march 15/RUN

3.3 miles
turkey hollow
30 degrees
drizzling rain/sleet/ice mix

As I left the house, I could tell it was starting to rain or sleet or something but because I was bundled up–a shirt + hooded jacket + vest–I couldn’t feel it, so I decided to go for a run anyway. A benefit of running in this weather: no one else is out there. I was able to run above the river on the trail all the way to the ford bridge. My first time in 3 or 4 months running on the narrow pedestrian bridge and the steep walking trail that dips below the road then quickly climbs up. It almost felt like normal. When I reached the ford bridge, I crossed the road and ran through the grass at turkey hollow. The ground was soft and a little squishy. No turkeys today.

I know I glanced down at the river but I don’t remember what it looked like. I remember seeing the oak savanna and the white information sign at the bottom. I remember seeing the bench perched on the gorge, providing a wide open view of the other side. I remember the part of the Winchell trail between 42nd and 44th, steeply winding down below me. But I do not remember what the river looked like. It was probably gray–or was it brown? We’re supposed to get up to 5 inches of snow today. Will the river be white tomorrow?

It was windy today. I recall hearing a chickadee chick-a-dee-dee-deeing but not much else other than the howling wind. Most of the cars had their headlights on. No bikers. Only one or two solitary walkers. Heard the kids at recess, laughing and yelling at the school playground. Also heard the shshsh as my feet struck some sandy grit. And the gentle tapping of icy pellets (graupels) on my black vest. I only rarely felt the sting of one on my face. For a small stretch, I pulled the brim of my hat as far down as I could to shield my face. The last time I ran in these conditions was in October or November. I didn’t have a brim to protect my face and the graupels felt like little knives stabbing my cheeks.

a moment of sound

march 15, 2021

Super windy today but I managed to shield the phone microphone with my hand for most of it. I recorded this at the end of my run as I walked home. I can hear my feet shuffling on the grit on the sidewalk and then some wind chimes. I decided to cross the street to get closer. I love wind chimes. These chimes are hanging close to a giant fir tree. I can hear them chiming as the wind rushes through the tree.

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – (591)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain – stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

A few years ago, I found some articles discussing ED’s temporary vision loss in her 30s. I’m fascinated by how she references her temporary blindness in her poetry. In Emily Dickinson’s mystifying in-sight, the authors reflect on “I heard a fly buzz” and suggest that her words here, and in several other of her poems referencing the Eye and the dying Eye, provide remarkable insight into the physiological process of vision loss as one is dying.

Throughout her poetry chronicling the ophthalmic deterioration that occurs in death, Dickinson notes the changes that occur in the dying cornea and lens: glaze, dimness, fog, mists, film, cloudier. Her observations reflect what medical science currently understands as the alterations that occur within the eye during the process of death. We know that shortly after death the cornea and lens become edematous (swollen with fluid) and begin to lose their transparency.

As death approaches, gradually less oxygen-carrying blood is pumped by the failing heart, causing functional loss of the bodily organs.  Seeing while dying should be possible until the retina and/or the occipital cortex of the brain, the final mediator of vision, becomes deprived of oxygen and loses its capability.  The most metabolically active of all our tissues, the retina, for its operation, surpasses every other organ in relative blood flow and oxygen requirement. The loss of vision while dying should be sequential, greying occurring first as cones (the retinal mediators of color and probably more metabolically active than rods, the agents of black, white, and grey) lose function. Greys, therefore, persist through the retinal rods after loss of color perception occurs. Finally the rods, too, fail, and we are blind.

and

In the last cycle, eyesight fades to a blue, the retinal cones still working, but predominated by the buzz, uncertain, stumbling, as hearing also begins to fade.  But, still, the hum is loud enough to go beyond and between her light as vision fades away faster than hearing. And then, as the retinal rods fail, sight exhausts itself and so “light” must fail to appear; we are left instead with “the Windows failed – ” as the bright sunlight at the window is eclipsed, and finally, all of seeing ends, concluding with an absolute and total black, rendered powerfully in the last line by the three “eyes”:  “I…see…see.”

Vision disappears, as if one “I…see…see” is lost, then the other, and finally the last “I…see…see,” the very idea of sight is gone: “I could not see to see;” now the very understanding, the intellect of seeing on a cerebral level is gone; the cessation of blood flow to the brain has deprived it of oxygen. The brain can no longer function; it is dead, and the dying is over.

The Prowling Bee has nothing to say about ED’s vision loss or how her descriptions of dying accurately convey what happens to your vision as you die. I don’t what to reduce this poem to a discussion of vision and vision loss, but I find this idea that she is offering a medically accurate description of it to be very cool. I haven’t had much luck in finding many other articles about this, but I thought about it a lot. Last summer I memorized her “Before I got my eye put out” and spent some time reflecting on her vision as I ran.

Almost forgot to add this in: This morning I saw one of the more remarkable sunrises I’ve ever seen. The entire sky was lit up bright orange. It only lasted a minute or two. It made me wonder how many sunrises I’ve missed by getting up too late.

march 14/RUN

2 miles
neighborhood
47 degrees

A quick run through the neighborhood on a windy afternoon. Ran around Cooper school and noticed the mounds of snow and wondered when they would melt away. Earlier in the week there was a chance we might get a few inches of snow tomorrow, but now it looks less likely. Good. I’m ready for spring this year and I’ve been enjoying the bare sidewalks and open grass. Listened to a playlist while I ran. First up was a song I’ve been randomly singing during this COVID year, not sure why: Freak-a-Zoid. Very nice. And long. It lasted for 3/4 of a mile at least. Anything else? Lots of people out, most of them walking dogs, a few kids biking.

a moment of sound

So windy! The neighbor’s scare rods are really spinning. I wonder how irritating they will be this summer?

march 14, 2021

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

This is another one of ED’s most known poems. Some people think it’s an accurate description of a migraine, others a mental breakdown. A few people in the comments over at the prowling bee, suggested it was a transcendent, religious experience, another wondered if it had anything to do with the epilepsy that she might have had. I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem pleasant but torturous. Rereading the comments, I’m fascinated by their discussion of the bell as a tool or practice within Buddhism to stop thinking and meditate on the sound of the bell. This focus enables one to pass through the planks/levels of reason and the rational Self. And, I love the lines about all the heavens as a Bell with being but an Ear. Very cool.

march 13/RUN

3 miles
Hiawatha and Howe loops
44 degrees

A wonderful morning. Sunny and mostly calm. Not too crowded. Started on the river road trail but as I encountered more people, I moved over to Edmund. I heard the black-capped chickadees singing their feebee song. Don’t remember much else. When I reached Hiawatha, I put in my headphones and listened to a spotify playlist. Experienced a slight runner’s high as I picked up the pace, the kind that makes me feel my smile all the way down to my toes. Sprinted the last block. I bet I looked strange.

Yesterday, I listened to a great podcast with the poet Paige Lewis. So much good stuff. I especially liked this:

And that’s what I kind of care about putting into poems. I want to learn things and I want to learn little snippets of facts and then I want to be able to share those facts with people. Or, if I see something, I want someone around so I can be like look at that thing that’s happening right now. It’s still happening, you have to look. Look what that fish is doing. Look what that flower is doing. I just want to be pointing. Like I just want to be, look at this thing. Look at this thing. Look at this thing. Which is why I’m really bad at writing essays because I’m just like look at what this guy is doing. And then look at this. And they’re like, why does it matter? I’m like, I don’t know, but look at it.

Just like look at these beautiful tiny things and what we can take from them is maybe sometimes just enjoyment and I don’t know that I have anything more intelligent to say about that thing and what it’s doing and what it reflects about anything about us as humans. But like just look at it.

Paige Lewis in Paige Lewis Vs. Tiny Things

I agree with Lewis that the enjoyment of noticing and sharing these beautiful tiny things is enough, but I also think that this practice, when repeated and turned into a habit, has an additional importance: it encourages us to care about and care for the world, to be invested in its continued flourishing and also our own. I was thinking about this earlier today as I worked on my “How to Be” project and gathered ideas for the knowledge section. What is knowing facts for? More than demonstrating how smart we are, knowing facts can connect us and astonish us and encourage us to care about more than ourselves and our individual survival.

random thought I remember: At some point during the run, I noticed the shadow of a bird on the sidewalk in front of me. I love seeing these shadows and knowing a bird is flying overhead without looking up to see it. This shadow is too vague and fuzzy to indicate what kind of bird it is; it’s just a bird. It reminded me of how sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk, which has a glass top (a top I recycled from an old IKEA coffee table), I see the reflection of a bird flying outside the window. It’s a quick flash of motion that I could miss if I wasn’t paying attention and if my peripheral vision had become heightened because of my central vision loss. Such a cool thing to see.

Have you got a Brook in your little heart/Emily Dickinson

Have you got a Brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so—

And nobody knows, so still it flows,
That any brook is there,
And yet your little draught of life
Is daily drunken there—

Why – look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go—

And later, in August it may be,
When the meadows parching lie,
Beware, lest this little brook of life,
Some burning noon go dry!

The Prowling Bee doesn’t like this poem with it’s “lazy” rhymes (flipping the sentence order to create the rhyme, ex: “so still it flows”) and the idea of such a “little” brook, as opposed to some more robust form of water like a river. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think I like the quiet brook that doesn’t announce itself to the world, it’s just there doing its thing–helping the flowers and the birds and the shadows. What if it were a stream instead? Decided to google it. Favorite answer was by a naturalist, responding to the question, what’s the difference between a stream, a creek, and a river?:

So, we enter into the somewhat nebulus topic of stream classification.

Consulting a few sources, the common term for all downhill flowing ribbons of water is stream.  They’re all streams. Streams are classified, not by width, depth or length, but by a system known as stream ordering.  The common terms are quite subjective depending on region and local history.

First order streams: the smallest streams that have no tributaries. We could call these brooks or rivulets.  Little streams that you can hop across and not get wet. (GPD example: Pebble Brook in The West Woods)

Second order streams: result from the merging of two first order streams. Often designated as creeks, these small streams require a bridge, stepping stones or wading to cross. (GPD examples: Big Creek, Swine Creek, Silver Creek)

Third order streams: larger streams formed from the merger of two second order streams or creeks if you will. Streams that would have to be bridged, waded or even swam across. Referred to as branches in the headwater regions of watersheds. (Geauga examples:  East Branch and Aurora Branches of the Chagrin River, East and West Branches of the Cuyahoga River)

Fourth order: streams formed by the merging of two third order streams. These streams would qualify as rivers, requiring big bridges, boats or swimming to cross.

Geauga Park District in Ohio, also see River, Streams, and Creeks

I find brooks interesting as a first order stream because they have no connection to other sources of water, no tributaries. They also don’t cause much of a fuss–you don’t need a bridge for them and you should be able to hop across them without getting wet. How do these first order streams come to be? Where does the water come from?

Another interesting thing about brooks: as a verb, the word means to use, tolerate, find agreeable. I don’t like the word tolerate or this understanding of a body of water disconnected from everything else, so I guess I don’t want to have a little brook in my heart. It doesn’t sound as pretty, but I think I’d prefer a creek–but not a crick!

a moment of sound

After my run, I sat on the deck and enjoyed the sun and the quiet. Here’s how that sounded:

march 13, 2021

march 12/RUN

4 miles
river road trail, north/sout*
32 degrees

*With a little bit of meandering. Before reaching the river road, I ran up 43rd ave then over to 31st st, then lake street, then the river road trail

Great weather for a run! Sunny, not too much wind, not too warm or too cold. I was able to run beside the river and above the rowing club. I don’t remember what the river looked like, but I remember it felt open and vast and wonderful. Heard lots of birds and a woman cheering a runner on as he made his way down the hill below the lake street bridge, the two of them laughing together. Did they know each other, or was she just friendly? Saw lots of lovely lonely benches with enticing views to the other side–I thought about stopping once, but didn’t. Noticed that the white bike hanging from the trestle, put there to remember the biker who has hit and killed at the intersection many years ago, was missing a front wheel. Has this always been the case? Heard a siren that sounded like the drumming of a woodpecker at first. Encountered a few groups of walkers, at least one group of runners, no bikers or roller skiers.

Surfaces I Ran on:

  • sidewalk
  • street
  • uneven grass
  • dead leaves
  • packed down dirt
  • gritty edges of the boulevard

As I ran, I recited my Emily Dickinson poem of the day: “Hope” is the thing with feathers” One of her most famous. Delightful and fun to recite as I ran.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers/ Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all –

And sweetest — in the gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird —
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest sea —
Yet, never in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

Favorite word today: abash. When I was first memorizing it, I thought it was strongest not strangest sea. Can’t decide which I like better. When I finished running, I recited it into my phone. I got it mostly right, but missed several small words– so instead of and, but instead of yet.

“Hope” is a thing with feathers

a moment of sound

Forgot, for the first time, to record my moment of sound yesterday. I think it was because it was windy and I didn’t want to record more wind–I have lots of that. Anyway, I recorded this moment right after I finished my 4 mile run. As the birds chatter away, you can hear a few of my heavy breaths as I try to recover.

March 12, 2021

march 10/RUN

2.8 miles
river road trail, south/Winchell trail, south/edmund, north
44 degrees
drizzle

Decided to go out for a quick run before the rain started. I made it out the door when it was dry but by mile 2 it was raining. Starting in the rain can be miserable, but if you’re already running, it’s difficult to feel the rain. Because of the weather, I was able to run on the trail without encountering too many people. Oh, the river, looking beautifully pale blue in the gloom. When I reached 42nd st, I took the trail down to a spot right above the ravine and recorded the water rushing down the rocks as my moment of sound.

march 10, 2021

Very cool. Instead of heading back up to the road, I decided to keep running on the Winchell trail. At this point, close to the southern start of the trail, it’s steep and uneven and right on the edge. What an unanticipated delight to be this much closer to the river–nothing but air and the bluff between us. (Sitting here, writing this entry in the front room, I just heard a long, loud boom–thunder!)

Anything else I remember from the run? I noticed a lot of headlights, bright and cutting through the gray sky. Another runner also cutting through the gloom, wearing a bright yellow shirt. Saw some people walking their dogs–one guy called out a greeting to me. I think he said “Go Twins!” because I was wearing a Twins baseball cap, but I’m not sure. Heard a young kid and an adult below me in the oak savanna. Noticed all the snow collected on the trail at the foot of the mesa. Heard some kids on the playground at the lower campus of Minnehaha Academy. For the last mile of my run, I put in my headphones and listened to a playlist.

It was great to be out by the gorge in-between rain showers, hearing the rushing water and how it sometimes drips, sometimes gushes down the bluff to the river. I spent the morning working on my “How to Sink” poem and thinking about water and what it does as it travels through the soil and layers of sediment, powered by gravity. Writing this, I suddenly thought about gravity and weight and how it forces water through cracks and then I thought about the homonym for weight, wait, and patience, and how my preferred form of sinking is a slow, gradual sliding down that takes a long time. And also how the weight of gravity forces water down through the layers, but so does the persistence of time. Cool–I’d like to add that in somehow. Here’s a new draft of my poem. Still not there, but getting closer, I hope.

Try to recall when your son young
and upset turns to jelly
and oozes off
the sofa
in

surrender he’s not giving in
but giving up control a
puddle of parts
pooled at your
feet

learn to retreat like this let your
bones dissolve legs liquefy
gravity win
seep deep be-
neath

layers of loam sandstone limestone
shale drop lower and lower
and lower
fall

between cracks fit through fissures carve
out a door take it so far
in that out is
another
idea.*

Begin with 20 seconds from
a song that is not happy
birthday sing while
you scour
the

surface of your dread scrub off each
layer watch as they drip down
the drain on their
way to the
gorge.

*idea is one extra syllable, which is irritating to me, but so far, I can’t figure out a way around it.

Maybe I could add the weight/wait bit in after the line about falling? Also, I like having the washing your hands at the end of the poem, as the start of this need to sink/retreat/shelter inside (because of the pandemic), but I think I might need a little more transition to it. Is it too jarring, coming right after the bit about out being another idea?

Today’s Emily Dickinson poem:

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act (1010)/ EMILY DICKINSON

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays —

‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust —

Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crashe’s law —

I really like this poem–it fits well with all of my thinking today about erosion and water dripping down. Gradual decay, a slow repeated slipping. I love the rhyme of a cuticle of Dust with an elemental Rust. A Borer in the Axis is strange to me. A mechanical (metal?) axis combined with a worm that bores into wood? I like bore as a verb–it might fit in my poem.

march 9/RUN

3.25 miles
turkey hollow!
54 degrees

Today I was able to run in shorts and above the gorge and on the snow-less walking trail and all the way down to turkey hollow. Hooray! It was windy and there were people all around, but I kept my distance and believed that if I was running directly into the wind on the way there, it would help me along on the way back. It did. Lots of birds singing. I recall hearing several robins but no black capped-chickadees. No woodpeckers. I know I glanced down at the river and I remember hoping I’d see some rowers, but I don’t remember what the river looked like. Was it blue or gray or brown? The river road was filled with a steady stream of cars.

I recited the first two stanzas of the Emily Dickinson poem I’m studying for today. I’m not memorizing every poem I read, but I decided these two stanzas would be fun to chant as I ran. They were.

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. 

A delightful poem. I enjoyed reading the prowling Bee’s analysis and thinking about the imagery, especially the bird flying through the sky as water:

The watching poet then offers him a bit of bread but this is too much. The bird flies away. Except that this isn’t the end of the poem as Dickinson sees it. In one of those reversals of sky and sea (for example, “This—is the land—the sunset washes” – F297), the bird “unrolled his feathers” as if he were changing from an earthbound thing to a heavenly creature, and then “rowed” himself more softly “Home” than the act of rowing on the ocean. The oars’ action, like the bird’s wing, are so small and “silver” in the expanse of water and sky, that they don’t even leave a “seam” behind to show they once moved through that space.

I love the idea of sky as water and imagine it often as I look up at the sky by the river or the lake. As I was chanting this poem mid-run, and enjoying being with the little bird, the worm, and the beetle, I thought about how wonderful poetry is. You can enjoy it many different levels: how it sounds, the worlds it conjures up, the meanings behind its images. You can spend time closely scrutinizing what the beetle or the worm means, how ED might be inserting herself in the poem, and what she’s suggesting about her world, but you don’t have to to find meaning and delight. Much more accessible than other forms of writing. One more thing: I discovered that plashless is a word and that it basically means without a splash or splash-less. Maybe I’ll use it on Scott and when he tries to correct me I can smugly say, “No, I mean plashless. It’s word too.”

How to Sink

Earlier this morning, I worked some more on revising my poem. I’ve decided to use a modified cinquain form. In my “how to float” poem I used Adelaide Crapsey’s 2-4-6-8-2 pattern to evoke floating and lifting. In “how to sink,” I’ll use almost the same number of total syllables for each cinquain (23 instead of 22), but switch them around to mimic falling and narrowing, sinking: 8-7-4-3-1. Here’s what I have so far:

Begin with 20 seconds from
a song that is not happy
birthday sing while
you scour
the

surface of your dread scrub off each
layer watch as they drip down
the drain on their
way to the
gorge.

Recall when your son young upset
turned to jelly and oozed off
the sofa in
surrender
a

puddle of body parts pooled at
your feet learn to retreat like
this feel your bones
dissolve your
legs

liquefy gravity win reach
ground seep deep through layers of
loam sandstone shale
drop

lower and lower and lower
fall between cracks carve out ways
in follow them
so far in
out

is another idea

How to Float has 10 cinquains. I want to mirror that in this poem. So far, I am just starting the 7th. Lots of meaning of sink: 1. sink as a place to wash your hands and an early symbol of the pandemic, 2. as a place where water collects (puddle of body parts), 3. as drain, sewer pipe (the dread dripping down to the gorge), 4. being swallowed up, lost (seeping deep), 5. falling down. Time to look up more definitions.

a moment of sound

8 am from the deck: the persistent hum of the city and the birds chatter

march 9, 2021

march 8/RUN

3.25 miles
edmund loop, starting north
47 degrees
wind: 1 mph

Wow, what a morning! Sun, barely any wind, a chorus of birds, clear streets, uncrowded sidewalks. I could only identify a few of the bird calls–black-capped chickadees, cardinals, crows, robins, woodpeckers–but I didn’t care. I thought about how naming the birds didn’t matter, only being among them did. As I ran up Edmund, I heard a song that sounded like a metal whistle and I thought about stopping to record it. I didn’t and as I neared it, it stopped.

When I turned around at Edmund, I decided to run back in the grass between the river road and the boulevard. Only a few squishy spots. It was nice to run on the softer ground, closer to the gorge. I couldn’t see the river, but I admired the other side. What a view, with all the branches bare.

Yesterday it was 60 degrees. Today, at 11, it’s already 51. Spring! It definitely sounded like it in my moment of sound:

march 8, 2021

Today’s Emily Dickinson poem:

Because I could not stop for Death/ Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

As always, I enjoyed The Prowling Bee’s discussion of this poem. In particular, I liked her mention in the comments of ED’s 3 images of life: the children playing = life; the gazing grain = the seasons; setting sun = the day. Very powerful and inspiring. I want to keep working on finding images that conjure even a little of what ED’s do. Prowling Bee also discusses how wonderful the phrase, “the fields of gazing grains.” Yes–fun to say and to think about the different meanings it suggests. And, at the end of her analysis, she describes how some think this is a perfect poem. The version of this poem I read on Poetry Foundation (see link in title) has audio too. Very helpful for me as I try to hear the poem without making it too metered.

sink, more thoughts

I’m revisiting my poem, “How to Sink” and trying to strengthen it, especially the imagery. I want to make it a companion to “How to Float.” Just looked up sink in the online OED and found some great definitions of it as a noun:

  • place where waste collects
  • pool or pit in the ground
  • conduit, drain, pipe
  • a basin used for washing
  • an amount that a sink would hold–a sink full of dishes
  • a low-lying area where flowing water occurs
  • a place where things are swallowed up or lost (absorbed?)
  • a lead weight used in fishing
  • depression or hollow
  • loss of altitude, especially in gliding flight
  • phrase: the sink of the body: organs of digestion

This poem was written during the earliest stages of the pandemic and is, at least partly, about the need to shelter-in-place and retreat, to hole up, to hide and be safe. During that time, there was a lot of talk about washing hands as a primary way to stay safe–could I bring in sink in this way? I’d like to.

march 7/RUN

3.2 miles
2 school loop
39 degrees
wind: 12 mph/21 mph gusts

Ran a little earlier today, starting at 8:20. Still too crowded on the river road trail: bikes, dogs, people. I stayed on Edmund with the birds. I kept hearing a bird call that reminds me a little of the loon sound they play at twins games. What is this bird? (I’ve just been searching and listening to clips for the past few minutes; no luck yet.) Also heard some drumming woodpeckers, a metallic robin song, crows, geese, various warblers. The sun was out and I think I noticed my shadow a few times–or was that on my run 2 days ago? There was still some slick spots on the sidewalk; I watched as a walker slid across the concrete at the corner. I did that same thing yesterday on my long walk with Scott and Delia. We, me yesterday and this walker today, were both okay. Didn’t get to see the river this morning, but I admired it yesterday as we walked under the railroad trestle. There was a group of rowers out on the water! That’s a sure sign of spring. Maybe someday I’ll be one of those rowers? I’ve always wanted to try.

I’m revising a poem I wrote early on in the pandemic: How to Sink. Thinking about the idea of sinking down through the layers of the gorge, carving out a new way in, retreating. Not giving up but letting go, surrendering control. Is surrender too negative of a word? I don’t see sinking as bad or unwanted, but a welcome break, an opportunity to return to the source, regroup. I need to read up more on sinking and think about the different ways it works. Sinking is not falling, but something else. Settling? Seeping. Finding shelter. I remember now that I wrote some notes about sinking in my notebook and maybe in a log entry. I’ll have to find them (here’s a few: sink)

Today’s Dickinson Poem: After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372)

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

Wow. After reading this poem a few times, I read The Prowling Bee’s analysis of it, which was helpful. Such powerful descriptions of 3 phases of grief: the chill/shock where nerves are still; then the daze/stupor of heavy, shuffling aimless feet; and then the letting go. And great words: the Hour of Lead. Tombs. Stiff. Wooden. Quartz contentment. Stone. Freezing.

a moment of sound: dogs

march 7, 2021

When a dog walks by, through the alley, the neighborhood dogs get excited. I am not bothered by their barking, probably because it only comes in random bursts. In fact, I love spazzy dog barking. I find it delightful; sometimes I even encourage it, making sure to walk with Delia by the houses with the biggest, wildest barkers. You can also hear the scare rod–the metal spinning flashing rod our neighbors have hung to scare off woodpeckers–spinning in the wind. Unlike barking dogs, this noise irritates me. I am trying to get over myself because it’s a minor irritation and it seems to be working and I don’t want woodpeckers pecking at our neighbor’s house. Also, near the end of the recording, Delia growls at someone walking through the alley and the wind howls, tossing the tall pine tree on the next block to and fro.

march 6 recap

I took my first break from running in a month yesterday, but I still did my moment of sound and my Dickinson poem.

a moment of sound

Taking a long walk parallel to the river, I heard lots of wonderful things, including these wind chimes in a yard across from the Birchwood Cafe.

march 6, 2021

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)/Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

This is the first poem of Dickinson’s that I ever remember encountering. I think it was in junior high, way back in 1986 or 1987. I didn’t get the poem, but I liked the strangeness of it all. For decades, I have found myself randomly saying in my head, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” sometimes I add: “Are you — Nobody — too?” And then an image of frog pops into my head. I agree with this idea: “How dreary — to be — Somebody!”

march 5/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
40 degrees

A whiteish gray day. Hardly any wind. Great for running. After driving on the river road yesterday with Scott and the kids and seeing the clear trail, I decided to run on it today. I didn’t do all of it–I entered the trail at lake street so I missed the welcoming oaks and the tunnel of trees–but the parts I did run on were wonderful. I have missed this trail.

I was able to run above the rowing club. The river is clear and blueish gray. There were other people on the trail, but I kept a lot of distance from them. And, I greeted the Daily Walker! Encountered a few dogs, a stroller. No fat tires or irritating squirrels. Didn’t hear any woodpeckers–did I hear any birds? I must have, but I don’t remember any. Ran over some grit and heard my favorite shuffling scratching sounds. Smelled some smoke somewhere but no burnt toast or bacon from longfellow grill.

Before I went on my run, I recorded myself reciting my Emily Dickinson poem for today: I measure every Grief I meet (561) I chose it because today would have been my mom’s 79th birthday. I woke up and watched a few digital videos I made with old footage of her–both created 8 or 9 years ago using footage from the 1980s, 90s, and the early 2000s. I miss her terribly, but I am not feeling especially sad today. As I was running, I was thinking about how part of me is grateful that she is not living now during this terrible time of tyrants, and selfishness, and deadly viruses. It would been very hard on her. I suppose the idea of her not having to endure this, gives me a little comfort, whether or not it fits with what she would have actually felt if she were alive.

I measure every Grief I meet (561)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die –

I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –

There’s Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call “Despair” –
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they’re mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like my own –

I wanted to hear how others have recited the stanza that begins, “I wonder if when Years have piled—” because it seems very awkward in terms of cadence and rhyme and following the meaning of the sentence. I listened to 3. One delivered that stanza awkwardly, the other 2 recited a different version that omits the prior stanza and then changes the words of the stanza to make it work: “I wonder if when years have piled/thousands on the cause/of early hurt — if such a lapse/would give them any pause” (this 3rd one is fun to listen to). Even though it is less awkward, I don’t like this change. ED wants awkwardness and lines that are slant and that disrupt, so why change her words to fit the conventional standards of the day (which is what I read was the reason for this change). I checked out my favorite ED commentator, The Prowling Bee, but she doesn’t discuss the altered stanza or the other version. Even so, her discussion is great and helpful, and extends into the comments. There’s a discussion about whether ED is personifying grief–meeting the various griefs as people, or if she’s meeting grievers who experience those griefs. Fascinating. She also talks about how distant and abstract ED’s expressions of grief are: the repeated mentioning of eyes signals an analytical and distanced scrutiny.

a moment of sound

This sounds like spring to me. Kids outside, dripping eaves, calling birds. Near the end of the recording, there’s a boom. It sounded louder in person–not sure what it was.

march 4/RUN

1.65 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/35th st, west
46 degrees

A short run outside in the afternoon sun. Very wet, with a few slick spots still remaining on the sidewalk. Felt like spring again today. I don’t remember much about the run. I didn’t see the river or hear any woodpeckers or smell any smoke. Encountered a few runners and walkers. No kids walking home from school. I did run by a school bus, idling in front of Minneaha Academy. Noticed lots of cars driving on the river road, enjoying the spring-like weather.

a moment of sound

march 4, 2021

Before my run, I took Delia the dog out for a walk. Near 7 oaks, I heard a wonderful bird song that I couldn’t identify. I took out my phone to record it, but it stopped before I could start. In this recording, I mostly hear the rustling of my coat as I walk, which is annoying. I also hear my feet striking the gritty, crunchy sidewalk, which is delightful.

There’s a certain Slant of light (258)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Winter’s slanted light is quickly leaving; during today’s run the sun was bright and overhead and warmed my face and back. Listened to 2 versions of this poem on youtube and both of them replaced heft with weight and Any with anything. Heft is much better, I think. My favorite line: the Landscape listens. I love the idea of a landscape listening.