april 29/RUN

2.3 miles
river road path, south/edmund, north
44 degrees/ 17 mph wind
Deaths from COVID-19: 319 (MN)/ 58,529 (US)

A difficult run this morning. Straight into the wind on the way back. About 5 minutes in, my knee hurt. Stopped for a few seconds, then started again. Mostly fine while I was running, but decided to not run too much. Not crowded on the path. It’s getting greener. Looked over at the Oak Savanna and the Winchell Trail. I don’t remember much from this run except for worrying about my knee or feeling the wind. The stretch of grass between Becketwood and 42nd was muddy and wet.

At the very beginning of my run, I heard the bird call that Scott and I have been curious about lately. I’d like to figure out which bird makes this sound and why. Found it!

Male Black-capped Chickadee

The song Scott and I have been hearing comes from the male black-capped chickadee. It’s also called the “fee bee” call or, when it has three notes, the “hey, sweetie” call. The song is used to attract mates or defend territory.

Some facts I’d like to remember from this brief video: 1. This song signals spring is coming and 2. Males use it in singing battles.

Of course, this mention of singing battles reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver:

Invitation/ Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
   to linger
      for just a while
         out of your busy

and important day
   for the goldfinches
      who have gathered
         in a field of thistles

for a musical battle
   to see who can sing
      the highest note
         or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth
   or the most tender?
      Their strong, blunt beaks
         drink the air

as they strive
   melodiously
      not for your sake
         and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
   but for sheer delight and gratitude-
      believe us, they say
         it is a serious thing

just to be alive
   on this fresh morning
      in the broken world.
         I beg of you,

do not walk by
   without pausing
      to attend to this
         rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
   It could mean everything.
      It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
         You must change your life.

My effort to notice and then figure out the bird song, reminds me of another poem that I encountered (and posted here a few years ago):

Bird Song/Rebecca Taksel

After all these years
I still don’t know the name
of the bird who has followed me
with his early-morning song
to all the places I’ve lived.

I’ve never asked
“Which bird is that, singing now?”
I remember hearing him first
on a spring morning in childhood
somewhere in the woods
behind our little house, his song clear
above the thousand little sounds
of grass and water and trees around us.

I’ve thought about the deaths I fear,
but only now do I know the death I want:
to let that song be the last thing I hear,
and not to mind at all that I never learned
the singer’s name.

I wonder, was she writing about the male black-capped chickadee?

Thinking about the purpose of the black capped chickadee’s call, I’m imagining more of the conversation:

I’m right/you’re wrong
Welcome/spring’s here
hello/goodbye
get lost/no way
Beatles/Elvis
gray duck/no, goose

april 28/BIKERUN

bike/bike stand: 30 minutes
run/treadmill: 1.5 miles
rain
Deaths from COVID-19: 301 (MN)/ 57,533 (US)

Rain all day. In a few days, everything green. Green green green. I like the green but it always comes too much too soon. Biked in the basement while watching more of the Agatha Christie movie. Enjoying it. Then, ran on the treadmill. Listened to a playlist, fell into a trance.

I didn’t recite my memorized poem today, but decided to recite and record it during my cool down, walking on the treadmill. Realized, before my workout, that I had not memorized the first stanza. Somehow I had left it off my log post. Oops. I’ll have to practice it a lot: “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly” “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly”

Dear One Absent This Long While, recorded 4/28

I stumbled over a few words, and it sounds like I said “pawny” instead of “pony” but I recited the whole thing. Nice. I don’t quite own these words yet, but I will soon.

use better words || use words better

Yesterday, while trying to figure out some succinct ways to describe the creative experiments I’m doing in my run project, I came up with this concept. I want to find and use better words–words that allow for new understandings, that more effectively communicate my experiences, that make me/others feel things, that foster curiosity. And, I want to use words better–to be more deliberate and precise and thoughtful in my choices so that my words generate movement and encourage others to think and be curious.

the Subway/Eat Fresh birds

A few days ago, inspired by 2 birds chatting, I imagined what they might be saying–including: bird 1: Subway/ bird 2: Eat Fresh. Scott was inspired by another similar bird conversation this morning. He recorded them, figured out what notes they were singing and then played around on his keyboard with them. Very cool.

birds singing in the rain, april 28
Birdsong in the rain, Room 34

I’m hoping we can collaborate on a sound/poetry project about these birds–probably one that doesn’t involve referring to the birds as Subway and Eat Fresh, but who knows? Anyway, as a starting point, I wrote down a list of 2 syllable calls and responses:

Be here
Not here
Beside
Be Safe
Deep Down
Lost Ones
Release
Slow down
Rethink
Listen
Sink in
Undo
Nothing
Delight
Been there
Terror
Old ways
New ways
Broke down
How to

Not there
Not there
Beyond
Steer clear
We knew
Stay gone
Forget
Down size
Reprise
Loosen
Retreat
Rebuild
To do
Sorrow
Done that
Wonder
Destroyed
Unfurl
Remade
Be now?

april 27/RUN

4.1 miles
river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south
53 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 286 (MN)/ 55,118 (US)

What a morning! Rained early, then Sun! Birds! A slight breeze! Trees barely budding, glowing a yellowy green!

In the name of the Trees—
And the Woodpecker—
And the Breeze—Amen!
(variation on Emily Dickinson)

It’s easier to bury deep the panic and thoughts about getting very sick or someone I love getting very sick when the weather is like this and the trails aren’t too crowded and it’s not too hot or too cold and there aren’t swarming gnats yet.

My run felt good this morning. I remember looking down at the river, but I don’t remember what I saw—wait, how could I forget? It was gorgeous! Not sparkling or shining, but a mirror reflecting the fluffy clouds. I imagined that the water was another world, doubled and reversed, like in May Swenson’s great poem, “Water Picture“: “In the pond in the park/ all things are doubled:/ Long buildings hang and/ wriggle gently. Chimneys/ are bent legs bouncing/ on clouds below.” Love how “In the pond in the park” bounces on my tongue. I kept glancing over at the water and admiring its smooth beauty and how it looked like a mirror. I started thinking about the Greek myth (which I couldn’t really remember) about the hunter who looked at his reflection. I looked it up just now–of course it was Narcissus. Here’s an interesting article I found that discusses him and the idea of mirrors in water–it even has a picture of Salvadore Dali looking into the water.

At some point during my run, a biker biked by, their radio blasting “Everybody Talks.” (Had to look it up, it’s by Neon Trees.) I haven’t heard this song in a few years; it was on one of my running playlists for awhile. Mostly I listened to it while I ran around the track at the YWCA. Just looked and couldn’t find any mention of it in this log.

Reciting While Running: Dear One, Absent This Long While

Started reciting my poem for the week, Lisa Olstein’s Dear One Absent This Long While. Not too difficult to memorize, fun to say. I don’t remember much about the rhythms with my feet, but I do remember thinking more about the words. As I recited the line, “so even if spring continues to disappoint” I wondered, is it “spring” or “the spring”? I couldn’t remember and I tried to think about which fit better and whether or not a “the” was necessary. Also paused at the line, “She had the quiet ribs/ of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.” At first, I kept saying “has” but then I realized it made more sense to say “had.” Also, why is there a “the” in front of pony post road here, but not a “the” in front of spring? I find it helpful to think more about the choices poets make with their words. It’s fascinating and I think it can help me make a better poet who uses better words and words better–which is always my goal in writing.

I decided it would be fun to record myself reciting the poem right after finishing my run and then listening to it while looking at the poem–which words did I screw up, leave out, add? This experiment was fun, although I am still way too self-conscious speaking into my phone. I want to stop caring if people see me doing it and what they think about it. Here’s the recording:

Dear One Absent This Long While, recorded 4/27

I’d like to try recording myself saying it again tomorrow after my run. Maybe by the end of the week I won’t feel weird doing it.

In addition to reciting this new poem, I also revisited Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today” and the second line. I tried running with the different rhythms that I figured out in yesterday’s log. “This, and my heart beside” I was struck by how the different rhythms also changed the emphasis. In the original, Dickinson is emphasizing, “This.” Some of my rhythms, like the triplet for “this and my”, put the emphasis on heart. It’s cool how much of a difference changing the rhythm can make on the meaning–not a deep insight, but it’s fun to find ways to actually understand poetry, especially those parts of it that seem so hard for me to get.

What else happened on my run?

  • Saw someone walking down the old stone steps
  • Later, saw a dog and its human crossing the path to also walk down the old stone steps
  • Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker with a “Hi Dave” and a wave and, “Beautiful morning!”
  • Greeted another biker on Seabury
  • Noticed the trestle as I ran by it
  • Inspected the progress of the leaves below the tunnel of trees in the floodplain forest. The green veil is coming–too soon!
  • A few rocks were stacked on the ancient boulder at the top of the path, near the sprawling oak and at the entrance to the tunnel of trees

Greeting the Welcoming Oaks

note: I’m adding this in later, but I had forgotten about it.

About 5 minutes into my run, as I passed near the overlook and through the Welcoming Oaks, I greeted every one of them. I didn’t count, but I’m guessing it was about 10 trees? “Good morning!” “Hello friend!” “Hello!” “Hi!”

april 26/RUN

3.75 miles
47th ave loop, shorter
50 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 272 (MN)/ 54,001 (US)

I wore shorts this morning on my run. Shorts! Very exciting. Ran south on the trail, right above the river. It had a dull, un-sparkly surface but it was still beautiful. Soft, subdued. So many birds chattering away. A few runners and walkers and bikers. I had to weave around the path several times, from one end–on the edge of the bluff, above the water–to the other–across the walking and biking paths and the road, over to the grass between the parkway and the boulevard– but it didn’t bother me. As long as I can run and keep my distance, I’m fine.

Recited Emily Dickinson’s poem again, “it’s all I have to bring today.” Played around with the rhythm in the second line: “This, and my heart beside—” So awkward when running. (note: I can’t actually remember what beats I did with this line while running, so I’m experimenting after the fact. Now, I want to try running with each of these. Which works best?)

This and my heart beside/ 123 4 5 6/ ♪♪♪ ♩ ♩ ♩
This and my heart beside/ 123 4 56 7/ ♪♪♪ ♩ ♫ rest

This and my heart beside/ 12 34 5 6/ ♫ ♫ ♩ ♩

This and my heart/ 1 2 3 4/ ♩ ♩ ♩ ♩
beside/ 1 2 3 4/ ♩ ♩ rest rest

I’m really fascinated by these rhythms and what they do to the word beside, particularly what gets stressed. BEside or beSIDE or BESIDE. Trochee or Iamb or Spondee (I think that’s right. I’m trying to learn and then remember these terms. Maybe one day they will be second-nature to me?)

The other day, I read a beautiful thread about the poet Ted Kooser. I liked the poems that were mentioned in the thread, but decided to read some more of his work online. Because I find soaring turkey vultures to be beautiful, I was drawn to this poem:

TURKEY VULTURES/ Ted Kooser

Circling above us, their wingtips fanned
like fingers, it is as if they were smoothing

one of those tissue-paper sewing patterns
over the pale blue fabric of the air,

touching the heavens with leisurely pleasure,
just a word or two called back and forth,

taking all the time in the world, even though
the sun is low and red in the west, and they

have fallen behind with the making of shrouds.

I have decided that I really like the couplet form–with its simple grace and interesting line breaks adding more meaning and movement.

april 25/WALK

walk: 4.75 miles
extended 47th ave loop
65 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 244 (MN)/ 53,070 (US)

Woke up feeling sore all over. I think it’s from the hours I’ve spent trying to scrape the paint off the deck railing. Decided to take a long walk with Scott and Delia the dog instead of running. Amazing spring weather. Bright, warm sun. Hardly any wind. Calm, gentle air. Lots of people walking, biking, and running out by the gorge this morning. Didn’t see any wild turkeys but did see a tiny baby rabbit. I said to Scott, “that’s the only time I think rabbits are cute.” I really don’t like rabbits. Also saw this super cool sculpture in someone’s front yard:

photo by room34

I want a front yard like this! No grass and an awesome sculpture. It’s fun walking by the gorge and then winding through longfellow neighborhood. People are delightfully quirky around here. Anything else? We talked about if the virus will ebb some in the summer and how terrible it must be for some kids now that they are closing down all the playgrounds and skate parks and removing the nets from basketball hoops and tennis courts. How will some kids entertain themselves? So tough.

When we got home, I sat on our warm deck in full sun and felt nostalgic for past springs and summers as a kid, when I would soak in the sun, still able to enjoy feeling hot because it was novel. Then I composed another version of Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today”:

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my knee, beside—
This, my knee, and all the gorge
And all the river wide—
Be sure to count—should I forget
Some one the Sum could tell—
This, and my knee, and every Tree
Bare-branched without its Veil—

I think I like this version better than my last.

After composing this poem and reciting it to my wonderful daughter who was willing to listen, I sat in my chair and heard the birds. I didn’t actually have a choice, they were insistent that I eavesdrop on their conversation. Repeating it over and over and over again. Of course, when I finally decided to record them, they weren’t as chatty. Still, I did manage to record a few lines. 2 syllables each. One bird started low, then went higher. The other responded higher, then went lower. I imagined them to be singing: “Up high/ Down low” What else could they be saying?

2 birds chatting

Subway/Eat fresh
Be nice/Fuck you
Hey there!/What’s up?
Mustard/Ketchup
Doughnut/Ice cream
Mad Men/Ozark
Mustache/Goatee
Pizza/Nachos
Dumb luck/Hard work
Winter/Summer

april 24/RUN

3.75 miles
47th ave loop
47 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 221 (MN)/ 50,031 (US)

Wow, what a glorious morning! Soft light, hardly any wind, singing birds, uncrowded paths. Everything felt calm, relaxed. I don’t remember looking at the river that often, but I do remember the sky over the gorge and the view on the bluff near Folwell. Beautiful.

Anything else I remember from my run? I’ve noticed–today and yesterday, at least–that the morning sun makes it hard for me to see people sometimes. It also makes it almost impossible for me to determine if people are coming towards me or are moving away from me–is that the cone dystrophy or my near-sightedness? Not sure.

I recited Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today” again and I’m liking it more. The second line with the anapest–“This, and my heart beside”–is still awkward, but I like running to “this, my heart, and all the fields/and all the meadows wide” and “this, and my heart, and all the bees, which in the clover dwell.”

When I got back from my run, I started thinking about changing the words of Dickinson’s poem to fit with my run:

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my knee beside—
This, my knee and all the trees—
And all the river wide
Be sure to count — should I forget
Some one the sum could tell —
This, and my knee, and all the Birds
whose songs can cast a Spell.

Not totally happy with my words, but I’ll work on it some more. I struggle to understand “some one the sum could tell.” It mostly makes sense, but it still trips me up.

more wild turkey sightings!

Yesterday on our walk, near the tree graveyard, we saw 2 more wild turkeys! Scott took some video and posted it on instagram:

Finally, looking back through my log posts from 2018, I found this beautiful poem. It will be the next one that I memorize. So many lines I am looking forward to learning and keeping.

Dear One Absent This Long While/ Lisa Olstein 

It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;
everything blooms coldly.

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.
We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires
over which young men and women leapt.

June efforts quietly.
I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall

so even if spring continues to disappoint
we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.

I have new gloves and a new hoe.
I practice eulogies. He was a hawk

with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs
of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.

Yours is the name the leaves chatter
at the edge of the unrabbited woods.

april 23/RUN

4.2 miles
river road path, north/seabury, south/edmund, south
40 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 200 (MN)/ 46,859 (US)

Such a strange, scary time. For now, managing to keep the terror at a low simmer. Relieved that the governor announced today that schools are closed for the rest of the year. It’s awful, but necessary. Not sure if it’s all my training in being present on the path and paying attention to everyday delights in the midst of mess, but I’m doing okay. I know, without any doubt, that the gorge–being able to run and walk near it every day–is making all of this bearable. What a gift this river and trails and trees and ancient boulders are!

A beautiful morning! Started at 8:25 and there was hardly anyone out yet. For the first time in several weeks, I was able to run through the tunnel of trees, above the floodplain forest! The bare brown trees had a low soft glow and the dirt path winding through to the river looked quiet and lonely. Thought about how nice it would be to take Delia the dog on that trail but then I remembered how narrow the old stone steps are–difficult to keep 6ft of distance on them. Kept running north, glancing down at the river every few minutes. Mostly pale blue with a few spots of shining, sparkly brightness, almost white, or would you call it silver? Heard lots of birds, the low rumble of fast moving cars on a far away freeway, some music coming out of a bike radio. Enjoyed feeling and hearing the scratch scratch scratch of my feet striking the grit on the road.

Recited the Emily Dickinson poem, “It’s all I have to bring today,” a few times. It’s a beautiful poem, but not satisfying to recite. Why? Not sure. I’m thinking I should try memorizing and reciting “Before I got my eye put out” next. How will that poem move, I wonder?

Listened to Danez Smith’s Homie yesterday. Beautiful and uncomfortable, which is good and necessary. Heard this poem and felt it, having lived in California and longed for Minnesota:

I’m Going Back to Minnesota Where Sadness Makes Sense/ Danez Smith

O California, don’t you know the sun is only a god
if you learn to starve for him? I’m bored with the ocean

I stood at the lip of it, dressed in down, praying for snow
I know, I’m strange, too much light makes me nervous

at least in this land where the trees always bear green.
I know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.

Have you ever stood on a frozen lake, California?
The sun above you, the snow & stalled sea—a field of mirror

all demanding to be the sun too, everything around you
is light & it’s gorgeous & if you stay too long it will kill you

& it’s so sad, you know? You’re the only warm thing for miles
& the only thing that can’t shine.

Love the line, “I know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.” And the description of standing on a frozen lake, the stalled sea, the field of mirror all demanding to be the sun. What a beautiful poem!

april 22/WALK

walk: 5 miles
longfellow neighborhood + gorge
65 degrees

note: I am posting this one day late, so I don’t have the stats for deaths from COVID-19.

Took a break from running because my right knee was sore. A shorter walk in the morning with Delia the dog, a much longer one in the afternoon with Scott and Delia the dog. On my first walk, I traveled through the neighborhood before ending up on Edmund, then crossing over to the river road trail and the overlook, just past the welcoming oaks. While high (or higher, nothing’s too high here) on a hill on Edmund, looking down at the tunnel of trees, the forest, and the river, I recorded what I heard: birds, leaf blowers, a walker approaching, my own rustling, the wind.

sounds above the gorge

At the overlook, admiring how the sun looked on the surface of the river, I noticed several painted rocks on the ledge. I love how people leave these gifts for others.

Later, in the afternoon, Scott and I walked with Delia the dog in the grassy strip between Edmund and the parkway, watching all the bikers and runners and walkers and cars. We talked about how important this grassy space and the gorge is for us as we struggle to endure this pandemic.

april 21/RUN

3.7 miles
47th ave loop, short
34 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 160 (MN)/ 42,458 (US)

Sunny and bright. Looked down at the river and noticed it sparkling. Encountered a few runners and walkers and bikers. Heard some birds–a few geese, a woodpecker, some cardinals. Noticed a wild turkey hanging out in someone’s front yard–on Edmund, across from the tree graveyard. Nice! Always a good day when I see a wild turkey in the neighborhood. Here’s some turkeys that Scott and I saw on our walk on Saturday:

View this post on Instagram

Neighborhood turkeys.

A post shared by Scott Anderson 📎 (@room34) on

Recited the poem I memorized this week, Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today.” Kept noticing how awkward the second line was as I tried to keep my running rhythm while I said it in my head. Reading the prowling bee’s analysis, I realized it’s because every other line follows an iambic meter–da dum/da dum da/dum da dum or unstressed stressed/unstressed stressed–but the second line is strange: THIS and my HEART BEside–at least that’s how I hear it. “and my HEART” is an anapest (unstressed unstressed stressed). Found this basic description:

This poem consists of two four-line stanzas of ballad meter. In most of her poem, Dickinson typically uses ballad meter, which consists of four-line stanzas (or quatrains) of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter: the syllable count of the four lines is therefore 8, 6, 8, 6. Ballad meter is similar to common meter, which is the meter of many Protestant hymns, such as “Amazing Grace.” In common meter the first and third lines of each stanza rhyme as do the second and fourth, making the rhyme scheme ABAB. Common meter also tends to be strictly metrical because it forms the basis of hymns sung in church. However, because Dickinson tends to rhyme only the second and fourth lines of each stanza (resulting in a rhyme scheme of ABCB) and is less strictly metrical, it is more accurate to say she uses ballad meter.

For some reason, I often struggle to recognize meter and to identify when syllables are unstressed or stressed. Not sure why. Slowly, I’m learning the terms–like tetrameter (4 feet) and trimeter (3 feet). I like thinking about this in relation to my running rhythms. Which rhythms work best for me? Which ones get me in a good groove, make running easier or faster or more fun? I’m not sure if the ballad works. I should experiment with it more. I’m also thinking about how breath fits into all of this. On easy runs, I might breathe every 4 or 3, on harder runs, every 2. How does breathing shape these lines? How does breath work in Dickinson? Here’s a source: The Breath of Emily Dickinson’s Dashes

After reciting Dickinson’s poem dozen of times, I decided to return to Richard Siken’s “LOVESONG FOR THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE.” For some reason, I enjoyed reciting it more than the Dickinson. Was it because there were more words, more ideas, more rhythms to untangle? Possibly.

Yesterday, I encountered the opening lines from this poem and was delighted. I’d like to memorize at least the first few stanzas, but maybe all of it.

from Maud (Part I)/ ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON

A Monodrama

Come into the garden, Maud, 
      For the black bat, night, has flown, 
Come into the garden, Maud, 
      I am here at the gate alone; 
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, 
      And the musk of the rose is blown. 

   For a breeze of morning moves, 
      And the planet of Love is on high, 
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves 
      In a bed of daffodil sky, 
To faint in the light of the sun she loves, 
      To faint in his light, and to die. 

   All night have the roses heard 
      The flute, violin, bassoon; 
All night has the casement jessamine stirr’d 
      To the dancers dancing in tune; 
Till a silence fell with the waking bird, 
      And a hush with the setting moon. 

   I said to the lily, “There is but one 
      With whom she has heart to be gay. 
When will the dancers leave her alone? 
      She is weary of dance and play.” 
Now half to the setting moon are gone, 
      And half to the rising day; 
Low on the sand and loud on the stone 
      The last wheel echoes away. 

   I said to the rose, “The brief night goes 
      In babble and revel and wine. 
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those, 
      For one that will never be thine? 
But mine, but mine,” so I sware to the rose, 
      “For ever and ever, mine.” 

   And the soul of the rose went into my blood, 
      As the music clash’d in the hall; 
And long by the garden lake I stood, 
      For I heard your rivulet fall 
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood, 
      Our wood, that is dearer than all; 

   From the meadow your walks have left so sweet 
      That whenever a March-wind sighs 
He sets the jewel-print of your feet 
      In violets blue as your eyes, 
To the woody hollows in which we meet 
      And the valleys of Paradise. 

   The slender acacia would not shake 
      One long milk-bloom on the tree; 
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake 
      As the pimpernel dozed on the lea; 
But the rose was awake all night for your sake, 
      Knowing your promise to me; 
The lilies and roses were all awake, 
      They sigh’d for the dawn and thee. 

   Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls, 
      Come hither, the dances are done, 
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls, 
      Queen lily and rose in one; 
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls, 
      To the flowers, and be their sun. 

   There has fallen a splendid tear 
      From the passion-flower at the gate. 
She is coming, my dove, my dear; 
      She is coming, my life, my fate; 
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;” 
      And the white rose weeps, “She is late;” 
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;” 
      And the lily whispers, “I wait.” 

   She is coming, my own, my sweet; 
      Were it ever so airy a tread, 
My heart would hear her and beat, 
      Were it earth in an earthy bed; 
My dust would hear her and beat, 
      Had I lain for a century dead, 
Would start and tremble under her feet, 
      And blossom in purple and red.

april 20/RUN

4.1 miles
river road path, north/seabury, south/river road path, south/edmund, south
46 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 143 (MN)/ 40,724 (US)

Started my run at 8:41. Not very crowded at all. Only a few runners and bikers. I think I remember glancing down at the river, but I don’t remember what I saw. Heard lots of birds at the beginning, don’t remember any during the run. Noticed lots of activity down by the rowing club–many cars. Will there be any rowers on the river today? Running on the walking path between the trestle and Franklin, a biker called out thanking me for staying on the proper path. I called back “you’re welcome!” and felt good for the rest of the run. What a difference such a small gesture makes! Focusing on these moments, instead of other annoying ones helps me.

A Freaked Out Runner

Yesterday, Scott, Delia the dog, our daughter, and I took a 4 mile walk around the neighborhood. Walking in the grass between the boulevard and the parkway, we witnessed a runner running in the road (on the part designated for pedestrians), getting increasingly upset as bikers (who are not supposed to bike on this part of the road) whizzed by her. When the first one passed her, she yelled “this is not the bike lane!” and then muttered to herself in anger. When the next one passed, she shrieked frantically “read the FUCKING signs!” (the city has signs posted all over the road/path identifying who should be in what lane). I could understand her anger–in other situations, I’ve been her, maybe not screaming “fuck!” but feeling that upset–but I could also see how difficult it was for the bikers, trying to find room to move when it was so crowded and when walkers were also ignoring the signs and taking over the bike paths. I’m not sure how to make this situation with crowded paths any easier, so I try to avoid it by running early, before it gets crowded.

Periodically during my run, I sang out in my head the delightful lines from Emily Dickinson I learned a few days ago: “In the name of the bee—and the butterfly—and the breeze—Amen!”

Speaking of Dickinson, I have decided the poem I will memorize for this week is:

It’s all I have to bring today—/Emily Dickinson

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure to count—should I forget
some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
which in the Clover dwell.

Such a beautiful poem. I think it will be fun to recite as I run on these early spring mornings. A poet and gardener decided in 2011 to systematically read through and analyze each of Dickinson’s poems. She’s still working on it now, in 2020. Here’s her post on this poem. In her discussion, she mentions Marianne Moore’s poem about imaginary gardens. I think I’d like to memorize this one too–if not this week, then for next week:

Poetry/ Marianne Moore – 1887-1972

I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
      all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
      discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
      they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become
      unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
      wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse
      that feels a flea, the base-
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must
      make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets,
      the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them,
      shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

april 18/RUN

2.5 miles
river road path, north/32nd st, west/43rd ave, south/38th st, east/45th ave, north
43 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 121 (MN)/ 37,708 (US)

A short run in the sun and the wind. Heard at least one woodpecker. I think I remember seeing my shadow. Got a brief glimpse of the river. Breathed in fresh outdoor air. It feels like spring is coming back. I bet the trails will be very crowded in a few hours. (update, 3 hours later: yes, they were very crowded. Went walking with Scott and Delia the dog and the path was packed with bikes, the road jammed with cars).

Found a thread on twitter about abecedarians. I love abecedarians. Here are two with interesting takes on the form that I’d like to try.

1 ABC/ Robert Pinsky

Any body can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

Sweet time unaffected,
various world:

X=your zenith.

I like how this poem only has 26 words, each starting with a letter of the alphabet in order. I also like how each letter is not on a separate line.

2 Disorderly Abecedarian 2: Return/ Devon Miller-Duggan

Fainting sky today pulls at the
ground, trying to find color.

Why is saw blade made?
Zig-sag of teeth against
my grain, my gain, my rain, my rein.

Nailing words on trees in the forest, leaves
sursurrate like pages, but can’t read for themselves.

Trembling upward, wing-over-wing, all the birds called home,
Halving the music, having it fly upward with them, they
bother the stratosphere with all warbling and winging—
quilling sky.

Xanthic eyes
pored over every memory of you. Poured myself. Poored my own memory
operating away from itself.
Kindling catches, but there’s no more wood for this fire. This fire
exacerbates the cold,
cakes itself all over these hands
until they’re not hands.

Re-enter. Something can be worked out.
Justification by feint, by faint, by fifth, by filth.

Love me past
and forward, but not now. Now I’m a
demon for saw-teeth and nails
instead of words. When we were
younger we read poets, we were bright
versions of our jaundiced selves.

I like how this poem has 26 lines, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet, but they’re not in order. This could be fun to try.

april 17/RUN

4.4 miles
47th ave loop
37 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 111 (MN)/ 33,325 (US)

What a beautiful morning! Hardly any wind, lots of sun, uncrowded paths! Ran south right above the river. Pale blue. At one point, heard a woodpecker and thought about stopping to record it but didn’t. Looked longingly at the lone bench near Folwell with the clear, unobstructed view to the other side. Recited my poem of the week, LOVESONG OF THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE. I am the wind and the wind is invisible! Thought about the rhythm in the later lines:

As the hammer / 1 2 / ♫♫
is a hammer / 1 2 / ♫♫
when it hits the nail / 1 2 3 4 / ♫♩♩♩

and the nail / 1 2 / ♫ ♩
is a nail / 1 2 / ♫ ♩
when it meets the wood / ♫ ♩♩♩

Running on the road, after turning off of Edmund, I saw my shadow ahead of me. Hi friend! She led me until I turned again. Listened to my feet shuffle on the grit and my ponytail brush against the collar of my vest. Don’t remember hearing any crows or squirrels or geese–did I? Ran too early to see Dave, the Daily Walker. Didn’t see any roller skiers, but did see 1 or 2 bikers. 2 runners, one with a bright red shirt on.

Thought about the poem I’m working on and that I posted yesterday about sinking. I’m thinking of changing goo to jelly. Also, I’m not sure I like starting with think–I did it partly as a rhyme with sink but I’m not sure now. Here’s different version, in a different form. Instead of cinquains, I’m using couplets:

How to Sink/ Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft 2)

with Paul Tran

Try to recall when your son was young and so upset
all he could do was turn to jelly and ooze

down the couch in surrender — not giving in
but giving up control, a puddle of body parts

pooled at your feet. Learn to retreat like this.
Go to the gorge. Let your bones dissolve,

your legs liquefy. Submit to gravity. Slide
down. Reach the ground first, then seep deeper

through layers of loam, sandstone, shale. Drop lower
and lower, burrow through cracks and fissures, carve

out a way in and follow it farther. Go
so far inside that outside is another idea.

I think I like this version better, especially how some lines can stand alone and make interesting poems by themselves. Like, “out a way in and follow it farther” or “but giving up control, a puddle of body parts.”

It’s warmer today. Maybe spring is finally, actually coming?! Soon there will be flowers and green grass and bees. In honor of the bees, here are 2 wonderful poems by Emily Dickinson (found on this twitter thread about bee poems):

To make a prairie (1755)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

In the name of the Bee –/ Emily Dickinson

In the name of the Bee –
And of the Butterfly –
And of the Breeze – Amen!

april 16/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes, bike stand
run: 1.45 miles, treadmill
Deaths from COVID-19: 94 (MN)/ 31,628 (US)

It’s not too cold or windy outside today but I decided to workout in the basement anyway. Watched more of the Agatha Christie movie on Netflix. I’m really enjoying it so far. Then ran for about 10 minutes on the treadmill while I listened to a playlist.

Right now I’m working on a poem tentatively titled, “How to Sink.” It’s inspired by all the sinking and keeping and dripping I’ve noticed running beside the gorge and by the current need to retreat/withdraw/go deep inside.

How to Sink/ Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft 1)

Think
of that time
when your young son
was so mad all he
could do was turn to goo

and
slowly ooze
down the couch in
surrender to the
floor. Not giving in
but giving up control,

a
puddle of
body parts pooled
at your feet. Go to the

gorge.
Let your bones
dissolve, your legs
liquefy, submit
to gravity sliding

down
reaching ground
seeping deeper
through layers of loam,
sandstone, limestone, shale.

Drop
lower and
lower burrow
through cracks and fissures
carve out a way in

and
follow it
further inside
so far that outside is
another idea.

note: “follow it further inside so far that outside is another idea” is taken from a Paul Tran poem, The Cave.

Read it to Scott and he mentioned that “goo” stood out too much. I’m having trouble thinking of another word that fits the idea and the syllable count of the line so I’m keeping it in for now.

april 15/RUN

3.8 miles
47th ave loop, shorter version
26 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 87 (MN)/ 26,119 (US)

Sunny and cold this morning. Feels like 15, I think. Ran south on the trail. Made sure to notice the river. A pale blue so light it almost looked white. Bright, glowing. A few extra sparkling spots. More people out this morning. Some other runners and walkers on the trail and in the grass between Edmund and the parkway. Still managed to get my 6+ feet of distance.

Recited “LOVESONG OF THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE” again. I love chanting “I am the wind/the wind is invisible/all the leaves tremble/I am invisible.” I kept repeating it as I ran north and into the wind. I’d like to be the wind, making the leaves tremble without being seen.

Been thinking about woodpeckers the past few days. Heard one right as I was leaving the house. Quick, staccato strikes. Later, about 2 miles into my run, I heard a slower, deeper pecking–was this a different type of woodpecker? Not sure.

Speaking of woodpeckers, yesterday I started writing a fun little abecedarian poem about woodpeckers. I reworked the first line in my head as I ran this morning. Here’s what I have so far. A fun exercise, if nothing else. And a great distraction, helping me to unclench my jaw and relax my throat when I get too panicked.

woodpecker/ Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft 1)

April’s anthem
Brbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbr
Claiming territory
Drumming for love
Echoing, excavating,
Foraging
Gutter gutter
Hole inhabiter, no headache haver
In possession of indestructible
Jack-hammering jaws
Knock knock knock knocking up to 20 times per second
Loudly looting larvae
Methodically mining maples–
Neighborhood nuisance
Or
Poet of the peck?
Quick
Repeated
Striker of
Tree trunks and telephone poles
Unstoppable
Vibrator
Wanting wood, worms, to lay waste to siding
Xylotomous
Yellow bellied sap sucking
Zealot of the rat a tat tat

And here’s a great poem I found via Lunchbox Poems:

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale/ Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

april 14/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, north/seabury, south + river road, south + edmund, south
26 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 79 (MN)/ 24,485 (US)

Much colder today. I think the feels like temperature was in the teens. Decided to try running north. Was able to run by the ravine, the Welcoming Oaks, above the tunnel with trees. Not too many people on the trail. Was able to keep 6+ feet of distance. Also able to run on one of my new favorite spots: the part of the path that winds away from the road and above the rowing club. No one else was close by, no runner crowding me and cluelessly calling out “good morning” instead of moving over. A nice run. I know I looked down at the river at least once, but I don’t remember what I saw. Was the river blue? gray? brown? Not sure. I remember hearing a few birds and I remember not hearing any woodpeckers. Was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker!

While I ran, I recited bits of the poem I am memorizing for this week: LOVESONG OF THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/ tremble and I am invisible, flower without bloom, knot/ without rope, song without throat in wingless flight, dark/ boat in the dark night, pure velocity

Wow, what a poem! I think I recited the entire thing in fits and starts. That first line about the wind was fun to say as I ran into the wind.

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible!

Here was the rhythm/ number of foot strikes I used as I ran:

I am the wind/ 1 2 3 4/ ♩♩♩♩
and the wind is invisible/ 12 34 56 78/ ♫♫♫♫
all the leaves tremble/ 1 2 3 45/♩♩♩♫
and I am invisible/♩♫♫♫

This poem took a bit longer to memorize but it was very rewarding to be able to give more careful attention to it. I love the lines/sounds in: “Through darkness, through silence, a vector, a violence, I labor, I lumber, I fumble forward…” and “and foot by foot I find the groove, the trace in the thicket, the key in the lock, as root breaks rock, from seed to flower to fruit to rot”

A note about the strange weather

All day Sunday it snowed. We got 5.1 inches. Much of it melted Monday morning in the bright sun. On Monday afternoon, we had 2 or 3 flash snow showers that lasted less than 30 minutes at a time: Snow, then sun, snow, then sun. Today (Tuesday), it’s doing the same thing as yesterday: Snow, then sun, snow, then sun. A thin layer of snow covers the deck, then melts in the sun, then gets covered again in the next snow shower. Strange.

april 13/RUN

3.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, north/33rd st, west/43rd ave, south
32 degrees/ 5% snow-covered
Deaths from COVID-19: 70 (MN)/ 22,935 (US)

Snowed 5.1 inches yesterday. Still a lot of snow on the grass, but almost all of it is melted off the roads, the paths, the sidewalk. A beautiful, bright sun. Hardly anyone on the trail. I don’t remember looking at the river even once. I bet it was glowing. Noticed the Winchell Trail below me, clear and dry. Wanted to listen to dripping, but I don’t remember hearing any by the gorge. I don’t remember much of the run. Don’t remember hearing any woodpeckers or geese or cardinals. I do remember hearing the grit under my feet on the road. Much harder to run up the hill on slippery sand.

How to Sink, some ideas

For at least 6 months now, I’ve wanted to write a companion poem to How to Float about sinking. Back in August and September of last year, I imagined this sink poem to be only about the gorge and erosion and the idea of becoming grounded/rooted/settled in a space. Now, during this time of social distancing, I’m thinking of it in terms of sinking deep inside–holing up, hiding out, hunkering down, trying to wait patiently. I’m playing around with my own version of a cinquain (inspired by Adelaide Crapsey): 5 line groupings with 1 syllable/3/4/5/6. Here’s something I have so far

Be
a boulder
not a stone too
big to be stacked too
much trouble to be moved.

And here’s a beautiful poem I found on twitter. Dorianne Laux is wonderful. I really enjoyed listening to a poetry foundation podcast with her a few weeks ago. This poem is amazing. Love the idea of remembering only the flavor like a fine powder. I keep thinking about that fine powder–the hint of something but never quite fully the thing–as all that we have access to. Can we ever open the window? Are we ever not too tired?

Dust/ Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
now, I remember only the favor—
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes—
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

april 12/BIKERUNSHOVEL

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.6 miles
treadmill, basement
shovel: 15 minutes
deck, back yard
Deaths from COVID-19: 70 (MN)/ 21,692 (US)

Woke up to snow. Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog in it. At first, walking south, it was great. No wind. Snow gently coming down. I thought about running outside. But, then we turned the corner. Wind, snow blowing in our faces. No running outside for me. So I worked out in the basement instead. Started watching “Agatha and the Truth of Murder” on Netflix while I biked. Listened to a playlist while I ran. Coming out of the basement, glancing outside, I was overwhelmed by white. 5 or 6 inches, I think. Hopefully it will stop soon. Decided to quickly shovel the deck. Such heavy, wet snow.

April Snow

Snow in April is not surprising. Last year on the 11th and 12th of April it snowed. On April 16th, 2018, we got over 20 inches! No snow in 2017 but I found a video I did from April 11th, 2013 when it snowed. It snowed a lot in April 2013.

april 11/RUN

2.6 miles
river road, south/edmund, north
43 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 64 (MN)/ 19,701 (US)

O, what a morning for a run! Bright sun, low wind, clear uncrowded paths! I have decided that if I can get to the gorge before 9, I’m fine. After 9, it’s too crowded. Will this time change as it gets warmer? Maybe. Ran on the river road towards the falls. For the first mile, I only encountered 2 bikers. After that, there were a few more walkers and runners. Just before I got to 42nd, there were 2 people with their dogs, taking over the road. I decided to cross over early, run in the grass, and then turn around at 42nd. A lot more crowded heading north. I heard a woodpecker, pecking at something that sounded more metallic. Saw the shadow of a smallish bird fly over my head. Listened to the rumble of a plane. Noticed the river, sparking light (I intended to write sparkling, but I like the idea of sparking light). The gorge, glowing light brown. Anything else? I recited “And Swept All Visible Signs Away” at least once.

Missing

No Daily Walker. No roller skiers. No more fat tires. No wild turkeys or bald eagles or wedges of geese. No coyotes crossing my path. No trots of runners. No music blasting from bike or car radios. No rowers on the river. No headphones. No chanting. No snow. No wind. No tunnel of trees or welcoming oaks. No touching my face to wipe the sweat off my forehead. No blowing my nose. No getting closer than 6 feet to other runners or walkers. No “good mornings!”

After finishing my run, I went on a 2.5 mile walk with Scott and Delia the dog. So nice outside! We talked about the possibility of several inches of snow tomorrow night and a little bit about panic and the constant, slow simmering terror we both feel–usually very slight–about getting sick and not being able to breathe and maybe having to go to the hospital. Then, we talked about Star Trek vs. Star Wars. Right now we’re watching the Star Trek movies. We started 4 (with the whales) last night. Scott mentioned how Star Trek is science fiction, while Star Wars is not. I agreed and mentioned how I prefer Star Trek and am tired of the focus in Star Wars on the hero’s quest. A good discussion and a nice distraction from worrying about when shelters-in-place will elapse and infection/death rates will spike.

We ordered groceries to pick up 9 (or was it 10?) days ago and they are finally ready this afternoon. Will we get the toilet paper hat we ordered?
Update: No, we didn’t. According to Scott’s daily assessment/analysis, we will run out the first week of June. Hopefully we can get some more by then.

woodpecker!

At the end of our walk, when we were almost home, we heard a woodpecker pecking away at a dead tree. Scott managed to get some video of it.

Song of a Second April/ Edna St. Vincent Millay – 1892-1950

April this year, not otherwise
   Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
   Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
   Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.

There rings a hammering all day,
   And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
   The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
   The men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.

The larger streams run still and deep,
   Noisy and swift the small brooks run
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
   Go up the hillside in the sun,
   Pensively,—only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.

I love how she connects humans hammering with a woodpecker pecking.

april 10/RUN

4.35 miles
47th st loop
34 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 57 (MN)/ 17,836 (US)

Sunny. Not too windy. Not too warm or too cold. Not too many people on the path or the road. Not too much pandemic panic. A great morning for a run! Noticed that the river had a few extra sparkly spots–one was over on the other side, right next to shore. A beautiful circle of white gold. Looked longingly at another solitary bench. Is this the one I’ve looked at before? I can’t remember. This bench had a clear view of the river and the other side. And it was not alone. Beside it was a big boulder.

Recited the poem I memorized yesterday, And Swept All Visible Signs Away. I stumbled a few times, but I enjoyed hearing the words in my head as I moved. The toughest part: “except to those who want for shade,/ and find it there. Who keep finding they hardly/ care anymore–almost, some days, as if they’d never cared–” It was the hardly and anymore and almost that I kept having to remember to add in. Did reciting change my perspective on the poem, add any new insight? I’m not sure. The lines that were most fun to say: “I am stirred. I’m stir-able. I am a wind-stirred thing.” and “Green as water, the willow’s motion. Green as oblivion/ the willow’s indifference.” It is very rewarding to memorize a poem, to repeat the lines until they are etched inside of you. It helps me to understand the flow of words and their meaning better. I’d like to build up a bigger basket of them (I initially put arsenal, but I’m not interested in war imagery) and try to remember them for longer.

After reciting this poem over and over again, I also recited Dickinson’s “Tell All the Truth but Tell it Slant,” “Auto-lullaby,” and my version of it, “Pandemic Lullaby”. I have decided to change back the line with the stump to tree stump–running and reciting, I determined it needs that extra syllable. Also, still trying to figure out Cyclops Baby or big cyclops–what about one-eyed tot?

Found this poem the other day about pandemics from the March 2013 issue of Poetry Magazine:

Pandemania/ BY DANIEL HALPERN

There are fewer introductions
In plague years,
Hands held back, jocularity
No longer bellicose,
Even among men.
Breathing’s generally wary,
Labored, as they say, when
The end is at hand.
But this is the everyday intake
Of   the imperceptible life force,
Willed now, slow —
Well, just cautious
In inhabited air.
As for ongoing dialogue,
No longer an exuberant plosive
To make a point,
But a new squirreling of air space,
A new sense of  boundary.
Genghis Khan said the hand
Is the first thing one man gives
To another. Not in this war.
A gesture of  limited distance
Now suffices, a nod,
A minor smile or a hand
Slightly raised,
Not in search of   its counterpart,
Just a warning within
The acknowledgment to stand back.
Each beautiful stranger a barbarian
Breathing on the other side of the gate.

“Each beautiful stranger a barbarian/ Breathing on the other side of the gate.” Wow. Love this line. This take on social distancing is very masculine, which is fine, but I’d also like to read a poem with a non-war, non-masculine perspective on dialogue and interaction–one that doesn’t see conversation as debate and greeting as aggressive assertions. Should I try writing one? Sounds hard, but I might try. I’ll add it to my unabridged list of exercises.

april 9/BIKERUN

bike: 28 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.8 miles
treadmill, basement
Deaths from COVID-19: 50 (MN), 15,774 (US)

11 deaths in MN reported for today. Up from 39 yesterday. A big jump. The peak here is supposed to hit at the end of April. We’re expected to have almost 600 deaths.

Very windy today. Decided to bike and run in the basement. Before heading down there, I sat at my desk upstairs, looked out at the small pellets of snow coming down–looking like little styrofoam balls–and memorized the beautiful poem, And Swept All Visible Signs Away/ Carl Phillips. I was drawn to it back in September because of Phillip’s discussion of seeing the face and connection and the line about wanting less for company than for compassion.

What’s a face, to a willow?

Thinking about my difficulty in seeing faces, I wondered (and still do): What’s a face, to me? Is a face–having it, recognizing it, expressing with it–necessary for connection?

If a willow had a face, it would be a song. I think.

I like the idea of the willow’s face (does face = Oliver Sack’s definition in his essay about face blindness: that which “bears the stamp of our experiences, our character”?) being a song, this song: “I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I am a wind-stirred thing.” What is my song? What might the songs of those I love–Scott, my kids–be? Fun to think about.

For the first 5 minutes of my bike ride, I recited the poem out loud. I can’t remember if I recited it when I started my run.

Speaking of not seeing faces, this morning my daughter was talking to me. I was sitting at my desk, she was on the couch, in the shadows. Looking at her for several minutes as she told me about her homework, I couldn’t see her facial features at all. Her head was a shadowy blob with hair. I could, however, see her hand gestures. Her small, graceful hands waved and pointed and flexed and reached out as she discussed her assignment. I did not need to see her face or her eyes to understand her.

april 8/RUN

3.25 miles
river road path, south/river road, path, north/edmund, south
50 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 39 (MN)/ 12, 912 (US)

Yesterday in the late afternoon it was almost 70 degrees! Today, at 8:45 am, 50! Wow. It’s warming up. Having windows open, hearing more birds, feeling the sun on bare arms. It all helps me to endure this terrible pandemic. Ran on the river road path heading towards the falls. Not too many people. Ran back on the part of the road that has been temporarily turned into a pedestrian path. More people out today, but still not bad. 6+ feet of distance the whole way! I liked running above the river although I can’t remember what I saw or heard below. Too busy listening to a playlist, I guess. Ran my second mile faster then took a quick walk break before running by the ravine and the welcoming oaks. Saw a few runners, walkers, dogs, bikers. No roller skiers. No Dave, the Daily Walker. No shadows–mine, or planes, or big birds. Usually, there is a constant buzz or hum or rumble of a plane somewhere overhead. How many planes are flying out of Minneapolis right now? (Looked it up: about 100 flights listed for the day, 47 of them cancelled. Not sure how that compares to a “normal” day. Still seems like too many flights to me. )

Update on planes: Sitting at my desk with the window open, writing this, I am hearing a plane roaring above me. It’s the first one I’ve noticed in a while.


I like the idea of this poem–reflecting on what you didn’t know you loved until finally you did. I like how it’s a list–a long list. I’m thinking that this poem could be an inspiration for a poem about what I didn’t see. Maybe what I’m not seeing during this pandemic? Things I don’t realize I’m missing until suddenly I do? Perhaps this is a variation on a writing prompt I created: #61 Run beside the gorge. Afterwards, think about your run in terms of what wasn’t there, but usually is. Make a list of what you missed. Write a poem that creates something out of that lack.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved/ Nazim Hikmet – 1902-1963

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain 
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it 
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                         and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before 
                         and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky 
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish 
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard 
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest 
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish 
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
                         lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief 
                                        to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads 
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea 
                                                          Koktebele
                               formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish 
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute 
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
                                        when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take 
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play 
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
                                       going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand 
   his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
      with a sable collar over his robe
   and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
   and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason 
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika 
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky 
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars 
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below 
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts 
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
                             or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t 
   be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract 
   well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to 
   say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them 
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad 
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind 
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors 
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
                             except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois 
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my 
   heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop 
   and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved 
   rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting 
   by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette 
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty 
   to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
   watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

                                                     19 April 1962
                                                     Moscow

april 7/RUN

4.3 miles
47th street loop
53 degrees/93% humidity
Deaths from COVID-19: 34 (MN)/ 11,018 (US)

Another good run. Started on the river road trail and was able to stay on it until I crossed at Becketwood. Very humid and foggy. Saw the Oak Savanna and the river and the Winchell Trail. Encountered only a few runners–6+ feet away. Noticed the solitary bench again. One day, when this is all over, I’ll stop and sit at that bench. Heard some woodpeckers and cardinals and some other bird that almost sounded like it was cackling–what was it? No roller skiers. No geese. Running south on Edmund, almost to 47th, I saw an animal over in the “tree graveyard”–the flood-prone stretch of grass between the river road and Edmund that once housed the tree with teeth. Fairly certain it was a dog but I’m not sure–I hardly ever am with my vision. Don’t think it was a coyote. Running back, north on Edmund, I saw Dave, the Daily Walker from a distance! I almost called out, “Hey Dave!” but decided against it. He was too far away. I’m glad to see that he’s doing okay and still out by the gorge. Did some more triple berry chants. Listened to the grit scratching under my shoes. Anything else? Very happy to be outside and feeling okay and not freaking out because there were too many people on the trail.

Everything this morning was wet–the air, the road, the grass, the trees. A thunderstorm earlier. The thunder was so loud and rolled for a long time. After one roll, I felt the floor shake. Wow! Our power went out for a few seconds. I don’t remember ever hearing thunder roll like that. I’ve heard an occasional boom or crack but not a rolling rumble. Scott said that they used to have about 10 of these big thunderstorms every summer in Austin, MN. Usually when we get bad storms, tree limbs litter the path. I don’t remember seeing any this morning.

I love the form of this poem and the various ways you can play with the lines. In his description, Herrera writes: “The solar circle poem can be read in any direction, or simultaneously with various voices at a ‘distance,’ or it can be cut out and spun like a wheel. You choose where to begin and end.”

april 6/RUN

4.35 miles
47th ave loop*
46 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 30 (MN)/ 10,524 (US)

*a new loop for this year: Edmund Bvld, south (or, if really early and uncrowded on river road trail)/grass just after 42nd to Becketwood to short stretch of paved trail/cross 44the Edmund/Right on 47th/right on 44th/right on short paved trail to Becketwood to grass/Edmund Bvld, north/left on 32nd/left on 43rd

Started at 8:30 this morning and there was hardly anyone out near the gorge! Decided to risk it and run south on the river road trail. I encountered two other people–both walkers, both respectful of the need for distance. It makes such a difference to be out there alone! It was overcast. The river was not shimmering or sparkling. I couldn’t tell if it had ice on it or foam or what. Ran past a solitary bench overlooking the gorge and thought how nice it would be to sit there and watch the river. Heard a woodpecker. Some workers laying fiber internet lines. 2 bikers on the road. Some cars–after I passed it, one car started honking. Not sure why. Was someone biking on the wrong side? Were they saying hello? I always have trouble understanding honks. Did some triple berry chants for a while. Also, recited “Auto-lullaby” and my variation, “Pandemic Lullaby.” Decided that my line: “think of a tree stump/housing a gnome” would fit better as “think of a tree stump/that houses a gnome.” Now that I’m saying it again, I think it should actually be: “think of a stump/housing a gnome”

surfaces

The new route I’ve been trying during this social-distance era has many different surfaces: street, sidewalk, dirt path, grass, shoulder, curb, asphalt trail. Smooth, rough, wet, slanted, uneven, muddy, gritty, high, low, full of divots, leaf-covered, cracked, pot-holed, narrow, wide. Straight, curved, up, down, partially blocked.

from “The Victorious Ones”/ Chris Nealon

Then came fire

It wasn’t yet a new world, or the end of the old one

But water, money, feeling overspilled their banks

                There was finally something real to be afraid of

                There was finally no reason to fear

Even animals approached us as they hadn’t in ten thousand years

Buildings were either shelter or they weren’t

Music got quiet

And poetry—

Poetry began to ask the question it had hidden in the forest

Poetry returned to lists, enumeration, inventory

It chose sides

This was not the same as prophecy

Look around you now        and ask yourself

Which of these—

                The innovators, profit-makers, the ones behind high walls,

                                The ones who are planning for the great catastrophes—

                Or the ones with no ability to plan,

                Who live from hour to hour, year to year,

                                In whom terror waits to be uncurdled,

                Who live in the great wide world—

Which of these will be the victorious ones?

Nobody knows.

Love this line: “Poetry began to ask the question it had hidden in the forest.”
 

april 5/RUN

4.2 miles
river road, north/south
38 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 29 (MN)/ 9,132 (US)

Ran outside by the gorge this morning. Headed north towards downtown on the trail. Not too bad except for when, at one of my new favorite spots just above the rowing club, a woman didn’t move over enough and then said “good morning” to me right when we were at our closest–maybe 4 or 5 feet away. Am I a freak about this stuff? Perhaps, but I’m not fucking around. I don’t want to get sick and I want to be able to run by the gorge without worrying that other people will get too close. The rest of the run was good in terms of distance. The river was glowing and sparkling. It wasn’t too cold or too warm. Heard some woodpeckers. Saw a roller skier. Clickity-clack! When I turned around, I ran on the road, in the lane that they blocked off for pedestrians. Hardly anyone else was on it, which was nice. Ran straight into the wind on the way back.

It felt good to run and I mostly enjoyed it but sometimes it’s tough to be out there having to focus so much energy on spotting other people and making sure that we’re not too close. Hard to do any of my creative exercises. Maybe I can find a time that’s even less crowded and this will get easier?

april 4/WALKBIKERUN

walk 1: 2 miles
Edmund Bvld
30 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 24 (MN)/ 8,407 (US)

Walked with Scott, Delia the Dog, and my daughter this morning. Nice, crisp air. Sunny. Hardly any wind. A perfect morning for a run, but I decided to only walk. Trying not to push it too much with the running. They’ve turned the river parkway into a one-way and created a lane for walkers. Will this help enable people to get more distance from each other? Not sure. I’ll check it out tomorrow when I run. Felt great to be outside and moving. Heard at least one cardinal, several crows, a woodpecker. Anything else? There were traces of the snow from yesterday still settled around the trees in the grass by Edmund. Walked by the Cyclops Baby on the garage door again. Enjoyed walking with my daughter–only her second time outside in almost a month.

bike: 27 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.1 miles
treadmill, basement

Gave myself another easy day in the basement today. Watched some of a Joan Didion documentary–The Center Will Not Hold–and listened to Harry Styles as I ran. Don’t remember thinking about much. Happy to be able to move and breathe and not always be worrying.

Poem/ Charles Bernstein – 1950-

here. Forget.
There are simply tones
cloudy, breezy
birds & so on.
Sit down with it.
It’s time now.
There is no more natural sight.
Anyway transform everything
silence, trees
commitment, hope
this thing inside you
flow, this movement of eyes
set of words
all turns, all grains.
At night, shift
comets, “twirling planets,
suns, bits of illuminated pumice”
pointing out, in harsh tones
cancers & careers.
“Newer Limoges please.”
Pick some value
mood, idea, type or smell of paper
iridescent, lackluster
&, “borne in peach vessels,”
just think
“flutter & cling”
with even heavier sweep
unassuaged
which are the things
of a form, etc
that inhere.
Fair adjustment
becomes space between
crusts of people
strange, rending:
as sound of some importance
diffuses
“as dark red circles”
digress, reverberate
connect, unhook.
Your clothes, for example
face, style
radiate mediocrity
coyly, slipping
& in how many minutes
body & consciousness
deflect, “flame on flare”
missed purpose.
Your eyes
glaze
thought stumbles, blinded
speck upon speck
ruffling edges.
“But do not be delighted yet.”
The distance positively entrances.
Take out pad & pen
crystal cups, velvet ashtray
with the gentility of easy movement
evasive, unaccountable
& puffing signs
detach, unhinge
beyond weeds, chill
with enthusiastic smile
& new shoes
“by a crude rotation”
hang
a bulk of person
“ascending,” “embodied.”

I want to spend some time with this poem, thinking about it. Check out the erasure I did of it on April 6th.

april 3/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement
Deaths from COVID-19: 22 (MN)/ 6,605 (US)

Biking in the basement this afternoon. When I went down there, everything was brown. When I came back up, most of it was white. A dusting of snow. Classic April in Minnesota. Finished the documentary about Merrily We Roll Along while I biked. Lots of great reflections on what we do/fail to do with our lives.

Decided not to run today. Time to give my legs a break. It’s difficult not running. It really helps with stress over rising body counts and expected surges in cases. But it would be worse to run and get injured so I didn’t run.

Found out last night that they have cancelled all summer parks activities. No open swim this year. No open beaches at all. So sad, but necessary. I can’t imagine swimming this summer. It will be hard to wait another year–will all of my central vision be gone by then? Will I even be able to see the buoys to swim?

BREATH/ Lee Potts

We can only carry so much breath with us
and I learned then that it may not be enough.
 

Every summer morning, we rushed
to be the first body to break
the pool surface, still
and cold as a bare marble altar
long stripped of cloth and candle.

Diving from the deep end’s edge
I followed my open, empty hands
into what was once
mist or cloud or untidy ocean
before being bleached
and boxed in for us.

Down toward the drain,
a starless night sky
just beyond its iron grate.

A thin current pulled past.
Ghost tide needing no moon,
that never turned, that kept
whatever it washed away.

Love this line: “what was once/ mist or cloud or untidy ocean/ before being bleached/ and boxed in for us.” Also the idea of a starless night sky by the drain and a thin current.

april 2/RUN

4 miles
edmund, south/45th/edmund, north/32nd street, west/43rd ave, south
51 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 18 (MN)/ 5100+ (US)

Bracing for scarier weeks as the virus continues to spread in the U.S. Minnesota is supposed to reach the peak in late May/early June. Ordered groceries (including toilet paper) online to pick up. It will be ready on Saturday, April 11th. Glad we’re stocked until then. Such strange, unsettling, terrifying, exhausting times.

Ran the new route that Scott and I discovered yesterday. South on Edmund, on the grass after 42nd street, past Becketwood, back on Edmund, right on 45th street, Becketwood, grass, north on Edmund, right on 32nd street/left on 43rd ave. It was 4 miles. Not too bad. Encountered a few people on Edmund but that was it. A nice route. It would have been nicer if I hadn’t been running straight into a 14mph wind for a lot of it. What do I remember? Listening to my feet shuffle on the grit. Noticing the river through the trees as I ran at the highest point on Edmund, between 36th and 35th streets. It was cloudy so it wasn’t glowing and too far to see any detail, but it was beautiful. I think I heard some birds. Don’t remember any woodpeckers. Oh–I think I heard a wedge of geese honking high up in the sky. Heard some chainsaws. Some people talking. Another runner said hello but I wasn’t sure if it was to me or someone else. Felt pretty good running. Don’t remember what I thought about. I do remember, as I returned on Edmund starting to feel too warm. Took my pink jacket off and zipped it up while running, then put it around my waist. Quite the feat. I probably looked ridiculous.

Last night, during one of the many times I got up with restless legs, I started composing a variation to “Auto-lullaby,” one of the poems I like to recite while I’m running.

A Pandemic Lullaby/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Think of a sheep
reciting a poem;
Think of a tree stump
housing a gnome.

Think of your dog
asleep in a chair;
Think of that time
when you cut your own hair.

Think of a bird
that sings in your ear;
Try to resist
suffocating from fear.

Think of Cyclops Baby on
a garage door;
Think of a run, and
count to four.

If you are anxious, then
take a deep breath.
The outcome most likely
is sickness not death.

For now, I’ll stick with this ending, but I’m not satisfied. I’ll keep working on it. Read it to Scott and he didn’t really like my original first stanza: Think of a sheep/ cooking your breakfast;/ think of that summer/ when you visited Texas. Partly because he didn’t think it rhymed, partly because I’ve never visited Texas in summer. I’m not sure; I like how breakfast and Texas work together, but I decided to switch it up and connect it more to what I like to think about in order to feel better.

While searching for “april” in poets.org, I came across this poem. It’s not about April–well, it could be talking about April in Minnesota.

Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry/ Howard Nemerov – 1920-1991

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow 
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

april 1/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 3.5 miles
edmund bvld, south/north
45 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 17 (MN)/ 4.749 (US)

bike: 26 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk this morning. We discovered that there is a trail that connects Edmund at 42nd with Edmund farther south. Hooray! I’m excited to try it out tomorrow. I should be able to run over 4 miles that way. As we walked near Becketwood, across from the double bridge, I noticed 2 big birds soaring above us. Bald eagles, we both decided. One was close, the other much higher in the sky, both circling. Riding a thermal? So cool.

In the afternoon, I biked in the basement to get my exercise minutes (a 72 minutes, 3.5 mile walked didn’t earn me a single minute of exercise on my apple watch). Watched more of the S Soundheim/Hal Prince documentary about the failed 1981 musical, Merrily We Roll Along. Finished by running 1.2 miles on the treadmill.

Starting off national poetry month with one of my favorite poets, Maggie Smith.

Rain, New Year’s Eve/ Maggie Smith (from Good Bones)

The rain is a broken piano,
playing the same note over and over.

My five-year-old said that.
Already she knows loving the world

means loving the wobbles
you can’t shim, the creaks you can’t

oil silent–the jerry-rigged parts,
MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum.

Let me love the cold rain’s plinking.
Let me love the world the way I love

my your son, not only when
he cups my face in his sticky hands,

but when, roughhousing,
he accidentally splits my lip.

Let me love the world like a mother.
Let me be tender when it lets me down.

Let me listen to the rain’s one note
and hear a beginner’s song.