may 6/RUN

3.75 miles
marshall loop
58 degrees
humidity: 86%

It rained yesterday and early this morning but by the time I headed out the door it had stopped. Everything wet, even the air. So humid! With summer coming, it’s time to stop tracking the feels like temperature and start tracking the humidity. Ugh. Maybe humidity and I can be friends this year?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. from the lake street bridge, the river was a brownish gray and full of foam — and empty of rowers
  2. heard a runner coming up from behind me on the marshall hill. As they passed, they called out great job! this hill is a killer! I think I grunted, yeah!
  3. heard the bells at St. Thomas twice — at 9:15 and 9:30 (I think?)
  4. a block ahead I saw something orange which I thought was a person but was a construction sign
  5. shadow falls was falling today, a soft gushing
  6. encountered a woman in yellow running shoes — or were they lime green? I can’t remember now
  7. running on cretin I noticed a fast runner on the other side, sprinting past St. Thomas — was it the runner that passed me on the marshall hill? maybe
  8. lots of mud, wet dirt, puddles everywhere
  9. the floodplain forest is all light green now, my view to the forest floor gone
  10. running over the lake street bridge, I heard something rattling — was it wind, or the cars driving over the bridge?

Mary Ruefle, “On Beginnings”

I’m working on a course proposal for a 4 week fall version of my finding wonder in the world and the words and I’m thinking of making one of the weeks about fall as time/space for beginnings and endings. So when I saw Ruefle’s lecture, “On Beginnings,” I decided that should be the next Ruefle thing to read.

before the run

I read through the lecture — more quickly than closely — knowing that I would read it again after the run. It’s about beginnings and how there are more beginnings in poetry than endings. The first note I jotted down in my Plague Notebook, Vol 16 was about the semicolon, which is a punctuation mark that I particularly like. Ruefle has just introduced an idea from Ezra Pound that each of us speaks only one sentence that begins when we’re born and ends when we die. When Ruefle tells this idea to another poet he responds, “That’s a lot of semicolons!” Ruefle agrees and then writes this:

the next time you use a semicolon (which, by the way, is the least-used mark of punctuation in all of poetry) you should stop and be thankful that there exists this little thing, invented by a human being–an Italian as a matter of fact–that allows us to go on and keep on connecting speech that for all apparent purposes unrelated.

then adds: a poem is a semicolon, a living semicolon, and this:

Between the first and last lines there exists–a poem–and if it were not for the poem that intervenes, the first and last lines of a poem would not speak to each other.

This line reminded me of a gameshow I was watching — well, listening to because I was sitting under the tv so I couldn’t see it — in the waiting room of a clinic last week. It’s called “Chain Reaction” and contestants have to link two seemingly disconnected words by creating 3 other words between them. An example: Private and Tension. The chain of words connecting them: Private eye level surface Tension

At some point as I read, I suddenly thought of middles. The in-betweens, after the beginning, before the end. How much attention do these get, especially if we jump right in and start with them. It reminds me of a writing prompt/experiment I came up with for my running log: Write a poem about something that happened during the middle of your run–not at the beginning or the end, but the middle (see nov 27, 019).

As I headed out for my run, I hoped to think about middles.

during the run

Did I think about middles at all during the run? I recall thinking about beginnings, particularly the idea that the beginning of something can feel overwhelming — like a long run: How am I going to be able to run for an entire hour? I have learned to remember that you just have to start and usually something will happen that makes it easier. Did I think about endings? Not that I can remember.

after the run

Here are some bits from the lecture I’d like to remember:

(from Paul Valéry) the opening line of a poem, he said, is like finding a fruit in the ground, a piece of fallen fruit you have never seen before, and the poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.

Roland Barthes suggests there are three ways to finish any piece of writing: the ending will have the last word or the ending will be silent or the ending will execute a pirouette, so something unexpectedly incongruent.

“But it is growing damp and I must go in. Memory’s fog is rising.” Among Emily Dickinson’s last words (in a letter). A woman whom everyone thought of as shut-in, homebound, cloistered, spoke as if she had been out, exploring the earth, her whole life, and it was finally time to go in. And it was.

Here are more things I wrote in my Plague notebook inspired by this lecture:


mid-walk, mid-run
Activity: notice and record what you notice in the midst of motion. Pull out your smart phone and speak your thoughts into it.

Not how you got there or were you’re headed, but here now in-between

Threshold Doors Ways in or out
Inner becomes Outer
Turn inside out

And now, even more about beginnings and endings:

Thinking about poems titled, “Poem Beginning with a Line from [insert poet]” or M Smith’s “Poem Beginning with a Retweet”

Or golden shovel poems that make the last word in each line spell out someone else’s poem — it began with Gwendolyn Brooks and “We Cool.”

Where does a poem begin? When does a project, a plan start? How do you write an origin story? What gets left out/lost/forgotten when we draw the arbitrary lines of begin here and end here?

Ruefle mentions crossing a finish line and also old movies that used to conclude with THE END in big letters across the screen. The satisfaction of a clean, clear ending. How often does that happen?

Is death the end? And of what? Is birth the beginning?

Are beginnings and endings only a product of linear time? Or is it that they take on certain meanings, support certain values (like progress) within a linear model?

a few minutes after posting this entry: Found this on twitter:

from Note 167: “Breathing is the beginning. It is, for us, a first and final movement. In it, we find the prototype of all method, without which: nothing. Breathing, thus, is the foregrounding of all concept—its precursor and first condition, its resolution.”

Between the Covers interview with Christina Sharpe

I haven’t listened to the interview yet, but I would imagine that the breathing here is speaking to and about a lot of things, not the least of which is how black bodies are not allowed to breathe or are forced to stop breathing in ways that white bodies are not.