june 2/RUN

6 miles
bottom franklin hill and back
76 degrees / dew point: 64

Hot! I much prefer running in the cold to running in the heat. Still, today is my 12 year anniversary — my runniversary — and I had to get out there to celebrate it. 12 years ago today I went out for my first couch to 5K run.

Was able to say good morning to Mr. Morning! Noticed the river. Higher above, it burned white through the trees. Down below in the flats, it looked stagnant and brown and not refreshing at all. Heard some birds and a woman saying to her friend, during times of war they…, as I ran past. Smiled and waved at many walkers and runners. Thought I heard the rowers but I was wrong. Wondered if the roller skier I passed as I ran down the hill and she skated up it was using poles — I couldn’t tell because we were both moving too fast. Watched the red flash flash flash of a bike’s back light disappear into the distance. Felt the sweat dripping and trickling and seeping out of my skin.

Listened to the birds and the cars as I ran north. Recorded some thoughts into my phone as I walked up the hill. Put in a playlist — bday 2018 — as I ran back south.

Be Water My Friend

It’s the beginning of the month; time for a new challenge. For June 2023, more on water. I’d like to read Alice Oswald’s Nobody, but I need to read The Odyssey first. I started yesterday. I love Emily Wilson’s recent translation. Very fun. Anyway, I’ll finish The Odyssey, then read Oswald’s take on it in Nobody. At the same time, I’m thinking of reviewing some water poems I’ve already collected — maybe memorizing a few, then using them for inspiration. Maybe I’ll even do another cento? Today I started with Oswald’s Evaporations, partly because it came up as a poem I posted on june 2, 2021. I also watched a clip of Bruce Lee’s Be Water My Friend.

Empty your mind. Be
formless shapeless like
water now you
put water into a cup
it becomes the cup
you put water into a bottle
it becomes the bottle
you put it into a tea pot
it becomes the tea pot
now water can flow or
it can craaaaasshh
be water my friend

before the run

As I ran I hoped to think about water subjectivities and what it is to be water . I think this was also inspired by a quote from Oswald that I re-read yesterday:

I sometimes wonder whether I’m a very keen swimmer, and whether for me, poetry is equivalent to swimming. I’ve often noticed when I swim, the strangeness of the way the body literally turns into a fish, but the head remains human and rather cold, and looking around at this strange flat reflective surface. I’m often very piercingly aware of the difference between my head and my body when I’m swimming because I’m not necessarily someone who goes underwater, I love swimming along the surface of rivers. Perhaps, my poems do feel a need to convey that continued separation of the head remaining human and the body becoming animal, or plant, or mineral, or whatever it can be. In some way, I suppose I’m trying to find rhythms that will heal that divide.


I think that’s exactly it, that we seem to exist as bodies and minds. That’s always slightly troubled me that I can’t quite make them be the same thing. I always have two narratives going on and it’s extraordinary the way the mind is floating around seemingly quite untethered and yet the body has all these laws like gravity, and limit, and size, and hunger, that it’s obeying. How those two interact and how they come to define what it is to be human is again—I’m wary of using the verb think because I don’t think poetry is necessarily about thinking—but it gets hold of questions, and reveals them as questions, and then reveals what’s underneath them, and then what’s underneath that. I suppose each book tries to peel away a layer of that problem and present it again.

Between the Covers interview with Alice Oswald

during the run

Halfway through the run, I stopped to record my thoughts by speaking into my smart phone: Almost 3.5 miles in, just walking back up the franklin hill on a super hot, humid day. Before I started running, I was thinking about water and I read and then listened to Alice Oswald’s “Evaporations” and Bruce Lee’s “Be Water My Friend.” So I was thinking about how there’s a line in the Alice Oswald about how water prefers to be disorderly and slapdash —

 I notice
The Water doesn’t like it so orderly
What Water admires
Is the slapstick rush of things melting

I was thinking of this dog bark I heard across the road on Seabury and my thought was that this bark was slapdash. Then I was thinking of Bruce Lee’s “Be Water” and how I feel even more like water right now because I’m not just damp, I’m dripping sweat in this humidity. And I’m not sure why this happened but I started to think about — oh, I was thinking about how I had locked into this rhythm and I could really feel it in my glutes, which is great because I think that’s what you ideally want, and I was feeling that I was in a steady rhythm, not really thinking, more animal, and then I thought about how it feels more like a machine to me (than an animal). Then I was thinking about how when machines are being designed/engineered, they look to the bio-mechanics of various animals. Machines are really animals with a very strict routine. Animals and machines and Donna Haraway and cyborgs — the idea of us being both machines and animals. What part of us is the I, the animal, the machine, the — ?

[a few minutes later] I almost forgot, when I turned around at the 3 mile point and went on the lower trail right by the river, the river looked very still and un-refreshing. I looked at it, and because it was so still, the clouds were reflected in it, and I thought about Huidobro’s line, 8 glances to turn the sea into sky. I thought what I was doing was turning the river into sky….And now I’m thinking about these different subjectivities we inhabit — the I, the animal, the machine — when you recognize that you’re all of those things, that doesn’t mean you are free from subjectivity and your specific historical, material location; it just means that you’ve eliminated division, you’re immersed in the water where it’s all together. It all is entangled — a better word? [thinking of Ross Gay here]

after my run

A lot of thoughts on water and subjectivity and the I/animal/machine are reoccurring ideas that I’ve been writing about/wrestling with for years. I think it was last year that I started to imagine myself as less of a fish in the water, more of a boat. What does it look like, how might it feel to be all of these things — water, boat, fish, human/brain?

note: I added the second part of Evaporations to my list of poems to memorize.

A few days ago, I found some summer heat poems on the NYTimes Book Review. I thought I saved the link, but now I can’t find it. My favorite was this one:

Summer Studies/ Tony Hoagland

When Ellen told Mary about the secret lake
she swore her to silence

but Mary invited Jerome
who couldn’t even swim and Luanne

came with him and it was funny that summer
the way that scarce resources

collided with the whole system
of who was cool, or not

the old rule being that who was cool
would get to stay that way

by jumping into the lake
and who was not would have to stay

hot and dirty
by simple omission of information.

But that dry summer the rumors spread:
someone was giving out maps, someone

was giving tutorials in every twist and
bobby-pin turn

you had to take in the red dirt road
that got you there.

When you got near you could hear
through the trees

splashes and cries of people who
might not even be friends.

And the clear water, like the social milieu that summer
was quite frankly stirred up, confused

thanks to the leaky lips, Ellen said,
of certain persons

who would let anyone in.