jan 31/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
21 degrees / feels like 11
25% snow-covered

Right before my run, walking on my block, I heard something that reminded me of a noise I recently heard while watching a ski cross competition on tv: the low growling buzz of the drones that were following the skiers on the course. At first, I thought that the noise I was hearing just sounded like a drone. Then, I looked to my right, and saw a drone, hovering above the street. I looked around, but didn’t see anyone. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a drone “in the wild.” I decided it must be for taking pictures of the biggest and most expensive house on my block that is just about to go on the market. Scott agreed, adding, “when you’re asking that much (almost 700,000), you’ve got to get drone pictures.” Wow.

Ran south to the falls. Felt a bit tired, my legs sluggish. Too many days in row running? Probably. Still enjoyed being outside and moving. Heard the kids at the Minnehaha Academy playground, then the teacher blowing the whistle ending recess. Before this winter, I don’t remember hearing this whistle. Am I running at a slightly different time, or is there a new teacher who likes a whistle, or what? Encountered some fat tires, walkers with dogs, walkers without dogs, runners bundled up, runners running with dogs, a walker with yaktrax on, the soft click-clacking of their cleats on bare pavement. I wondered why she was wearing them when so much of the path was clear; I decide to imagine that she had spent most of her time down in the gorge, hiking on snow below, and not on bare asphalt above. The falls, and the creek it dumps into, looked frozen. The river was a boring, endless white. I heard the tin-whistle chirp of a robin (is that possible this time of year?).

No headphones running south, a playlist running north. I thought about reciting a poem in my head as I ran, but didn’t. Didn’t have any deep thoughts that I remember. No counting or chanting.

As I was trying to find a poem to post here, I found something else: a collection of hybrid essays titled, Green, Green, Green by Gillian Osbourne. Yes! I love the color green, and reading about green, and writing about green. In addition to the book, here is an excerpt from Osbourne in Harpers, and a podcast about this book and another of my favorites, Waterlog by Roger Deakins.

jan 30/RUN

2 miles
43rd north/32nd east/edmund south/37th west/43rd north
22 degrees

A quick run to get the last miles I need for my weekly goal (20 miles), to enjoy the “mild” weather and mostly clear pavement, and to recite the poem I’m re-memorizing today, “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.” I ran through the neighborhood, which I don’t do as much this year now that I’m vaccinated and not as nervous about encountering people. Ran by Cooper School, then the abandoned house that has stood almost, but not quite, finished for at least 3 years now. It’s sealed, with a door and windows, so it’s safe from the elements. I can’t remember if it has siding. If this house were finished, it would probably be worth at least 1/2 million. Strange to see it still here, still not done. Did the builder go bankrupt? When I almost reached the river, staying on edmund instead of crossing the river road, I saw lots of cars — Sunday drivers, I guess.

I recited my poem a few times. Probably because of the cold, I didn’t stop and record myself reciting it at the end. I should start doing that again, to make sure I’m getting all of the words. I noticed how certain bits of the poem worked very well with the steady rhythm of my running: “the trace of the thicket, the key in the lock, as root breaks/ rock, from seed to flower to fruit to rot”. Others did not, like “dark boat in the dark night”.

Scrolling through some of my running instagram (I use twitter for poetry; instagram for running; facebook for family/IRL friends), I discovered the Quadratus Lumborum muscle, which causes lots of problems for runners, and might be why my lower back often hurts. Nice. Never heard of this muscle before. It’s located in the lower back and involves the iliac crest, the lumbar vertebrae, and the 12th rib. Here are some stretches I’m planning to try: Top 5 QL Stretches

jan 29/RUN

4.45 miles
top of Franklin and back
19 degrees / feels like 10
50% snow-covered

Yes! What a difference it makes to run outside! It was cold, and I wore a lot of layers, but not nearly as cold as I thought it was going to be. According to the experts, an arctic hellscape blast is headed our way for 7-10 days in the beginning of February. Possibly -20. I wonder what the feels like temp will be? More treadmill, I guess. But, that also means more Dickinson, so it’s not all bad. The run felt good. My hands and feet weren’t too cold. I didn’t have my headphones on as I ran north, but when I turned around, I decided to put them in. One problem: it was so bright, I couldn’t see the screen to find a playlist. After trying for a few minutes without success, I just pushed a few random buttons and listened to whatever came on. I’m not sure what kind of playlist/shuffle it was on, but it started with Gerry Mulligan’s “Israel,” and I was really enjoying it. I like reading and writing while listening to jazz, but I’ve never tried running to it! A new experiment? Seeing how my run changes with different rhythms? That sounds like fun!

Layers

  • 1 pair of socks
  • 2 pairs of running tights
  • 1 long tank top
  • 1 green base layer shirt
  • 1 black 3/4 zip black pull-over
  • 1 pink jacket with hood
  • black vest
  • buff
  • 2 pairs of gloves
  • cap with ear flaps

I’ve decided to refresh my memory on past poems that I’ve memorized in the past. My tentative goal for the year? 100 memorized poems. I’m about halfway there, if I can remember all the ones I’ve already memorized. Today, I revisited Dickinson’s “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark.” I love this poem and how it gives me words for my experiences with vision loss. Throughout the run, I recited it in my head. Favorite verse today:

Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight
And Life steps almost straight.

In terms of (re)memorizing poems, I think I’ll start with the vision ones first. They might inspire me in my own writing. I’ve decided on this project because memorizing poems makes me feel good, and it’s one of the more effective ways for me to study poetry as craft. Plus, I’ve been working for months on my own poems, and I’d like to devote some attention to other peoples’ words.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the classic: a lone black glove, abandoned on the middle of the path
  2. the river: all white, covered with snow
  3. some kids sledding down the hill between edmund and the river road
  4. cigarette smoke invading my nose, escaped from a truck
  5. Dave the Daily walker (who I good morninged) was in more than his standard short-sleeved t-shirt. He had on a stocking cap, gloves, and something long-sleeved — a shirt, or a coat? I can’t remember
  6. a chipper was set up in the grass between edmund and the river road, near minnehaha academy, rumbling and grinding and buzzing
  7. a group of 4 or 5 fat tires
  8. a biker approaching with their bike light on
  9. the floodplain forest was white with tall, brown, slender trunks
  10. someone in bright orange, sitting on a bench above the river, almost to franklin

jan 28/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand
run: 2.2 miles
treadmill

Watched the rest of the Dickinson episode about fame, which includes ED in a carriage with Death (Wiz Khalifa) and recently deceased, Edgar Allen Poe (Nick Kroll), who tells her how unsatisfying fame is, to which she utters: “Fame is a bee.” Nice. I wish they would have had the bee in the carriage too.

Fame is a bee./ Emily Dickinson

Fame is a bee.
It has a song—
It has a sting—
Ah, too, it has a wing.

Ran to my new playlist. Again, didn’t think about much, or if I did think about anything, I don’t remember what it was. Returning to Dickinson, here’s a poem that includes doors (I mentioned a twitter thread a few days ago about doors in poetry) and ghosts!

One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —/ Emily Dickinson

One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting —
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a’chase —
Than Unarmed, one’s a’self encounter —
In lonesome Place —

Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
Should startle most —
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror’s least.

The Body — borrows a Revolver —
He bolts the Door —
O’erlooking a superior spectre —
Or More —

And, here’s another poem that includes both doors and ghosts that I’ve posted before:

Doors/ Carl Sandburg

An open door says, “Come in.” 
A shut door says, “Who are you?” 
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors. 
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
why open it? 
If a door is open and you want it open,
why shut it? 
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
doors forget.

jan 27/RUN

4.45 miles
minnehaha falls and back
29! degrees
90% snow-covered

Hooray for outside runs! Windy, but much warmer. The trail was covered with a thin layer of snow, mostly very compact, occasionally loose and soft and slick. Now, as I write this, the sun is very bright, but before, when I was running, it was muted by clouds, everything white. I felt like I was suspended in white, not motionless but disconnected, separated. Very cool and dreamy. I can’t remember why, but I started thinking about layers and the poem I posted yesterday, with the repeated line, & under. What are my layers, and are layers so distinct and easily discarded? Now I’m thinking about sediment and certain types of rock formations, where rock from different times in history get all mixed up when they settle, so you can’t easily distinguish eras (or is it periods, or what?). What’s that called again? I’ll have to look itup.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the sizzle of dead leaves on the trees in the wind
  2. what I thought was a geese, honking, turned out to be a woman laughing
  3. the teacher’s whistle, loud and bright, signaling that recess was over at Minnehaha Academy
  4. a kid yelling on the playground (before recess was over), or was he growling? I could tell he was playing a game, but what game was he playing to sound like that?
  5. a loud scraping rush of noise, like a snowplow plowing a street crusty with snow, but not, because there was no plow
  6. an orange sign signaling a curve in the road that I always mistake for someone’s jacket — or, maybe I should say, it gives me the feeling of a person standing there. I don’t see it as a person, I just feel it as one, if that makes any sense
  7. the falls, fully iced over
  8. about 1/2 a dozen people checking out the falls, one person walking over to read the sign about when a president (which one? I can’t remember) visited the falls
  9. stopping to slowly walk on the walking side of the double bridge and looking down at the ravine. It seems much closer with all of the snow
  10. mistaking the retaining wall near the start of the winchell trail, which was a thin dark brown line cutting through the white, for a thin slash of the river

Here’s one more poem from Paige Lewis and their collection, Star Struck:

On the Train, A Man
Snatches My Book/ Paige Lewis

On the train, a man snatches my book, reads
the last line, and says I completely get you,
you’re not that complex. He could be right–lately
all my what ifs are about breath: what if
a glass-blower inhales at the wrong
moment? What if I’m drifting on a sailboat
and the wind stops? If he’d ask me how I’m
feeling, I’d give him the long version–I feel
as if I’m on the moon listening to the air hiss
out of my spacesuit, and I can’t find the rip. I’m
the vice president of panic and the president is
missing. Most nights, I calm myself by listing
animals still on the least concern end of the
extinction spectrum: aardvarks and blackbirds
are fine. Minnows thrive–though this brings
me no relief–they can swim through sludge
if they have to. I don’t think I’ve ever written
the word doom, but nothing else fits.
Every experience seems both urgent and
unnatural–like right now, this train
is approaching the station where my lover
is waiting to take me to the orchard so we can
pay for the memory of having once, at dusk,
​plucked real apples from real trees.

I feel this poem today, after briefly glancing at the news, and reading about a supreme court justice retiring and a new variant of concern. Do I think of doom as both urgent and unnatural? I’m always struck by how natural, “normal”, everyday, doom feels lately.

jan 26/BIKERUN

bike: 16 minutes
bike stand
run: 3.25 miles
treadmill
0 / feels like -8

Cold. Reviewing the temp now, maybe I could have run outside. Hopefully, tomorrow. Watched more of the Dickinson episode that I started yesterday while I biked. On the same day that her poem is published in the paper, Emily wakes up invisible and is confronted with the limits of fame, and the freedom that not being noticed can bring. Fame is a common theme in ED’s work. From what I’ve read, scholars/lovers of ED don’t always agree (surprise surprise) on how much fame did or didn’t matter to her. Did she crave fame? Did she keep her poems private because she was happy to be anonymous? Was she shunned? I need to revisit my notes, to remember more of the thoughts. In the beginning of this episode, fame is presented as empty and fickle. According to the “Nobody” ghost that haunts her in this episode (it’s been too long since I watched this show, but I know this dude appeared in earlier episode. I’ll have to check if I mentioned him before), being invisible is better, while being noticed is overrated. I agree. More on this soon, I think.

Listened to a new playlist while I ran, with some good songs for my pace: Wannabe/ Spice Girls, Work It/ Missy Elliot, Poker Face/ Lady Gaga. One song that didn’t work as well, but that I really like anyway: Get Ur Freak On/ Missy Elliot. A little too fast. Didn’t think about much while I ran. One thought: it’s harder to run longer in the basement. Very little to distract you, or maybe engage/delight you. More time to think about how many miles/minutes are left.

In between biking and running, I listened to a draft of my 3 new haunt poems: 1. Before there was girl, there was ghost; 2. Before there was ghost, there was girl; and 3. Before there was ghost or girl, there was gorge. I’m happy with them. I can’t decide whether to put them altogether, as one poem — they’re about 13 5 syllable lines each — or, to sprinkle them between my other haunts poems. Which will work better?

Here’s the poem-a-day from poets.org for Jan 26th:

Inspiration Point/ Jennifer Jean

We’d stare at horses at Will Rogers Park, then hike
the Loop Trail to Inspiration Point, &
I’d lag back 
to be a kid. Alone. & under that aloofness—hid
vengeance. A rusty burr or two 
in my left sneaker. & under that—anxiety. The salt 
dripping through chaparral 
brows, into my brown lashes. &
under that—rage. A perfectly purple 
shell some kid favored & lost.
& under that—hope. The pounded 
ground. & under that—a vast
clearing on the cosmos, also called Inspiration
Point. A gorgeous, inner hilltop

with a curious figure 
taking in the Pacific view. 
Breathing chicory & chamise. Naming 
every wind-boarder near Catalina 
Island. That high-noon, far-sighted figure—seemed
a bit burnt, but warm. A bit divine. 
But—sometimes—I didn’t find that figure 
wow-ing at a thing 
no one had ever seen—at a new bird 
better than a phoenix. (There’s something better than 
a phoenix!) Sometimes, my hand 
stretched towards some nether new
creation & I was the figure 
who named it.

I like the repetition of, & under, and how the poets uses it to peel back layers of her emotions as a kid. I also like the description of rage as a perfectly purple shell. I don’t remember experiencing rage as a kid. Is it because my memory’s bad? or, maybe because my intense emotions would usually manifest themselves in overflowing exuberance (or obnoxiousness)? From what I do remember, I always had trouble hanging onto anger; by the time, I would yell, the anger was gone.

more awesome poetry people

Here’s a thread about meter in poetry that I’d like to spend more time with. I struggle with meter; it’s hard for me to hear. But, I know it’s important, and I’d like to become more familiar with it (in a way that sticks).

jan 25/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill

Started watching Dickinson again while I biked. Finished the episode where they’re at the “spa,” and started the one in which her poem is published and she’s invisible. Listened to a new running playlist while I ran. Stopped to record myself running to check my gait, but it didn’t quite work. I’ll have to try again. My left thigh/hip was sore by the end.

I checked out Paige Lewis’s Space Struck from the library — on the libby app — and I marked a few to remember, including yesterday’s Saccadic Masking. Here’s another for today. I think I wanted to keep it for the question about being the sound or the stillness.

Chapel of the Green Lord/ Paige Lewis

This spring, the smog is so thick
I can’t see the stars, which means
there aren’t any stars left. It’s pointless
to argue against this, to say,
no they’re on vacation, no
they’ll come back with new summer
hats and an answer
to my question: If this world
is a plucked violin string, am I part
of its sound or its stillness?
Once, I woke and believed myself full
of the old heaven. I wanted to trap it,
make it stay. I swallowed
a hive’s worth of honey, and—
and still, no stars. This smog
is thick enough to turn my lungs gummy.
I stay inside, line my bed
with spider plants and succulents,
christen it Chapel of the Green Lord,
and go to sleep with the sheets pulled up
over my sticky mouth.

poetry people for the win!

A great thread on twitter this morning. I’m always looking for poems about exits, entrances, openings, closings: doors!

jan 24/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.2 miles
treadmill

More cold, more basement. Watched a Spartan race while I biked, listened to a podcast while I ran. Covered the display panel and didn’t look at my watch, so I (sort of) lost track of time, which was nice. Felt pretty good until the last few minutes, when my legs were sore — my left hip + knee. Did I think about anything? I don’t remember. Oh, I do remember thinking about stopping to set up a camera and do some video of my running. I want to see if I’m raising up my left hip enough. I didn’t stop. Then I thought about physical therapy and remembered the last time I was there, when the therapists recorded some of my running on an iPad. Anything else? Nope. All the thoughts, good or bad, gone. That’s cool.

I’m continuing to work on my Haunts poem. Not sure how I will weave these in, but I want to add a few more parts that deal explicitly with my story of vision loss. Here’s what I have so far. It’s still in the 3/2 form, but turned into 5 syllable lines:

Before there was ghost,
there was girl. Fiercely
physical, sturdy,
not certain but sure
footed, the ground firm
beneath her, able
to shake worlds with her
body, to make worlds
with one glance — meadows,
forests, stintless stars —-
all hers instantly.

Before there was girl,
there was ghost, carried
deep within unknown
ancestors, passed on
to the girl.* Scrambled
code in the back of
each eye, starting a
shift from sharp to soft
so slow it will go
unnoticed until
lines dissolve, letters
blur, ground unmoors, and
a gorge is carved out
between girl and world.

*initially, I wrote this line as:

there was ghost, carried
deep within the girl,
passed on from unknown
ancestors: scrambled…

I can’t decide which I like better.

Since I’m thinking more about vision, and how to express it in poetry, here’s a poem about saccadic masking from Paige Lewis. Like most poems I really like, I don’t quite get it yet.

Saccadic Masking/ Paige Lewis from Space Struck

a phenomenon where the brain blocks out blurred images created by movement of the eye

All constellations are organisms
and all organisms are divine
and unfixed. I am spending
my night in the kitchen. There
is blood in the batter—dark
strands stretch like vocal
cords telling me I am missing
so much with these blurred
visions: a syringe flick, the tremor
of my wrist—raised veins silked
green. I have seen the wings
of a purple finch wavering
around its body, stuck, burned
to the grill of my car, which means
I have failed to notice its flight—
a lesson on infinities, a lesson I
am trying to learn. I am trying.
Tell me, how do I steady my gaze
when everything I want is motion?

jan 23/RUN

3.4 miles
river road trail, south/north
2 degrees / feels like 2
100% snow-covered

Cold, but only 2 mph wind and sun, so the feels like temperature was the same as the actual temperature. Nice! A great morning for a run, even if it was too bright, with the sun reflecting off the new snow. For the last two runs, I was inside, and I could have decided it was too cold and too snow-covered again today and ran on the treadmill, but I remembered how much I love running outside in the winter and went for it. Very glad I did. Saw Santa Claus, several fat tires, half a dozen walkers, and a cross-country skier, skiing in the wide boulevard between edmund and the river road. It’s always a great run when I encounter a cross-country skier! The river was pure white and quiet. Two people were shoveling the WPA stone steps at the 44th street parking lot –were they “official” volunteers, or had they just decided to shovel the step because they needed to be cleared? Heard a black-capped chickadee, but not any geese, or cardinals, or crows.

My Glasses/ Jane Hirshfield

Glasses can be taken off.
The world instantly soften, blurs.
The pattern of carpet
or leaves out a window,
words on a page,
the face in a mirror.
Blurs,
even the war that is coming,
pushing its iron boat-shape
onto the sand of a beach not far
but not seen;
even the silences coming,
following the boat
as a swimming dog follows its master.
Lu Chi, poet and scholar,
born into a family of generals,
was executed
in the thirty-fifty year of the Xi Jin dynasty,
after his soldiers’ bodies
blocked the Great Yangtze.
The Yangtze went elsewhere,
blurring the nearby fields.
Merciful blurring, merciful forgetting.
Meeting Lu Chi’s name.
I think of his image of culture
as one axe handle shaping another,
I think of his thoughts about unpainted silk.
Each of the Yangtze dead
had a mother, a father, wife, children,
a well, some chickens.
No, the largesses of glasses is not seeing.

For more on Lu Chi, see Wen fu/Essay on Literature.

jan 22/BIKERUN

bike: 23 minutes
bike stand
run: 3.25 miles
treadmill

Still cold, still inside. Earlier, while I was sitting at my desk, I saw someone run past with their dog. I thought about running outside, but the feels like temp is -6, the wind speed is 15 mph, and the sidewalk is 100% snow and ice covered. Yes, I wimped out, and I’m okay with that. Watched a replay of the Men’s Triathlon at the Tokyo Olympics while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran.

In between the bike and run, I listened to a recording of 2 new parts of my haunts poem. I’m playing around with adding in more of my story about losing my vision, and the ghosts that surround it. The two parts begin: 1. Before there/was ghost/there was girl and 2. Before there/was girl/there was ghost

before there was / 22 jan 2022

I was hoping to think about these lines as I ran, but I was mostly distracted by my effort and the beat. Then, in the last 3 minutes of my run, Salt n Pepa’s “My Mic Sounds Nice” came on and I had a flash of an idea. It happened when I heard the lines, “cuz every curve on my body has a story to tell.” I started thinking about the stories our bodies tell, then my damaged retina/macula, and then how to express that in my poem: scrambled macula, abandoned retina, sleeping retina? It’s not much of an idea…yet.

Anyway, Salt n Pepa are awesome, and their rhymes made me laugh, and remember how much I was into hip hop in high school, especially 89-92.

Here’s a poem I found the other day from Rebecca Lindenberg, who is wonderful.

Letter to a Friend, Unsent/ Rebecca Lindenberg

I haven’t written        in a while
because I don’t want to talk
                          about anything
I’ve been unable to stop
thinking about: the knotted thread
             of bad capillaries on my retinae,
money, or that my morning was ruined
by the unusual tightness
              of jeans around my thighs,
                                         like the obligations
of having a body
so ill-fitting, oppressively snug
             around an obstinate will.
And while       I don’t want
             to be distracted
from this Duchamp thing
I’ve been working on—     I am
itched out of reverie
                        over and over again
              by this feeling I don’t deserve
my raptures anymore.
So I’m sorry. I don’t want to
             bring you down. It’s unfair
to have to hear about needles
and envelopes and flies
                  when you might just have been
enjoying an iced tea outside
             and when I would prefer to tell you,
                          really,
there’s a family of pheasant living
              in the massive cottonwood
we call the Tree of Life.
The male’s red, green, gold plumage
                          makes him look
            like a Christmas present
I would want to give you.
So except “I hope you’re well,”
                                                   that’s all.