july 31/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill and back again
69 degrees

Since they’re opening up the road next week, I decided I better run on it all the way down the franklin hill before it’s too late. Another beautiful day, with less humidity! I ran for 3 miles then walked for 1/2 mile up the steep hill before running again.

At Annie Young Meadows, at the bottom of the hill, noticed a dozen tents set up–another encampment for people without homes. So awful. I hope Minneapolis figures out better housing for them before winter hits. Everyone should have a home and enough food–what a fucked up country this is.

Down at the bottom of the hill, in the bright sun, the river looked flat and hot and a dull brown.

To end the month and my series of memorized poems about vision, I decided to recite each of the 4 poems for a mile and then spend the last mile reflecting on common themes. What a nerd I am. Mile One: Before I got my eye put out; Mile Two: Natural Forces; Mile Three: I Look Up From My Book at the World Through Reading Glasses; and Mile Four: Halos. At the start of mile four, as I walked up the hill, I recited Halos into my phone and then, after I finished, I recited I Look Up.

Halos, July 31
I Look Up, July 31

During mile five, I thought about the soul and how it’s mentioned in both Dickinson (safer — guess — for just my soul/opon the window pane) and Lee (to believe the soul is/ ubiquitous like water/in our voices, our cells). Could the soul be the water within us? Not some ethereal spirit distinctive from the body but water, the very substance that makes up more than half of us (kids: 78%, men: 60%, women: 55%)? I like thinking about the soul as the most physical, substantial part of us. Of course, now as I write this, I’m thinking about Walt Whitman and “The Body Electric“:

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul, 
O I say now these are the soul!

july 30/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
68 degrees

Walking down to the end of the block before starting my run, I marveled at the slightly cool breeze and the soft sun. What a morning to be outside! Perfect for walking, slightly too warm for running. Ran south on the river road. Heard the birds–which birds? Not sure. Glanced at the river for the brief moment I was able to run on the trail. Saw my shadow. Tried to stay calm and block out the relentless worry, simmering under the surface, about pandemics and tyrants and upcoming elections. Was mostly successful.

Running past the steps at 38th street that lead to the lower trail, closer to the river, I longed for last summer when I regularly ran the 2 trails route. O, to be closer to the river, below the road on the undulating trail!

Recited the rest of Halos this morning. The rhythm of this poem doesn’t work well with running and I found it hard to keep reciting the lines in a steady flow. Lots of stopping and starting. Was this also because of the heat or the effort or my still shaky grasp of the words?

I like, whenever I wish, strolling past
the myopic me
in a window or a mirror or whatever

reflects back to believe the soul is
ubiquitous like water
in our voices, our cells.

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:
to the dead, we’re the ghosts?

I am not sure what he means here or what to do with souls as ubiquitous as water or the idea that we’re the ghosts to the dead. What does it mean to be a ghost?

Ghost (noun), definition (OED)

  1. The soul or spirit, as the principle of life (to give up the ghost)
  2. Philosophy.  the ghost in the machine: (Gilbert Ryle’s name for) the mind viewed as separate from the body 
  3. The soul of a deceased person, spoken of as appearing in a visible form, or otherwise manifesting its presence, to the living. (Now the prevailing sense.)
  4. A shadowy outline or semblance, an unsubstantial image (of something); hence, a slight trace or vestige, esp. in phrase  (not) the ghost of a chance.

Ghost (verb), definition (OED)

  1. to expire
  2. to haunt
  3. to scare with pretended apparitions
  4. To flit about, prowl as a ghost. Also  to ghost it.  to ghost away: to steal away like a ghost.

Ghost (Colloquial), definition (Wikipedia)

Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communicate made by said partner, friend, or individual.

I would like to use the phrase, “to ghost it” somewhere. Also, having stared at the word “ghost” for too long, the letters seem strange, especially the g and h right beside each other.

Thinking about being “ubiquitous like water” I was reminded of Bruce Lee and his great poem? speech? about being like water. Then I was reminded of the poem by Ed Bok Lee that I discovered yesterday and just listened to right now, “Ode to Bruce Lee” from his collection Whorled. In the poem, he says:

Boxer and cha cha champion
style of no style
teacher, waiter, philosopher, dragon

Style of no style is also in Halos. I want to think some more about what this phrase means–to him, what it might mean to me. Fluid, not trapped any identity or label or “box”, flowing like water?

Here’s a recording of me reciting Lee’s “Halos” after I returned from my run. I still have a few extra/wrong words to fix:

Halos, July 30

july 29/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
68 degrees
humidity: 79%/ dew point: 63

Another sunny, beautiful day. I’d like it about 15-20 degrees cooler but I’ll still take today. Ran up 43rd avenue until reaching 32nd street, then ran by the field at Cooper Elementary School (named after James Fenimore Cooper) that’s been closed for as long as I’ve lived nearby (almost 6 years). Noticed a man that I’ve seen there 4 or 5 times before exercising by flipping a heavy sand bag* across the field–at least I think that’s what he does. I can’t really see in a quick glance and I don’t want to stare–both because I don’t want to be rude and don’t want to invite a conversation.

*In trying to determine what he was doing, I looked up sand bag exercises. Wow, it’s a thing. You really have to be a badass to do some of the exercises.

Ran past the aspen eyes on my way to the river road, turned left towards lake street and ran north until I reached the barricade at 29th (I think). Encountered runners, walkers, bikers. No roller skiers. Saw my shadow. Don’t remember hearing any birds–when will I start hearing the geese? I do remember hearing traffic above me on lake street and a lawn mower on the boulevard, the gravel crunching underfoot, a kid calling out to his friend. No music blasting from bike speakers or talk radio from smartphones.

Recited more from Ed Bok Lee’s “Halos” as I ran. Difficult to keep going without interruptions or to think much about the words. I definitely want to spend more time with this poem and his description of seeing strangely. Here’s the part I added this morning:

That visual impairment improves hearing,
taste, smell, touch, is mostly myth.
With it, however, I can detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos around bikers’ helmets;
each street lamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.
I don’t mind opening a book

like a pewter Rorcshach test,
or waking up each morning
inside a fish tank of dream.

Is the idea of losing one sense enhances the others mostly a myth? For me, I’m not sure how much sharper my hearing is, but I’ve devoted a lot of time to building up my listening skills, paying attention aurally and not just visually. However, even though I’ve tried to work on my bird listening skills, I still can hardly identify any birdsongs.

I like how he moves away from good vision to interesting/ strange vision with his lines about fuzzy spirits and halos and street lamps as pink-orange dawns. I don’t see these things, but I do think I see bare branches more beautifully–their blurred edges softening the sky–than someone with “normal” sight. What else do I see strangely?

I recited the poem into my phone when I returned home:

Halos, July 29

july 28/RUN

2.4 miles
river road, south/north
70 degrees
humidity: 85%

Warmer this morning, humid, wet. When I started it was overcast but as I ran the clouds slowly parted and the sun emerged. I remember looking up at the sky, somewhere near 38th street, to see cracks in the clouds with the sun shining through–a glisk?

People on the road, but not too crowded. Two separate groups of walkers taking up most of the road, just two people each, spaced just right to make it difficult to pass on either side. I’m trying very hard to not let something like this bother me but I struggle to understand how some people are so clueless (or uncaring) about the space they take up in the world and it’s negative impact on others–bikers and other walkers, runners, needing to swing wide, veering into each other’s paths, to avoid the space hoggers.

Thankfully I didn’t spend too much time bothered by the clueless walkers. Saw the river and it was a sparkling blue, shining through the trees. Heard some people on the Winchell Trail below me. Ran down the hill that’s closed at the bottom for construction then ran up it again. Briefly glanced at the Welcoming Oaks. As I finished my run, I heard a black-capped chickadee calling.

Speaking of birds, yesterday afternoon and twice this morning, I was dive-bombed by a pair of birds. They flew right by my face, close enough that I called out, “geez!” Do they have a nest in my yard? I hope not. I would like to remain friends with the birds.

This morning, I started memorizing Ed Bok Lee’s wonderful poem about vision: Halos. Because it’s long, I only memorized 5 stanzas for this morning’s run. Also, I started a few stanzas in:

Halos/Ed Bok Lee

on my walk
home, I take off

my glasses to receive the breeze.
I like that any nearing face
is surely smiling, gorgeous;

each blurry body’s aura numinous:
style of no style, racially
ambiguous, a glob, pure

spectral incohesion. Aren’t we alll
just masses of energy and light
approaching or leaving

one another in the jumbled
future or past; sometimes stop-
ping to embrace

for a moment of decades,
before passing way
too far for sight?

I love the generous way Lee describes blurry vision here and how nearing faces are surely smiling–as opposed to seeming hostile or threatening (or clueless like the space hoggers on the river road). As I continue to lose my vision, I’m hoping to embrace–in more moments–the possible beauty and wonder of seeing faces differently, softly, without edges, as globs of energy and light.

I recorded myself reciting the poem about an hour after I returned home:

from Halos, July 29

july 27/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge and back
66 degrees
humidity: 80%

Sunny and cooler this morning, although it still felt warm. Lots of sweating. Ran south on the river road and thought about how they will be opening up the road to cars next week. Will the paths be much more crowded, or will many of the people who came to walk on the road stop coming altogether?

Overheard by one biker to another: “…they are told to just not give a shit.” Who are they? Who told them to not give a shit, about what, and why?

Also overheard: some music coming out of a bike speaker, talk radio out of phone speakers. Couldn’t hear it well enough to recognize any of it.

No roller skiers this morning, only bikers, walkers, runners. Don’t remember hearing any birds–how is that possible? No laughing or crying or yelling kids. No rowers. No river. No trail, only road.

Saw my shadow running beside me.

They have started clearing off the gravel they had put down on the roads to cover the tar they also put down to seal some cracks. To get rid of it, a truck drives through slowly, sweeping and spraying water. Last night on our evening walk, Scott and I witnessed a roller skier attempting to ski on the gravelly road. So awkward and difficult looking! The skier was wearing pajama pants and despite my efforts to not judge him, I did–they looked like flannel pants and it was still 80 degrees outside.

Writing this, I am sitting in the front room, looking out the window at some birds–are they robins?–who are digging up something in the grass near the part of the lawn that we have begrudgingly ceded to the ants. There are 4 of them (at least) and I can’t tell if they’re friends or enemies. Frenemies?…A few minutes later, two squirrels chasing each other…and a few minutes after that, a scuffle on the tree–annoying little squirrel claws clicking and clacking on the dry bark.

Speaking of squirrels, I was just wondering about poems featuring them–are there many and are they odes or love poems or what? I can’t ever imagine writing a love poem about a squirrel. I don’t like squirrels. As I was thinking about all of this, I suddenly remembered a poem I memorized earlier this summer that features some judge-y squirrels: What Would Root.

The poem begins:

Walking through a cathedral of oak trees
and bristlecone pines, scolded by squirrels
in priestly black, their white collars
wagging with the force of their scolding…

then later:

The squirrels,
I mentioned them already, etc, and lizards
ran down the spines of rocks like a bad feeling.

and even later:

Oh yes, I drank water from the ground; I
was wild, even then, though the squirrels scolded
me and tried to convince me I was not.

So much scolding! Doing a little more thinking, I remembered another poem I love that features squirrels–even better, squirrels being punished for their bad behavior! Forsythe Avenue by Aimee Nezhukumathil.

Tulip bulbs that a girl once planted and sprinkled with
pepper flakes have all been scratched up by brave squirrels
who strut the streets with tiny blistered mouths.

july 26/RUN

3 miles
47th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south
71 degrees
humidity: 95%/ dew point: 72

Rained last night and early this morning so everything was dripping when I went out for my run. I didn’t feel the water so much as hear it coming off the trees, trickling off the gutters, gushing through the sewer pipe above the ravine. Several puddles on the sidewalk in the usual spots. Because the rain had only recently stopped, there weren’t too many people out near the river. When I finally reached it, just past the aspen eyes, I was able to run right above it. I even saw it a few times through the thick green. Running up the hill from below the lake street bridge I kept running on the trail that veers away from the road and right above the rowing club. I haven’t run on this part of the path for months! Ended my run climbing the hill near the tunnel of trees. In other summers, when I can safely run on the trail, a mist gets trapped here after it rains in the mid-story canopy. On the road this morning, there was mist too, but not as thick. It felt strange and dreamy to run through it.

Yesterday I began reading a thesis about Lorine Niedecker and how her vision problems shaped some of her poetry. The author focuses on this poem in particular:

Wintergreen Ridge /Lorine Niedecker

Where the arrow
         of the road signs
                 lead us:

Life is natural
         in the evolution
                of matter

Nothing supra-rock
        about it
                simply

butterflies
        are quicker
                than rock

Man 
        lives hard
                on this stone perch

by sea
       imagines
               durable works

in creation here
        as in the center
               of the world

let’s say
        of art 
              We climb

the limestone cliffs
        my skirt dragging
               an inch below

the knee 
        the style before 
               the last

the last the least
         to see 
              Norway

or “half of Sussex
         and almost all
              of Surrey”

Crete perhaps
         and further:
             “Every creature

better alive
        than dead.
              men and moose

and pine trees”
       We are gawks
              lusting

after wild orchids
       Wait! What’s this? —
             sign:

Flowers
        loveliest
            where they grow

Love them enjoy them
        and leave them so
            Let’s go!

Evolution’s wild ones
        saved
            continuous life

through change
       from Time Began
            Northland’s
unpainted barns
       fish and boats
            now this —

flowering ridge
       the second one back
            from the lighthouse

Who saved it? —
       Women
            of good wild stock

Stood stolid
        before machines
           They stopped bulldozers

cold
        We want it for all time
           they said

and here it is —
        horsetails
          club mosses

stayed alive
        after dinosaurs
          died

Found:
       laurel in muskeg
          Linnaeus’s twinflower

Andromeda
       Cisandra of the bog
           pearl flowered

Lady’s tresses
       insect-eating
          pitcher plant

Bedeviled little Drosera
       of the sundews
          deadly

in sphagnum moss
       sticks out its sticky
          (Darwin tested)

tentacled leaf
       towards a fly
           half an inch away

engulfs it
       Just the touch
          of a gnat on a filament

stimulates leaf-plasma
       secretes a sticky
          clear liquid

the better to eat you
       my dear
          digest cartilage

and tooth enamel
        (DHL spoke of blood
          in a green growing thing

in Italy was it?)
       They do it with glue
          these plants

Lady’ Slipper’s glue
       and electric threads
          smack the sweets-seeker

on the head
      with pollinia
          The bee

befuddled
     the door behind him
          closed he must

go out the rear
     the load on him 
         for the next

flower
     Women saved
        a pretty thing: Truth:

“a good to the heart” 
     It all comes down
        to the family

“We have a lovely
     finite parentage
        mineral

vegetable
     animal”
        Nearby dark wood —

I suddenly heard
     the cry
        my mother’s

where the light
     pissed past
        the pistillate cone

how she loved
     closed gentians
        she herself

so closed
     and in this to us peace
        the stabbing

pen
     friend did it
        close to the heart

pierced the woods
     red
        (autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
     to grieve
        or dump

the leaves most brilliant
     as do trees
        when they’ve no need

of an overload
     of cellulose
        for a cool while

Nobody, nothing
     ever gave me
        greater thing

than time
     unless light
        and silence

which if intense
     makes sound
        Unaffected

by man
     thin to nothing lichens
        grind with their acid

granite to sand
     These may survive
        the grand blow-up

the bomb
     When visited
        by the poet

From Newcastle on Tyne
     I neglected to ask
        what wild plants

have you there
     how dark
        how inconsiderate

of me
     Well I see at this point
        no pelting of police

with flowers
     no uprooted gaywings
        bishop’s cup

white bunchberry
     under aspens
        pipsissewa

(wintergreen)
     grass of parnassus
        See beyond —

ferns
     algae
        water lilies

Scent
     the simple
        the perfect

order
     of that flower
        water lily

I see no space-rocket
     launched here
        no mind-changing

acids eaten
     one sort manufactured
        as easily as gin

in a bathtub
     Do feel however
        in liver and head

as we drive
     towards cities
        the change

in church architecture —
     now it’s either a hood
        for a roof

pulled down to the ground
     and below
        or a factory-long body

crawled out from a rise
     of black dinosaur-necked
        blower-beaked

smokestack-
     steeple
        Murder in the Cathedral’s

proportions
     Do we go to church
        No use

discussing heaven 
     HJ’s father long ago
        pronounced human affairs

gone to hell
     Great God —
         what men desire! —

the scientist: a full set
     of fishes
        the desire to know

Another: to talk beat
     act cool
        release    la’go

So far out of flowers
     human parts found
        wrapped in newspaper

left at the church
     near College Avenue
        More news: the war

which “cannot be stopped”
     ragweed pollen
        sneezeweed

whose other name
     Ambrosia
        goes for a community

Ahead — home town
     second shift steamfitter
        ran arms out

as tho to fly
     dived to concrete
        from loading dock

lost his head
     Pigeons
        (I miss the gulls)

mourn the loss
     of people
        no wild bird does

It rained
     mud squash
        willow leaves

in the eaves
     Old sunflower
        you bowed

to no one
     but Great Storm
        of Equinox

july 25/RUN

2.35 miles
47th ave, north/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
82 degrees
dew point: 73

So hot and thick outside this morning. And it’s only 8:30. Decided to end the run with a sprint up the final hill–the same hill I was sprinting up at the end of my runs in the winter except this time I was on the road and not the trail. Felt pretty good at the end. I should try a workout where I warm up for a few miles and then do some sprints.

Encountered mostly walkers and bikers, a few runners, some roller skiers. Saw some people heading up the hill from the rowing club. Had they just been rowing? I’d like to try that sometime. Heard some music coming out of a bike speaker but it was too quiet and distorted from the doppler effect for me to identify what the song or genre was, just tinny noise. Don’t remember hearing or seeing any birds or dogs or squirrels. No river. Quietly called “Watch out!” at a clueless pedestrian slowly walking across the road right in front of me, not looking at all (except at her phone). Don’t think she heard me. Ran on the gravel several times. Mostly level but in mounds at the edges. Scott says they will come through and clear it all off when they’ve done all the roads. I hope they do it before they open the river road back up to cars next week. I’ll miss the crunchy sound but not the uneven ground.

Birds!

While I don’t remember hearing any birds this morning, I did come across a tweet about birdsong mnemonics that inspired me to think about birds and how they sound. Here are a few links I want to revisit:

And, here are 2 bird poems, one just about birds, one about birdsong, both my Emily Dickinson:

A Bird, came down the Walk – (359)/ EMILY DICKINSON

A Bird, came down the Walk – 
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves 
And ate the fellow, raw, 

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall 
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. – 

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers, 
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon, 
Leap, plashless as they swim. 

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —/ Emily Dickinson

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —
Their period for Dawn —
A Music numerous as space —
But neighboring as Noon —

I could not count their Force —
Their Voices did expend
As Brook by Brook bestows itself
To multiply the Pond.

The Listener – was not —
Except occasional man —
In homely industry arrayed —
To overtake the Morn —

Nor was it for applause —
That I could ascertain —
But independent Ecstasy
Of Universe, and Men –  

By Six, the Flood had done —
No Tumult there had been
Of Dressing, or Departure —
And yet the Band – was gone —

The Sun engrossed the East —
The Day Resumed the World —  controlled
The Miracle that introduced
Forgotten, as fulfilled.

july 24/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
72 degrees
humidity: 78%/ dew point: 67

Hot again this morning. So crowded on the river road! So many runners going so fast that I wondered if there was some event going on. Listened to a playlist and didn’t think about any poetry or pay attention to much around me except all the runners and bikers I needed to avoid. Ran faster than I wanted on the second mile because a runner who I was passing decided to speed up just as I approached. Finished the run by listening to Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, Not Sorry” as I ran up the hill near the Welcoming Oaks. Running back through the neighborhood, the next song that came on Spotify was Hailee Steinfeld’s “Hell nos and Headphones.” Wow.

Finished watching the 1981 “Clash of the Titans” with Scott. I remember seeing it in a theater in North Carolina when it first came out. I was 7. The special effects are very bad, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie this time–loved seeing Maggie Smith as a vengeful Thetis. I started thinking about Medusa and how her gaze turns anyone/thing that looks into her eyes to stone. And then I started thinking about how my gaze does that to people too–because my central vision is almost gone and I have an increasingly bigger blind spot in the middle of my field of vision, when I look at people’s faces or into their eyes they often look like unmoving objects–I can’t see facial gestures–no smiles or frowns or eyebrows raised, and I can’t make eye contact. In a way, they turn to stone. I’d like to explore the Medusa myth some more and see if I can do something with it.

Thinking about vision and eyes a lot this week. Here’s a poem from 1925 I first encountered on twitter, then found online at Poetry Foundation:

Eyes/ Laura Riding Jackson

Imagine two clouds shot together by the sunset,
One river-blue,
One like a white cloth passed through a purple wine,
Dripping and faintly dyed,
Whirling centrifugally away toward the night
And later halved and rounded by the moon;
Rolled like blue butter-balls
In the palms of the moon’s hands
And rimmed elliptically with almost-white moon-stuff,
The moon’s particular godmother gift.
Some nearly impossible vision like this
Is necessary for the mood of my eyes.

Formally announced by my eyebrows,
Sad squires of my eyes,
Preciously fitted into two fine skin purses—
Two rose petals might fashion them—
So firmly, gently guarded,
Yet so free to roll a little
In each socket,
In each pocket,
Attended by the drawn regiments of my lashes,
These my head’s hair’s farthest fallen,
Wayward strayed for the love of my eyes,
With only a runaway’s last inheritance of curl
Lifting the final rite of this ceremony of presentation:
Sight is there soul of charity.
when the feet are tired,
When joy is caught in the full throat,
Sight is the good Samaritan,
Wandering to the last horizon
Or staying at home to laugh in joy’s place.
Though the trouble be none of its won,
When grief comes like a beggar to my eyelids,
Sight throws it pennies,
Sight throws it tears,
Though for the minute it rob itself,
Though for the minute it blind itself.

Exegetes of the tongue—
Love’s best inquirers
And courteous heads of hate,
Yet meanwhile not deposing
The immediate service of seeing
Or the darling self-denial of sleep—
My eyes, my eyes,
Patrons of light and dark!

Busy, ever busy,
If I have no other errands for it,
Yet sight keeps turning the looking-machine,
Always sitting quietly aside—-
The self-appointed and voluntary philosophy of me,
My ironic interpreter of things,
Smiling behind the bodily ruse
Of my amused, amused eyes.
Or, if the eyes fail,
If the optical bodies of sight die,
Sight still lives while I live,
Sight is immortal in me,
Free of the bond of outward vision—-
The inner sense of life,
The living-looking.
Death is the only blindness.

july 23/RUN

3.1 miles
47th st loop
69 degrees

Ran almost two hours later because I wanted to work more in the morning and because the humidity was 100% at 8 am. Running at 10 was much better, I imagine. Sunny with lots of shade, calm. No turkeys but I did see my shadow briefly. Saw a biker and one graceful rollerblader moving so quickly and smoothly, swinging his arm like an Olympic speeed skater.

delight of the day

Nearing Edmund, past becketwood on the part near turkey hollow, I heard a truck approaching from behind with some squealing kids. As it passed me, driving very slowly, I noticed a few heads just poking out of the red truck’s bed. It turned up the next street. Nearing the end of my loop, almost back to becketwood, I encountered it again, parked in front of house, the kids yelling out delightedly, “We drove around the block in the back of the truck! We drove around the block in the back of the truck!” Such delight. Such cute, earnest, high-pitched voices! Oh, to be that free of cynicism and able to find joy in such a small but perfect moment!

Before heading out for the run, I memorized another poem, the third in my vision series:

I Look Up From My Book and Out on 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
with snow.

It’s a paradise of vagaries.
No heartache.
Just and eraser smudge,
smoke-gray.

All forms, the man wrote, tend toward blur.

I love this poem because it does a great job of capturing how I see the world sometimes–not through reading glasses, but through my diseased eyes. Sometimes the world looks italicized, slanted, not quite straight, off-kilter. And sometimes trees are nothing but the classic form of a tree — a brown trunk with leaves. Colors, when I can see them, are sometimes only smudges and smears and slashes. It’s all vague or just barely formed–the idea of the river instead of the actual view of an in-focus river. And it often feels like I’m in a haze or a daze or a fog. This is not upsetting to me; it’s more dreamy and calm and soft. Often the sharpness of the forms dependents on the quality of the light–gray days make everything look even fuzzier, bright sunny blue days make it all clearer, with more edges.

A few hours after returning home, I recorded myself reciting the poem. I just learned it this morning so I don’t know it by heart yet. Even as the pauses in this recording make me a little uncomfortable, I like how they demonstrate the moments of my forgetting and then remembering.

I Look Up From My Book, July 23

july 22/RUN

3.25 miles
under ford bridge turn around
61! degrees

Much cooler this morning! Was able to wear a short-sleeved shirt instead of a tank top and didn’t overheat. Ran south on the river road to under the ford bridge and then back. Managed a few quick glances at the river through the trees. Encountered some bikers, walkers, runners, a Minneapolis parks vehicle, a biker biking with a dog. Heard some “heavy metal” (but how heavy was it really?) music not quite blasting out of a bike’s radio. At first, I imagined that it was “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen, but it wasn’t. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t bother me. Much better than the patriotic country crap that some people blast. I am not opposed to all country music–the old school stuff, especially Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn is great. What a delight it would be if I could hear someone blasting “Fist City” one day!

No roller skiers today or Daily Walker. No big groups of runners or walkers. No overheard fragments of conversation to be curious about. No black capped chickadees or geese or turkeys or annoying squirrels or swarming, sex-crazed gnats. No welcoming oaks or vining sumac or the smell of burnt toast near the lake street bridge. No rowers or coxswains or the 4 rollerbladers, swinging their arms as they speed by, perfectly in sync. No lower trails or mulching asphalt or steep short hills or dirt paths or unobstructed views of the river or the gorge.

Recited “Natural Forces” again. Still felt the lines were awkward for reciting as I ran. I noticed how I was unable to keep the flow going between each line. Instead, I had to stop for a few foot strikes, which might be the point–to give some space between each set of glances?

I really like the lines: “Five glances/to relight the stars/blown out by the hurricane,” “Eight glances/to turn the sea/into sky,” and “Nine glances/to make the trees in the wood/dance.” When I’m running through the tunnel of trees, and everything is green in late spring through early fall, sometimes the green sky becomes water to me–a sea–of green air with no surface. And when I’m running above the trees of the floodplain forest, they sway and dance, never just standing there. Some of this is due to the motion of my running, some of it is because of my bad vision. It can be a bit disorienting but it looks really cool, like I’m running in a dream. My vision makes me feel like I’m in a dream a lot of the time.

Thinking about “Natural Forces” and vision some more: what’s the difference between a glance and a glimpse? I looked it up: a glance is a brief and hurried look, a (bright) flash, a glimpse is a faint, intermittent view/ing. So a glance is a quick, sharp flash, a glimpse is a faint, glittering glimmer. And, then, the opposite of to glance is to gaze or stare, to study, scrutinize. I have almost completely lost my ability to do a quick glance and recognize what I’m seeing. If I want it to make sense, I have to stop and stare. It’s very frustrating and (I think) often socially unacceptable to stop and stare at things. So I don’t stop and stare, which also means I end up never seeing it (whatever it is/was).

Recited the poem into my phone a few minutes after I came home:

Natural Forces, July 22

july 21/RUN

3.1 miles
47th st loop
70 degrees
humidity: 85%/ dew point: 66

Ran a little later in the morning because of the rain. A steady, soft rain. Everything green and gray. Nice to sit in the front room at my desk in between two windows and think about poetry and running while memorizing Vincente Huidobro’s “Natural Forces.”

Finally made it outside right before 11 am. A few people out by the gorge, but not too crowded. Ran down to turkey hollow and saw 6! turkeys–I counted carefully. Briefly delighted in how one of the turkey’s small head bobbed in quick, awkward jerks. Ran through some puddles and on some muddy grass. Ended by running on loose gravel on Edmund Boulevard; they’re re-sealing the streets in my neighborhood this week. I can’t remember if they ever clear off this gravel or just wait for it to be worn down by car wheels. Didn’t mind running on the gravel but I’m not interested in doing it for the next couple of weeks. I liked how noisy it was, announcing my foot strikes to anyone/anything nearby. Crush! Crush! Crush!

As I ran, I recited “Natural Forces” over and over again. Not hard to remember but not easy to match with my foot strikes. I found myself rushing through it and then, when I tried to pronounce–in my head– every word, the lines sounded so slow and clumsy. I should try recording myself reciting this as I’m running. What would it sound like?

I originally found and posted this poem at the end of January. Here’s what I wrote:

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

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

Natural Forces/ Vincente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

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

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

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

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong
the life of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

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

Not too bad. I forgot the poet’s name and messed up a few lines, but got most of it right. I do think I want to spend another day on it, paying attention to the rhythm of it while I run. I’m not sure I get the line about the aquatic child. Favorite lines: turn the sea into sky; to make the trees of the wood dance; to see the beauty that shows up between a dream and a catastrophe.

Natural Forces, July 21

Can my glances make worlds? I don’t like the arrogance of that claim but I like the idea of my vision creating new ways to see/observe things.

july 20/RUN

3.1 miles
big loop*
68 degrees

*44th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, west/edmund, south

Another good run. Cooler and very calm, still, quiet. Don’t remember hearing (m)any birds, no conversations, no rowers. At least 3 separate times, I thought I was hearing the clickity-clack of roller skiers, but was actually hearing a bike with noisy wheels or messed up gears or something. Strange that it happened 3 times when I don’t remember ever making that mistake before. Was it the quality of air? Hardly any wind this morning. Sunny, but not bright. Did I see my shadow? Can’t remember.

Recited “The Gate” one more day and thought about gates and openings and doorways and thresholds and windows and spaces where movement and breathing and new stories/ways of being are possible. I think this is my new theme for the month and/or for a series of poems/essays.

Recorded myself reciting it just after finishing my run–my heart rate was probably around 140 or so as I spoke. I got it mostly right but messed up the second to last “this.” The order she writes the three thises–“This is what you’ve been waiting for, ” “And he’d say, This,” and “This, he’d say” is important. It doesn’t have as much impact the way I recited it.

The Gate, July 20

Yesterday, reading Ted Looser’s Delights and Shadows, I found these two poems that I really liked:

Grasshopper/ Ted Kooser

This year they are exactly the size
of the the pencil stub my grandfather kept
to mark off the days since rain,

and precisely the color of dust, of the roads
leading back accross the dying fields
into the ’30s. Walking the cracked lane

past the empty barn, the empty silo,
you hear them tinkering with irony,
slapping the grass like drops of rain.

The Early Bird/ Ted Kooser

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-bully notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy
bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.

july 19/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/north
71 degrees

Ahhh!! A beautiful morning. Even though it was 71, it didn’t feel too hot. Just after reaching the river road — about .3 miles in — I encountered a woman listening to music without headphones as she ran. I’m pretty sure the song playing was “I Wanna Sex You Up” by the 90s boy band, Color Me Badd — the part at the beginning where they sing “ooo ooo ooo ooo” and just before “tick tock you don’t stop.” Wow. I will choose to believe that that was the song she was listening to and remain impressed that she was willing to listen to such a cringe-worthy song without headphones in a public place. Nice.

For the rest of my run, I recited “The Gate” by Marie Howe in my head. There were a few lines that I couldn’t remember exactly–was it “the gate I would step through” or “walk through”, “the world” or “this world”, “holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich” or just “holding my cheese and mustard sandwich”? I thought about the differences in meaning and rhythm that these word choices might make. Then I started thinking about the line, “having folded every sheet, rinsed every glass he would ever rinse.” At first, I couldn’t remember what he had folded–was it a towel, a shirt, a sheet? Then, when I remembered sheet and I thought about the subtle differences in meaning between folding a sheet — evoking the intimate space of a bedroom — versus a shirt or a towel. Did Howe immediately think of sheet, or did she deliberate over different choices before settling on it? It was fun to spend some time reflecting on word choice as I ran. I love how packed and precise poetry is, and often in ways that aren’t readily visible but that you can feel as you read it–even when you don’t realize you’re feeling it.

After 30 seconds after I stopped running, I recorded myself reciting the poem: several errors with word choice. I better practice it some more! The most egregious error (at least to me), instead of saying, “This, he’d say, sort of looking around” for the last line, I said, “And he’d say, This.” Starting with “this” is so much stronger.

The Meadow, July 19

july 18/RUN

2.5 miles
43rd ave, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
74 degrees
humidity: 87%/ dew point: 71

Hot this morning! Very crowded too. Started out running with Scott but after avoiding too many people together, we decided to split up. Some clueless walkers, but mostly just lots of people. Encountered several cars on Edmund too. Don’t remember any roller skiers or runners. No rowers or river views. Any birds? Not that I heard. Finished by running around the block. Discovered it was .5 miles. Good to know.

Discovered Copper Canyons wonderful collection of poems about connection during COVID yesterday via twitter. So good! Scrolling through them, I found two that connect with the poems I’m reading/thinking about right now:

joy and suffering beside each other (Ross Gay, Book of Delights)

What Issa Heard/ David Budbill

Two hundred years ago Issa heard the morning birds
singing sutras to this suffering world.

I heard them too, this morning, which must mean,

since we will always have a suffering world,
we must also always have a song.

“This is what you’ve been waiting for” (Marie Howe/ “The Gate”)

Goshen/ Ruth Stone

For fifteen years I have lived in a house
without running water or furnace.
In and out the front door
with my buckets and armloads of wood.
This is the mountain.
This is the fortress of ice.
This is the stray cat skulking in the barn.
This is the barn with vacant windows
that lifts like a thin balsa kite
in the northeasters.
These are the winter birds
that wait in the bushes.
This is my measuring rod.
This is why I get up in the morning.
This is how I know where I am going.

july 17/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
75 degrees
humidity: 77%

Warmer this morning. Sunny. Decided to listen to a playlist this morning–Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”. A relaxed first mile, a much faster second mile mostly because I was behind a roller skier at the start of the second mile that was going about the same pace that I was. I imagined staying in her COVID slipstream for the rest of the run–no thanks! So I sped up a lot to pass her and then kept the pace so she wouldn’t pass me again. First mile: 9:26; Second mile: 8:11.

Because I was listening to music, I didn’t recite the poem I memorized yesterday afternoon, Marie Howe’s “The Gate.” I’ve decided to memorize 5 different poems by her:

  • The Meadow from The Good Thief (1988)
  • The Gate from What the Living Do (1999)
  • What the Living Do from What the Living Do (1999)
  • Magdalene: Seven Devils from Magdalene: Poems (2017)
  • Singularity (2019)

The Gate/ Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man,

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you’ve been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This, holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?

This, he’d say, sort of looking around.

The first line of this poem, about the space her brother’s body made as the gate she would step through to finally enter this world, was confusing to me at first but it has something to do with grief and how his death helped her to remember and value living — but I think there’s more to it than that. I love the way she describes that he’s dead, “done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet, rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold and running water.” And I love the use of “This” here — the this, encompassing everything and not one thing in particular.

Spending a little more time googling Howe and thinking about her work, I found a very helpful essay from 2008 on oprah.com: Not to Look Away. In it, she talks about her friend Jason who’s funeral she was attending and the gate:

I’m looking for the gate, Jason used to say when he was in pain. I can’t find the gate, but I’m looking. What was this gate my friend Jason was looking for? Maybe he wanted to find the door in the room of suffering, so that he might walk through it into another story. 

and here’s how she describes what story can do:

Is this what a story can do? Emerge from the most painful event and transform it into something else, too? So sad. So funny. Both. And life is there, for a moment, almost adequately represented. 

the story as window?

The days and nights of my life walk by, arm in arm with time, and the gate to the new story stands just outside the circle of my attention. Sometimes I lie here, Jason said, and walk through the old house of my childhood, through all the rooms, and look out all the windows. 

This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.

To be present, not to look away, and to transform suffering into something else also–still suffering but more too. Wow, this makes me think so much about Ross Gay and his idea of joy and suffering in the Book of Delights (I checked it out of the library a year ago, and just ordered my own copy arriving today)!

july 16/RUN

3 miles
1 big loop + 2 smaller loops*
64 degrees
humidity: 79%

*big loop = 36th st to 42nd ave / little loop 1 = 36th st, down hill to 34th st, up hill to 36th st / little loop 2 = 36th st to 38th st to 36th st

Another beautiful morning. Checked out my form in my shadow as she ran beside me. Listened to the cardinals. They were loud enough that I couldn’t hear any other birds–was it all just cardinals? Tried to recite “Love Song For The Square Root of Negative One” but had trouble getting past, “I am the hand that lifts the rock, I am the mind that strings the worm.” Overheard a woman, pushing a stroller, talking loudly on the phone, “I mean…I have a job and some savings…”–not sounding upset but judgmental. What was she talking about and why SO LOUDLY for everyone to hear? Encountered a few roller skiers, bikers, walkers, runners, dogs, cars (when I turned off the river road and went on Edmund). No squirrels or crows or woodpeckers. No rowers or Daily Walker or little old ladies with straw hats or the tall man in black or anyone I remembered ever seeing before. No intense colors or strange running gaits. No views of the river or the ravines. Only an abundance of calming green.

During the last 1/2 mile or so I recited “The Meadow” again which helped the last bit go faster. Then, a minute after I stopped, as I walked home, I recited it into my phone. I have a few pauses because I got distracted by someone walking nearby or when a woman stopped to tell a neighbor how much she loved their garden–I love that garden too. (If you listen closely, you can almost hear it on the recording).

The Meadow, July 16

july 15/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
66 degrees
humidity: 83%

Ah! Such nice weather this morning. Still humid, but cooler. Almost sunny. A thin layer of clouds covered most of the sky. So thin that the sun was still casting shadows on the road. A strange sight. Is there a word for that? I tried looking it up just now and I couldn’t find anything.

I was able to run above the river for a few minutes and saw some blue through the green. Heard several roller skiers, a few bikers, runners, walkers. No music coming out of bike radios or snippets of conversation that made me curious. No rushing water, hardly any birds. I’m sure I heard traffic but I don’t remember that either—actually, thinking about it for a few minutes, I do remember some traffic. As I ran down the hill and under the lake street bridge, I heard cars and trucks on the bridge and kept thinking they were on the river road, just behind me. Noticed many cars in the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy–are they planning to open the campus this fall? I hope not. Also saw soccer practice on the field. Ran past the railroad trestle almost to Franklin. Felt relaxed and strong.

As I ran, I tried thinking about the idea of the dream-like state and Howe’s line, “this might be all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you can forget what you are.” What is this small time? Is forgetting what we are a type of getting lost in a (day) dream (Emily Dickinson’s revery*?) or practicing pure attention (another line from Howe: “speaking for the sound alone”?). And, what is it that we are, that we must forget? Yesterday I suggested that we are creatures who struggle against their solitude, suffering, and the inevitability of death. Here’s another answer from Marilyn Nelson in “Crows”:

What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against the emptiness
for a moment of an eternity—
images collected in consciousness,
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet.

*To make a prairie/Emily Dickinson

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

july 14/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/north
73 degrees/ light rain
humidity: 89%/ dew point: 70

Woke up to darkness. Rain coming and staying all day. Decided to take Delia the dog out for a quick walk before it started. Not soon enough; by 1 block it was drizzling and by 2 blocks raining. We ran back. Delia did a great job–except for the time when she ran right in front of me and almost tripped me. Maybe I should try training her to run?

Running felt good so I decided if there was a break in the rain, I would go out for a run. There was and I did. Hardly anyone out by the gorge. I was able to run on the trail right above the river for most of the time. Hooray! I saw the river, heard some birds, ran by my favorite benches, heard the roar of the water gushing out of the sewer pipes down to the river near both ravines — at 36th and 42nd. And then, at the end, I ran through the Welcoming Oaks and greeted each one, “good morning!” “good morning!” “good morning!” Haven’t been able to do that in awhile.

color

There’s something about cloudy, gray light that makes my vision even stranger than usual, especially when it comes to seeing colors. I am amazed that I can still see any color with almost all of my cones damaged. Here are some colors I saw this morning, some stranger than others:

  • From about 2 blocks away from the river road, I could see an orange sign for a pedestrian detour. So bright and so prominent, a glowing smudge in the midst of fuzzy dark green and gray.
  • Twice I encountered, from a distance of about 15-20 feet, a woman in blue running tights. As I approached her, seeing her through my central vision, the tights looked dark, almost navy blue. But when I saw her from the side, through my peripheral vision, the rights were a bright, electric blue. Blue is a strange color with my vision. Last winter, I used to walk by a house with lights in the shape of a peace sign. The circle was red, the inner sign blue. Looking at the sign straight on all I could see was a red circle. It wasn’t until I looked at it from the side that I could just barely see the blue lines.
  • A walker in a pink–or was it coral?–jacket.
  • The river was a pale blue, almost white in the gray light.

on the dream, forgiveness, and forgetting

Still thinking about Marie Howe and “The Meadow,” especially these lines, “My love, this might be all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you can forget who you are” and “Bedeviled, human, your plight, in waking, is to chose from the words even now asleep on your tongue, and to know that tangled among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change your life.” In yesterday’s entry in my plague notebook, I wrote: “We forget what we are because what we are are creatures attempting to find the right words to feel better — less alone, less suffering, less closer to death.”

I want to think more about the value of forgetting. Here’s a poem I’d like memorize to get me started:

Let It Be Forgotten/ SARA TEASDALE

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow.

july 13/RUN

3 miles
44th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/38th st, west/river road, north
70 degrees
humidity: 77%/ dew point: 63

Another beautiful morning! Not much wind, not too hot, some shade. Ran past the aspen eyes and towards downtown, up the hill from under the lake street bridge, then turned around. I think I saw the river, or the idea of the river hiding behind the green. Recited “The Meadow” a few times during the first two miles of my run, then stopped to put on some music and sprinted up a hill while blasting Demi Levato’s “Sorry, not Sorry” — a great song to run to. I got it in my head yesterday after I responded to Scott about something jokingly rude I had just said with, “sorry, not sorry.”

At some point, as I was reciting it, I thought about the line, “The horses, sway-backed and self important, cannot design how the small white pony mysteriously escapes the fence everyday.” I wondered, isn’t small, as in “small white pony” redundant? Aren’t ponies always small? Would it flow as well without the extra syllable of small? Now, sitting here at my desk in the front room, listening to a young child right outside vacillate between cute, calling out “I Love You!” to his mom, and annoying, babbling in a high-pitched voice, I am also struck by Howe’s use of white. Nothing else in the poem has a color–no green meadow or dappled gray horses or golden hay or anything. Why is the pony singled out–given a color and a redundant size? With its mysterious escape, is it a ghost? Still thinking about this line: I like how she uses “design” in this sentence. And I love the self important, clueless horses and the next line’s follow-up: “This is a miracle just beyond their heavy-headed grasp.”

I’m trying to make sense of the meaning of this whole poem (admittedly, I feel like I’m often dense when it comes to understanding poetry) and I’m wondering if these three lines are the most important:

  1. As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them…
  2. My love, this might be all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you forget what you are.
  3. Bedeviled, human, your plight, when waking is to chose from the words that even now sleep on your tongue and to know that among them, tangled and terribly new, is the sentence that could change your life.

In our dreams, we can forget what we are (the meadow forgets how to make wildflowers, the horses are weary of hay, the wasps are tiny prop planes, the knock of a woodpecker becomes a phone ringing). But, we always wake up (the meadow thinks suddenly, “water, root, blossom,” the horses lie down in daisies and clover, we/humans suffer–moaning, and know we will die). The task as human is to find the right (?) words to give meaning to/transform what we are? Does that work? And how does this line fit in: “I want to add my cry to those who would speak for the sound alone”?

Discovered another delightful abecedarian!

Abecedarian For the Future/ Ada Limón

All the old gray gods have fallen
back to their static realms of myth
cleared from the benches, thrones,
dragged kicking to their strongest tombs,
each one grizzled by their swift exile
frayed, bedraggled, forced to kneel,
give up their guns, armor, swords,
hand over their passports, global security
identification, and be stripped bare.
Justice has relegated them to history,
kept nothing but the long rancorous
list of crimes (slaughterers all)
molded them into dull cement statues
not to worship. but as a warning most
ominous. Here stood Greed and his brother
Pride, note their glazed inhuman eyes,
question their puny stature now, how
rodent-like, how utterly overthrow-able.
Still, remember how long they ruled?
Tyrannical and blustering, claiming
universal power, until the kinder masses
voted the callous thin-lipped lizards out?
What a day that was! The end of hatred,
xenophobia, patriarchal authority–but
yes, we waited too long, first we had to
zero out, give up on becoming gods at all.

july 12/RUN

3.5 miles
47th street loop
67 degrees

Cooler this morning with a lower dew point–in the upper 50s or low 60s, I think. As I write this at my upstairs desk, a few hours after my run, I can hear chickadees and it reminds me of the birds I heard as I ran: lots of black capped chickadees doing their feebee call, several cardinals pew pew pewing. Very crowded on the road this morning. Even so, I made sure to keep my 6 feet of distance. Saw many runners, bikers, walkers both be-dogged and dog-less. I think I saw a blue sliver of the river at some point. Ran down past turkey hollow but forgot to check for turkeys–are they here in the middle of the summer? do they hide during the heat of the day and emerge at night?

Recited the entire “The Meadow” a few times through. Such a beautiful poem with wonderful last lines: “Bedeviled,/human, your plight, in waking, is to chose from the words/that even now sleep on your tongue, and to know that tangled/among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change your life.” 3 years ago I encountered that line not too long after reading Mary Oliver’s “Invitation” and her final lines, “It could be what Rilke meant when he wrote/You must change your life.” I started thinking about this idea of you could/must change your life and how it works, what it might look like. And then, all of this wondering became the inspiration for my chapbook, You Must Change Your Life.

I’m interested in revisiting those ideas now for many reasons: I’m not entirely happy with my poems and how I worked through the ideas; having dedicated 3 more years to studying poetry and thinking about these ideas, I have new insights to add; it’s fascinating to see how my perspective has/hasn’t changed in these 3 years (for example, in one of the poems I wrote, “Anyway, who cares about the birds?” This year, I do, quite a bit); and I’d like to explore this in relation to the radical change that has happened in 2020 due to the pandemic–but, is it a change/transformation or merely a disruption? I hope it’s a transformation.

Here’s a recording of me reciting the poem after I returned home:

The Meadow, July 12

july 11/RUN

3.15 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
humidity: 81%/ dew point: 65

Thunderstorm early this morning then sun and humidity. I’m pretty sure the Olympian Carrie Tollefeson passed me right before the lake street bridge. Very cool. Heard some black capped chickadees. Ran up 43rd ave then down 32nd st to the river so I was able to run right by the aspen eyes. Didn’t hear any rowers or see the river or any “regulars,” like the Daily Walker or last year’s man in black or the tall, slim, older man in the running shorts. I don’t see any regulars this year. Strange and sad.

Recited the first half of Maria Howe’s “The Meadow” — a poem I memorized 3 years ago when I was injured but have mostly forgotten. I had been planning to memorize Wordsworth’s “I wander lonely as a cloud” but it seemed too cheesy or sing song-y or poem-y (whatever that means). I think I’ll wait to memorize his snowflake this next winter instead.

The Meadow/ Marie Howe (first half)

As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them, so
the meadow, muddy with dreams, is gathering itself together

and trying, with difficulty, to remember how to make wildflowers.
Imperceptibly heaving with the old impatience, it knows

for certain that two horses walk upon it, weary of hay.
The horses, sway-backed and self important, cannot design

how the small white pony mysteriously escapes the fence everyday.
This is the miracle just beyond their heavy-headed grasp,

and they turn from his nuzzling with irritation. Everything
is crying out. Two crows, rising from the hill, fight

and caw-cry in mid-flight, then fall and light on the meadow grass
bewildered by their weight. A dozen wasps drone, tiny prop planes

sputtering into a field a farmer has not yet plowed,
and what I thought was a phone, turned down and ringing,

is the knock of a woodpecker for food or warning, I can’t say.
I want to add my cry to those who would speak for the sound alone.

On my walk home after I finished, I recorded myself reciting this first half. A few wrong words or forgotten phrases. I love the line, “this is the miracle just beyond their heavy-headed grasp” and the pleasing rhymes in “two crows fight and caw-cry mid-flight, then fall and light on the meadow grass”

The Meadow, first half, July 11

Discovered Antonio Machado, a Spanish poet who lived from 1875-1939, and his delightful “Proverbs and Canticles” yesterday. Here are a few:

canticle: a hymn or chant, typically with a bible verse

I

The mode of dialogue, my friends,
is first to question:
then . . . attend.

III

The poets does not pursue
the fundamental I
but the essential you.

IV

In writing verses, seek
to give them a double light: one
to read square by, one oblique.

july 10/RUN

4.15 miles
the falls and back
70 degrees
humidity: 73%/ dew point: 60

Slightly cooler this morning with a lower dew point. Still felt hot. Sweat a lot. Ran south on the river road and around the falls. Heard them roaring as I rounded the corner. Managed to catch a few glimpses of the blue of the river. Otherwise, lots of green. It feels like mid-summer. Encountered many bikers and runners and walkers. One biker was playing Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville,” which sounds distorted–thanks to the steel drums–even when you aren’t getting the doppler effect. Strange. I am sure I heard many birds, but I don’t remember. I do recall hearing one biker say to the other, “They should have told people that wearing a mask helps protect you not other people, then everyone would wear a mask. That’s sad.”

I have completely memorized Billy Collins’ poem about memorizing Donne’s The Sun Rising, but I’ve soured a bit on the poem after seeing a tweet about what a creep Collins is and reading his poem about undressing Emily Dickinson. So gross. Instead of reciting “Memorizing,” I tried to work my way through my list. I recited “Auto-lullaby,” then “It’s all I have to bring today” and “Swept All Visible Signs Away.” Couldn’t remember what was next on my list–I thought it was “Lovesong for the Square Root of Negative One,” which it was, but got side-tracked by the effort of running and avoiding others on the road.

What are Poems?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what poems are to me. Here’s a list of a few things:

  • spells
  • chants
  • charms
  • balms
  • prayers
  • doors/windows
  • ways in/ways out
  • trails
  • alleluias/thanks/praise
  • wonders
  • bewilderments
  • breaths
  • tracks across the snow
  • a ripple in the river, troubling the too-calm water
  • an opportunity to slow down, ruminate
  • an invitation to attend something

Last week, I planned to memorize a series of poems about eyes and vision. Somehow, I’ve been side-tracked. I’m thinking of memorizing Wordsworth’s classic about the daffodils. Other poems I’m considering instead of or after that one:

  • Dorothy Wordsworth/ Jennifer Chang
  • The Art/ Elizabeth Bishop
  • Question/ May Swenson
  • The Meadow/ Marie Howe
  • Hamlet’s soliloquy, “to be or not to be…”

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud / WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

july 8/RUN

2.75 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
77 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 70

If you would have told me last year that I’d be regularly running in dew points of 70 or so, I wouldn’t have believed you. But, the dew point has been 70 (highest was 75) for the past 2 weeks (well, one day it was 69), and I have run every day. Ran by the aspen eyes, under the lake street bridge, up the hill, then back down it. Encountered lots of runners, bikers, walkers. Crowded this morning. Remember hearing at least one black capped chickadee. At the start of my run I encountered several annoyingly spazzy squirrels, darting in front of me. There was a big cf on edmund–one person on the sidewalk, one person in the road, another person with a dog on the other side of the road. Had to run up someone’s grass to keep my distance. Didn’t see the river or hear any rowers.

As I ran, I recited “Memorizing ‘The Sun Rising'”/ Billy Collins. Yesterday, I recited the first half, today the whole thing. Didn’t think about the meaning of any of the lines, just tried to make sure I got the words right. Favorite stanza today?

So it’s not until leaving the house
and walking three times around this hidden lake
that the poem showed
any interest in walking by my side.

I like the idea of the poem deciding whether or not it wants to spend time with the person memorizing/reciting it. I also like how the line is walking three times around this hidden lake instead of walking around this hidden lake three times.

The line I probably struggled with the most was, “better than the courteous dominion.” I couldn’t remember courteous or dominion; my mind was blank. I remember this happening as I ran and fumbling around for many seconds trying to think of what the phrase was. All of sudden it came to me like a flash or an image that, even as I stare intently and it’s right in front of me, I can’t see it at all until suddenly I can. How strange and marvelous the brain is to magically retrieve words! A few hours after returning from my run, I sat down and recorded myself reciting the poem. A bit rough, as I struggled with a few lines. I managed to record myself struggling and then successfully remembering the courteous dominion line.

Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne, July 8

I’d like to figure out a metaphor or simile for that moment of remembering. In “Memorizing” Billy Collins describes the act of forgetting — “begin to fade like sky-written letters on a windy day”– and having forgotten — “a blown-out candle now, a wavering line of acrid smoke” — but he doesn’t have a equivalent one for remembering. I suppose he does have one for fully remembering and taking in the poem: “after hours of stepping up and down the poem,/testing the plank of every line,/it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.” But this doesn’t quite get at the revelatory moment of remembering. I’ll work on it some more. I wonder if I can find some other poems that express it?

july 7/RUN

2.5 miles
45th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/38th st, west/ river road, north
75 degrees
humidity: 86%/ dew point: 71

Very hot! Not much shade. Uncomfortable. Thought about running 3 miles but decided 2.5 was enough. Ran past the aspen eyes. Heard “Devil Went Down to Georgia” blasting out of a bike’s speakers. Sweet. Pretty cool doppler effect after they passed by me. Sounded like the music was melting. Tried to get a glimpse of the river through the gap in the trees, but the green was too thick. Don’t remember any bugs. Almost thought I saw the Daily Walker but it was someone jogging, not walking. Saw a roller skiing family–an adult and a few kids of different ages.

Recited the first four stanzas of the Billy Collins’ poem I’m memorizing (which is a quick break from my current theme on eyes):

Every reader loves how he tells off
the sun, shouting busy old fool
into the English skies even though they were
likely not cloudy on that seventeenth century morning.

And it’s a pleasure to spend this sunny day
pacing the carpet and repeating the words,
feeling the syllables lock into rows
until I can stand and declare,
the book held closed by my side,
that hours, days, and months are but the rags of time.

And after a few steps into the stanza number two,
wherein the sun is blinded by his mistress’s eyes,
I can feel the first one begin to fade
like sky-written letters on a windy day

And by the time I have taken in the third,
the second one is likewise gone, a blown out candle now,
a wavering line of acrid smoke.

I found it difficult to stay focused on the poem because I was hot and sweaty but I managed to recite it all at least once. I like the line about the syllables locking into rows. I also like how he incorporates lines from Dunne’s poem into his own. He describes his forgetting of lines as “sky- written letters on a windy day” and “a blown out candle, wavering line of acrid smoke.” Is that how it feels to me when I cannot remember a line? I’m not sure.

Holy shit this poem is amazing! Found it this morning on poem of the day on poets.org:

Nothing/ Krysten Hill

I ask a student how I can help her. Nothing is on her paper.
It’s been that way for thirty-five minutes. She has a headache. 
She asks to leave early. Maybe I asked the wrong question. 
I’ve always been dumb with questions. When I hurt, 
I too have a hard time accepting advice or gentleness.
I owe for an education that hurt, and collectors call my mama’s house. 
I do nothing about my unpaid bills as if that will help. 
I do nothing about the mold on my ceiling, and it spreads. 
I do nothing about the cat’s litter box, and she pisses on my new bath mat. 
Nothing isn’t an absence. Silence isn’t nothing. I told a woman I loved her, 
and she never talked to me again. I told my mama a man hurt me,
and her hard silence told me to keep my story to myself. 
Nothing is full of something, a mass that grows where you cut at it. 
I’ve lost three aunts when white doctors told them the thing they felt 
was nothing. My aunt said nothing when it clawed at her breathing.
I sat in a room while it killed her. I am afraid when nothing keeps me 
in bed for days. I imagine what my beautiful aunts are becoming 
underground, and I cry for them in my sleep where no one can see. 
Nothing is in my bedroom, but I smell my aunt’s perfume 
and wake to my name called from nowhere. I never looked 
into a sky and said it was empty. Maybe that’s why I imagine a god 
up there to fill what seems unimaginable. Some days, I want to live 
inside the words more than my own black body. 
When the white man shoves me so that he can get on the bus first, 
when he says I am nothing but fits it inside a word, and no one stops him, 
I wear a bruise in the morning where he touched me before I was born. 
My mama’s shame spreads inside me. I’ve heard her say 
there was nothing in a grocery store she could afford. I’ve heard her tell 
the landlord she had nothing to her name. There was nothing I could do 
for the young black woman that disappeared on her way to campus. 
They found her purse and her phone, but nothing led them to her. 
Nobody was there to hold Renisha McBride’s hand 
when she was scared of dying. I worry poems are nothing against it. 
My mama said that if I became a poet or a teacher, I’d make nothing, but 
I’ve thrown words like rocks and hit something in a room when I aimed 
for a window. One student says when he writes, it feels 
like nothing can stop him, and his laugher unlocks a door. He invites me 
into his living.

This entire poem is wonderful. Right now, thinking about why one writes/what poetry is, I’m struck by her final lines: “I’ve thrown words like rocks and hit something in a room when I/aimed/for a window” and “when he writes, it feels/like nothing can stop him and his laughter unlocks/a door. He invites/me/into his living.” Wow. Words as rocks, writing as a freedom and a liberated laugh that can unlock a door.

july 6/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
77 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 71

And yet another hot morning. Had to wait a few hours until the thunder storms stopped. Not much shade, several annoying groups of walkers taking up almost the entire road. For a long stretch at the beginning, I was able to run right above the river on the trail. It almost felt normal. A wall of green made it nearly impossible to see the river but near 38th street, where some steps wind down to the part of the Winchell Trail that’s paved, I saw it! Blue, beautiful. I miss water–seeing it, swimming in it, hearing it.

Lots of puddles on the path. Not much dripping from the trees, already evaporating in the hot air. Tried reciting “Before I got my eye put out” again but it was too hot. Also tried “Love Song of the Square root of Negative One”– “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/ tremble but I am invisible, bloom without flower, knot/ without rope, song without throat in wingless flight, dark/ boat in the dark night, pure velocity.” I love this poem and I love reciting it even as I still don’t understand it. Would it make more sense in the context of the whole collection? I’d like to buy this collection, War of the Foxes. I do know that the square root of negative one is an imaginary number and so I wonder if this is a love song to the imagination, which makes the leaves tremble while still being invisible? I’m not sure it needs to make sense; it’s fun to memorize and recite. Such great flow and rhythms.

This morning, I found a great article from the New Yorker on Why We Should Memorize poems. Here’s one reason the author gives:

The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. Robson puts the point succinctly: “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”

Then, while looking up the term “ars poetica,” I found this wonderful poem about memorizing a poem:

Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne/ BILLY COLLINS

Every reader loves the way he tells off 
the sun, shouting busy old fool 
into the English skies even though they 
were likely cloudy on that seventeenth-century morning.

And it’s a pleasure to spend this sunny day
pacing the carpet and repeating the words, 
feeling the syllables lock into rows
until I can stand and declare, 
the book held closed by my side,
that hours, days, and months are but the rags of time.

But after a few steps into stanza number two,
wherein the sun is blinded by his mistress’s eyes, 
I can feel the first one begin to fade 
like sky-written letters on a windy day.

And by the time I have taken in the third, 
the second is likewise gone, a blown-out candle now,
a wavering line of acrid smoke.

So it’s not until I leave the house
and walk three times around this hidden lake
that the poem begins to show
any interest in walking by my side.

Then, after my circling,
better than the courteous dominion 
of her being all states and him all princes, 

better than love’s power to shrink
the wide world to the size of a bedchamber, 

and better even than the compression
of all that into the rooms of these three stanzas
is how, after hours stepping up and down the poem,
testing the plank of every line,
it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.

I’d like to memorize this poem, I think. So I can spend more time with it, figuring out my favorite lines and what works, what doesn’t. In addition to his great lines about the process of memorizing the poem– “after hours of steeping up and down the poem,/ testing the plank of every line,/ it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within”– I love how it engages with Dunne’s poem, weaving it into his own lines. I’d like to do something like this with Mary Oliver’s poem, “Invitation.”

july 5/RUN

3 miles
47th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/38th st, west/edmund, north
76% degrees
humidity: 86%/ dew point: 69

Another hot, still, sunny morning. I was able to run right above the river for a small stretch. I saw a few streaks of blue and heard the rowers! Well, just the coxswain speaking into the bullhorn in a deep, creaking voice. Not too long after that, I heard the clickity-clacks of some roller skiers. Very exciting–it almost felt like summer. (Any other summer, I’d be at open swim right now on this perfect-for-swimming day, but I’m trying not to think about that. Too sad.)

Recited “Before I got my eye put out” for another day and thought about this stanza:

So, safer — guess — with just my soul,
Opon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes
Incautious of the Sun —

Sometimes I am very sensitive to bright light, but much less lately, it seems. Does that mean my vision is getting worse? It’s hard to tell because I adjust to things gradually and without much effort. Like, reading. Now I mostly listen to audiobooks, with the occasional ebook. I started the one physical book I am reading, Love in the Time of Cholera, way back in March. So far, I have read about 200 pages of it in 3 1/2 months. The good thing about this gradual shift is that I don’t feel like I’ve lost something. When I can no longer see the words–when and if that happens–I won’t be reading books anymore anyway. Ah, the wonder of the body/self and their ability to accommodate!

I have more to say about this stanza involving too-muchness, safety, the need for caution, the dangers of being too cautious, what it might mean to have your soul (and why just your soul) on the window pane, but I couldn’t put all the ideas into words yet.

Came across this wonderful little poem the other day:

Ars Poetica/ Aracelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.

Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record

of the foot’s silver prayer.
             I lived once.
             Thank you. 
             I was here.

I love this poem and its definition of poetry. The foot’s silver prayer — Wow! I’m thinking about Mary Oliver and her poems as little alleluia on the page, breathing and giving thanks.

july 4/RUN

3.25 miles
ford bridge and back
78 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 71

So hot! Humid! Thought I might have trouble breathing but it wasn’t too bad. Lots of shade and lots of people– running packs, bikers, walkers. Ran south on the river road towards the falls, turning around just past the ford bridge. Saw the river once or twice. Also saw a black nondescript bird flying high in the sky and 2 bikers in long pants–in this heat!? Recited “Before I got my eye put out” again. I was hoping to reflect on the meaning of some of the phrases but it was too hot for that.

Right after finishing my run, I did a recording:

Before I got my eye put out, July 4

My favorite stanza today:

The Meadows — mine —
The Mountains — mine —
The Forests — Stintless Stars —
And all of noon that I could take
Between my finite eyes

And my favorite parts about that stanza? The slant rhyme between Stars and eyes, the rhythm of “and all of noon that I could take” and the idea of taking in as much of noon as my eyes could allow–although I’m not sure I’d pick noon, too bright and severe, I’d take dawn instead. But, I like the sound of noon with its long os better than the shorter aw of dawn.

Last year I created a cento out of poems I memorized. I used most of this stanza in one of the sections:

I’m Not Asking for Much/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

xi.

I’m not asking for much
A white, indifferent morning sky
Unsentimental sleet
A lamentation of geese
Less hatred strutting the streets
To feel a little less, know a little more
Enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night
A way out, the one dappled way, back
Paradise, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold

The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take
Gorged, engorging, and gorgeous.

The theme of this series of poems on vision that I’m memorizing is: Loving Eye/Arrogant Eye. The idea of owning the meadows or mountains, forests, stintless stars seems arrogant to me–to possess/own/have something through a glance. I like the idea of the soul upon the window pane, feeling/experiencing/taking in the view instead (loving perception). The idea of the power of the glance to own/control/possess reminds me of another poem I picked in this series. I was planning to recite it later, but I think I should do it next.

Natural Forces/ Vicente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

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

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

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

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong the life
of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

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

july 3/RUN

2.5 miles
a different loop
76 degrees
humidity: 76%/ dew point: 70

More heat. More humidity. More sticky air. Still, I didn’t mind the run although I was glad to be done after 2.5 miles. Don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing the river. Saw a few big groups of runners, some roller skiers, lots of bikers, walkers, dogs. No woodpeckers or black-capped chickadees. Recited the new poem I memorized yesterday: Before I Got My Eye Put Out/Emily Dickinson

Before I got my eye put out
I liked as well to see
As other creatures that have eyes —
And know no other way —

But were it told to me, Today,
That I might have the Sky
For mine–I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me —

The Meadows — mine —
The Mountains — mine —
All Forests — Stintless Stars —
And as much of noon, as I could take —
Between my finite eyes —

The Motions of the dipping Birds —
The Morning’s Amber Road —
For mine — to look at when I liked,
The news would strike me dead —

So better — guess — with just my soul
Opon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes
Incautious of the Sun —

Reciting the poem I was struck by how rhythmic it is until the line “for size of me.” Almost as if to demonstrate the line just before, “my Heart would split.” The beat stops (or is split open) and it’s awkward and difficult to fit into the rhythm. I like Dickinson’s slant rhymes and her refusal to let the reader continue on in a happy flow. Reviewing the poem, double-checking capitalizations and punctuation, I just noticed how even though she capitalizes many things like, Heart, Today, Sky, she doesn’t capitalize soul or eye.

On my walk back, I recorded myself reciting. Needs more practice:

Before I Got My Eye Put Out, July 3

july 2/RUN

2.5 miles
a figure 8 + extra*
77 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 75

*43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/33rd st, west/edmund, south/river road, south/38th st, west/edmund, north/river road, north/river road, south

Same temperature as yesterday but higher dew point and sun. Hot. Managed to recite all of the bird poems in my head as I ran. Pretty cool. Made sure to check out the aspen eyes as I ran by them. Was able to run in the shade for more than half of the run. Wanted to find a sprinkler to run under up on edmund, but the only one on wasn’t watering the street or the sidewalk today. Encountered a few other runners, walkers, 1–or was it 2?–roller skiers, bikers. Didn’t see the river. Felt strong and relaxed until around a mile and a half when I started feeling the heat. I remember hearing a black capped chickadee right before I left the house but not near the gorge. I am sure there were many birds chirping away as I ran but I don’t remember hearing them. Also don’t remember what I thought about.

black capped chickadee

This is my bird of the summer. I hear it all the time. Last night, sitting on the deck with Scott, I heard it call, “chickadeedeedeedee” right before it landed in the tree above my head. Usually, I struggle to see these small birds, but I was able to see this one. Nice!

The World Has Need of You/ Ellen Bass

everything here
seems to need us

Rainer Maria Rilke

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.

O, this poem from Bass’s collection Like a Beggar! I love how she describes walking as “the ancient/prayer of my arms swinging/in counterpoint to my feet” and being “suspended between the sidewalk and twilight.” Invisible tug is great too–another IT acronym. And, “we know too much/and too little” seems like a great theme for a set of poems to memorize.

The line, “If you’ve managed to do one good thing,/the ocean doesn’t care” reminds me of this Mary Oliver poem, which has a slightly different meaning but still speaks to the wonderful indifference of the water:

I Go Down To The Shore/ Mary Oliver

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall–
what should I do? And the seas says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.