bottom of franklin hill and back
What a beautiful morning for a run! Back to shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Could it finally be spring? The floodplain forest seems to thing so, green everywhere. Saw Dave the Daily Walker, lots of runners, walkers, bikers. Heard some black-capped chickadees and woodpeckers. Smelled some cigarette smoke. The trail is open again in the flats. The river is still high and moving fast but it’s not passing over the railing and onto the road. Ran to the bottom of the hill, stopped to check out the water, put in the soundtrack to “Dear Evan Hansen” (we’re playing it in the community band I’m in), ran up the hill, then, on the way back, ran down on the Winchell Trail. I had to step carefully because the path was slanted with a steep drop off.
During the run, I had several feel good/runner’s high moments. So nice!
Running north, somewhere above the white sands beach, I started thinking about something I was working on earlier today about how my changing vision is closing some doors, opening others. I’m particularly interested in thinking about how it opens doors without ignoring/denying the shut ones too. Anyway, I suddenly had a thought: it’s not just that it opens doors, but it makes it so those doors can’t shut. I waited until I reached the bottom of the hill and then spoke my idea into my phone. Here’s a transcript:
It’s not just that doors open, they won’t shut. I can’t close them to the understandings that I’m both forced to confront but also have the opportunity to explore. But the key thing is that the doors can’t be shut.my notes recorded during a run on 3 may 2023
I came to this idea after thinking about how vision is strange and tenuous and a lot of guesswork for everyone. A big difference between me and a lot of other people is that I can’t ignore or deny that fact. It’s much easier for people with “normal” vision to imagine, with their sharp vision and their ability to focus fast, that they are seeing exactly what is there. They’re not. Even if I wanted to, I can’t pretend that that is true. I’m reminded all of the time of how tenuous converting electrical impulses into images is and what the brain does for us to make those images intelligible.
Before the Run
I’m trying something different, or maybe it’s not different, just something I often do without recognizing it as an approach: I’m following a wandering path through Ruefle’s work that is not systematic, but seems to suddenly appear as I encounter ideas, words, lines from other poems. This morning, during my daily routine of reading the poem of the day on poets.org, then poetryfoundation.org, then poems.com, I found a wonderful poem that features the color red. Red I said, then thought, why not read Ruefle’s sadness poem about red for today? So I will. First, the poem that set my course:
A Tiny Little Equation/ Shuri Kido
Translated from the Japanese by Tomoyuki Endo & Forrest Gander
For whom is (the evening glow)
To human eyes,
the red wavelength shimmering in the air
but to the eyes of birds
which recognize even ultraviolet rays,
the evening glow looks much paler.
And when all the lives on Earth are finally snuffed out,
and the human solstice has passed,
every color will cease to “exist.”
As clouds pile up densely above the sea,
kids get restless
feeling some sort of invitation.
On such occasions, when you’re unable to read a “book”
while splashing around in the sea or river
as though dancing with water gods,
you’ll notice beads of water on your skin
reflecting the world.
In such an optical play,
the summer vanishes;
some people have gone off
with the water gods
and have never come back.
Textbooks, left on a desk unopened,
hold on to their tiny equations.
When each and every living thing has lost its life
and there remains not a single being,
for whom is (the evening glow)
This poem! For whom (is the evening glow) “red”? Okay, this will be the next poem I memorize. I want to own every word of it. Should I try to fit one of its lines in my colorblind plate cento? I’ll think about it.
Now, Ruefle’s red sadness:
from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle
Red sadness is the secret one. Red sadness never appears
sad, it appears as Nijinsky bolting across the stage in mid-
air, it appears in flashes of passion, anger, fear, inspiration,
and courage, in dark unsellable visions; it is an upside-
down penny concealed beneath a tea cozy, the even-tem-
pered and steady-minded are not exempt from it, and a
curator once attached this tag to it: Because of the fragile
nature of the pouch no attempt has been made to extract
as an aside: In my initial typing up of this poem, I left out the is in the first sentence: Red sadness the secret one. I do that a lot, leave out words. I think it’s partly that my failing vision makes me sloppier, but I wonder if it’s not also because my way of reading/thinking has changed, become more abbreviated. I cut out the unnecessary words, worry less about full sentences, want more condensed, compact ideas. I’m tired of extra words — literally, it hurts my brain when I have to read so many words, but also figuratively, having spent so many years wasting all of my energy on finding the right words (right = smart enough, fancy enough, researched enough) to make an argument that finally maybe almost gets to the point. I also like using less words like a fun experiment — how many words do we actually need in order to understand something or to communicate an idea?
I need to think more about this poem and what it means or does. In the meantime, while searching for an online version of this poem (so I wouldn’t have to type it up myself), I found another red poem by Ruefle. I’ve read it before.
Red/ Mary Ruefle
I fucking depended on you and
you left the fucking wheelbarrow
out and it’s fucking raining
and now the white chickens
are fucking filthy
note: Future Sara, and anyone else reading this, I recommend listening to Ruefle read this poem on the poetry foundation site (link in title). The way she spits out fucking is the best.
Ruefle’s poem is a response to William Carlos Williams iconic red wheel barrow poem. I know that tons of poetry people have studied/obsessed over this poem and have tons of great (and not so great) ideas about what it means. I have not, and am not entirely sure what Ruefle intends/means with her poem. I like it anyway. Maybe she’s sick of all of the attention it’s received?
Read WCW’s poem and Ruefle’s side by side on this twitter thread.
On that same thread, I also found these lines from Fiona Apple and her song, “Red Red Red”:
I don’t understand about complementary colors
And what they say
Side by side they both get bright
Together they both get gray
But he’s been pretty much yellow
And I’ve been kinda blue
But all I can see is
Red, red, red, red, red now
What am I to do
Now it’s time to go out for a run. I’ll try to find red.
During the Run
10 Red Thoughts, Ideas, Things Noticed
- the deep and sharp bark of a neighbor’s dog — a red bark, I thought
- a red stop sign
- a walker up ahead of me, rounding a corner and heading out of sight, a red sweatshirt around their waist
- a roller skier in bright red shorts — tomato red
- my raspberry red shoes striking the ground
- graffiti on a sewer pipe drip drip dripping water, letters in rusted red
- a biker in a red shirt zooming by
- my face under the bright shadeless sun, a ruddy red
- a moment of tenderness inspired by swelling music, a runner’s high, and last night’s haunting and strange dream about cradling my mom’s head not too long before she died: the soft glow of a warm red heart
- car, car, car, truck — all red (at least in my head)
A funny thing about looking for red: I found it everywhere. Today anything that registered as a color other than blue, green, brown, or gray was red. Red cars, red shirts, red leaves on the trees from last fall. No orange, hardly any yellow, all red. Red red red.