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