august 23/RUN

3.1 miles
another route where I avoid people*
72 degrees
dew point: 69

*36th st, east/edmund, north/river road trail, north/48th ave, northwest/minnehaha academy parking lot/32nd st, east/edmund, south/38th st, west/river road, north/the hill

Went out for my run a little earlier, but not early enough. Still crowded. Was planning to do the trestle turn around route but when I saw how many bikers and walkers there were, I decided to turn up towards lake street and loop around Minnehaha Academy. I am looking forward to when it is cooler and there are less people on the trails–will that happen this year?

Heard some birds this morning but I can’t remember what or how they were singing. Also heard some cicadas. No geese or woodpeckers or black-capped chickadees. Saw my shadow running ahead of me.

(added a few hours later) I almost forgot: running on Edmund, I felt a small acorn bounce off my bare shoulder as it fell to the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever had an acorn bounce off of my shoulder. I’m glad it was a small one–and also not a walnut!

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout/ GARY SNYDER

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain   
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read   
A few friends, but they are in cities.   
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup   
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

I like the simple form of this poem and how he describes the landscape in the first stanza. It’s like a deep breath or a little prayer or a moment of quiet rumination. I’d like to try a few poems in this form, using details from my log entries.

Is the line, “I cannot remember things I once read,” a reference to aging? I read another poem about aging this morning:

Vertigo/ LES MURRAY

Last time I fell in a shower room
I bled like a tumbril dandy
and the hotel longed to be rid of me.
Taken to the town clinic, I
described how I tripped on a steel rim
and found my head in the wardrobe.
Scalp-sewn and knotted and flagged
I thanked the Frau Doktor and fled,
wishing the grab-bar of age might
be bolted to all civilization
and thinking of Rome’s eighth hill
heaped up out of broken amphorae.

When, anytime after sixty,
or anytime before, you stumble
over two stairs and club your forehead
on rake or hoe, bricks or fuel-drums,
that’s the time to call the purveyor
of steel pipe and indoor railings,
and soon you’ll be grasping up landings
having left your balance in the car
from which please God you’ll never
see the launchway of tires off a brink.
Later comes the sunny day when
street detail whitens blindly to mauve

and people hurry you, or wait, quiet.

august 22/RUN

3 miles
running wherever there’s an uncluttered path*
69 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 66

*Ran towards the river, was almost hit by 2 bikes (one was their fault, the other mine). The path was so crowded that I couldn’t avoid people so I crossed over to the grassy stretch between edmund and the river road. Too crowded. Ran on Edmund. Too crowded. Finally turned right on 42nd and ran through the neighborhood, west on 42nd st, north on 43rd ave, around Howe school, east on 37th st, north on 45th ave, west on 35th st.

Hot and too crowded. Oh well, still good to get out there. Woke up this morning from an anxiety dream: I needed to perform in a concert in a town an hour away. I couldn’t find a black shirt. Most of the dream consisted of me frantically searching through all my clothes, which had been carefully folded by my dead mom until I threw them all around the room. No black shirt. A messy mountain of clothes.

Listened to a playlist as I ran. It helped a little. Could still hear the crickets buzzing. It’s LOUD bug season. When I reached Howe, someone was racing a remote control car on the street. I’m glad I was running on the sidewalk! I never saw who was doing it. I imagined a young boy, but it could have been a man or a young girl, I guess.

Listening to Teenage Kicks on the Current radio station this morning as I write this entry. I like this line from Prince’s “Pop Life”: everybody needs a thrill/we all got a space to fill.

Found this bit of wisdom on twitter from Dana Levin the other day. I love the poetry people on twitter.

Hot tip: It’s great to mull the context that gives birth to a poem, but if you start revising based on this context rather than on the gifts (often unexpected) of the material—language, image, tone, etc—your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations.

In this same thread, a John Ashbery passage from his poem flow chart is mentioned:

So one can lose a good idea
by not writing it down, yet by losing it one can have it: it nourishes other asides
it knows nothing of

This makes me think of same great advice Danez Smith gave in a poetry workshop I attended. They talked about the original idea for a poem as the bay leaf that seasons the poem but that you take out before serving.

I’m also thinking about something Mary Oliver said in her interview with Krista Tippet for On Being. Just as Dana Levin ends with “your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations,” Oliver suggests that without empathy/feeling your poem is only reporting, a field guide. Too much context/explanation distracts (or detracts?) from feeling and experiencing the poem.

august 21/RUN

2.25 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/hill x 2
73 degrees

A warmer morning. Can’t remember anything that I thought about, which is nice. I like getting lost. Ran one of my new regular routes through the neighborhood, then closer to the river. No tunnel of trees today. I hope that when it gets colder, less people will run so I can run on the trail without worrying too much about getting too close to people.

sound of the morning

At the start of my run, on the sidewalk north on 43rd, I heard the beep beep beep beep beep of a truck backing up. At first I couldn’t tell where the truck was, then I noticed a U-Haul parking in front of a house. How many beeps? At least a dozen. I guess they were struggling to parallel park.

fall is coming!

Turning the corner from 32nd st to Edmund, I noticed it: one of the trees that glows yellow in the fall is changing already. The yellow is creeping in, slowly. I love tracking the changing colors in the fall!

I don’t remember hearing many birds or bugs. No music blasting from bike speakers or people talking on the phone. No clickity-clacks from roller skiers or bike bells dinging. I do remember hearing the distinctive plink plink of an acorn bouncing on the ground and the hum of at least one machine at the construction site above the tunnel of trees.

Currently I’m working on turning my work memorizing poems into writing exercises/memoir. And I’ve been thinking about how useful and wonderful it is to record myself reciting a poem and then listening back to the words, which are often correct but sometimes wrong in unexpected ways. I found a tweet yesterday, which doesn’t totally fit with this memorizing but connects:

transcriptions rly show how much of our talk is dirt & gravel, how clear thoughts have to be panned for like gold

yet all the human pleasure is in the gravel, in the second-guessing & laughter & short sighs, the repetitions & amens, the silences where thoughts turn & settle

One bit of “gravel” I find in my recitation recordings is when I struggle to remember a word or phrase or line. Such delight in hearing the moment of remembering and the struggle to achieve it! What would it look like to transcribe that into a poem, I wonder?

Finally, here’s another poem about listening that I discovered a few days ago.

Listening/ Elizabeth Hoover

When I am in a restaurant or bar, I watch
women listening. They listen to men talk
about unfinished basements, art projects,
or how the land is very rocky around Sudbury.
I admire how women are resourceful in making
themselves comfortable while listening. One
cradles her chin in her palm, her spine
a deep c-curve. Another woman sits
very upright and sips her martini
while following the zigzag of waiters.
The woman to my left appears to be using
the time to memorize how her hands look
in case they are lost or stolen and she needs
to describe them to the police while a man explains
that industrial strawberry farming has created
a monoculture. The woman with perfect posture
is receiving directions to a trailhead
in another country. The woman
with the swan-neck spine stealthily adjusts
her belt as a man informs her Lolita
is really an allegory about art-making. After all
these years of listening, I am so good at it that I can
even listen to the women’s listening. It sounds
like a wind over a great plain laid to waste
by a retreating army or the pages of a book
abandoned on the sand by a swimmer
whose strong arms have taken her beyond
where waves crash so she can float and listen
to the rush of her blood, the shriek of gulls.
She can hear the gulls’ ribs creak as they inhale
before each cry. She can hear the rustle
as urchins pass over the decay they feast on.
She can hear silver on the sides of fish
and the loneliness of an uncoupled eel. She listens
to her own sounds as well: the current
of her nerves slowing, her hair lifting
and floating away, the sacs in her lungs
reaching greedy mouths to the sky.

At first, I wasn’t planning to memorize this poem but now, re-reading it, I’m thinking I will. I love the descriptions of the women listening to the mansplaining–especially the woman examining her hands in case they are stolen–and the listening to women listening–especially the swimmer in the sea.

august 20/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + trail*
73 degrees
78% humidity

*36th st, east/47th ave, north/32nd st, east/48th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd, east/river road trail, south/38th st, west/edmund, north/36th st, east/river road, south/bottom of hill/river road, north

Getting a bit burned out with the usual running routes. It’s difficult adjusting to the road being open again. So much time spent thinking/worrying about keeping distance from other people. Harder, also, because I’m getting to the stage of being over summer and heat and humidity and biting, extra itchy bugs. Poor Delia the dog is suffering from her annual August allergies. School, albeit online, is starting soon for the kids–the first year of high school and the last. Anxiousness is in the air.

Still glad I got out there and ran. I’m sure I glanced at the river at some point, but I can’t remember anything about it. Noticed the amphitheater of green air and the ancient boulder with 4 stones stacked on top. Encountered one walker in the tunnel of trees, but we were almost 6 feet apart and I passed her quickly. Had to bypass the Welcoming Oaks to avoid some dogs with their humans.

Recited “Babel” for the first mile, then “Writing a Poem” for some of the second. Too distracted for any reciting of “Push the Button, Hear the Sound.”

Gross Noise of the Day: running south on 47th ave, approaching 34th st, I heard a man vigorously coughing and hacking and clearing his throat in a house nearby. First reaction was yuck!, then, is he okay?

Great Noise of the Day: running north on Edmund, almost to the river, I heard Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” blasting out of a bike’s speakers. Nice!

Anything else? More acorns, lots of Monarch butterflies, at least one roller skier, dogs. No little kids on bikes or circling turkey vultures or honking geese or frantic squirrels. I’m sure I heard a leaf blower, a lawn mower, a roaring plane. No fragments of conversation to wonder about. 2 plugged up ears, making hearing hard.

loaded gun

Running down the hill, 2.5 miles into my run, I started thinking about COVID-19 and had these strange thoughts about how someone who was infected could decide to deliberately cough on me and how breath becomes deadly, our bodies become weapons. Then the phrase “loaded gun” popped into my head–our bodies as loaded guns–and I remembered the poem by Emily Dickinson:

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun (764)/ EMILY DICKINSON

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

august 19/RUN

2.5 miles
43rd ave, south/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/winchell trail, south/river road trail, north/edmund, north
68 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Another good run, although I wish the road was still closed to cars. I’m managing to keep distance from other runners, but I’m encountering them more on the trail. I suppose it’s good for me to loosen up a little on my extreme avoidance of others? Ran north on 43rd, then right on 32nd. Passed the half-finished house on the corner of 32nd and 46th. Abandoned for almost a year now, I think. Such a big house; another one of the ugly beasts taking over the neighborhood. Out of scale and over-priced. I wonder how long it will be before someone finishes it.

Ran past the aspen eyes and the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy, now filled with cars. In-person school begins there in less than 2 weeks. Ran through the tunnel of trees–all clear! Forgot to check if there were stones stacked on the ancient boulder at the top of the hill. Also forgot to greet the Welcoming Oaks. Didn’t hear any water dripping off of the limestone ledge in the ravine. Remembered to look at the river. What a river! Was able to admire it on the river road path up above, then a little closer, down below on the Winchell trail. A glitter of glints. Gorgeous.

Today I decided to take my chances and run on the lower trail for a short, 1/2 mile stretch, between 38th and Folwell. Success! Didn’t encounter another runner, walker, stroller, or dog. Hooray! I love this trail and how it’s perched halfway down the hill (or bluff? or gorge?), farther from the road, closer to the river.

Noise of the Day: the steady, unrelenting drop drop drop of acorns from the oak trees. So many acorns! Thumping and thudding to the ground. How many of these acorns fell and how many of them were thrown by squirrels? I thought I remembered there being a lot of acorns dropping early last year, but when I searched through my log I didn’t find any mention of acorns until September. When I googled it, I found an MPR article about acorns dropping as early as June because tiny wasps were laying their eggs in them. The most likely cause of early acorns is that the tree is stressed–too hot or too cold, too much rain, not enough. These stressed, “aborted” acorns are green. Checking with Scott, the acorns falling around us this August are brown, which means they’re full grown.

Right after finishing my run, I recited “Writing a Poem.” I thought I did a great job reciting it–aside from the pauses when I felt self-conscious as I encountered other walkers–but listening back to the recording, I messed up several words. I think it’s such a useful practice to record myself reciting these poems and checking the lines. If I didn’t check I might never notice I’m getting it wrong. I’m fascinated by how I am sure I am thinking/saying one thing, when I’m actually saying something else.

Writing a poem, August 19

One line I’m still trying to figure out: “history’s dental chair”?

I like the rhyme: “frantic and still” with “until only spit oozes” and “spills over” and “fills cavities”.

august 18/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Low 60s, not too much wind, sunny. Ran on the trail and spent a lot of time focused on avoiding other people. I remember looking down at the river near the steps at 38th st, but I don’t remember anything about it. With all the sun, it must have been sparkling. Didn’t hear any rowers on the river but I bet there were some somewhere. Maybe closer to the bridge? No turkeys in turkey hollow again today. No geese or ducks or woodpeckers. At some point, I heard a crow.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while running: the plink–or was it plunk?–of small acorns bouncing on the road.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while walking: the loud, uncovered sneeze of a woman inside a house somewhere on my block.

Recited the first part of Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s “Writing a Poem” as I ran. Thought about trying to write a poem while unable to block out an annoying noise as Bernadette Mayer’s exercise in “Please Add to this List”: Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial. There weren’t any annoying noises that I remember today. No leaf blowers or roaring planes or honking cars or zooming motorcycles or walkers whose voices cut through everything or slowly approaching runners or dog collars clanging or kids with high-pitched whistles that blow them over and over and over again.

Right after finishing my run, I took out my phone and recorded myself reciting it. Too many errors–heavy instead of giant machine, mixing up helpless and hopeless. Need more practice memorizing. Probably the most interesting thing about this recording is the cicada’s buzzing in the background. So loud! I don’t remember hearing them.

Writing a Poem, August 18

Let the Wonder Always Win

Last night, I attended a virtual book launch for Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “World of Wonders.” I think she’s my favorite poet. Ross Gay (who is also amazing) was interviewing her. He asked about how she balances a love of wonder with sadness, grief, and rage. She said something about how she’s not happy or joyful all the time; she feels a lot of sadness and rage, but she always lets the wonder win. I love that line. It might be my new mantra.

Earlier in the talk, she also discussed how, as young kids, we are always exclaiming, excitedly calling out, Look! Look at the flower! or look at that cloud, shaped like a horse! Later on in life, we forget or are too self-conscious of that enthusiasm for wondering. We need to reclaim our love of exclaiming. Yes!

This makes me think of this poem (one of my favorites) by Maggie Smith:

Poem Beginning with a Retweet/ Maggie Smith

If you drive past horses and don’t say horses
you’re a psychopath. If you see an airplane
but don’t point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don’t
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox! If you hear a woodpecker
and don’t shush everyone around you
into silence. If you find an unbroken
sand dollar in a tide pool. If you see
a dorsal fin breaking the water.
If you see the moon and don’t say
oh my god look at that moon. If you don’t smell
smoke and don’t search for fire.
If you feel yourself receding, receding,
and don’t tell anyone until you’re gone.

august 17/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees

Ran south on the river road trail, right above the river. I glanced at it a few times but wasn’t able to see anything specific–I know I was looking at the river, framed by trees, but I can’t say what color it was or whether or not it was shimmering. No turkeys in turkey hollow today.

5 Sounds I Heard As I Ran

  1. The repeated thud, sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, of acorns hitting the pavement on Edmund.
  2. The far off buzzing of a leaf blower or lawn mower or some type of machine.
  3. The electric buzz of cicadas, growing louder then softer then louder again.
  4. The roaring of a chainsaw, then the crack of a big branch hitting the ground.
  5. A biker approaching from behind, blasting opera music from the speaker of their bike.

A noisy morning with lots of buzzing. In the above list, I wanted to give straight description without judgment. Here’s a list with judgment:

Ranking of Sounds Heard on Run, from Least to Most Annoying

  • Gently falling acorns onto the boulevard
  • A cicada serenade
  • Roaring chainsaws and cracking branches
  • Relentlessly droning leaf blowers, buzzing in my brain
  • Over-wrought opera singers ruining my calm, quiet mood

Speaking of buzzing, here is the first part of the new listen poem I started memorizing today:

Writing a Poem/ Shirley Geok-lin Lim

The air is buzzing. Some one near by
is operating a giant machine. He’s scrubbing
the just sold building with a high-
powered hose. None of us are listening,

although we are each hopeless before
the dizz-dizz-dizz. It it was a monstrous
radiated beetle, we couldn’t be more
helpless. It’s eating up the hours

as if they were the sweet nectar of day,
which they are. It is impossible
to think or write.

Noises While Running that I Feel Helpless to Avoid

  • leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws
  • howling wind
  • a walker talking loudly into their phone
  • a runner talking loudly to another runner
  • a biker talking loudly to another biker
  • a speeding motorcycle
  • the shuffling footsteps of a runner, approaching too slowly
  • a honking horn

Some days I want to listen more, other days I wish I could block out all of the noise.

Here’s a sound I’d like to identify. I heard this bird singing (or calling out) in my backyard yesterday afternoon. What is it?

What bird makes this sound?

august 16/RUN

1.8 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd, east/around Cooper school/32nd, east/edmund, north/36th st, west
70 degrees

A quick run through the neighborhood this morning. Decided to run around Cooper school once as part of the route to see how much distance it would add. Noticed how much shorter the east/west blocks seem compared to the north/south ones.

so loud!

Yesterday, running and reciting “Babel” I mentioned how quiet it was. Not today! So loud. Buzzing cicadas, humming crickets. Right before I started my run, I heard, in quick succession, a kid yelling, a man hocking a loogies, a women violently sneezing. Yuck! Glad they were all inside somewhere and that I was running away from them.

After I finished, went out on a walk with Scott and Delia the dog. Unintentionally, we walked the exact route I ran, minus the loop around Cooper. Right next to the Aspen eyes, on the edge of the Minnehaha Academy parking lot, we witnessed about half a dozen monarch butterflies fluttering by. Scott got some video:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CD9GGycHG0W/