may 9/RUN

Even as I often think about how white running is, and how white and privileged the spaces I run in are, I rarely (if ever?) post about it on this blog. Why not–maybe something to interrogate further? But when I saw this thread about the recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery while he was running through his neighborhood, I knew I needed to post it here. This thread offers a brief history of the whiteness of running and the dangers of running while black and links to several useful articles, including:

3 miles
river road, south/edmund, north/33rd street, west/44th ave, south
45 degrees

Overcast this morning but not too cold or too windy. The river road is completely closed to cars now. Much quieter and calmer. Not crowded–except for all the green on the edge of the bluff blocking the view. Didn’t see the river even once. Barely glimpsed the oak savanna by the ancient boulder that looks like an armchair. Don’t remember hearing many birds. No clickity-clacks from a roller skier. Did hear a small group of bikers talking as they approached from the north. I can’t remember what I thought about–maybe that’s partly because I’m writing this hours after my run. Recited “Ode to My Right Knee” a few more times. A good, uneventful run.

After looking way too long for a poem I might post, I found this beautiful one by Linda Paston. I first encountered her through her poem Vertical (which I experimented with on this blog a few years ago).

I Am Learning To Abandon the World/ Linda Pastan

I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.

The site on found this poem on is fascinating. I’ve been returning it to every so often–anonymous, combining fragments from their life with poems.

may 8/RUN

3.3 miles
river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
40 degrees

Brrr. Colder today but still sunny and green and spring-y. No surprise snow storms here. (note: after writing this smug sentence, I came across a tweet by MPR weather–we might get some snow on Sunday. Less than a inch, but still snow. I promise to not be smug again!) Ran a little later and was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker. I’m not sure the last time I saw him–a week ago? Didn’t hear any woodpeckers or black capped chickadees or geese or roller skiers. Did hear my feet shshshushing on the grit at the edge of the road. Also heard my iPhone banging against my headphones in my chest pocket at the beginning of my run. I don’t remember hearing it later. Did it stop or settle or did I tune it out? Saw a few runners, some bikers, more walkers. Was able to keep my distance almost all of the time. I might have gotten closer than 6 feet for a few seconds once near the rowing club. I ran on the trail, the dirt, the road, the grit, and the grass. Don’t remember looking down at the river or noticing how abundantly green it was. I do remember running through the Welcoming Oaks and greeting every single one of them. I noticed that all but one of the cairns on the ancient boulder had blown off in the wind or been knocked off by something. Also noticed that they have closed down the entire parkway starting at the trestle and heading north. Will that make it much more crowded on Seabury and Edmund? I hope not. I bet it will make it super crowded on the parkway in the late afternoon.

what happened?

Yesterday, on our daily evening walk, Scott and I heard a lot of sirens. When we got near the river, we saw them all lined up near folwell. 7 or 8 emergency vehicles. What happened? I hope no one was seriously hurt or killed.

reciting while running is a success

Recited “Ode to My Right Knee Again.” I have finally mastered pronouncing obstreperous. Briefly contemplated taking out my phone and trying to recite it into the voice memo app but I wimped out. Now, I wish I would have. I’ll have to try tomorrow or Sunday on the treadmill. Last night Scott and I were discussing the poem as we finished up our walk–we talked about the phrase leathery Lothario and which word in it was worse. He agreed that leathery was awful, explaining that Lothario is not specific enough to be too terrible, but that leathery conjures up a specific image for him of an older woman who has spent too much time in the sun and smoked too much. I think it is very cool to spend this much time with these words and really thinking through what they might mean and how they affect the reader. The reciting while running project is turning out to be a big success!

Speaking of running while reciting, here’s another possible poem to memorize this month:

The Trees/ Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Click on the link to watch an awesome animated video with Larkin’s reading of the poem. Sweet!

I love the lines, “Their greenness is a kind of grief.” and “Their yearly trick of looking new” Something about this poem and the full-grown thickness every May reminded me of Williams Carlos Williams’ “Winter Trees.” I’d like to memorize this poem and maybe compose a companion poem, “Summer Trees.”

I think this poem, Larkin’s “The Trees” will be the next poem I memorize. I find the rhyme scheme–abba, which I discovered is called enclosed rhyme–to be a bit awkward sounding. I wonder how it will move when I’m running?

may 7/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, north/34th, west/44th, south
50 degrees

A shorter run today because I’ve already run 3 days in a row this week. Another sunny, calm, beautiful morning. Ran on the trail right above the river heading south. Oh, the river! So sparkly and shiny and inviting. Almost stopped to look at it for a few minutes. I need to do that someday soon when it’s early. Didn’t hear the black capped chickadee. Did I hear any birds? I can’t remember. Heard at least one person talking. A leaf blower and a lawn mower. A kid explaining something to an adult–his mom, maybe? Felt strong and relaxed.

Recited “Ode to My Right Knee” again a few times. Got distracted, so I didn’t recite it straight through. Lots of stopping and starting again. I think the phrase that generates the most negative reaction from me is “leathery Lothario.” Which part of it is worse, leathery or Lothario? I think it’s leathery. Anything leathery sounds gross to me. A leathery knee? Yuck. But what does the Lothario mean here? The knee as seducer, foppish rake?

the howling dog

My new morning running routine is to run, return home, and pick up Delia the dog for a short walk around a block or two. So calm and quiet and beautiful! As Delia stopped at every tree to sniff, I stood straight and slowly breathed in the trees and peonies and the gentle breeze. On the next block, Delia sniffed up and down a new branch shooting out of the bottom of a trunk and a dog barked from a backyard. As we walked away, it started to howl. It howled for a long time–20 or 30 seconds–and sounded like a wounded animal. It did not sound like a dog. So strange. At first, I tried not to laugh because it was so weird but then I thought about how lonely and sad this dog might be–or maybe that’s just how it complains or shouts out its “good morning?” I wish I had had my phone with me to record the sound. I’ll have to take Delia by that house again tomorrow and bring my phone.

May/ Jonathan Galassi

The backyard apple tree gets sad so soon,
takes on a used-up, feather-duster look
within a week.

The ivy’s spring reconnaissance campaign
sends red feelers out and up and down
to find the sun.

Ivy from last summer clogs the pool,
brewing a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch
soft to the touch

and rank with interface of rut and rot.
The month after the month they say is cruel
is and is not.

Love the images of a sad apple tree looking like a used-up feather-duster and the sludge in the pool as a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch that is “rank with interface of rut and rot.” Also appreciate and agree with the idea that May is both cruel and not cruel. Everything is getting too green too fast and yet, it’s wonderful and so needed to have all the green. My backyard looks full and glowing–the weeds aren’t too much yet but they’re already starting to establish their supremacy. It’s mostly in the 60s with sun, but every day that’s colder seems even colder and crueler by comparison. Speaking of colder, the northeast is supposed to get a huge winter storm this weekend. Upstate New York and New England could get up to a foot of snow and lots of frozen slushy stuff.

Thinking more about the green ode I started yesterday. I like using Dove’s form for it–but maybe making it seem more excessive than she does with all my alliteration. For the rest of May, I’d like to memorize some green poems to get more ideas about green and excess and abundance.

Green in Poetry

may 6/RUN

3.5 miles
47th ave loop, short
52 degrees

Beautiful sunny breezy morning. A little more crowded than usual, but still got over 6 feet of distance from everyone. Heard a black capped chickadee calling out and waiting for an answer 3 times as I started my run:


Did I notice the river? I don’t remember.

The run was peaceful and relaxing but at moments, difficult and labored. I recited my poem–Ode to My Right Knee–a few times. Noticed how the alliteration for n was only 2 words: No noise. In some lines I found yesterday in my notes, I had 2 ns too: noisy nothingness

Anything else? Runners, bikers, and several pairs of walkers taking over the road. No turkeys. No way of seeing the river from high up on Edmund–too much green. Glanced at a few benches.

Thinking about green, here are a few lines about green in the spring, inspired by Rita Dove’s alliteration:

Ode to Green

Greedy green gluts gobbling gorges, grifting
vistas. Vast views vanished
or overrun. Orchestrated
take-overs: trees trimmed, tressed, twined,
voluminously vined.
Air altered. Advancing
leaves lining limbs
their thick thatches
blue-blocking blinding breathtaking.
Oh overcrowding obstruction! Oh
consuming, constricting color!

That’s all I have right now. I’ll keep working on it. I love the color green and seeing it in the spring, yet I dislike how excessive it is, how it overruns everything.

Started reading Marie Howe’s Magdalene last night. Wow! Love this poem:

Magdalene—The Seven Devils/ Marie Howe

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out”

Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.

The second—I was different from you: whatever happened to you could
not happen to me, not like that.

The third—I worried.

The fourth—envy, disguised as compassion.

The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too—its face.    And the ant—its bifurcated body.

Ok   the first was that I was so busy. 

The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn’t have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.   

The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.

The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living

The sixth—if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched  the left arm a little harder than I’d first touched the right then I had
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.  

The seventh—I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive, and I couldn’t stand it.
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word—cheesecloth—
to breath through that would trap it—whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in.

No.  That was the first one.

The second was that I was so busy.  I had no time.   How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?

The third was that I couldn’t eat food if I really saw it—distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate. 

Ok. The first was that. I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.

The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was

The fourth was I didn’t belong to anyone. I wouldn’t allow myself to belong
to anyone.

The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn’t know.

The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.

The seventh was the way my mother looked   when she was dying, 
the sound she made—her mouth wrenched to the right and cupped open
so as to take in as much air… the gurgling sound, so loud
we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.

And that I couldn’t stop hearing it—years later—grocery shopping, crossing the street—

No, not the sound—it was   her body’s hunger
finally evident—what our mother had hidden all her life.

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,   
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath.  That was the first devil.   It was always with me
And that I didn’t think you—if I told you—would understand any of this—

may 5/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south
48 degrees

Started my run listening to 2 male black-capped chickadees calling out to each other over and over again. Sometimes one after the other, sometimes on top of each other. I wish I could have recorded it. As they called out, I tried to remember the words to my recent poem about them. All I could think of was: “let’s do nothing—slow down/down size” and “hello? hello.”

A nice run. Forgot to greet the Welcoming Oaks as I ran by them but did notice that there were 3 or 4 cairns stacked on the ancient boulders–both the tall and short ones. In past years, there’s has only ever been one cairn stacked on the taller rock. Ran down through the tunnel of trees and checked the progress of the leaves: a full green veil. No view of the trail winding through the forest to the river. In other spots, higher up on the path, I could see brief slashes of the river through the greening trees.

Started reciting my poem of the week: Ode to My Right Knee. I struggled to pronounce “obstreperous” and had to say it a few times in my head before I got it right and could move on. Favorite lines today? I think it was: “Membrane matter-of-factly/corroding, crazed cartilage calming chipping/away as another arduous ambulation/ begins. Bone bruising bone.” Thought about how quickly I recite this poem–not franticly, but almost. Why? Is it the alliteration and how it seems shaped by the words and not any particular meter? Am I not noticing the rhythm?

After reciting the ode for a while, I decided to recite all of the other poems I’ve memorized this year. Stumbled a little in “tell all the truth but tell it slant” on the line: “As lightening to the children eased/with explanation kind”

I feel like there was something else that happened that I’m forgetting now, something that made me stop reciting for a few minutes. What was it? Oh–I remember! Running south on seabury, then the river road trail, I kept hearing this strange rubbing, almost squeaking sound. At times I thought I was causing it–a weird way I was running or some part of my jacket or ponytail brushing against my shoulder? Then I thought it might be an odd bird call or another runner’s or walker’s noisy gait. Still not sure what caused it but it was probably was me since it followed me for a lot of the time. Maybe it was my shadow? Whatever it was, it was mildly irritating.

Came across this wonderful poem about water in the collection Rose, the other day:

WATER/ Li Young-Lee

The sound of the 36 pines side by side
the years and swaying all night like
  individual humans is the sound
of water, which is the oldest sound,
the first sound we forgot.

At the ocean
my brother stands in water
to his knees, his chest bare, hard, his
thick and muscular. He is no
In water
my sister is no longer
lonely. Her right leg is crooked and
than her left, but she swims straight.
Her whole body is a glimmering fish.

Water is my father’s life-sign.
Son of water who’ll die by water,
the element which rules his life shall
  take it.
After being told by a wish man in
after almost drowning twice,
he avoided water. But the sign of
is a flowing sign, going where its
  children go.

Water has invaded my father’s
heart, swollen, heavy,
twice as large. Bloated
liver. Bloated legs.
The feet have become balloons.
A respirator mask makes him look
like a diver. When I lay my face
against his–the sound of water

The sound of washing
is the sound of sighting,
is the only sound
as I was my father’s feet—
those lonely twins
who have forgotten one another—
one by one in warm water
I tested with my wrist.
In soapy water
they’re two dumb fish
whose eyes close in a filmy dream.

I dry, then powder them
with talc rising in cluods
like dust lifting
behind jeeps, a truck where he sat
bleeding through his socks.
1949, he’s 30 years old,
his toenails pulled out,
his toes beaten a beautiful
violet that reminds him
of Hunan, barely morning
in the yard, and where
he walked, the grass springing back
damp and green.

The sound of rain
outlives us. I listen,
someone is whispering.
Tonight, it’s water
the curtains resemble, water
drumming on the steel cellar door,
we crossed to come to America,
water I’ll cross to go back,
water which will kill my father.
The sac of water we live in.

Last year, I posted another poem by Li Young-Lee, “From Blossoms.” Such a wonderful poet! What a great opening stanza. I’d definitely like to add that to lines I’ve memorized:

The sound of the 36 pines side by side
the years and swaying all night like
  individual humans is the sound
of water, which is the oldest sound,
the first sound we forgot.

I have started to acquire many wonderful poems about water. Maybe in June, in honor of what should be the start of Open Swim, I’ll memorize a series of water poems. This one, and one by Ed Bok Lee, one by May Swenson, and one by Maxine Kumin. I might have a few more too.

may 4/RUN

4 miles
47th ave loop
45 degrees

A little colder today but sunny and not too windy and wonderful. The slight but persistent sinus headache I have had for 3 or 4 days has mostly lifted. The run felt easier, more relaxed. Heard the male black capped chickadee’s feebee song. Did I hear any woodpeckers? I can’t remember. Heard the clickety-clack of a roller skier. Encountered a few walkers and runners and bikers, but at a very safe distance of at least 10 feet or more, I think. Noticed how much thicker the green veil is. Saw the river, blue and shiny. Didn’t even think about looking for turkeys down by the tree graveyard–but Scott did. On his run, a few minutes earlier than me, he stopped and took an awesome video of at least 6 turkeys walking across the road. Gobbling!

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Seen on my morning run…

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Reciting While Running

While I ran, I recited the poem I picked to memorize this week: Ode to My Right Knee by Rita Dove. I came across this poem several years ago when I was looking for poems about knees and I’ve always wanted to spend more time with it. Memorizing and reciting it is a great way to do that.

Ode to My Right Knee/ Rita Dove

Oh, obstreperous one, ornery outside of ordinary

protocols; paramilitary probie par

excellence: Every evidence
you yield yells.

No noise
too tough to tackle, tears

springing such sudden salt
when walking wrenches:

Haranguer, hag, hanger-on—how
much more maddening

insidious imperfection?
Membranes matter-of-factly

corroding, crazed cartilage calmly chipping
away as another arduous ambulation

begins, bone bruising bone.
Leathery Lothario, lone laboring

gladiator grappling, groveling
for favor; fair-weather forecaster, fickle friend,

jive jiggy joint:
Kindly keep kicking.

I love this poem and am very happy I memorized it, which was not that difficult. Am I getting better at memorizing, or did I connect with this poem more than others, or something else? I don’t know. It was fun to become better acquainted with the words. I love the abundant alliteration which doesn’t seem excessive but natural. I’d like to try writing some lines like these. Back in 2018, I wrote an abecedarian about sighting the lake buoys and in one draft I had the line: wondering what will work what won’t when waves warp. I didn’t keep it, but I remember the fun of discovering it.

Today as I recited it over and over again, I thought about the phrase, “fair-weather forecaster” and the surprise of it because “fair-weather friend” is such a common expression that you might anticipate that friend will end that phrase, not forecaster. I also like how well this pithily describes the phenomenon of aching knees as weather vanes. I briefly wondered if reciting lines about cartilage chipping away, membranes corroding, and arduous ambulations was the best idea when I was running–would it give my right knee some bad ideas?–but it was fine and fun and fast. I wonder how many times I repeated the poem?

some words that I was familiar with but didn’t know the precise meanings of:
  • obstreperous: unruly, noisy
  • From Merriam Webster “Obstreperous” comes from ob- “in the way,” “against,” or “toward,” plus strepere, a verb meaning “to make a noise,” so someone who is obstreperous is literally making noise to rebel against something, much like a protesting crowd or an unruly child. 
  • probie: probationary rank, rookie
  • Lothario: a man whose chief interest is in seducing women; a foppish, unscrupulous rake (note: love this second definition!)
    From Merriam Webster: “Lothario comes from The Fair Penitent (1703), a tragedy by Nicholas Rowe. In the play, Lothario is a notorious seducer, extremely attractive but beneath his charming exterior a haughty and unfeeling scoundrel. He seduces Calista, an unfaithful wife and later the fair penitent of the title. After the play was published, the character of Lothario became a stock figure in English literature. For example, Samuel Richardson modeled the character of Lovelace on Lothario in his 1748 novel Clarissa. As the character became well known, his name became progressively more generic, and since the 18th century the word lothario has been used for a foppish, unscrupulous rake.

Towards the end of my run, I tried to recite Carl Phillip’s “And Swept All Visible Signs Away,” but I struggled. I need to make sure and review all the poems I’ve already memorized so I don’t lose their words. How many poems can I keep in my head at one time? Not sure.

may 3/RUN

4.1 miles
river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund,south
50 degrees

Went running earlier this morning. Left the house at 7:30. Overdressed with tights under my shorts and two long-sleeved shirts. A calm, beautiful, sunny morning. The gorge continues to green. I can still see through the leaves to the other side, but it’s getting harder. Only remember looking at the river once, almost at the end of my run. Up on the highest part of Edmund, looking down past the parkway to the path, I could see the sparkling shine of the water through the trees. What a sight!

Recited my poem for the week, Dear One Absent This Long While. Like on Friday, it was difficult to recite it steadily. I could say a few lines then I would get distracted for a minute or two. Maybe because I had initially left the first stanza off when I was memorizing the poem, I struggled with the first line: “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss.” It sounds awkward to me, like a word or a comma is missing. I do like the second line: “everything blooms coldly.” Sounds like spring in Minnesota. At the end of the run, I recorded myself reciting it into my phone. I wasn’t self-conscious, which is a big improvement from the beginning of the week.

Dear One, 3 May

may 1/RUN

3.8 miles
47th ave loop, short
55 degrees

note: In April, I tracked the number of deaths due to COVID-19. I wanted to add these in as a way to acknowledge how scary and surreal it is even as I write about the things I’m enjoying, noticing on my run. For this month, I’ve decided not to include this data. I’m hoping to avoid thinking about the virus as much as I can. Is this possible? Will it help? I’ll see at the end of the month.

Gloomy and gray but not cold. Ran into the wind at first, then had it at my back on the way home. I remember looking at the river and I remember admiring it but I can’t remember why or what it looked like. The leaves are filling in on the trees. Slowly the green veil is growing. Soon, no more view. Not too crowded on the trail and was able to keep at least 6 feet of distance. My knee felt okay–a little stiff and sore afterwards.

Recited the poem, “Dear One Absent This Long While.” Didn’t have any problems remembering the lines, but had to take a lot of time between lines–too focused on the effort of running. Oh–at first, I recited a line as “I have new shoes” then boots then I remembered it was “I have new gloves.” Thought about how gloves fits much better than boots or shoes in telling the story of a gardener. One of my favorite lines: “She has the quiet ribs of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.” Quiet ribs. Old pony post road. Salamander. Such great phrases/images/words!

Found this poem the other day, and I thought about Bruce Lee and the interview in which he talked about being water.

ANTHEM/ Aaliya Zaveri

This is my first memory of my mother.
We were in India.
My mother, graceful, cross-legged in front of her sewing
machine and I, holding the pins.
She stops running material abruptly and takes my small
face in her cupped hands,
my round cheeks in her long fingers. I could feel the cold
metal of her engagement ring, her wedding ring.
She said to me:
one day you will be a woman. And I want you to understand
that you must be like water.
Like water, you have to know where you are going before
anyone else does.
You have to be able to rush into the gaps. You have to be
diffuse. You have to uncoil
to fill the space.

You have to be transparent.
In times of hardship, in the times of heat, you have to steam
only then will your rise.
You have to be smooth. You have to shift easily. Stay the
same but take the shape of every new place.
You have to be patient. You have to move only when you are
called to move.

You also have to know when not to move.
You have to know when to freeze and then expand so full
and so eloquent, you can force those spaces in between rocks
to deepen, to widen, and then force the rocks to shatter.
you must watch, she said, You must reflect back. You must
be water.

Love thinking about how to be like water:

  • rush into the gaps
  • be diffuse
  • uncoil
  • fill the space
  • transparent
  • in times of hardship, steam, so as to rise
  • smooth
  • shift easily
  • stay the same but take the shape of every new place
  • patient
  • move only when you are called to move
  • know when not to move
  • know when to freeze and then expand so full you force spaces between rocks to deepen, widen, shatter
  • reflect back

Do all these fit? I’m not sure, but I like thinking about what water does/is and how to try and be more like it. I love water–swimming in water, running beside water. Looking at moving water, still water. Hearing water lapping against a shore, dripping out of the eaves, gushing from a sewer pipe.