jan 5/RUN

5.15 miles
bottom of franklin hill turn around
30 degrees

Yes! A great run. A brief runner’s high around mile 4. At the beginning it felt cold, but almost early spring-like: chirping birds, soft shadows, humid air, clear paths. In certain spots the path was dotted with ice.

Passed a group of 4 or 5 runners twice. Smelled cigarette smoke. Watched a car driving over the I-94 bridge. Listened to the group of women laughing, cars passing, ice sizzling heading north. Put it Billie Eilish essentials on the way back — maybe I’m, maybe I’m, maybe I’m the problem.

Something to try today, from Richard Siken: one image

The heart of lyric poetry is music and image. Music is hard to talk about but image is easy. It’s not too late to start an exercise. Write down one image every day that was striking. It’s good as a resource to pull from for writing or just for remembering. Date them. >

Today’s image: sizzling ice on the river chunks? sheets? just starting to form, floating on the surface. I took a video:

ice on the mississippi / 5 jan 2024

Standing there, holding my phone, the ice was moving slowly downstream and sizzling. In the video, I can’t see it moving and all I can hear is the traffic from the I-94 bridge just above. I wish I just kept the phone still; it’s moving around too much. The sizzle sounded like the sizzle I heard in my head after I fainted last week. A sizzle or crackle or static-y sound. The movement of the ice was slow and gentle and persistent (or insistent?).

windows and doors

Yesterday, it came to me: windows and doors. That’s what the theme for January should be. Will it stick? Not sure, but today I begin by thinking about windows and doors as I ran. I held onto a few thoughts and recorded them into my phone right after I finished my run:

Windows as in the frame and how often I see what’s just outside of the frame because I feel it off to the far edge (mainly because of my heightened peripheral vision).

A door as being open — focus on what’s through the other door, the room on the other side, as opposed to the door as framing what you see. Whereas the window is about the frame and about this thing in between you and the is/real. The frame is language, our access to the real. The framing of something as a useful limitation, helping to focus a form. The window is a form where the energy goes, where it’s held in, so the poem still has heat.

I’ve collected door and window poems before on this log, so this isn’t a new idea, I’m just adding to it. Here’s a door and window poem for today — actually, an excerpt from an amazing poem by Victoria Chang:

excerpt from Today/ Victoria Chang

Today the river is in crisis, no
horizon dares to go near it. Today
my father is in a small jar. At dusk,
I went into a painter’s studio,
saw his stretched canvas on the table, white,
empty. What are we without those who made
us? May his memory be your blessing,
people emailed me all week. The artist
was painting a series of doors, which were
so real that I walked through the one that was
slightly open. Inside the room was my
breath that I had held since January
13, an eyelid, a loose eyeball, the
knob the eye fell on, the girl’s hands that tried
to catch him, which were charred and still waving.

The white truck went from one frame to the next
and I thought of the time when someone lied
about me. How day and night I cared so
much about the lie that it split into
two, one part went out the left window frame,
the other out the right. Like the blue car
that disappears at the same time as the
white one, yet I can see both at once. When
they burned my father’s body, I wondered
if the eyeballs spread so far on each side
that they could see Wyoming, these two panes,
me on a small brown chair, looking out the
windows, waiting for oblivion to
travel through with its eighteen wheels and truth.

At the beginning of our family tree
was hope. Or maybe it was just an owl.

The same wind was blowing here eighty years
ago, always snapping families in half.

If I keep the window closed, I am stuck
inside with language as it buzzes back
and forth, trying to get out and start wars.

First, so much of what she writes here (and in the rest of the poem) is echoed in other things I read earlier today and yesterday by Viola Cordova and Jake Skeets. Wow.

Second, at the beginning of the poem, Chang writes: On Kawara’s “Today” Series. Looked it up and found: Paintings: Today Series / Date Paintings

On January 4, 1966, On Kawara began his Today series, or Date Paintings. He worked on the series for nearly five decades. A Date Painting is a monochromatic canvas of red, blue, or gray with the date on which it was made inscribed in white. Date Paintings range in size from 8 x 10 inches to 61 x 89 inches. The date is composed in the language and convention of the place where Kawara made the painting. When he was in a country with a non-Roman alphabet, he used Esperanto. He did not create a painting every day, but some days he made two, even three. The paintings were produced meticulously over the course of many hours according to a series of steps that never varied. If a painting was not finished by midnight, he destroyed it. The quasi-mechanical element of his routine makes the production of each painting an exercise in meditation.1 Kawara fabricated a cardboard storage box for each Date Painting. Many boxes are lined with a cutting from a local newspaper. Works were often given subtitles, many of which he drew from the daily press.

Paintings: Today Series / Date Paintings

In the article, I also found this classroom activity suggestion:

Subtitle Your Days

Many of the Date Paintings have subtitles. Some of these titles record personal anecdotes, such as “I played ‘Monopoly’ with Joseph, Christine and Hiroko this afternoon. We ate a lot of spaghetti” (January 1, 1968). Others record current events, some of them momentous, such as the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Still other subtitles refer to the Date Paintings themselves; one reads, “I am afraid of my ‘Today’ paintings” (May 29, 1966). For this activity, challenge students to record a subtitle for each day of the week for two weeks. These subtitles can be personal, historical, or even arbitrary. What is it like to capture a day with a subtitle?

I like the idea of combining Siken’s suggestion of an image a day with Kawara’s date poems and Chang’s reading of the date as a door into somewhere else. A date as door, an image as door.