For the first time in a few years, I’ve lost the ability to write about my runs, or anything, really. Many of the buildings in my neighborhood have been burned to the ground. Libraries, grocery stores, post offices all around the city, destroyed. Groups of white supremacists stashing water bottles filled with gasoline behind buildings–one, 2 blocks from my house–for starting fires later. Cars parked in residential areas, their trunks filled with rocks, crowbars, jugs of gasoline, ready for destruction after dark.
I hope soon I’ll be able to write more about this time–how sad and scary and hopeful it is all that same time. Destruction and the rebuilding of a better world. For now, I don’t want to abandon this run project which has been so important to me for these past 3 years. So here’s the basics about my last few runs:
may 29/RUN/2.5 miles/Minneapolis may 30/RUN/3.4 miles/Austin, MN may 31/RUN/3.25 miles/Austin, MN
2.5 miles 1.5 miles loop + extra 68 degrees humidity: 45%
Last night was heartbreaking and scary. Peaceful protests, escalated by the police, turned violent. Building looted, burned. I live about a mile and a half away and could hear the sirens and smell the smoke all night. Will it happen again tonight? Such justified anger and rage over decades of racist policies and practices.
Wasn’t sure if I would run this morning but decided it might help me feel slightly less panicked and upset. Listened to my playlist and ran a few stretches much faster than usual. Running helped. Didn’t think about the poem I recently memorized–Threshold/Maggie Smith. Didn’t hear any birds or see any roller skiers. I did see the river briefly through the trees.
A few hours after I was done, sitting on the couch, almost drifting off for a nap, I thought about the lines in Smith’s poem: “Imagine yourself passing from and into. Passing through doorway after doorway after doorway.” The first few times I read these lines I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of passing through more than one doorway/threshold. But I’m warming to it. I kept thinking about the different doorways I pass through–and what I exit (from) and enter (into)–as I make my way to the river. The door to my house, the end of my block, the boulevard and parkway before the trails, the warming up of my body, the loosening of my mind. Not sure if that makes sense, but I’d like to think about it some more.
As I’m writing this, I’m also thinking about Smith’s desire not to be on both sides of the door at once, but to pass through doorway after doorway after doorway, to keep moving, which is the name of her new book.
There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted who disappeared into those shadows.
I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here, our country moving closer to its own truth and dread, its own ways of making people disappear.
I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods meeting the unmarked strip of light— ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise: I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these to have you listen at all, it’s necessary to talk about trees.
I knew I recognized this poem. I encountered it a few months ago in this poem: November 30, 2016. And I watched Adrienne Rich read it here.
3 miles river road, south/river road, north/edmund north/edmund, south 64 degrees humidity: 94%/ dew point: 61
Another sticky morning. Rained all last night. About a mile from my house, people protested the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to think of what to write after that last sentence. I have no words, or too many words about structural racism and white supremacy and the urgent need to confront it and how to hold a deep love for a place beside a recognition of how racist and unjust it has been and continues to be.
Encountered an entire troop of roller skiers this morning on the river road. Usually I consider roller skiers to be a good omen for my run but not when there are at least a dozen of them not social distancing and taking over half of the road. The rest of the runners and walkers were alone or with only one other person.
I don’t remember too much for the run. Saw 2 construction trucks moving the barricade so they could enter the road, heading to their work site just above the tunnel of trees. Didn’t see the river. Heard some birds, I think, but can’t remember which ones. I’m sure there were some cardinals and black capped chickadees. Also heard water rushing loudly through the drain, making its way to the sewer pipes dumping into the gorge. Don’t remember hearing any fragments of conversation or music but I do remember hearing some sirens–police? ambulance? Not sure.
It was sticky and hot and thick but not too bad. Lots of sweating and dripping. Wore my black twins baseball cap with the velcro in the back–the one I got for free at a game 2 or 3 years ago, handed out at the entrance to the stadium by Dairy Queen. I have at least 2 of these free twins hats. Missing baseball this summer.
reciting while running
Memorized a non-green poem yesterday: Threshold/ Maggie Smith. Thinking about how the west river parkway (aka, the river road), edmund boulevard, and the grassy patch in-between are all part of the threshold between neighborhood and the river gorge. In a management plan from 2002, they describe one purpose of the west river parkway:
To function as an effective transitional zone, the boulevard should retain the natural character of the Gorge but also be visually acceptable to local residents and those using the boulevard and its pedestrian trails.
Thinking about Maggie Smith’s opening lines:
You want a door you can be on both sides of at once,
You want to be on both sides of here
and there, now and then,
A door you can be on both sides of: park and neighborhood, civilization and wilderness, houses and river, asphalt and dirt, inside and outside, dreaming and awake. A transition as an easing away from and into (Smith’s line, “passing from and into”).
As I recited this poem, it was hard to think about it too much with all of the humidity, but when I did think about it I wasn’t aware of the rhythm too much. I did notice these pleasing rhymes: “now and then, together and” and “passing from and into/passing through.”
At some point, there was sun, but mostly clouds, thick air, humidity. Heard a black capped chickadee calling out as I started my run with no response from another chickadee. I kept hearing, “Hello? Hello? Hello? . . . Hello?” Also heard some cardinals. Reaching the river road, I noticed an older man–probably in his late 70s, early 80s–walking on Edmund. Tall, extra lean, his back slightly hunched but otherwise looking wiry and athletic, wearing running shorts and a tank top. I bet he was a runner.
Was able to run on the trail for a few, short stretches, but mostly stayed on the road. Not too crowded. Managed to get a few quick glimpses of the river–slashes of grayish-blue in between all the green. Ran all the way to under the ford bridge for the first time in more than 2 months. Last time I remember running under it was at the very beginning of all of this pandemic mess, when another runner, way on the other side of the wide path, called out jokingly, “I’m running from the virus!” That was on March 12th, I checked, and it wasn’t the last time I ran under the bridge. I ran to the falls again the next week, but after that I stopped running the trail and started running on the road.
Anything else I remember? Didn’t think about green or any poems I memorized. I was too preoccupied with the humidity and the sweat dripping into my eyes and–I almost forgot–my visor slipping down on my forehead. I think it’s time to retire the visor. What will I wear instead–another baseball cap?
3 miles 47th st loop, short 72 degrees humidity: 81%/ dew point: 66
Rained this morning, stopped around 11. Decided even though it was warm and humid and thick, to go out for a run. Not too bad, but still difficult. 3 miles was all I could manage. I do not handle heat and humidity well. Still, very happy to get out there, and most of it felt good. Heard lots of dripping water. My favorite: the gushing of the ravine–I couldn’t see it, but heard so much water rushing out of the pipe, down the limestone ledge and then the concrete. Also heard the water rushing out of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Wow! Don’t remember being irritated by any bugs or road-hoggers or loud talkers. The path was crowded, but I managed to get my 6+ feet of distance except for once. Anything else: lots of puddle and muddy grass which I successfully avoided.
reciting while running: green and color
After learning Farris’s epic “What Would Root,” I’m not sure where to go with my green poems. I have a few more in the queue to memorize but I don’t know–should I stop learning more green poems? Spend more time with the three I already have? This morning I found several articles about poetry and color. Right now, I’m reading Dorothea Lasky’s “What is Color in Poetry.” She writes:
Perhaps when we connect color to language, to sound, in the space of a poem we reconnect and resist what Breton has named the tragic bifurcation of the so-called real and dream worlds that happens to all adults. Perhaps this is poetry’s purpose in our lives, to reconnect the real and dream worlds to one’s own dormant light. Of course, I believe the easiest way to do this with language is through the perfect use of color.
What are some perfect uses of color? How, where is green used perfectly?
Here are some other color sources to read/listen to:
2 miles 1.75 loop + extra 63 degrees humidity: 94%, dew point: 62
Established another loop for my summer loop project: 1.75 loop/ start at 36th, north on Edmund, then north on the river road at 33rd, loop around 32nd, south on edmund, then south on river road at 36th, loop around 38th, north on edmund, end at 36th. Sounds more complicated than it is. If they weren’t doing some big sewer project near the tunnel of trees which has shut down the river road for a small stretch, this loop would be north on edmund, south on the river road. Found out this morning that this project is expected to last until the fall. Bummer.
Everything was thick and green. Heavy, but also calm and slow. Wore a tank top today which helped with the heat. Heard lots of birds–some robins I think. (Later, walking with Delia the dog, I heard 2 black capped chickadees doing a call and response–except for it was more a response and call. I heard the response first. I’d like to imagine what they might be saying to each other in their reversed conversation. Anything else? No view of the river, no roller skiers, no Daily Walker. No running path, no spazzy squirrels, no woodpecker. No sun, no bugs, no shadows. Only green–green sky, green view, green air.
Thinking some more about “What Would Root” and what is and isn’t mentioned in the poem: it’s May, there’s some sun, but no wind or humidity or weather at all. No shadows. There are scolding squirrels, birds, and lizards, but no bugs–mosquitoes or gnats or moths or butterflies. No evidence of other humans. No road or path or dirt trail. There is a smell–“the air was sweet with pine and Island Mountain lilac,” taste–“I could taste the granite in the spring,” sight–“the land spread itself greenly for me,” and touch–“the rock was very hard,” but no hearing–no wind rustling through the trees, no noises from the scolding squirrels, or slurps from the red hummingbirds dipping their beaks into the little red hoods of penstemon.
Here’s another poem I found on twitter the other day involving vision. Will I have to memorize a series of poems about vision sometime this summer?
Eyesight/ A.R. Ammons
It was May before my attention came to spring and
my word I said to the southern slopes I’ve
missed it, it came and went before I got right to see:
don’t worry, said the mountain, try the later northern slopes or if
you can climb, climb into spring: but said the mountain it’s not that way with all things, some that go are gone
2.4 miles 1.5 mile loop + .75 loop + extra 62 degrees 94% humidity/ dew point: 61
Humid and thick and sticky. Hard to breathe. Yuck! I already miss the fresher, cooler air. Oh well. Decided to run a few miles this morning before the rain arrives. It’s supposed to rain here all weekend. Lots of other people–runners and walkers–had the same idea. I should start getting up much earlier, when it’s cooler and less crowded. Heard some woodpeckers and a bunch of other birds that I couldn’t readily recognize. Don’t remember much else from my run except that there were lots of puddles on the sidewalk, lots of dripping trees. At some point during the run, I got a nice little shower when the wind nudged some wet leaves and they misted me. Recited “What Would Root” a few times. When I finished my run I recited it into my phone.
Listening back to the recording, I’m pleased with how I remembered almost all of it and struck by how many birds I can hear in the background. As I listened to the line, “that they were a part of my body, I could not doubt; they were living and enervated and jutting out”, I thought about how I am not entirely sure what “enervated” means. Looked it up and was surprised: exhausted, fatigued, weary. I was thinking it would mean the opposite of that but as I think about the rest of the poem it makes sense. The next line is, “I sat down” and a few lines later the narrator says, “I lay down beneath my own branches.” So, does that mean rooting is akin too resting here? Stepping away from the world, “to nuzzle into the earth”? Or maybe it means being restored, revitalized–for me, that fits better with the color green. I love the world Farris creates here and I want to lay beneath my own branches and nuzzle into the earth–at least for a while, until this terrible pandemic is over and the assholes who are making it much worse are gone.
Speaking of the pandemic, we are entering a new phase. Things are opening back up and it seems like some people think this means things are getting better. Who thinks this and why? I can’t decide how much of this attitude is coming from “actual” people, and how much of it is propaganda designed to get us to risk our lives for the sake of spending money. I do not like this phase; I like it less than the last phase.
Found this poem after using the search word “green.” I want to think about it some more as it relates to my vision and how I see color and forms.
I Look Up from My Book and Out at the World through Reading Glasses/ Diane Seuss
The world, italicized.
Douglas fir blurs into archetype, a black vertical with smeared green arms. The load of pinecones at the top, a brown smudge which could be anything: a wreath of moths, a rabbit strung up like a flag.
All trees are trees. Death to modifiers.
A smear of blue, a smear of gold that could be a haystack, a Cadillac, or a Medal of Honor without a neck to hang upon.
I know the dog killed something today, but it’s lost in fog. A small red splotch in a band of monochromatic green. And now, the mountain of bones is only a mountain capped in snow.
It’s a paradise of vagaries. No heartache. Just and eraser smudge, smoke-gray.
Green gloom with white sky today. Please come back Sun. I like that it’s warmer outside, but I wish it wasn’t so cloudy. I want to see my shadow and the light green glow by the gorge. Decided, for the first time in a long time–a month, at least?–I ran with headphones. It helped a little to listen to AC/DC, Lizzo, Beck, Prince. For a few minutes, I felt like I was flying. Didn’t think about the poem I’m reciting this week. Did I think about anything–other than, how fast am I running, or why does this seem so hard, or I am a badass running up this hill?
Yesterday afternoon I decided to test how well I could still recite all the poems I’ve memorized. Not too bad. The hardest one was the last few lines of Lovesong for the Square Root of Negative One by Richard Siken. Maybe when I’m running loops this summer I could recite different poems on different loops? A fun challenge, maybe?
Wow, this poem! I want to spend more time with it, learning all the lines about listening. So good.
Listen to the lorikeet’s whistling song. Can you hear the call of the mynah bird? Can you hear the flamingos in the water? Can you hear your small heart next to mine and the house breathing as it holds us? Can you hear the chainsaw start, the bones of our neighbor’s eucalyptus breaking? It’s summer, high, emptied. Listen to the ground, giddy with thirst. Listen to the dog shit on the lawns, the murderous water boatmen skimming the green pond. Can you hear the roses rioting on the trellis? Can you make a noise like a cheeky monkey? There are sounds your book lacks names for. Can you hear the sleepless girls in Attercliffe? Can you hear the aspirin of the sun dissolving? Listen to the casual racists in the family pub. Listen to the house Shiraz I drink as if it’s something’s blood. Listen to my fear, blooming in the vase of my chest, and listen to how I water it. Can you hear your grandfather’s lost childhood? Can you hear the suburban library shutting? The door closing? The books still breathing? O can you hear the budget tightening? It’s almost dark. Listen to the noisy penguins on the ice. Listen to my late-night online purchases. Orange lipstick. High-waisted bikini briefs. Types of plant that will never die. Listen to your half-sister hissing to her friends at 2 a.m. You hang up. No, you hang up. Listen to the panic in their emojis. Can you hear your father lighting his first cigarette? Can you hear the foxes mating all the way to oblivion? Their sounds are inhuman, too human, scaling the high fences, pressing our windowpanes. Listen to the utter indifference of the stars. The night is full of holes and we grate our bodies against them. Can you hear that, Alfie? Can you hear me holding you, closer than my life? Listen to “The Trout” by Schubert. Listen to the blackbird’s chirpy song. Listen to this waltz by Paganini. Listen to the stage as we walk clean off the front of it, into the audience, the pit, the silent orchestra.
I love how she trades off between lines with the question, Can you hear, and the command, Listen. I love the line, “there are sounds your book lacks names for” and roses rioting and indifferent stars, the thirsty ground, the panic in their emojis.
This summer, I’m planning to do more loops. Today I decided to do an easy run: 2 loops, starting at 36th, heading south on the river road, turning right on 42nd, then heading back north on edmund. One loop = 1.5 miles + .25 mile run to the river.
green as mood, feeling
Overcast this morning and warm. Everything was green. Thought about the idea of green as something you feel instead of see. What does it mean to feel green? Today’s green, in the absence of bright sun, felt calm and floating. Not solid or sharp or singular but part of everything else–pavement, grass, dirt, trees, sky, birds, the little kid speeding away from his dad on his bike.
I quickly googled green mood and found an article about it: What Does Green Make You Feel. Popular answers: calm, excited, stimulated, compassionate, optimistic, natural, fertile. Some that weren’t mentioned, but that I think about: energized/over-stimulated, mystery, envy, greed, naiveté, queasiness, growth/abundance/excess.
reciting while running: What Would Root
Recited What Would Root again as I ran. The entire poem took about a mile to speak in my head–with a few stops and starts with the words. I thought a little bit about the refrain “I could see everything; it was all green.” Then I thought about how I, with my damaged cones, sees green. Am I actually seeing green–and, how much? Is some of this seeing the memory of green or the logic of green—my brain knows that in spring and summer, trees are green, so it “tells” my eyes to see green? I don’t know. I feel like I’m actually seeing green but how many functional cones do I have left? Could I be seeing green through my peripheral? Lots of questions.
When I finished my run, I recited the poem into my phone as I walked home. I got it almost totally right–I forgot the line, “I sat down, feeling the hairs on the back of my neck, understanding for the first time that they were not hairs, but roots.” It is fascinating to have the poem in front of me and then listen to my recitation, seeing what I get right, what I don’t, which articles/words I add or omit.
4 miles last chance before franklin loop* 61 degrees
*edmund, north/river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south. This loop is called the last change before Franklin because its most northern point where I turn around is the last chance to turn onto Seabury before the the river road slopes down.
Spring! Warmer weather! No layers today, just shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Windy, overcast, and green. Was able to run right above the river for a few stretches. Streaks of blue breaking through the persistent green. Classic color combination–sky blue + straight up green (not fern or asparagus or pine). Don’t remember seeing–or hearing–any roller skiers. Encountered some annoying road-hogging walkers but was able to cross the road to avoid them.
Recited this week’s poem, What Would Root. I have the entire thing, all 402 words of it, memorized! Running back on Seabury, heading south, I was able to think about the story and meanings in the poem. One thing that’s great, at least for me, about memorizing a poem is that the longer I spend with the poem, the better I can understand it–not completely understand it on every level, but understand it on a basic level. Perhaps everyone else gets these things right away, but it has taken me dozens of readings to get that the line
My right eye would not close to this view; why would it; but when I reached up to touch it, I felt that there was a twig emerging, and another from my other eye;
is about how twigs were coming out of both eyes and not just the other eye. Maybe it was because I was trying to quickly memorize so many lines or maybe it was because the idea of twigs emerging from eyes is so strange to me that I couldn’t make sense of the sentence. Whatever the reason, spending time with the words is enabling me to understand them better.
Another revelation: near the beginning of the poem, the narrator “stopped to lean against a rock.” While running, I suddenly realized, they never leave that rock–the entire poem takes place there! I figured this out as I wondered about the rock in the line near the end, “I had to wiggle a bit to/ find a place to lay my head; the rock was very hard.” When I got home, I thought my theory wasn’t quite right because of the line: “soon, I crested a rise,” but now, as I write this, I’m wondering about what crested means here–to walk up a rise? to have their eyes travel to the top of it?
I like the idea of this long, wild story, being rooted at the rock from the beginning of the poem. And I love this idea of rooting, being rooted and how the story unfolds around it. I want to spend some more time thinking about what it means to root, be rooted, take root. I’d also like to write a poem like this–with a story at the gorge–about sinking.
One more thing: re-reading this poem just now, I’m thinking about how important seeing and eyes are. “I could see everything” is repeated 4 times, twigs emerge from the narrator’s eyes, and the poem all starts because the narrator is struck with “some sort of flying detritus” in both eyes. What’s up with that? Maybe tomorrow I can think about it as I run?
Right before climbing the hill at Edmund, I stopped in the grass, looking over at the fence above the tunnel of trees, and recorded myself reciting the poem.
I can’t believe I screwed up the first line and forgot the “cathedral”! I love the idea of a cathedral of trees. Overall, I’m happy with this recording. I messed up a few of the words, but I got almost all of it right. I’ll keep working on it for the rest of the week. I think it’s funny that I added “toss a coin” to the line “I wished for seed so I could toss it into that green”