expansively, and so does reading someone else’s love list.

Love/ Alex Dimitrov

I love you early in the morning and it’s difficult to love you.

I love the January sky and knowing it will change although unlike us.

I love watching people read.

I love photo booths.

I love midnight.

I love writing letters and this is my letter. To the world that never wrote to me.

I love snow and briefly.

I love the first minutes in a warm room after stepping out of the cold.

I love my twenties and want them back every day.

I love time.

I love people.

I love people and my time away from them the most.

I love the part of my desk that’s darkened by my elbows.

I love feeling nothing but relief during the chorus of a song.

I love space.

I love every planet.

I love the big unknowns but need to know who called or wrote, who’s coming—if they want the same things I do, if they want much less.

I love not loving Valentine’s Day.

I love how February is the shortest month.

I love that Barack Obama was president.

I love the quick, charged time between two people smoking a cigarette outside a bar.

I love everyone on Friday night.

I love New York City.

I love New York City a lot.

I love that day in childhood when I thought I was someone else.

I love wondering how animals perceive our daily failures.

I love the lines in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof when Brick’s father says “Life is important. There’s nothing else to hold onto.”

I love Brick.

I love that we can fail at love and continue to live.

I love writing this and not knowing what I’ll love next.

I love looking at paintings and being reminded I am alive.

I love Turner’s paintings and the sublime.

I love the coming of spring even in the most withholding March.

I love skipping anything casual—“hi, how are you, it’s been forever”—and getting straight to the center of pain. Or happiness.

I love opening a window in a room.

I love the feeling of possibility by the end of the first cup of coffee.

I love hearing anyone listen to Nina Simone.

I love Nina Simone.

I love how we can choose our own families.

I love when no one knows where I am but feel terrified to be forgotten.

I love Saturdays.

I love that despite our mistakes this will end.

I love how people get on planes to New York and California.

I love the hour after rain and the beginning of the cruelest month.

I love imagining Weldon Kees on a secret island.

I love the beach on a cloudy day.

I love never being disappointed by chocolate.

I love that morning when I was twenty and had just met someone very important (though I didn’t know it) and I walked down an almost empty State Street because it was still early and not at all late—and of course I could change everything (though I also didn’t know it)—I could find anyone, go anywhere, I wasn’t sorry for who I was.

I love the impulse to change.

I love seeing what we do with what we can’t change.

I love the moon’s independent indifference.

I love walking the same streets as Warhol.

I love what losing something does but I don’t love losing it.

I love how the past shifts when there’s more.

I love kissing.

I love hailing a cab and going home alone.

I love being surprised by May although it happens every year.

I love closing down anything—a bar, restaurant, party—and that time between late night and dawn when one lamp goes on wherever you are and you know. You know what you know even if it’s hard to know it.

I love being a poet.

I love all poets.

I love Jim Morrison for saying, “I’d like to do a song or a piece of music that’s just a pure expression of joy, like a celebration of existence, like the coming of spring or the sun rising, just pure unbounded joy. I don’t think we’ve really done that yet.”

I love everything I haven’t done.

I love looking at someone without need or panic.

I love the quiet of the trees in a new city.

I love how the sky is connected to a part of us that understands something big and knows nothing about it too.

I love the minutes before you’re about to see someone you love.

I love any film that delays resolution.

I love being in a cemetery because judgment can’t live there.

I love being on a highway in June or anytime at all.

I love magic.

I love the zodiac.

I love all of my past lives.

I love that hour of the party when everyone’s settled into their discomfort and someone tells you something really important—in passing—because it’s too painful any other way.

I love the last moments before sleep.

I love the promise of summer.

I love going to the theater and seeing who we are.

I love glamour—shamelessly—and all glamour. Which is not needed to live but shows people love life. What else is it there for? Why not ask for more?

I love red shoes.

I love black leather.

I love the grotesque ways in which people eat ice cream—on sidewalks, alone—however they need it, whenever they feel free enough.

I love being in the middle of a novel.

I love how mostly everyone in Jane Austen is looking for love.

I love July and its slowness.

I love the idea of liberation and think about it all the time.

I love imagining a world without money.

I love imagining a life with enough money to write when I want.

I love standing in front of the ocean.

I love that sooner or later we forget even “the important things.”

I love how people write in the sand, on buildings, on paper. Their own bodies. Fogged mirrors. Texts they’ll draft but never send.

I love silence.

I love owning a velvet cape and not knowing how to cook.

I love that instant when an arc of light passes through a room and I’m reminded that everything really is moving.

I love August and its sadness.

I love Sunday for that too.

I love jumping in a pool and how somewhere on the way up your body relaxes and accepts the shock of the water.

I love Paris for being Paris.

I love Godard’s films.

I love anyplace that makes room for loneliness.

I love how the Universe is 95% dark matter and energy and somewhere in the rest of it there is us.

I love bookstores and the autonomy when I’m in one.

I love that despite my distrust in politics I am able to vote.

I love wherever my friends are.

I love voting though know art and not power is what changes human character.

I love what seems to me the discerning indifference of cats.

I love the often uncomplicated joy of dogs.

I love Robert Lax for living alone.

I love the extra glass of wine happening somewhere, right now.

I love schools and teachers.

I love September and how we see it as a way to begin.

I love knowledge. Even the fatal kind. Even the one without “use value.”

I love getting dressed more than getting undressed.

I love mystery.

I love lighting candles.

I love religious spaces though I’m sometimes lost there.

I love the sun for worshipping no one.

I love the sun for showing up every day.

I love the felt order after a morning of errands.

I love walking toward nowhere in particular and the short-lived chance of finding something new.

I love people who smile only when moved to.

I love that a day on Venus lasts longer than a year.

I love Whitman for writing, “the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events; / These come to me days and nights and go from me again, / But they are not the Me myself.”

I love October when the veil between worlds is thinnest.

I love how at any moment I could forgive someone from the past.

I love the wind and how we never see it.

I love the performed sincerity in pornography and wonder if its embarrassing transparency is worth adopting in other parts of life.

I love how magnified emotions are at airports.

I love dreams. Conscious and unconscious. Lived and not yet.

I love anyone who risks their life for their ideal one.

I love Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

I love how people make art even in times of impossible pain.

I love all animals.

I love ghosts.

I love that we continue to invent meaning.

I love the blue hours between three and five when Plath wrote Ariel.

I love that despite having one body there are many ways to live.

I love November because I was born there.

I love people who teach children that most holidays are a product of capitalism and have little to do with love—which would never celebrate massacre—which would never care about money or greed.

I love people who’ve quit their jobs to be artists.

I love you for reading this as opposed to anything else.

I love the nostalgia of the future.

I love that the tallest mountain in our solar system is safe and on Mars.

I love dancing.

I love being in love with the wrong people.

I love that on November 23, 1920, Virginia Woolf wrote, “We have bitten off a large piece of life—but why not? Did I not make out a philosophy some time ago which comes to this—that one must always be on the move?”

I love how athletes believe in the body and know it will fail them.

I love dessert for breakfast.

I love all of the dead.

I love gardens.

I love holding my breath under water.

I love whoever it is untying our shoes.

I love that December is summer in Australia.

I love statues in a downpour.

I love how no matter where on the island, at any hour, there’s at least one lit square at the top or bottom of a building in Manhattan.

I love diners.

I love that the stars can’t be touched.

I love getting in a car and turning the keys just to hear music.

I love ritual.

I love chance too.

I love people who have quietly survived being misunderstood yet remain kids.

And yes, I love that Marilyn Monroe requested Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” to be played at her funeral. And her casket was lined in champagne satin. And Lee Strasberg ended his eulogy by saying, “I cannot say goodbye. Marilyn never liked goodbyes, but in the peculiar way she had of turning things around so that they faced reality, I will say au revoir.”

I love the different ways we have of saying the same thing.

I love anyone who cannot say goodbye.

jan 20/RUN

4.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back
10 degrees
100% snow-covered

What a wonderful day for a run! Hardly any wind. The feels like temperature is the same as the actual temperature. The path isn’t too slippery or sloppy or soft. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue, the path isn’t crowded.

Reached the river and turned right today. Briefly glanced at the oak savanna. Looked at the open water on the river. Noticed a big hulking mound of snow near a bench. A mutated snowman? Not sure. Listened to my feet crunching on the path, scratching more than usual because of my yaktrax.

The falls are mostly frozen with only a small stream of water still falling. A handful of people came to look, most up above by me, some down below, exploring the ice columns in the off-limits area. Heard the creek still moving–not quite rushing–towards the edge.

Heading back, I put in my headphones and listened to a playlist. Admired my shadow as she led me home. Looked up and saw a big bird or a plane–can’t remember which now–in the sky. Heard some geese.

Anything else? This run made me happy. I smiled a lot at the passing cars and the snow-covered trees. Also, I stopped at the double bridge and walked in the deeper snow of the walking path. Looked down at the ravine, then at the snow on the path which was so bright and white that it seemed blue.

Smells and Poetry, a few recent and one not so recent encounter

1. Pungency

Of course, I don’t want my children to have exactly the same childhood as I did: that would almost be a definition of conservatism. But I would like them to be assaulted by the pungency, by the vivid strength and strangeness of detail, as I was as a child; and I want them to notice and remember. (I’m also aware that worrying about lack of pungency is a peculiarly middle-class, Western affliction; much of the world is full of people suffering from a surfeit of bloody pungency.) from The Nearest Thing to Life/ James Wood

2. The Smell of a Thought

one thing i love about poetry is how thinking and feeling don’t need to be distinguished. a thought that is a strange passion, yes. a feeling that is a philosophical argument, yes. and both physical, sensory too. the taste of a feeling. the smell of a thought. a tweet from @chenchenwrites

3. Smells and Memory, an Exercise

Jot down some smells that are appealing to you. For each one, describe the memory or experience associated with that smell, making sure you bring in the other sense in your description. Write a poem for each smell. Do the same with smells you don’t like. from The Poetry Companion/ Kim Addonizio

4. Smelling the Entrails of a Failed Soul

What Nietzsche writes about bad air in On the Genealogy of Morals: “What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul!”

jan 19/RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around + extra
5 degrees/feels like -8
100% snow-covered

A winter wonderland. Cold, but not too cold–at least not for me. Fluffy flurries in the air. The path was covered with snow but it was packed and not too slippery. Just before starting my run, I listened to the snow, grinding as my foot stepped down and shushing as it lifted off of the ground. Not too long after I started, I saw 2–yes 2!–cross country skiers about to head down into the tunnel of trees. Nice. Had a few brief glances at the river but was focused more on avoiding big snow clumps/ice chunks on the path. Encountered some walkers, dogs, at least one fat tire, a few other runners. Was able to greet the Daily Walker twice, once heading north, and again heading south. Didn’t hear any geese today. Saw lots of cars. While running the cold didn’t bother me after the first mile. When I stopped my skin started to burn. Not sure why, but the part of me that gets the coldest after a run is my stomach. Not my arms or fingers or toes. It burns and for several minutes it’s bright red. Why?

Looked it up, and here’s what I found:

When you exercise, the working muscles call for an increase in blood flow. Oxygen is essential to energy production and blood supplies it. … During running your body is not focusing on digestion, urination or reproduction, so blood is diverted from the stomach area, which may be cause for a cold stomach while running.

Interesting and nothing to worry about. Later in the article it states, “This is no cause for concern. If your stomach is cold, your body is doing it’s job.” Good job body!

Right now I’m reading the awesome book, Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder. Love this description of poetry:

Poems exist to create a space for the possibilities of language as material. That is what distinguishes them from all other forms of writing. Poems allow language its inherent provisionality, uncertainty, and slippages. They also give space for its physicality–the way it sounds, looks, feels in the mouth–to itself make meaning (12).

Wow, this poem! I love Marie Howe.

Singularity/ Marie Howe

   (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money—

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.   Remember?
There was no   Nature.    No
 them.   No tests
to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home

jan 18/SHOVELBIKE

Shovel: 30 minutes
Bike: 25 minutes

Winter cross training often involves shoveling. No big storm this time. Maybe 5 or 6 inches? Tried to use my legs a lot instead of arms and back. Heavy snow with a icy crust. I’m hoping that they’ve already cleared the path by the river. Usually they do. I’ll see tomorrow morning if it isn’t too cold. Just heard the weather forecast as I was writing this: a high of 5 tomorrow. Watched part of the second episode of Cheer in the basement while I biked. The time went by really fast. Don’t remember much except for how much better I felt after I exercised.

What a poem! I want to spend some time with it to decipher all the uses of pine. So cool. This might be a good form for another running route Unigrid brochure? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Pine
Susan Stewart – 1952-

a homely word:
a plosive, a long cry, a quiet stop, a silent letter
like a storm and the end of a storm,
the kind brewing
at the top of a pine,
(torn hair, bowed spirits, and,
later, straightened shoulders)
who’s who of the stirred and stirred up:
musicians, revolutionaries, pines.

A coniferous tree with needle-shaped leaves.
Suffering or trouble; there’s a pin inside.

The aphoristic seamstress was putting up a hem, a shelf of pins at her
pursed mouth.
“needles and pins / needles and pins / when a man marries / his trouble begins.”
A red pincushion with a twisted string, and a little pinecone tassel, at the
ready.

That particular smell, bracing,
exact as a sharpened point.

The Christmas tree, nude and fragrant,
propped as pure potential in
the corner with no nostalgia for
ornament or angels.

“Pine-Sol,” nauseating, earnest, imitation—
one means of knowing the real thing is the fake you find in school.
Pent up inside on a winter day, the steaming closeness from the radiators.

At the bell, running down the hillside. You wore a pinafore.
The air had a nip: pine
was traveling in the opposite direction.

Sunlight streaming through a stand of pines,
dancing backward through the A’s and T’s.

Is it fern or willow that’s the opposite of pine?

An alphabet made of trees.

In the clearing vanished hunters
left their arrowheads
and deep cuts in the boulder wall:
petroglyphs, repeating triangles.

Grandmothers wearing pinnies trimmed in rickrack.
One family branch lived in a square of oak forest, the other in a circle of
pines;
the oak line: solid, reliable, comic; the piney one capable of pain
and surprise.

W-H-I-T-E: the white pine’s five-frond sets spell its name. (Orthography of
other pines I don’t yet know.)

The weight of snow on boughs, lethargic, then rocked by the thump of a
settling crow.

Pinecones at the Villa Borghese: Fibonacci increments,
heart-shaped veins, shadowing the inner
edges of the petals.
Like variations at the margins of a bird feather.
Graffiti tattooing the broken
water clock, a handful
of pine nuts, pried out, for lunch.

Pining away like Respighi with your pencil.

For a coffin, you’d pick a plain
pine box suspended in a weedy sea.

No undergrowth, though, in a pine forest.

Unlike the noisy wash
of dry deciduous leaves,
the needles blanket the earth

pliant beneath a bare foot,
stealthy,
floating,
a walk through the pines.

Silence in the forest comes from books.

jan 17/RUN

5.5 miles
Annie Young Meadows turn around
10 degrees/ feels like -4
30% snow-covered

A big snowstorm (9-12 inches) is moving in this afternoon, so I wanted to get out on the mostly clear path before it was covered in snow again. Cold today, lots of layers: 2 pairs of running tights, 2 pairs of socks, green shirt, pink jacket, gray jacket, 2 pairs of gloves, a hood, a hat, a buff. Maybe if I had fancier high-tech tights I could get away with less layers, but I guess I’m cheap. Figured out before I headed out on my run that one pair of tights and the green shirt are at least 6 1/2 years old. It is time to get some new ones–I think it’s not that I’m cheap, but that I don’t like shopping or spending money.


aside: Sitting at my desk upstairs, looking out the window, I just saw the big white dog and his human walk by. I mentioned this dog a few weeks ago and how they mimic the walk of their human. It used to be an exaggerated shuffle. Today the human was pushing a walker with the dog ahead of him. Hunched over the walker, his back was almost horizontal. Sad that he has so much trouble walking these days but great that he’s still getting outside. That is my goal. To walk outside until I absolutely can’t.


The path by the welcoming oaks was in bad shape, so was the stretch around 29th. The rest of it was better. So wonderful to be running on bare pavement out in the fresh air! Heard some geese flying near the trestle. Low in the sky. Decided to run down the Franklin Hill so I could check out the water. Slushy and icy and thick. Running north, it looked still, but when I stopped at Annie Young Meadows Park, I realized it was moving slowly towards the falls. I watched the chunks of ice travel beside me as I started running south. Not many people out today–less than a handful of walkers and runners. One fat tire.

Almost forgot! A few days ago, I saw a cross country skier skiing in the boulevard between Edmund and the West River Parkway. Nice!

Sprinted up the final hill–the one that’s on the path above the tunnel of trees. Guess this is my new end of run ritual. I always wonder what the cars think of me as I try to speed up the hill. Do I look fast? Strange? Do they question why I’m out here in the cold? I also try not to imagine one of these cars, slipping on hidden ice, driving up one curb and crashing into me. Has that ever happened to anyone on this stretch?

This morning, scrolling through twitter, I found a link to this cool poetry walk which is on an amazing looking site: Trance Poetics: A collaborative site for language&healing arts to counter the apopocyplitic energies that are contaminating the physical and psychic field of language. I want to try this walk–should I try it as a run?

Kristin Prevallet’s Poetry Walk (a modified version of original walk by Lundy Martin)

This is a 45 minute exploratory walk. Spend 45 minutes walking, and return to this spot where you began. Please do this exercise ALONE! Write short passages or sentences for each instruction, spending a maximum of 5 minutes in one place. First thought, best thought. 

1.   Walk outside for in a random direction to an area that appeals to you. Stop and sit down. Write a sentence that describes where you are and how you got there.

2. Write an invocation to someone/something you miss terribly. (Begin your line with an Ode: Oh, _____).

Walk to another location. When you have arrived, sit down.

3. Close your eyes and listen. Write what you are hearing that you didn’t notice before.

4.  Describe a memory of your childhood using details from an architectural structure that is visible from where you sit.

Turn around and face the opposite direction.

5.  Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).

Walk somewhere else. Sit down.

6. Write a sentence in which you contradict something you wrote earlier. 

Face another direction. 

7. Pull out your phone and write down the last text message that you received. Write what you really want to say to this person. 

8.  Write a sentence in which an emotion springs into action as in: “the frustration cleaned the house” or “the depression switched off the lights.”

9.  Study another’s body movements/gestures from a distance. Mention at least two of these gestures.

Walk for 5 minutes.

10. Write a sentence beginning with the phrase, “I remember.”

Walk to another location. Stop.

11.    Imagine yourself at a time in the not to distant future, feeling the way you want to feel and living the life you want to be leading. Write into this future tense, as if what you are writing is a prediction.

12.     Write a consoling phrase from a language other than English.

13.     Mention something about the weather without making it known you are talking about the weather.

Spin around. Sit down.

15.     Close your eyes. Breathe out for a count of 6, and in for a count of 3. Do that four times. Write: What’s everything that you are not thinking about? 

16.     Make a nonhuman object say or do something to someone who injured you as a child.

17. Make up an instruction and insert it here. 

18.   Give this piece a title that comes from one of the lines you have written so far.

jan 16/RUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand, basement

run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Didn’t want to run too much today, so decided to go down to the basement. Of course, the -10/ feels like -25 also influenced my decision. But if I hadn’t already run twice yesterday, I might have tried going outside because I’m crazy that way. Finished the first episode of Cheer! that I started last week. From the teacher who was very committed to her right to bear arms, “hell yeah! I’m packing right now!”, to the 2 concussions suffered in one pyramid rehearsal–those sounds of loud smacks on the floor as the girls fell!–to the male cheerleader who was kneed in the face and had to put a tampon up his nose to stop the bleeding, this was an intense 20 minutes. Wow.

TEN YEARS LATER MY HUSBAND WALKS OUT OF THE WOODS/ Emily Pérez

after “Hans My Hedgehog”

In one version you remove your coat
of quills at dusk, drape it by the hearthside.

My father’s bravest men then burst
into our room and net the carapace, fling

it in the waiting blaze, burn the thorns
that stippled you. The hollow spires

in the fire sing like copper smelted,
the slag amassing on the flagstones

cooling to a twisted fist of all that had you
hinged. Unmasked at last you stand

before me, born anew: not a monster, not
a man, but a fledgling flayed. Oh husband,

what soulbrave bargain have you made
that leaves you so tender, and how

am I to salvage you?— just wife, not
witch, not doctor.

Author’s Note

I’ve been obsessed with the Grimm’s fairy tale “Hans My Hedgehog” for years. In addition to featuring a hedgehog who plays bagpipes and rides a rooster, it provides some crazy inroads for thinking about parenting and marriage. As in many fairy tales, a father promises his daughter to the hero, who, in this case is a hedgehog. Later, the hedgehog decides to permanently take on human form for his wife’s sake, which involves shedding his coat of quills and having it burned by his wife’s father’s men. The rebirth chars him. In the years that I tinkered with this story as a source for poems, my husband made a major life change that felt both morally brave and (perhaps) personally foolish. As his partner, I felt compelled to be supportive but also inadequate to the task. This poem gets at my ambivalence.

I loved reading the explanation of this poem and then reading the poem again. Powerful. I also like the idea of taking a favorite fairytale and re-imaging it.

jan 15/RUN

run 1: 2.5 miles
river road, south/north
21 degrees
50% snow-covered

Such a beautiful morning for a run! Not too cold or too windy. A few flurries in the air. I’m planning to go to stadium running tonight with Scott, but I couldn’t resist getting out by the gorge this morning. It’s supposed to be ridiculously cold tomorrow morning and then lots of snow on Friday. I need to enjoy the clear path while I can. Running south today, I was able to admire the oak savanna from above. Don’t remember the trees, just the bare white stretching out. Oh–and the sound of a kid laughing and an empty stroller parked at the top of the trail that leads down into the savanna. Looked down at the river and noticed the variation in color–a pale blue then brown. Realized the blue was a thin layer of ice, the brown open water. Is that right? I’m pretty sure, but I debated it for a minute in my head. I was too far away and moving too fast to be sure. Admired the beautiful curve of the retaining wall above the ravine near the 44th street parking lot. Thought about trying out a bit of the Winchell Trail but wimped out. Too much snow. Heard groups of kids out on the playgrounds of the 2 schools I passed, out for recess.

run 2: 3.25 miles
us bank stadium

Ran at the stadium with Scott. Again, not together, but at the same time and in the same place. Encountered a wonderful human in the elevator on the way upstairs. Long white hair, a ice skating/ roller skating skirt, cool rollerblades, a mustache maybe? Scott said he’s seen them roller blading by the river a lot in green tights. Not sure if I have. They got off the elevator before us, planning to roller blade instead of run. My younger self would have loved to roller blade (or roller skate) there. In 4th grade, way back in 1984, I was the roller skating queen of Salem, VA (at least in my own head). Went to the rink as many Saturdays as I could.

They were playing much better music today–“rock and roll ain’t noise pollution” RUSH, the Police–but I still ran with my headphones. Made sure to look down at the field, which was being prepared for an upcoming monster truck rally, and out the window at downtown. Realized why I hadn’t looked out these windows on Monday. It’s at the narrowest part of the route and I was too busy paying attention to not running into carts or other runners.

Not sure what the floor of the concourse is made of–concrete?–but it’s harder on the legs. The first mile felt awkward as I tried to adjust to the increased pounding my calves were experiencing.

Yesterday, I was skimming through Theodore Roethke’s book on poetry and craft and found these:

To day there’s no time for the
mistakes of a long and slow
development: dazzle or die.

Dazzle or die.

Are there dangers? Of course.
There are dangers every time I
open my mouth, hence at
times when I keep it shut, I try
to teach by grunts, sighs,
shrugs.

jan 14/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
27 degrees
100% slushy loose snow-covered

It snowed a few inches on Sunday, a few more last night. Not enough to plow but enough to cause problems on the path. Wore my yak trax and that helped. Except for the bad stretch between the lake street bridge and the trestle. It’s always windy and the path is always covered. Nearing the trestle, my legs felt really tired from all of the sliding around I was doing. I stopped to take a break and put my headphones in. This seems to be a trend: running one way with no headphones, the other with them in. Not sure if I like this habit. It’s harder to listen to the gorge with headphones in.

the daily delight

Just after I reached the river, running on the bike path near the road, I heard a shimmering shaking sound as the wind blew roughly through some dead leaves on the trees closer to the gorge. It was my friends, the Welcoming Oaks! I imagined that they were calling out to me, “Hi friend, we miss you. When will you run on the walking path near us again?”

a strange image

With a quick glance down, the river looked like a brown wall to me. Flat and vertical instead of horizontal. So strange. Looking again, for longer, it stopped being a wall.

the daily walker

Perhaps the biggest reason I take note of and remember the Daily Walker is that he is always by the gorge walking. No matter what the weather. Usually wearing 2 long sleeved shirts and no coat. Rarely a hat. Since I started writing in this log, I’ve seen him almost every time I’ve ran. I admire his consistency and aspire to be him in a few decades. But there is another reason I take note of him: his gait. I’m not sure what happened to him–maybe he had a stroke?–but his arm swing–I think his left arm–is very exaggerated. It swings out wide. This swinging motion is how I can see that it is him. Without it, I’m not sure I would remember him. Even after passing him hundreds of times. I hardly ever remember faces anymore because I can’t see them clearly. I rely on other features–hair, clothes, how a body moves. As I near someone on the path, I always look for the tell-tale swing and I know it is him. Today he was there and we greeted each other.

A few days ago, I watched the short documentary, Notes on Blindness. Wow! Discovered that it’s been turned into a longer documentary and that it’s on Netflix. Cool. I’ll need to watch that soon. At some point in the film while discussing how we can’t see or remember his wife’s or kids’ faces, Hull asks,

To what extent is the loss of the image of the face tied up with the loss of the image of the self and with the consequent feeling of being a ghost or a mere spirit?

I can still see the outline of faces and haven’t lost my memory of ones important to me, but this idea of losing a sense of the self–at least a self beside other selves–because I can’t see faces, resonates for me. When I don’t recognize family members’ and friends’ faces, I feel less human, more spectral.

jan 13/RUN

3.3 miles
U.S. Bank Stadium

Did another stadium run with Scott. We didn’t run together, but ran at the same time, in the same place. There weren’t too many people there. Mostly groups of runners. What do I remember? At the start, it felt awkward, like my legs weren’t moving quite right. Slowly it got better. There is a beautiful view of downtown Minneapolis from all of the big windows. Pretty sure I didn’t look at it even once. Also didn’t look down at the field while I was running. Didn’t really look at anything. I do remember feeling strange and dreamy, running around an almost empty stadium. And like I was running a bit too fast around mile 2. Following (20ft behind) a woman in gray who was running slightly faster than me. Passing another woman in gray multiple times who was running way slower than me.

This weekend I got some great recommendations from twitter about vision loss, including Eye Trouble by Alice Mattison. She has macular dystrophy, while I have cone dystrophy. I appreciate how she writes concretely about her specific vision quirks and her feelings around them. I’d like to do this too.

Also, randomly on twitter:

A tweet about the relationship between wonder and urgency in socially conscious art. Does it have too much wonder, no urgency, no bite? Does it have too much urgency and no wonder?

And a recommendation for a podcast about noise called Field Noise: “Field Noise is a show about the role of sound in our everyday lives. It’s a show about people who make sounds and people who listen to them. It’s a show about music and noise and silence and the politics of those categories. It’s a show about how disability, gender, race, and class are central to what we think about as “technology.” And it’s a show that is very much still finding its voice.”

I love twitter for recommendations on essays, poems, documentaries. I dislike it for almost everything else–well, I also like the random threads when people share stories about their childhood. 10 years ago, I taught students how to use twitter and wrote/taught about its ethical possibilities. Now, I mostly think it’s broken and confusing. Why is it no longer in real time? Why does responding to a thread seem so difficult? Why is it the word count gone? And, of course, why is Trump not banned yet?

jan 12/RUN

4.2 miles
to the falls and back
17 degrees/ feels like 5
25% ice and snow covered

Reached the river and turned right instead of left and headed to the falls. Today the river was blue. Grayish blue. Steel blue. Maybe Copenhagen blue? I can’t trust my color sense these days. Sometimes bright pink looks yellow or green looks gold. Regardless of what color you would call it, I’ll stick with steel blue. Beautiful. A few less ice floes down here, south of the lake street bridge. The path was stained a chalky white, the hard frozen snow brown. Sometimes it was difficult to see what was clear and what was not.

The falls were wonderful. Reaching the far end of the park, by the benches and fountain with Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” etched on them, I heard the dim roar of the falls still flowing. Rounding the corner, the roar suddenly became louder. I stopped at the stone edge for a minute and marveled at the frozen columns of ice and the water falling beside them. Put it my headphones, turned around, and ran home. Felt strong and happy to be outside on a clear path.

Did Rise/ Jessica Rae Bergamino

Did tear along. 
Did carry the sour heave 
of memory. Did fold my body 
upon the pillow’s curve, 
did teach myself to pray. 
Did pray. Did sleep. Did choir 
an echo to swell through time. 
Did pocket watch, did compass. 
Did whisper a girl from the silence 
of ghost. Did travel on the folded map 
to the roaring inside. Did see myself 
smaller, at least, stranger, 
where the hinge of losing had not yet 
become loss. Did vein, did hollow 
in light, did hold my own chapped hand. 
Did hair, did makeup, did press 
the pigment on my broken lip. 
Did stutter. Did slur. Did shush 
my open mouth, the empty glove. 
Did grace, did dare, did learn the way 
forgiveness is the heaviest thing to bare. 
Did grieve. Did grief. Did check the weather, 
choose the sweater, did patch the jeans 
worn out along the seam. Did purchase, 
did pressure, did put the safety on the scissors. 
Did shuttle myself away, did haunt, did swallow 
a tongue of sweat formed on the belly 
of a day-old glass. Did ice, did block, 
did measure the doing. Did carry. 
Did return. Did slumber, did speak. 
Did wash blood from the bitten nail, 
the thumb that bruised. Did wash 
the dirt-stained face, the dirt-stained 
sheets. Did take the pills. Did not 
take the pills. Cut the knots 
from my own matted hair.

Love the repetition of this poem and the relentless “did” only stopped on the second to last line. Love the telling of a story and the expressing of feelings through the mundane listing of what she did.

jan 11/ RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around + extra
10 degrees/ feels like 0
40% ice-covered

Brr. Colder today than it has been for awhile. I was fine with lots of layers. For most of the run, there were big strips of bare pavement. They were stained white from the salt or sand of whatever it was that they put down a few days ago and I kept thinking it was snow or ice instead of bare pavement. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker and a few other runners. Noticed the river and loved how arctic it looked. Bigger ice floes and thick water that seemed stuck.

The thing I remember most about the run was near the end, heading south, when the wind was not quite gently rushing through the trees and I heard a shimmering sound as the wind rustled the dead leaves. This felt strange and out of season, more like a noise I would hear in the summer or fall, and I imagined that it was much warmer outside. Almost tricked myself.

HIPPOPOTOMONSTROSESQUIPPEDALIOPHOBIA/ Aimee Nezhukumatathil

—The fear of long words

On the first day of classes, I secretly beg

my students Don’t be afraid of me. I know

my last name on your semester schedule

is chopped off or probably misspelled—

or both. I can’t help it. I know the panic

of too many consonants rubbed up

against each other, no room for vowels

to fan some air into the room of a box

marked Instructor. You want something

to startle you? Try tapping the ball

of roots of a potted tomato plant

into your cupped hand one spring, only

to find a small black toad who kicks

and blinks his cold eye at you,

the sun, a gnat. Be afraid of the x-rays

for your teeth or lung. Pray for no

dark spots. You may have

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis:

coal lung. Be afraid of money spiders tiptoeing

across your face while you sleep on a sweet, fat couch.

But don’t be afraid of me, my last name, what language

I speak or what accent dulls itself on my molars.

I will tell jokes, help you see the gleam

of the beak of a mohawked cockatiel. I will

lecture on luminescent sweeps of ocean, full of tiny

dinoflagellates oozing green light when disturbed.

I promise dark gatherings of toadfish and comical shrimp

just when you think you are alone, hoping to stay somehow afloat.

I love Aimee Nezhukumatathil. She is one of my favorite poets. And I love this poem and how it enabled me to learn a new word: hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Very useful. But how cruel to make the term for a fear of big words such a monstrous, imposing word!

jan 10/ BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

The weather isn’t too cold (at least for me) this morning or too blustery, but I decided to stay inside and do more biking, less running to rest my sore legs. Now as I write this I feel a little regret. Winter runs in the cold are the best. Why didn’t I run outside?

While biking, I watched part of the first episode of the netflix doc series: Cheer. It’s fascinating and freaking me out. They take so many risks with their bodies. I wonder what the long term effects of these risks and the injuries they get are? Will the series address this at some point?

When I was younger, I never thought about my body. But after I had 2 kids, my mom died too young, and I started running and open water swimming, I became more aware of its fragility and developed a need to protect it and be careful with it.

Living in the Body/ Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

I’m mostly okay with my body. Together we’ve done some great things. I guess sometimes I wish my kneecaps would stay in their grooves and not temporarily displace or my central vision wasn’t almost completely destroyed or my legs didn’t get unbearably restless when I wake up in the middle of the night, which happens a lot. But I think I feel less like Joyce Sutphen and her body as (treasured) burden, and more like Linda Hogan in Rapture: “Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.”

jan 9/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill turn around
29 degrees/ feels like 20
50% ice and snow-covered

Love these outdoor runs when the path is not completely ice-covered and I get to run for almost an hour! Just past the welcoming oaks stopped for a minute to let the parks mini-truck drive by on the path. Noticed later that they had put some dirt down on the path. Hooray! Hopefully that will make it easier to run on. For much of the run north, felt like I was in a dream, floating along on the path.

What I remember about today? The River

Wasn’t sure how long I would run but decided to go all the way to the bottom of the Franklin hill to get a closer look at the river and all the ice on it. So desolate and other-worldly looking! Studded with chunks of ice and thick water that wasn’t moving or barely moving. Moving at a glacial pace? Thought about this phrase and how (sadly, disturbingly) it’s losing its potency as a metaphor now that glaciers are melting (and melting so much faster than expected).

Did a quick google search and found this article: Slang is changing at a glacial pace

The thick water reminded me of simple syrup–clear but thick and barely flowing. Or maybe like a partly melted slushie? Still very cold and a little frozen but more liquid than ice. I’ll have to keep looking closer at the river to see when/if it completely freezes over.

After turning around at the bottom of the Franklin hill, I ran back up the hill, stopping at 3 miles for a minute to turn on a playlist. Encountered several dogs and their humans, some walking, some running. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. After I finished running, stopped at the split rail fence above the ravine to stretch. With the temperature almost at freezing, the water dripping out of the sewer pipe smelled rotten.

dead metaphors

Yesterday I posted something about metaphors, their (sometimes) entrenched political meanings, and how they can limit instead of expand our imagination. Today, I’m thinking about metaphors again as I read the “Slang is Changing” article I mentioned above.

During the Little Ice Age, which stretched from the 14th to the 19th century, the median Northern Hemisphere winter was significantly colder than it is today. Glaciers more often advanced than retreated, sometimes wiping out communities as they moved. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem ‘Mont Blanc’ (1817) captures the menacing aura that adhered to those frozen rivers of ice:

… The glaciers creep
Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountains,
Slow rolling on …
in scorn of mortal power

Shelley saw glaciers as predatory, immortal forces, eternal beings, before whose might mere humans quaked. But global warming has flipped that perception. We are now more likely to view glaciers as casualties of humanity’s outsize, planet-altering powers.

In “Politics and the English Language” (1946), Orwell laid out six rules for writers, the first of which declares: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” An inert metaphor such as “hotbed of radicalism” conveys very little: We can no longer feel the blazing temperature between the bed sheets, just as—prior to public awareness of global warming—we’d stopped noticing the icy fossil poetry in “glacial pace.”

We speak routinely of carbon footprints, of wiping species off the face of the Earth, and of greenhouse gases, but we no longer see the feet, the hands, and the backyard sheds. As consciousness of climate change has grown, a new class of dead metaphors has entered the English language. We speak routinely of carbon footprints, of wiping species off the face of the Earth, and of greenhouse gases, but we no longer see the feet, the hands, the faces and the backyard sheds that were once vivid when those phrases were newly coined.

jan 8/ RUN

3.75 miles
us bank stadium

Ran with Scott downtown at the stadium. Listened to my playlist because the music they play there is annoying. What do I remember from the run? It felt effortless, like I was flying for the first few laps. Got a little harder towards the end. Lots of runners and walkers. Some person working there who kept adjusting the posts they had up to separate the lanes. Dim lights, difficult to see. Successfully did not run into anyone. No interesting thoughts or encounters.

Really appreciate this discussion of metaphors and the political from Heather Christle’s discussion of her writing/revising process on Guernica’s Back Draft.

on metaphors and the political

Heather Christle: It’s dangerous. It can be fantastic to see the illumination of one thing in another, but it can be misleading as well. There are times when the metaphors that I’m thinking about aren’t coming from a strangeness but are coming from systems that take strict limits to the imagination. They might present themselves as acts of imagination, but they’re strict and limited. I’m trying to learn to see them for what they are. Writing this crying book has taught me, again, the joy of the connection between things, but also the danger of always seeing one thing in terms of another.

Guernica: It sounds like your answer is gesturing toward the political.

Heather Christle: Well, I think that metaphor and politics are deeply intertwined, and I think that the most dangerous metaphors are the ones that are invisible for us—the ones that people do constant political work to make visible. And I think that part of the work that I’ve been trying to do recently is to see where the imaginative life and the political life intersect, and how they might provide a way for us to live other than as we are.

jan 7/BIKE

35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Having run everyday since Dec 12th, I thought I’d better take a break and just bike today. Watched a few races on my iPad and forgot about everything but how hot it was in Tokyo and how Flora Duffy was doing in her comeback race and whether or not Katie Zaferes’s crash was season-ending.

Although I didn’t run, I did take Delia the dog on a walk. We almost made it to the river but stopped a block short and walked along Edmund Boulevard. Colder today with a few icy patches on the sidewalk. Looked over at the gorge–it was gray and inviting. I wanted to run but had to remind myself to take a break.

Passed several houses with memorable dogs:

  • the house with the huge dog who was so excited to see Delia walk by one time that they almost broke through the big picture window in the front room
  • the extremely neat house with the meticulously maintained yard and patio and the big white dog that mimics the movements of his owner who has, over the last few years, slowed down a lot–at first, he only shuffled, now he uses a walker
  • the house with the fenced in backyard and the little dog that spazzes out and tries to chase Delia every time we walk by–she’s not always out but Delia always remembers the yard and anticipates the encounter
  • the big fancy house that almost looks like it’s abandoned because the yard is never raked, the sidewalk never shoveled, but has a big dog that has a 2 part bark–first low then high: ruff ruff arr arr
  • the even bigger and fancier house with the white picket fence and the snobby sign on the boulevard about not peeing in the mulch that has a pack of vicious sounding dogs that we (me and Delia) can’t ever see over the fence but sound like they’re saying–“go away! you’re not fancy enough to be walking on the sidewalk beside our house!”

jan 6/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
27 degrees
50% slick ice-covered

Ugh! The temperature was great, so was the wind, but the path was terrible. So slippery–not all of it, but enough to make it very difficult to run on. I’ve been wondering why the paths are so awful this year and I think it is because they must not be treating the asphalt at all. Not sure what they used to put on it, but nothing this year. This is a bummer, but I’m sure whatever they were treating it with was not good for the river so I’m glad they’ve stopped.

Paused at the trestle to put in my headphones and admire the beautiful, brown river. Very peaceful today. Don’t remember much else except for the walk before the run: I heard lots of birds, an airplane, the hum of far off traffic, a chainsaw trimming a tree. Oh–and how the slick ice on the path was shining in the sun.

The Spider/ Heather Christle

The spider he is confused
b/c I am not killing him
only moving him outdoors
When I die I do not want
to feel confused
No I would rather feel clarity
like I am a pool
and death a chlorine tablet
I want it to feel
not like I am dying
but am being transferred
to the outside
And I hope I do not drown
as I have seen happen
to hundreds of spiders
b/c I love to swim
and to drown would
wreck swimming
for a long time
But death is like none of this
I know that death is a tower
standing in the middle of the town
And the tower receives
many visits
And there’s no one
but spiders inside

Heather Christle is wonderful. Favorite line: “I hope I do not drown/as I have seen happen/ to hundreds of spiders/ b/c I love to swim/and to drown would/wreck swimming/ for a long time”

This poem is part of a series called Back Draft in which poets show two versions of a poem and then discuss their revision process. Very interesting.

on revision

With me, I can pretty quickly hear whether there is a thing that is alive inside the poem. But for me, if that thing that’s alive in some poems isn’t there, there’s nothing I can do to make it come forward, you know? Some poems have life, and some just don’t. Sometimes it’s an ostrich, and sometimes it’s a cinder block, and no matter what I do I can’t make a cinder block be an ostrich (Heather Christle)

the process of writing poetry

an enormous part of what I’m doing is listening, that I’m listening to the strangeness that is within us, and within our world, and within our ways of speaking to one another. And I’m listening to the energies and desires of the words themselves, which isn’t to say that I think that I’m actually listening to Martians, to borrow Jack Spicer’s metaphor, you know? I don’t think that I’m catching the voices of ghosts or something. I don’t know what is on the other side of what I’m listening to, but I do know that it, for me, has to be heard right away, that I can’t slowly revise my way towards it. If I missed it the first time, it’s not going to become present.

jan 5/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2 miles
treadmill, basement
outside: wind advisory, icy paths

The combination of too many days running on uneven paths and a wind advisory meant I ran and biked in the basement today. I’m fine with it. I still don’t like the treadmill for long distances, but it’s okay for a mile or two. Watched a super league triathlon race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. The coolest thing I remember: running, staring straight ahead and just above the blank tv screen, I noticed the reflection of the single lightbulb in the dark window. A small bright circular light. I imagined it was the moon, hovering above Lake Superior, which I remember seeing a few years ago when I was at a resort on the North Shore. Very cool. I was so mesmerized by the image that I almost ran into the front of the treadmill. Who knew the basement could be so beautiful and inspiring?

Yesterday, wandering around the internet, I discovered Steve Healey’s 10 Mississippi–a book of poetry about the Mississippi River. He’s based in Minneapolis, which is really cool. I need to buy this collection from 2010.

2 Mississippi/ Steve Healey

Standing next to the river, I recorded the sound
of the river in an attempt to represent that sound
more accurately than my earlier description of it,
which compared the river sound to someone
saying “shhhh.” I rewound the tape and played it back,
and the recording also sounded like someone saying
“shhhh,” but then I remembered that I was listening
to both the recording of the river and the river itself,
and I could not with absolute certainty distinguish
one from the other. It sounded like the two sounds
synchronized into one “shhhh,” but at times they
seemed to separate, as if telling each other to be quiet,
like accomplices committing a crime. Or they may
have both been telling me to be quiet, despite the fact
that I was producing no sound, or so I thought.
Retreating swiftly and quietly to the privacy
of my own home, a safe distance from the river itself,
I listened again to the recording of the river sound.
This time it sounded like a perfectly preserved memory
of the river, a solitary “shhhh” moving inexorably
toward the Gulf of Mexico, and just as I felt liberated
from the burden of having to remember the river
through my own mental activity, the recording stopped,
precisely at the moment when I had turned off
the tape recorder. Then I remembered that the river
itself was elsewhere, continuing its perfect sound
forever, and that I would never be able to represent
that continuousness accurately. I remembered,
however, that I could take a length of magnetic tape
on which that river was recorded and splice the ends
together to form a loop which I could then play
continuously. The sound could keep going “shhhh”
all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, telling all the cars
and condos to be quiet. It’s worth remembering,
however, that a river is not a person, and that a person
saying “shhhh” eventually needs to stop making
that sound, either to inhale or die. There would be no
other choice, unless of course I recorded myself
saying “shhhh” and played a loop of that recording
continuously, in which case I’d no longer need
to remember myself. I’d be immortal
in the privacy of my own sound.

jan 4/ RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
28 degrees
90% sharp, crusty snow and ice

Should have worn my yaktrax today. So slick and uneven. What a bummer. The river was open and beautiful, the sun glowing through the gray gloom, the air not too cold. But the path was terrible–too rough and uneven and dangerous.

Walking earlier this morning with the dog, my left kneecap couldn’t find its groove. It wasn’t completely sliding out, but it was rubbing. Not sure why, but running helps it get back into place. Oh, the body is such a strange thing.

Encountered lots of runners. A few bikers. Some walkers. No Daily Walker. Turned around at the double-bridge parking lot and put on a playlist. Started with my new favorite song: Black Wizard Wave by Nur-d. I would have been flying down the path if it hadn’t been so icy.

Still playing around with my favorite lines of poetry from all the poems I gathered in 2019. So much fun.

Cento/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

VI.

I’m sorry for the rabbits.
And I’m sorry for us
To know this.
Suffice it to say I am sorry all the time.

VII.

All that trees can ever learn they know now
clear cut and certain, they rise, telling me
Go forth to the forests and grow wise
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?

VIII.

Meanwhile, even the birds sing
to-do lists and quietly
the doe does what does do.

VIX.

for no reason
the windowed ones in their windowed world
lock the door

jan 3/RUN

3.75 miles
up on the ford bridge and back
33 degrees
75% snow-iced covered

Took Delia the dog out for a walk and was worried that it would be too slippery but it was so calm and warmish and wonderful that I couldn’t resist trying. Wore my yaktrax and struggled for the first few minutes on the sidewalk. Turned right instead of left and headed towards the falls. There was a strip of clear path almost the entire way. The river was beautiful. Ran south to the ford bridge and decided to climb up the short hill and run across it. What a view of the river! And what noisy traffic zooming by!

Observations

  • Even though the sky was whiteish gray (or grayish white), it was bright enough for the river to be reflecting the bluff on the st. paul side. Looking down at the water, I saw the white from the bluff and some trees.
  • Looking down at the Winchell Trail near 42nd street, I could see the graceful curve of the retaining wall above a ravine.
  • Saw–or maybe sensed?–2 birds flying above me. One was black, most likely a crow. The other, white–probably a seagull? I like this idea of distinguishing between seeing and sensing. I do a lot of sensing–but how to describe that?

Disclosure/ Camisha L. Jones

I’m sorry, could you repeat that. I’m hard of hearing.
To the cashier 
To the receptionist 
To the insistent man asking directions on the street 

I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?
At the business meeting 
In the writing workshop 
On the phone to make a doctor’s appointment 

I’m-sorry-I’m-sorry-I’m-so-sorry-I’m-hard-for-the-hearing

Repeat. 

           Repeat. 

Hello, my name is Sorry
To full rooms of strangers 
I’m hard to hear 

I vomit apologies everywhere 
They fly on bat wings 
towards whatever sound beckons 

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry
           and repeating
                       and not hearing

Dear (again) 
I regret to inform you 

I       am

here

I love this poem and how the author communicates her frustrations with being hard of hearing. I love how she twists it a little by writing hard-for-the-hearing. And I love her reading of it, which you can listen to on the site. I want to spend some more time with this poem and think about how to translate it into my experiences being hard of seeing.