2 miles / 2 loops
lake nokomis open swim
88 degrees / windy
Another choppy night. No problems for me. I like the rocking of the waves and the chance to punch the water–not to release any anger, but energy. Heading back to the big beach on the first loop, I noticed a menacing sailboat. I wondered how close they would get–I find it hard to tell. Rounding the final green buoy right off the big beach was fun. It felt like a fast moving lazy river or a log ride. Wild. During the second loop my nose plug was too loose. I tried to stop mid-lake to fix it, but it didn’t help. As air leaked out, it made a strange, strangled noise. Sometimes my nose sounded like it was yelling underwater. I wonder if anyone else could hear it. How far do swimmers’ sounds travel? If I yelled underwater could anyone else hear it?
This month I’m trying to think about love in other forms, but I’m struggling. I think I’ve been distracted. And it’s been hard to find poems that speak to me. And maybe addressing love straight on is too difficult. Maybe I do better when I’m looking for other things, then love can appear on its own terms. Here is a series of 5 poems by Amorak Huey, all about a famous logjam. I love that they wrote not 1 or 2 but 5 poems about the logjam. I read about logging along the Mississippi River gorge in the mid to late 1800s, before the timber was depleted and the flour mills took over. At first, I wasn’t sure how this fit into the theme of love, but love (and water, another recent theme) is in several of the poems.
5 Poems/ Amorak Huey
The 1883 logjam on Michigan’s Grand River
was one of the biggest in the history of logging.
Listen: one hundred fifty million feet of logs: skew and splinter thirty feet high for seven river-miles. Sky of only lightning, mouth of only teeth, all bite and churn, thrust and spear, the kind of mess made by men who have men to clean up their messes. It rains. Thirty-seven million tons of white pine clears its throat. Water rises. The bridges will go soon. Listen closely: underneath the knock and clatter, the trees still sing. The song is a violence.
LIKE GREAT HARPS ON WHICH THE WIND MAKES MUSIC
—Henry David Thoreau, on the Eastern White Pine
Dark ghosts, tall as moonlight.
Shadows without shadows.
Listen. This wind will not last.
Such music will never play again.
The smallness of a man
who enters a forest to destroy a forest;
who believes that to name a tree
is to claim its strength as his own—
across the lake, a city burns.
O-WASH-TA-NONG, MEANING FAR-AWAY-WATER
Across Happy Hollow Road, across Gillespie’s pasture, past barbwire and tree line, the river of my childhood still twists and eddies south toward the gulf, cold as memory’s fist, even on the sunniest day, even decades later as I cross a new river each day, the same river, the only river, the river I’ve invented, shaped and poured to quench my thirst to be loved, a filled trench, a scar left 11,000 years ago as the great glaciers crawled north, meltwater left to find its own way to the lake. The story of a river in America is always a story of destruction.
“A HUNDRED DOLLARS TO AN OLD HAT SHE HOLDS”
—Local paper, predicting an iron railroad bridge
would withstand the logjam; the bridge was swept
away while the ink was still wet.
What if I’ve learned the wrong lesson from every story?
What if a flood, after all, is only a flood, cleansing nothing?
What if our sins cannot be washed away so easily,
if all our stumbling will leave us lost, still?
Somewhere I learned to love the kind of man I am not.
Knuckle-scar. Thick forearms. Beer-bottle-dark eyes
and a sense of duty. The strength to hold a tugboat steady in rushing water
while other men sledgehammer pilings into place, an obstacle
to catch what comes our way, it’s a matter of time—
all that’s upstream breaks free.
THE ENGINEER WHO FIXED THE LOGJAM RECEIVES A GOLD WATCH FOR HIS TROUBLE
I know so much about how water moves
it leaves me dizzy. I know time and rivers
are tools the rich use to make fools
of the rest of us; no limit to the weight a man
can heave onto the backs of other men.
What else to do but decide to survive?
Water has no memory, is only memory,
is the world’s purest form of desire,
the relentless drive to return home
whatever the cost. It’s all any of us want,
to have a smoke and finish the job,
carry our weary bodies to a hearth
somewhere, a resting place
and the warmth of someone who loves us.
If water cannot go through, it goes around.
I want to spend more time with these poems to think through some of the lines, like the last one: “If water cannot go through, it goes around.” How does this fit with water as the world’s purest form of desire that can quench our thirst to be loved but never saves or cleanses us, but keeps us lost.
And now I’m wondering about the differences between types of water–the water in a lake as compared to a river, the sea, an ocean, a glass, a pool, a stream, a ditch? How do they express (embody?) love in different ways?