oct 28/RUN

4.5 miles
John Stevens House loop
46 degrees
light rain / humidity: 94%

The forecast predicted light rain all day. Decided I wouldn’t mind running in the rain. Wore my vest, which is waterproof or at least water resistant, a baseball cap, bright pink headband, bright yellow shirt, tights, shorts, gloves, and my older running shoes. Ran south to the falls then around the John Stevens House. Ran north until I reached the entrance to the Winchell Trail then took that the rest of the way. Not much wind, not too cold, not too crowded.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A glowing tree at the falls that, at first, looked all orange, but slowly seemed almost pink: a mix of some red, yellow, green leaves
  2. A rush of noise — leaves blowing in the wind? No. The falls, rushing in the light rain
  3. Water coming out of the sewer at 42nd street — not rushing or gushing or roaring but some other sound that indicates an abundance of flowing water
  4. Running near the river, noticing how the water closer to me was a blue so pale it looked light gray, the water closer to the st. paul shore was deep and dark, reflecting the evergreens
  5. The spot on the Winchell Trail right climbing up to 42nd no longer concealed by leaves, lined with tall, slender tree trunks and a clear view of river gorge st. paul
  6. A few honks, some kids yelling out, a line-up of cars: the beginning of the day at a local elementary school across the grassy boulevard
  7. A very short person walking around Minnehaha Regional Park. Wearing jeans and a dark sweatshirt with the hood up. Walking with a hunched gait
  8. A runner (or walker?) stopped beside the path, taking off a bright pink jacket and tying it around their waist
  9. A strange scraping metallic sound up ahead of me on the Winchell Trail. Then running by a man hunched over a fence post near the curved retaining wall with a hacksaw, sawing. After I passed, he stopped
  10. Squirrel after squirrel darting across the path and into the woods, never circling back to run in front of me

Earlier this morning, right after I woke up and made my coffee, I memorized the second half of one of my favorite Halloween poems: A Rhyme for Halloween. Here’s the bit I memorized:

Our clock is blind, our clock is dumb.
Its hands are broken, its fingers numb.
No time for the martyr of our fair town
Who wasn’t a witch because she could drown.

Now the dogs of the cemetery are starting to bark
At the vision of her bobbing up through the dark.
When she opens her mouth to gasp for air,
A moth flies out and lands in her hair.

The apples are thumping, winter is coming.
The lips of the pumpkin soon will be humming.
By the caw of the crow on the first of the year,
Something will die, something appear.

I recited it in my head throughout my run. I love this poem and its haunting feel (tone? mood?). As I recited the lines, I struggled with the second verse — was it bobbing or bob? gasping or gasp? Why was it difficult for me? I can’t remember now. I like stumbling with the lines; it gives me the chance to reflect on word choice and rhythm. And it helps me to think about what makes some poetry sing, some fall flat.

Favorite lines/images: the blind, dumb dogs; the martyr who wasn’t a witch because she could drown; the vision of her bobbing through the dark and gasping for air; the apples thumping — I imagine them falling on the ground; the lips of the pumpkin humming; something dying and something appearing.

Why is this haunting? One obvious reason: it takes up Halloween (spooky) images. But also: the rhymes. They aren’t sing-song-y. Instead, they echo. The rhyming reminds me of part of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells:

monody: a poem lamenting a person’s death
paean: a song of praise or triumph
rune: letters from an alphabet that was used by people in Northern Europe in former times. They were carved on wood or stone and were believed to have magical powers (source).
knell: the sound of a bell, especially when rung solemnly for a death or funeral

IV.

          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
                    Rolls
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Reading through this again, I’m thinking about how the bells in this verse are not clock bells, tracking the precise, steady passing of time (which reminds me of the lines about the blind, dumb clocks and no time for the martyr). These bells toll, groan, moan, roll, throb, sob, knell. The sound of the bells floats from rusty throats, is muffled, melancholy. When it is mentioned that they keep time, it is not the time of life, but of death.