april 7/RUN

3.5 miles
locks and dam #1
39 degrees

Tomorrow starts the warmer weather. A high of 59, then 78 by Wednesday. I’m sure this spring weather won’t last, but at least we are getting some warm days.

A good run. I was overdressed. Ran south to the locks and dam #1 parking lot, then down the hill to the entrance to the dam and back up it. A quick walk break to put in my headphones, Bruno Mars Essentials on apple music, and to admire the river. Then back north to home.

Running south, I heard some birds singing. It sounded like the melody to Weather Report’s Birdland. Is that possible? The song is about the nightclub and Charlie Parker, but is also about birds? Probably not. Oh well, today that’s what I heard: some birds singing the melody to Birdland.

Anything else? More melted snow, sharp shadows, sandy grit. More time on the walking trail. Heard kids on the playground, felt my hands bumping against the zipper pull on my pockets, saw a kid sitting on the top of a big boulder.

A. R. Ammons’ garbage

written before the run:

Yesterday I wrote about wanting to revise my mannequin poem and submit it to a journal. Yesterday I was enthusiastic. Today, I am not. I’m stuck. Instead of staying stuck, I’m returning to my other project: reading Ammons’ garbage. It’s an intimidating poem — long (17 sections, 121 pages), strange. I’m not sure if I will (or can) read the entire thing, but I decided to start it, at least. I read section 1 the other day, so today I’m starting with section 2. I did this same, starting with section 2, thing when I read Schuyler’s Hymn to Life. Is a new approach?

Starting a poem like this, or maybe any poem, involves a moment of mild panic — what the hell is he talking about? I don’t understand! — then a deep breath and a belief that something will make some sort of sense if I just keep going. One foot in front of the other, step by step, bird by bird, word by word. In the case of section 2, it took a lot of words to find a way in, two whole pages of them.

I read about garbage as the poem of our time, then trash in Florida, then a question about how to write the poem. Finally, at the top of page 20, I found a phrase that I wanted to look up: “the poem/is about the pre-socratic idea of the/dispositional axis from stone to wind, wind/to stone” I think I was compelled to look it up because I took a class on the pre-Socratics almost 30 years ago in college and I wanted to remember what I had forgotten. As I understand it, Ammons is referring to the pre-socratic foundational belief (sloppy shorthand for dispositional axis) in material monism, or that everything can be reduced to one element. Water (Thales), limitlessness (Anaximander), Air (Anaximenes). For Ammons, it’s garbage. Is this right? Some of my research for this comes from Wikipedia, almost none of it from my memory of that Intro to Philosophy class with a wonderful adjunct professor (Corinne Bedecarre) who referred to animals as critters.

Anyway, looking up this line and thinking about garbage as the single element, encouraged me to slow down and wonder about more of Ammons’ words. I started writing in the margins, wandering in more directions with my thoughts. Thinking about Mary Oliver’s eternity, Elizabeth Bishop’s fish eye, and humility as not the same as humiliation (unlike Ammons, it seems).

His discussion of eternity and the other “heaven we mostly/want, though, is this jet-hoveled hell back,/heaven’s daunting asshole,” reminds me of Mary Oliver and her distinction between ordinary and eternal time. Much of his connection between ordinary/garbage time and writing poetry reminds me of Mary Oliver’s The Leaf and the Cloud. I’d like to read them together.

After his line about garbage as the element, and his questions about how he should write this poem — short, a small popping of/duplexes, or long, hunting wide, coming home/late, losing the trail and recovering it, he writes this:

I needn’t
myself hurry into brevity, though a weary reader

might briefly be done: the axis will be clear
enough daubed here and there with a little ink

or fined out into every shade and form of its

As I read this long poem, I want to remember these lines and look for what’s daubed here and there or fined out into every shade in order to describe his basic principle: garbage has to be the poem of our time or, everything is/comes from garbage.

after the run:

As an aside to hopefully return to: I appreciate the turn to garbage. When I was a professor, teaching queer ethics to grad students, I was intrigued by some theories that focused on shit, both literally and metaphorically as excess, waste, what we consume and expel. I don’t have time to look for sources right now, but maybe I can later?

a few more things to remember:

  • a new word: macadam, aggregate road surface, compacted stone held together with a binder, like asphalt or concrete…not mixed in. Or, tar, as in tarmac. Nice!
  • the line that inspired my search: “young earthworms/drowned up in macadam pools” instead of potholes filled with water, macadam pools. I might have to use that with asphalt.