oct 4/RUN

2.5 miles
2 trails
60 degrees

Another colorful fall morning. Noisy, too. So much construction on our block and around the neighborhood. beep beep beep beep brrrrrr brrrrrr. Ran south on the river road and encountered lots of bikes. Noticed how the river was burning a bright white. Got lost in some thoughts about a new form for my vision poems. Forgot to notice the bridge above the ravine in the stretch between 44th and 42nd on the winchell trail. Stopped near the top of the hill at 42nd to speak some ideas into my phone. Ran some more, then stopped again. Do I have some good ideas that can become something? I hope so. I’m interested in experimenting with the peripheral as where I see and the center as a flat landscape/background. Maybe have a flat, lifeless description of the landscape with flashes of more meaningful words sprinkled along the peripheral? I like the idea of making the center a flat, lifeless landscape/background because that’s what my brain does; it fills in a background, like wallpaper. It’s mostly what’s there, but my view doesn’t include any objects that my few cones or my peripheral rods didn’t register. Listening to my notes, I also mention being inspired by the vision tests at the DMV, which have both a mini snellen chart and flashes you have to notice. For years before I was diagnosed, I would have this seemingly irrational fear of the vision test at the DMV. I always wondered why. Now I know. Not sure how to translate these tests into a poetic form.

10 Things I Noticed*

*while not really paying attention to my surroundings

  1. a peleton of younger bikers on the road
  2. a string of older bikers on the trail
  3. a biker swinging wide to mount their bike just as I ran by
  4. a dog barking at me as I swung wide to avoid them and their owner
  5. bright yellow vests
  6. a tree leaning over the dirt trail, which used to be asphalt, just past the 38th street steps
  7. two voices behind me, getting closer when I stopped to speak into my phone
  8. a woman with a dog passing by me X 2
  9. dripping water at the 42nd street sewer pipe
  10. Santa Claus running fast!

I noticed more than I thought. I haven’t Santa Claus (the Regular runner who has a bushy white beard like Santa Claus) in a while.

Here’s a poem I discovered yesterday while previewing May Swenson’s Nature (which I ordered!). It fits with my theme for September, and how I’m feeling these days: tender.

Living Tenderly/ May Swenson

My body a rounded stone
with a pattern of smooth seams.
My head a short snake,
retractive, projective.
My legs out out of their sleeves
or shrink within,
and so does my chin.
My eyelids are quick clamps.

My back is my roof.
I am always at home.
I travel where my house walks.
It is a smooth stone.
It floats within the lake,
or rests in the dust.
My flesh lives tenderly
inside its bone.

oct 3/RUN

5.4 miles
ford loop
61 degrees

Full fall color! More orange than anything else. Beautiful. Running over the lake street bridge — river emptied of everything but ripples. Windy. Noticed the evidence of the marathon everywhere — port-a-potties and barricades waiting to be picked up. No trash or torn-up grass or anything else that might indicate lots of people gathered here. I’m always impressed with how quickly everything is picked up. Encountered an older woman on the lake street steps. Tried to think about May Swenson’s wonderful poem, “October,” but all my thoughts scattered. Felt good. My right knee (the OG), didn’t bother me until the very end, and barely. No shifting or rubbing kneecap today!

No headphones for the first 4.5 miles. Put in Bruno Mars playlist — “talking to the moon” — while I finished my run.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Orange everywhere! Not the kind that’s almost red, but the soft neon, almost like orange sherbet
  2. No rowers on the river, no roller skiers on the path, one fast-moving rollerblader
  3. A single goose honking, somewhere in the sky
  4. mostly cloudy with the sun sometimes peeking through the clouds
  5. long shadows cast by the trees on the east river side, near the overlook closest to the ford bridge
  6. a stretch on the east side of the river with no trees — no shade, nothing to frame the wide open sky, strangely bare
  7. the sound of jack hammers
  8. 2 bikers at the top of Summit, just past the monument. One said to the other, “This is the only tricky (or did he tough?) part of the route”
  9. a bike darted past me on the ford bridge then turned into a small overlook. No! I wanted to stop there to admire the leaves! Then, before I reached the overlook, hopped on their bike and pedaled away. Hooray!
  10. the short path that you cut down after exiting the ford bridge to get to the river road was the ideal form of Fall — all oranges, a few yellows, a winding path, mysterious woods

A few weeks ago, I decided that in October I would study 2 poems titled October, one my May Swenson, the other by Louise Glück. This week, May Swenson’s version:

October/ May Swenson

1

A smudge for the horizon
that, on a clear day, shows
the hard edge of hills and
buildings on the other coast.
Anchored boats all head one way:
north, where the wind comes from.
You can see the storm inflating
out of the west. A dark hole
in gray cloud twirls, widens,
while white rips multiply
on the water far out.
Wet tousled yellow leaves,
thick on the slate terrace.
The jay’s hoarse cry. He’s
stumbling in the air,
too soaked to fly.

2

Knuckles of the rain
on the roof,
chuckles into the drain-
pipe, spatters on
the leaves that litter
the grass. Melancholy
morning, the tide full
in the bay, an overflowing
bowl. At least, no wind,
no roughness in the sky,
its gray face bedraggled
by its tears.

3

Peeling a pear, I remember
my daddy’s hand. His thumb
(the one that got nipped by the saw,
lacked a nail) fit into
the cored hollow of the slippery
half his knife skinned so neatly.
Dad would pare the fruit from our
orchard in the fall, while Mother
boiled the jars, prepared for
“putting up.” Dad used to darn
our socks when we were small,
and cut our hair and toenails.
Sunday mornings, in pajamas, we’d
take turns in his lap. He’d help
bathe us sometimes. Dad could do
anything. He built our dining table,
chairs, the buffet, the bay window
seat, my little desk of cherry wood
where I wrote my first poems. That
day at the shop, splitting panel
boards on the electric saw (oh, I
can hear the screech of it now,
the whirling blade that sliced
my daddy’s thumb), he received the mar
that, long after, in his coffin,
distinguished his skilled hand.

4

I sit with braided fingers
and closed eyes
in a span of late sunlight.
The spokes are closing.
It is fall: warm milk of light,
though from an aging breast.
I do not mean to pray.
The posture for thanks or
supplication is the same
as for weariness or relief.
But I am glad for the luck
of light. Surely it is godly,
that it makes all things
begin, and appear, and become
actual to each other.
Light that’s sucked into
the eye, warming the brain
with wires of color.
Light that hatched life
out of the cold egg of earth.

5

Dark wild honey, the lion’s
eye color, you brought home
from a country store.
Tastes of the work of shaggy
bees on strong weeds,
their midsummer bloom.
My brain’s electric circuit
glows, like the lion’s iris
that, concentrated, vibrates
while seeming not to move.
Thick transparent amber
you brought home,
the sweet that burns.

6

“The very hairs of your head
are numbered,” said the words
in my head, as the haircutter
snipped and cut, my round head
a newel poked out of the tent
top’s slippery sheet, while my
hairs’ straight rays rained
down, making pattern on the neat
vacant cosmos of my lap. And
maybe it was those tiny flies,
phantoms of my aging eyes, seen
out of the sides floating (that,
when you turn to find them
full face, always dissolve) but
I saw, I think, minuscule,
marked in clearest ink, Hairs
#9001 and #9002 fall, the cut-off
ends streaking little comets,
till they tumbled to confuse
with all the others in their
fizzled heaps, in canyons of my
lap. And what keeps asking
in my head now that, brushed off
and finished, I’m walking
in the street, is how can those
numbers remain all the way through,
and all along the length of every
hair, and even before each one
is grown, apparently, through
my scalp? For, if the hairs of my
head are numbered, it means
no more and no less of them
have ever, or will ever be.
In my head, now cool and light,
thoughts, phantom white flies,
take a fling: This discovery
can apply to everything.

7

Now and then, a red leaf riding
the slow flow of gray water.
From the bridge, see far into
the woods, now that limbs are bare,
ground thick-littered. See,
along the scarcely gliding stream,
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still
spills into. Stand still, stare
hard into bramble and tangle,
past leaning broken trunks,
sprawled roots exposed. Will
something move?—some vision
come to outline? Yes, there—
deep in—a dark bird hangs
in the thicket, stretches a wing.
Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.” His shoulder-patch
that should be red looks gray.
This old redwing has decided to
stay, this year, not join the
strenuous migration. Better here,
in the familiar, to fade.

After posting this, I decided to order Swenson’s collection Nature (and Glück’s Averno). So excited!

Back to Swenson. Today, before I went out for my run, I was struck by 4, 5, and 6, especially in terms of light, the eye, and vision.

from 4
But I am glad for the luck
of light. Surely it is godly,
that it makes all things
begin, and appear, and become
actual to each other.
Light that’s sucked into
the eye, warming the brain
with wires of color.
Light that hatched life
out of the cold egg of earth.

I like her description of light, the eye, and the brain, which is warmed with wires of color.

In the next section, 6, I’m struck by how, after praising light, she (seems to) praise darkness too:

Dark wild honey, the lion’s
eye color, you brought home
from a country store.

And offers a parallel description of dark, the eye, and the brain:

My brain’s electric circuit
glows, like the lion’s iris
that, concentrated, vibrates
while seeming not to move.

The eyes and light and vision come up again in section 6:

maybe it was those tiny flies,
phantoms of my aging eyes, seen
out of the sides floating (that,
when you turn to find them
full face, always dissolve)

then

In my head, now cool and light,
thoughts, phantom white flies,
take a fling

What to make of these references?

oct 1/RUN

5.25 miles
prior loop*
57 degrees

*an extended version of the Marshall loop. Over the lake street bridge, past Cretin and Cleveland to right on Prior Street, then right on Summit to the river. note: in an earlier version of this description, I read the street sign incorrectly. I thought it was St. Peter instead of Prior.

Wow! Fall colors! Reds, oranges, yellows. Felt cooler than 57, damp. Sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, always calm with hardly a breeze. Running over the lake street bridge, I witnessed a rowing event — a practice? a race? I’m not sure what it was, but they had buoys lined up and the river was dotted with rowing shells, from small (1 person) to big (8 person). What a beautiful image. As I ran past, I kept turning my neck to take more of it in. 30 or 40 minutes later, when I crossed back over the bridge, they were still there. This time, I heard the voice of a male coxswain too.

knee update: my right knee, the one that’s prone to subluxations is grumbling a bit. For the past 2 runs, around 5 minutes in, I can feel the kneecap rubbing — is it coming out of the groove slightly? After another 5 minutes, it settles. The rest of the run is fine, but when I’m done that knee is slightly swollen.

Image of the Day

Running past my favorite spot on the east river trail, the trees parted and the river was revealed, glowing from the sun and the yellow, orange, and red trees on the opposite shore. The water was blue and covered in boats and buoys.

10 Things I Remember

  1. the smell of cigar smoke as I neared the bottom of the marshall hill
  2. a group of 5 or 6 spectators on the bridge watching the rowers below
  3. stopped at the light at cretin, waiting for it to turn green again, shifting my weight from foot to foot
  4. running by where choo choo bob’s used to be, and where FWA had his 3rd birthday party, and wondering if it was still there (looked it up, it’s not)
  5. 2 big stone lions guarding the front of the big house on summit
  6. the sound of a siren, 2 women waiting on a corner, one of them complaining, this took forever, then hearing her say, you guys took over 40 minutes! I didn’t see an injured person or any sign of something wrong. What happened? Who was hurt? Where would the women lead them?
  7. screeching blue jays
  8. near the top of the hill, close to the entrance to the shadow falls trail, a speedy bike whipped around the corner
  9. a walker ahead of me swinging her arms widely from side to side
  10. hearing the rowers through the trees as I ran above the river on the west side

leaf watch, 2022

Gorgeous. Getting close to peak, I think. Tomorrow’s marathon will be beautiful.

EDNA/ Todd Dillard

My daughter is bored so I tell her silverfish
are neither silver nor a fish, but a spoon-dull insect
that loves kitchens bathrooms the mouths of children.
Silverfish! Silverfish! she squeals, the word
peeling from her lips and crawling down her legs.
She watches me knead the day’s dough
and asks if Kleenex are used to clean necks.
The TV says a crane collapsed off 34th and
she wants to know if it’s because the crane was thirsty.
Some afternoons we visit the neighborhood pool and
even though she can barely swim my daughter isn’t afraid.
She’s so unafraid it makes me afraid. She loves it
when I pick her up and throw her as far away as possible.
She loves to paddle back and scream Again! Again!
But she loves it most when I swim away as fast as I can,
when my back becomes a shore she’s trying to reach.
My daughter’s named the pool Edna. Sometimes
Edna helps her reach me. When it’s time to go
my daughter says “See you soon, Edna.”
Every day I am terrified in new ways.

I love this poem and how Dillard captures the spirit of his young daughter. I love the line about his back being a shore she’s trying to reach. And I love that the pool is named Edna. What a great name for a body of water!