april 30/RUN

5.15 miles
bottom of franklin hill
54 degrees
wind: 3 mph

The sun is back! And so are shorts without tights. And rowers and roller skiers and laughing woodpeckers! A beautiful morning for a run. I remember looking down at the river: smooth and still. Heard a creaking noise under the trestle, almost like an old swing. Did someone hang up a swing down there? Smelled urine just above the flats — yuck! Encountered other runners and walkers and dogs and e-bikes — one was powering up the Franklin hill playing a classic rock song . . . I think it was AC/DC.

Running back through the tunnel of trees, almost done, I saw a dark shape up ahead. I assumed it was a dog. Nope, it was that big turkey again and this time he gobbled at me. The trail was narrow with no choice but to run right past him unless I turned around. Since I’m a wimp and he was staring menacingly at me, I turned around and ran until I reached the end of the fence. Then I climbed up to the bike trail. I’m fine with being a wimp.

Listened to the rowers as I ran north. After turning around and running up most of the hill, I put in Beyoncé’s new album, Cowboy Carter. Earlier today I was posting things about bees on a new resource page, Bees, so I have bees on the brain. Listening to Beyoncé, I heard a line with the word honey in it and thought, Queen Bee! Yes, more bees. I’ll have to add Beyonc´e to my bee page!

Before the run, I read this poem by James Schuyler that I’ve wanted to post ever since I discovered it a few weeks ago. I wanted to wait until it was green. Today it is, so I’m posting it:

A Gray Thought/ James Schuyler (1972)

In the sky a gray thought
ponders on three kinds of green:
Brassy tarnished leaves of lilacs
holding on half-heartedly and long
after most turned and fell to make
a scatter rug, warmly, brightly brown.
Odd, that the tattered heart-shapes 
on a Persian shrub should stay
as long as the northern needles 
of the larch.  Near, behind the lilac,
on a trunk, pale Paris green, green
as moonlight, growing on another time scale
a slowness becoming vast as though
all the universe were an atom
of a filterable virus in a head
that turns an eye to smile
or frown or stare into other
eyes: and not of gods, but creatures
whose size begins beyond the sense of size:
lichens, softly-coloured, hard in durance,
a permanence like rock on a transient tree.
And another green, a dark thick green
to face the winter, laid in layers on
the spruce and balsam or in foxtail
bursts on pine in springy shapes
that weave and pierce
the leafless and unpatterned woods.

I know this is a poem about 3 different greens in the fall, nearing winter. I’m posting it because I love his descriptions of green and wanted to use it to think more about different greens today. That was my plan, at least, as I ran. All I managed to do was chant a few 3-beat greens:

emerald green
army green
jungle green
pear green —
lime green —

Mid-chant I noticed the dandelions on the edge of the trail and condensed the 4-syllable word, dan de li on into 3-syllables: dan dy lines

Dandy lines? Love it. Maybe the title of a poem — a cento with flower lines, or is that too much?

The green I remember most was possibly not even green, depending on who you ask. A biker biked by, wearing the brightest yellow-green (or maybe just yellow?) shirt I’ve been able to see in a long time. Usually yellow or yellow-green is muted for me. Not this shirt. Wow! So bright it almost made my eyes hurt. My vision is so strange. How was I able to see the bright color this time, when I usually can’t see it?

added a few hours later: I almost forgot to mention the little wren that I saw as I was walking back to my house. First, a flash — or flutter or flurry or small explosion* — of movement on the street. Something, I could not tell what, ascending. Then a scan, all around until the source was found: a tiny brown bird on the top of the fence. They stayed long enough for even me to see their little face. Such a tiny bird! What miracle today allowed me to see them?

After lunch, while doing the dishes, I listened to the New Yorker Poetry podcast and heard David Baker read his wonderful poem, Six Notes (notes refers to taking notes for a poem, six sections, and the notes of different birds). The beginning of his poem reminds me of my bird sighting, even though my little wren didn’t make a sound and was rising, not falling:

from Six Notes / David Baker

Come down to us. Come down with your song,
little wren. The world is in pieces.

We must not say so. In the dark hours,
in the nearest branches, I hear you thrum—

Come up to us. Come up with your song,
little wren. The world is in pieces.

We must not say so. In the dark hours,
on the nearest fence post, I see you thrum–

*Having suddenly added explosion of movement as one of my word options, I feel compelled to add the source of that inspiration. It’s from a Chen Chen interview I read yesterday and had been planning to post sometime soon. Here’s what he said:

Poems are the opposite of habits. They are explosions. Sometimes they are small explosions. But loud. Or huge, quiet explosions.

Chen Chen Interview

So, was this little wren’s small explosion up and off the street a poem? Yes!

april 29/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
49 degrees / drizzle
wind: 7 mph / gusts: 14 mph

When I left for my run, I thought the rain had stopped. I was wrong, which was fine, because I don’t mind running in a drizzle, especially when it’s not too cold. Was it a drizzle? Maybe I’d call it a mist — a steady, soft spray that soaked my orange sweatshirt and mixed with the sweat on my face. Mostly I couldn’t see it; I just felt wet or damp or . . . I’ve got it: Moist! That’s how I felt as I ran today, moist. Scott hates this word, but I don’t mind it. What words do I detest? The only one I can think of immediately is nummy. Is that even a word?

So, everything, including me, was moist. Moist sidewalks, moist trails, moist air, moist shorts, running tights, socks. Other words for moist: soaked, damp, dank, saturated, humid

10 Moist Things

  1. the paved path — big puddles everywhere — the biggest puddle was right after the locks and dam no. 1 parking lot heading south
  2. the strip of dirt next to the paved path — muddy ruts
  3. the oak savanna — covered in leaves, light green and dripping
  4. the thick, gray air
  5. the laughing, water-logged voices of kids on the playground
  6. the slick road
  7. my running shoes
  8. my pony tail
  9. my orange sweatshirt
  10. the grass — a sponge . . . squish squish squish

A good run. I felt strong and springy — both because of the weather and my bouncy feet. I listened to the water gushing out of the sewer pipes and over the ledge as I ran to the falls. I put in my “It’s Windy” playlist on the way back. Most memorable song: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (11 on the Beaufort Scale for violent storm).

before the run

It’s almost the end of April (wow) and this morning, before my run, I finished my Beaufort Scale in Verse:

Beaufort Scale in Verse

0 — The Moment/Marie Howe

The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be

slows to silence,

the white cotton curtains hanging still.


1 — Long Life/Mary Oliver

We may be touched by the most powerful of suppositions—even to a certainty—as we stand in the rose petals of the sun and hear a murmur from the wind no louder than the sound it makes as it dozes under the bee’s winds. This, too, I suggest, is weather, and worthy of report.

2 — Nature Aria/Yi Lei

Autumn wind chases in
From all directions
And a thousand chaste leaves
Give way.

3 — And All Visible Signs Swept Away/Carl Phillips

I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing

3 — When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, They You Are truly Alongside/Donika Kelly

the dry
sound of applause: leaves chapped/falling, an ending

4 — Enough/Jeffrey Harrison

The rising wind pulls you out of it,/and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
wheeling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and lifting above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go

5 — Love Song for the Square Root of Negative One/Richard Siken

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible

6 — Wind/Emily Dickinson

When winds go round and round in bands,
And thrum upon the door,
And birds take places overhead,
To bear them orchestra

7 — Who Has the Wind?/Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither You nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
the wind is passing by

8 — Fall/Edward Hirsch

Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies

9 — Plea to the Wind/Alice Oswald

Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up
And speak disparagingly of leaves

10 — Plea to the Wind/Alice Oswald

Whip the green cloth off the hills

11 — Postscript/Seamus Heaney

So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter. . .
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

12 — Wave After Wave/M. Bartley Seigel

In a heartbeat, rollers mass two stories
trough to insatiate tempest, unquelled
by prayer nor cigarette, careless, mean,

a cold-blooded indifference so pure,
a strong swimmer won’t last ten wet minutes.
At the Keweenaw, surf pummels the stamp
sands with ochre fists, ore boats stack up lee

of the stone, and entire beaches stand up
to walk away.

april 27/RACE

10k
Get in Gear
55 degrees
92% humidity

This morning, Scott and I ran the Get in Gear 10k. We haven’t run this race since before the pandemic. It’s right by our house and follows the ford loop route. We didn’t run fast, but it felt good and I felt strong. Strong enough to pick it up at the end. For years I’ve wanted to be able to enjoy the race as I ran it, instead of pushing hard and feeling miserable. This year, I’m doing it! Much more rewarding than a PR.

10 People

  1. Bethany had a loud voice with a strong Minnesota accent that cut through the wind. I know her name is Bethany because she introduced herself to someone about 25 yards ahead of us. I bet she was nice, but that voice! As we tried to figure out where to line up Scott said, not near Bethany! After finishing the race, Scott noticed her and her bright yellow shirt — oh look, there’s Bethany. As we ran, I mentioned how frustrating it might be to have a loud voice like that. Scott said: Bethany’s don’t care how loud they are
  2. a tall man in a bright yellow shirt who kept sprinting then stopping, sprinting then stopping. For almost 4 miles, he would run past us, then stop and walk until we caught up, then start running fast again. We dropped him on some hill — finally
  3. a shorter man taking deep, noisy breaths every few steps — I think he made a noise with the exhale — whoooooooooo whoooooooooo whoooooooooo
  4. a man before the race doing a lot of stretching and warming up — I don’t know the names of the stretches, but I’m sure they have names — he was almost skipping forwards, then sprinting, then skipping backwards. I wonder how fast he ran?
  5. a woman standing at a distance from the porta potties. Another woman asked, are you in line? and even though we thought there was no way she would say yes because she was so far from the line, she said yes, I think so
  6. the enthusiastic, slightly unhinged, volunteer handing out water — you’re so fast! great job! woo hoo!
  7. an older couple standing beside the course, cheering us on. When I said, thank you, one of them said, no, thank you!
  8. a woman just behind us, scuffing her foot on the road with every strike, scrape scrape scrape
  9. a guy cheering, good job! you’re almost there, when we still had 2 miles left
  10. 2 little girls before the race, meeting up, the one squealing in delight at seeing her friend arrive, Irene!
  11. remembered 2 days later: a woman, stopped, either coughing or dry heaving vigorously

april 26/YOGACORE

yoga: 20 minutes
core: 10 minutes

Downward facing dogs and crescent moons and cat backs and cow mountain rag doll child poses. Dead bugs and side planks and bird dogs and push-ups and reverse crunches. And other things I can’t remember the names of right now.

some things I heard watched read today

HEARD most of an amazing Tinhouse podcast interview with the poet and multi-media artist, Diana Khoi Nguyen. After I finish, I’d like to read the transcript and pick out some passages that were particularly moving.

WATCHED some advice from Billy Collins on how to write poetry: Read poetry, lots of it, thousands of hours of it. Read Wordsworth.

read poetry

READ parts of Mary Oliver’s Long Life:

And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?” This book is my comment.

Long Life/ Mary Oliver

and a review of collection that I want to check out, Wonder About The that references a useful essay by Forrest Gander, What is Eco-Poetry?:

Aside from issues of theme and reference, how might syntax, line break, or the shape of the poem on the page express an ecological ethics? If our perceptual experience is mostly palimpsestic or endlessly juxtaposed and fragmented; if events rarely have discreet beginnings or endings but only layers, duration, and transitions; if natural processes are already altered by and responsive to human observation, how does poetry register the complex interdependency that draws us into a dialogue with the world?

What is Eco-Poetry? / Forrest Gander

and also references Angus Fletcher:

In his magisterial 2004 study A New Theory for American Poetry, Angus Fletcher posited that “environmental sensitivity demands its own new genre of poetry” and argued that environment poems “are not about the environment, whether natural or social, they are environments.” 

and discusses how Wonder About The mentions eyes frequently:

The peculiar art of perceiving the environment is often a subject of Wonder About The, whether it’s acknowledging that a farmer’s “bright Deere” is “a part of / the field’s design” or the urgent command, presented in progressively larger type, to “look up / look up / look up.” Eyes, in fact, are mentioned often, from “the sense record” being visited “upon our eyes / our ears” to a hard-earned vision of a waterfowl:

my winter eye
unlayers all frost
anneals what distance
     takes

rank glorious muck
rot palimpsesting rye
the duck
the living eye

april 25/RUN

4 miles
dogwood run
52 degrees

Did a run with Scott to Dogwood Coffee on a beautiful spring morning. Wore my new running shorts. They’re blue and very comfortable, which is a big deal because it’s difficult to find good running shorts. We ran north to the bottom of the franklin hill, then back up it until we stopped to walk for the last stretch. I know we looked at the river, but I don’t remember what it looked like. Was it smooth? Blue? Any foam? I have no recollection. I do remember that there weren’t any rowers on it. No geese either.

I talked about a video I watched earlier today on how to write poetry for beginners by a poetry influencer. (I didn’t like it). Scott talked about some drama happening in the big band he’s in.

After the run, waiting in line at Dogwood, I overheard the woman ahead of us tell the barista her name was Sara. She asked his name: Scott. I just had to chime in that we were a Sara and Scott too! She mentioned that she just met someone the other day who had the same birthday as her. The only 2 people I know that have the same birthday as me are two of RJP’s former frenemies.

Anything else? Not that many people running . . . just remembered that we saw two people running up the franklin hill. One of them was accompanied by a roller skier.

Also: as we ran under the trestle something was crossing the tracks above us. A train? Nope a truck with special wheels for riding on the track. I turned around and ran backwards to watch it for a minute and discovered that running backwards is kind of nice. I liked how it worked by leg muscles differently.

random etymology: Happened upon the origins of gnarled:

We owe the adjective gnarled and other forms of the word to our friend Shakespeare, who created it in 1603. In Measure for Measure, he writes, “Thy sharpe and sulpherous bolt splits the un-wedgable and gnarled oak.” But gnarled didn’t come into use again until the 19th century. In any case, word experts believe it’s related to the Middle English word knar which means “knot in wood.”

gnarled

Today is Ted Kooser’s birthday. I’m happy to report that although I thought he was dead — having posted about it on 22 april 2022, he is not! I’m not sure why I thought he was, but all the results on my google search indicate that he is still alive. He’s a wonderful poet, and person according to what I’ve read from poetry people on 2022 twitter. Here’s a poem I read this morning on poetry foundation:

So This is Nebraska / Ted Kooser

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop
over the fields, the telephone lines
streaming behind, its billow of dust
full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs
hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,
a meadowlark waiting on every post.

Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,
top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,
a pickup kicks its fenders off
and settles back to read the clouds.

You feel like that; you feel like letting
your tires go flat, like letting the mice
build a nest in your muffler, like being
no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey
or holding a skinny old man in your lap
while he watches the road, waiting
for someone to wave to. You feel like

waving. You feel like stopping the car
and dancing around on the road. You wave
instead and leave your hand out gliding
larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

Oh, I love so much about this poem — everything?! You can listen to him read it at poetry foundation (poem title is link). I want to spend more time with his writing.

april 24/RUN

10k
juno and finn, st. paul
44 degrees

A beautiful morning! Perfect temperature for running. Sun. Shadows. Hooray! Tried my new adventure: running to poems that are part of St. Paul’s Sidewalk Poetry project. Fun! Ran south on the west river road, up the hill to the ford bridge, north on the east river road, east on hartford, north on juno, east on finn. It took me a little while, but I found both poems — my navigating skills were not the greatest before my vision loss, but now they’re pretty bad. Difficult to read signs and hard to keep a map in my head. Made a few bad choices on the way back, and probably added an extra mile because of it. Oops.

First impressions — wow, these poems are really hidden — a nice surprise as you walk or run along. Also, there’s not enough contrast for my bad eyes. I couldn’t read the poems at all. I’m glad that you can look them up online because otherwise, I’d have no idea what they said.

Overall: great idea, but not that accessible. Also, how soon before these poems wear away? Even with my (small) criticisms, I love this project and am excited to run to some more!

This was a fun way to run a 10k — I was able to get a nice break in the middle and I was distracted from the effort by my task. Also, it’s good for me to practice navigating. I need to build up those skills so I can get out in the world to new places by myself more.

I wasn’t only focused on finding these poems. I also gave attention to the world:

10 Things

  1. kids at Minnehaha Academy, lower campus, were playing Red Light/Green Light. Green light . . . Red light.
  2. one gutted street lamp on the ford bridge — the one next to it was still on
  3. several streets with no sidewalks, or sidewalks only on one side in Highland Park
  4. bright blue river!
  5. a racket! geese honking beneath the ford bridge
  6. a bright white paddleboat near the shore on the west bank
  7. passed 2 park workers about to put fresh tar on the river road trail
  8. later, running over tar that was put down earlier in the week
  9. fee bee fee bee
  10. bright blue sky, cloudless

Sidewalk Poems — poem + my picture

1

SE corner of Juno Ave and Finn

Dementia/ Naomi Cohn (2008)

I reach for a name, a song, a tune
and memories scatter,


minnows fleeing


a toothy pike.

I catch a few


laggards.


But know these are nothing
to the hundred fish that fled.

2

S. side of Juno Ave, bet. Finn and Cleveland Ave

Untitled/Louis Disanto (2011)

Life magazines for shin guards.
Skates too big, stick cracked and old,
jacket patched and tattered.
I ignored the smirks and winter’s cold,
love of hockey was all that mattered.

A note about this second poem: This is not the poem that is supposed to be here, according to the map.

earlier today

While drinking my coffee, I read about different places along the river to view birds during the migration and found this line:

You can also see a whole hillside of the spring ephemeral bloodroot along the trails near 36th Street.

Must-see FMR spring birding sites along the river

Bloodroot? What’s that, and why is it called bloodroot? This was a useful site for answering my questions.

  • an herbaceous perennial native to eastern North America, from Florida up into Canada 
  • found in undisturbed woodlands, on flood plains and on slopes near streams or ponds
  • the reddish sap that exudes from all parts of the plant, but especially the root, when cut is what prompted the common name of bloodroot
  • used as a natural red or yellow-orange dye
  • the brilliant white – or rarely light pink – flowers up to 2 inches across open in early spring. The blooming period lasts about 2 weeks
  • each flower stalk produces a solitary flower with a number of delicate, elongate petals surrounding the numerous yellow stamens and central green pistil, with a pale yellow, two-lobed stigma at its apex. The flower usually has eight symmetrically arranged petals, with four large petals and four smaller ones

april 23/WALK

walk 1: 30 minutes with Delia, neighborhood
walk 2: 75 minutes to the library

I haven’t walked to the library in a long time. 5 or 6 or 7 years? Why has it been so long? Partly the pandemic and the library almost being burned down and then closed for a long time are to blame, but it’s also all the running and having a dog. If I have any time or energy left to walk, I need to take Delia the dog along, and the library is too far for her. Also, she’s not allowed inside.

It’s more than a mile, but less than 2 one way. It was great. I listened to Taylor Swift’s new album on the way there, and Beyoncé’s on the way back (Cowboy Carter). Wow! The Tortured Poets Department was good but Cowboy Carter was amazing.

10 Things

  1. a big white dog sitting quietly and calmly in a dirt back yard next to a chain link fence
  2. a cedar fence that looked almost new, with shiny wood, bulging out towards the sidewalk — what happened?
  3. red tulips in full bloom right up against the foundation of a house
  4. a big tree with a full set of yellowish-green leaves
  5. a terraced yard, all dirt, looking neat and ready to be filled with flowers
  6. a little free library packed with books, its glass door wide open
  7. music blasting from an open door at the Trinity Church, playing “Shake It Off”
  8. 2 squirrels winding up a tree, one chasing the other, their nails scratching the rough bark
  9. my favorite stone lions in front of a house wearing purple flower headbands in honor of spring
  10. a big moving truck backed into a driveway blocking all of the sidewalk and half the street

earlier today

This past Saturday, I took a class on public art and ekphrastic poetry with the new poet laureate of Minneapolis, Heid E. Erdrich. A great class. When I signed up for it, I was just interested in taking a class with Erdrich and learning more about ekphrastic poetry; I didn’t realize that public art would also be a part of it. Very cool. Anyway, the class inspired me to think more deeply about public poetry projects. I have several ideas for my own, with very little understanding of how to make them happen. Perhaps studying other examples will help educate and inspire me. Plus, studying them is another way to learn more about the place I live. First up: Sidewalk Poetry St. Paul

Sidewalk Poetry, St. Paul

Sidewalk Poetry is a systems-based work that allows city residents to claim the sidewalks as their book pages. This project re-imagines Saint Paul’s annual sidewalk maintenance program with Public Works, as the department repairs 10 miles of sidewalk each year. We have stamped more than 1,200 poems from a collection that now includes 73 individual pieces all written by Saint Paul residents. Today, everyone in Saint Paul now lives within a 10-minute walk of a Sidewalk Poem. 

This art project began with previous Public Art Saint Paul City Artist Marcus Young in 2008 under the name “Everyday Poems for City Sidewalks,” and continues today with evolved stamping approaches, as well as poetry submission and review processes. Our 2023 Sidewalk Poetry accepts poetry submissions in Dakota, Hmong, Somali, Spanish, and English. The poetry on our streets celebrates the remarkable cultures that make our City home and that makes our City strong. With this as a beginning, other languages may be added in years to come.

Sidewalk Poetry St Paul

I think the first step for me in getting to know this project is to visit some of the poems. I’d like to start running to them! Here’s a map to help me out: Public Art Sidewalks

I think I’ll start (tomorrow) with a favorite poet of mine, Naomi Cohn. She has one on the Southeast corner of Juno and Finn. Very close to it is one by Pat Owen, on the southside of Juno between Finn and Cleveland.

Almost forgot to post this: the first song on Beyoncé’s album, “American Requiem” sings about the wind!

Can we stand for something?
Now is the time to face the wind (Ow)
Coming in peace and love, y’all
Oh, a lot of takin’ up space
Salty tears beyond my gaze
Can you stand me?

Can we stand for something?
Now is the time to face the wind
Now ain’t the time to pretend
Now is the time to let love in

april 22/RUN

3.8 miles
river road, north/south
62 degrees
wind: 16 mph / gusts: 30 mph

62 in bright sun with very little shade feels warm, too warm. Time to start running much earlier in the day. Other weather-related gripes? Had to hold onto my cap several times so it wouldn’t blow off.

Everything is slowly turning green, especially the floodplain forest. The trees are coming into leaf/like something almost being said.

Noticed some cool bird shadows, one on the road from a bird high up in the sky, another on the side of a house.

Heard something beeping as I ran under the trestle — was a train coming soon? Not that I could tell.

Listened to the wind running north, my “It’s Windy” playlist running south. Heard “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Wind of Change” and thought about how an answer blowing in the wind could mean two contradictory things at once: 1. the answer is coming, change is coming, a better, freer world is coming and 2. the answer is just blowing in the wind, out of reach, as futile/pointless as talking to the wind.

back to the Beaufort Scale

Last week I came up with a great plan to create a Beaufort scale out of poetry lines, but it stalled when I couldn’t figure one out for 1. Today I’ll try again.

But before I do that — I think it stalled also because I got side tracked by metaphor and figurative language. The Beaufort scale mostly uses literal language, describing the effects of wind on various things, like umbrellas or people trying to walk. Occasionally metaphor creeps in with the use of white horses to describe white caps on waves. Is this the only use of metaphor in the scale? No.

Use of metaphor in Beaufort Scale:

0 — “sea like a mirror”
1 — ripples like scales
2 — crests like glass
3 — foam like glass
4 — white horses

If I’m reading correctly, the for use on land section is all literal descriptions of wind’s effects: leaves rustling, trees being uprooted, roof tiles ripping off, inconvenient then difficult to walk. I like how 7 is inconvenient to walk, while 8 is difficult.

Okay, now back to a poem scale. Instead of literal descriptions, I think I’d like figurative ones. It’s more fun!

when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by — “Who Has Seen the Wind?”/ Christina Rossetti

Would this be 5, “small trees in leaf start to sway”? or 6, “large branches in motion”? or 7, “whole trees in motion”?

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible — “Love Song for the Square Root of Negative One” / Richard Siken

2? “leaves rustle”? or 8, “”twigs break from trees”?

I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing — “And All Visible Signs Swept Away” / Carl Phillips

Okay, think I know this one: “Leaves and small twigs in constant motion” (3).

Autumn wind chases in/From all directions/And a thousand chaste leaves/Give way. — “Nature Aria” / Yi Lei

I think this should be 2, “leaves rustle”

Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless/ Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:/It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies — “Fall” / Edward Hirsch

7, “inconvenient to walk against the wind”

the dry/sound of applause: leaves chapped/falling, an ending. — “When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Truly Alongside” / Donika Kelly

3: “leaves in constant motion”

Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up/ And speak disparagingly of leaves — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

This is a tough one for me. Is ungluing the fog violent or gentle? To speak disparagingly of the leaves seems less forceful than yelling at them — I think I’ll go with 4 “wind raises dust and loose paper, small branches move” but I could also go with 9, chimney pots and slates removed

Whip the green cloth off the hills — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

10: “Trees uprooted, considerable structural damage occurs”

When winds go round and round in bands,/And thrum upon the door,/And birds take places overhead,/To bear them orchestra, — “Wind” / Emily Dickinson

6 — whistling in telegraph wires, umbrellas used with difficulty

So that the ocean on one side is wild/With foam and glitter. . ./As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. — “Postscript” / Seamus Heaney

11: the sea is covered in foam, widespread damage

So, I already found a line last week for 0. With these lines above, I’m only missing 12. Although some of the lines above are used for multiple levels. I’ll fine tune that in a future entry. This was fun!

Here they are in order, so far:

0 —- the white cotton curtains hanging still

1 —

2 — Autumn wind chases in/From all directions/And a thousand chaste leaves/Give way. — “Nature Aria” / Yi Lei

3 — I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing — “And All Visible Signs Swept Away” / Carl Phillips AND the dry/sound of applause: leaves chapped/falling, an ending. — “When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Truly Alongside” / Donika Kelly

4 —

5 — I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble and I am invisible — “Love Song for the Square Root of Negative One” / Richard Siken

6 — When winds go round and round in bands,/And thrum upon the door,/And birds take places overhead,/To bear them orchestra, — “Wind” / Emily Dickinson

7 — when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by — “Who Has Seen the Wind?”/ Christina Rossetti

8 — Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless/ Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:/It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies — “Fall” / Edward Hirsch

9 — Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up/ And speak disparagingly of leaves — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

10 — Whip the green cloth off the hills — “Plea to the Wind” / Alice Oswald

11 — So that the ocean on one side is wild/With foam and glitter. . ./As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. — “Postscript” / Seamus Heaney

12 —

april 21/RUN

2 miles
edmund (grass), south/edmund (road), north
52 degrees
wind: 10 mph

A beautiful morning — sun! shorts! Felt sluggish and tired and heavy — heavy legs and thick torso. The dirt trail was soft and uneven. I listened to Taylor Swift’s new album so I didn’t many birds or conversations. I think I heard a few black-capped chickadees, maybe a blue jay? Feeling blah or bleugh today in a way that a run couldn’t fix. No anxiety, just blah.

Before the run, I wrote about yesterday’s image of the gutted street lamp:

Yesterday I offered up an image of the run: the row of street lamps with their wires cut. I want to spend some more time with this image, use it as opportunity to think about image and metaphor, and to give attention to the trails above the river that I run on and the communities — in St. Paul and Minneapolis — that I run through.

So many thoughts prompted by things I’ve been reading lately! Where to begin?

1 — literal and figurative, part 1

the relationship between metaphor and realism—specifically how a poem’s use or rejection of metaphor might double as a commentary on the poet’s relationship to testimony, to bearing witness to the actual world.

When Metaphor Gets Literal

Bearing witness to the actual world. Describing an image in ways that don’t remove it from its context and history and its specificity. Because I’m a poet of place who is dedicated to noticing and documenting the Mississippi River Gorge, I want the specific and concrete in my images. Grotz offers up Czesław Miłosz’s “Blacksmith Shop” as a good example of a literal poem, grounded in concrete reality.

Deep image has had its day, though its ahistorical premises have been taken up in this new method’s assumption that style is merely a manipulable function, easily disconnected from the individual poet’s personal and historical circumstances. . . . In order to record the shocks of contemporary life, the poet must be willing to enter into history, to conjure it not merely as chronological sequence, but as unique texture and feel, what Walter Benjamin called “aura.” Deep image, however, was committed to locating itself in a world of prehistory, as if the mind were a direct conduit to the eternal collective unconscious

Too Much of the Air

What does this “entering into history” and “bearing witness to the actual world” mean to me and the image of the gutted street lamp? It seems important to connect these lamps with the recent spread (for the past 2 years) of copper wire theft across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Scott, RJP, and I have been noticing it for more than a year: all of the lights lining the west river road were out for months, making the river road too dark and dangerous to drive on or run beside at night. The Lake Street Bridge lights and Lake Nokomis lights too. I googled “street lamps cut wires minneapolis” and found a ton of articles about the problem and how difficult and expensive it is to stop the theft. Too many lights, too few police. Possible solutions include enlisting community members — someone has crowd-sourced a map of gutted lamps in Como Park — or targeting the sellers with legislation (imho: a much better solution, especially since it worked with the catalytic convertor thefts a few years back).

Of course, putting this in a historical context also requires thinking about why people might feel compelled to steal wires (economic precarity, addiction) and recent reimaginings of the role of the police in communities. How to recognize this context without reducing the image to it? How to still allow for the figurative in the midst of this literal? How to move beyond chronology and “facts” to texture and feel? Tough questions, I think. Michael Kleber-Diggs offers an answer with his amazing poem, Here All Alone, which I posted on RUN! a few years ago. Wow!

this land, once yours, was flooded and dammed
the same day our Rondo was cleaved for a highway.

the bees are back

I read this suggestion from John Ashbery the other day — “It’s important to try to write when you are in the wrong mood or when the weather is wrong.”– so I have decided that because I am in the wrong mood — the blah bleugh mood — I should try to write something. And I have decided that that something should be about the bees being back in the service berry tree on my deck. Every spring when the tree (or is it a bush? or a bush imitating a tree? wanting to be a tree?) is blooming, the bees come and hover around it. When I sit in my adirondack chair (which I mistakenly called an “andriodak” 25 years ago on St. Simon Island in Georgia and which Scott and I reference every so often) under the tree, I see their shadows crossing over my notebook or my book or my pants. Usually just one or two, today a dozen. Circling and circling, making me almost dizzy. Sometimes I wondered if it was a shadow I was seeing or the actual bee. Then I wondered if they wanted me to move — would they sting me? What a delightful moment! I can’t remember if it was in a poem or an essay or an interview, but I recall reading Ross Gay delighting in the shadow of a bee crossing over his page*. I know I already delighted in these bees before it was endorsed by Gay, but somehow those bees began to matter more once I knew delighting in their shadow was something I could share with one of my favorite writers.

*update, 4 may 2024: I found it! Gay mentions the bees in his delightful poem, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude:

And thank you the tiny bee’s shadow
perusing these words as I write them.

composed under the tree/bush, with the bees above

Beneath the
bush that

tries to be
a tree,

below the
almost

white blossoms — shadow

bees hover,
dizzy

the air, pass
over

my page, write
this poem.

Am I happy with this poem. For now.

april 20/RUN

4.5 miles
marshall loop (cleveland)
35 degrees
wind: 12 mph

Woke up this morning to snow on the back deck. Only a dusting that melted before Scott got up a few hours later. Cold. Wore my running tights, winter vest, and gloves. It felt windier than 12 mph, especially on the bridge. I took my cap off so it wouldn’t blow away.

10 Things

  1. cold wind in my face, making my eyes water
  2. little ripples on the river, looking like scales
  3. running past street lamps on the st paul side, noticing the wires at the base pulled out
  4. an empty white kitchen trash bag draped over a bench
  5. 2 teen aged boys jumping the fence near the lake street bridge steps
  6. rowers on the river! how do they row in this wind?
  7. the clicking and clacking of roller ski poles
  8. the clicking and clacking of a woman’s running gait — she had a hitch and stepped down in a strange way that made a scraping noise — they way she contorted her body with each step made my hips hurt just watching!
  9. volunteers on earth day just above the floodplain forest, picking up trash — I was almost taken out by little Giovanni — Giovanni! Watch out! an adult called
  10. little birds — sparrows? — swooping, low to the ground, just in front of me

Before I went out for my run, I was reading about images and metaphors and literal and figurative language. As I was finishing up my run, I was thinking that my image of the day — the image I’d like to think about and write around — is the street lamp on the side of the paved trail, its door open and wires hanging out . . . or maybe the image is not just one of them, but lamp after lamp all the way down the hill above shadow falls, all of them gutted or disemboweled, their wire guts hanging out. The idea of them being gutted seems too easy as a metaphor — perhaps I need to think about who or what gutted them? Or something more specific about the guts as veins or tendons? Now I’m thinking about cut wires and losing the circuit and being disconnected.

This afternoon, I took a 3 hour zoom class on ekphrastic poetry. I wrote most of this entry before it; I’m finishing now, after it. A great class with Heid E. Erdrich. Lots of inspiration for public art and responding to art. Erdrich mentioned writing poems or finding poems that fit as labels for artwork in museums. This made me think of my interest in alt-text. I’d like to explore this connection more. Very cool.

april 19/RUN

4.9 miles
veterans’ bridge and back
36 degrees / snow flurries
wind: 16 mph / gusts: 31 mph

Windy, some snow flurries. They started when I started. At first, they looked like glitter falling from the sky, later they felt like sharp pins pricking my face. Difficult conditions, but I didn’t mind — well, not that much.

Saw a BIG turkey heading for the edge of the park. Also saw a bird — a robin, I think — running fast across the grass. It’s fun to watch birds run. Had a sudden thought: Where on the Beaufort Scale would you fit the description, birds opt for running instead of flying or flying is inconvenient for birds? In my head, I began composing lines for a poem that features this bird. Another description to add to the scale: a fallen leaf will outrun you — that’s not quite right, but something about how I noticed a leaf in front of me being pushed by the wind so fast that I couldn’t catch up to it.

Was too busy battling the wind to notice the river. I wonder, were there any foam or white horses on it?

Running south, I listened to the howling wind. Heading back north, I put in Taylor Swift’s new album: The Tortured Poet’s Department

Another 5 on the Beaufort Scale. As I ran I wondered about factors other than wind speed, like wind direction — head winds, tail winds, crosswinds. I never really thought about crosswinds before I started watching cycling races. Now, like many others, I look forward to windy days of a tour when there’s a chance that some bikers will get “caught out by the crosswinds” and the peloton will splinter.

Eula Biss, Pain Scale

Before moving onto level 2 on Biss’ pain scale, I’m trying to think more about 1 and what lines of poetry might fit it. Can’t find anything yet, but I’m imagining level 1 to be the type of pain so minor, so barely there, that we doubt its existence. If 0 is faith, then 1 is doubt.

2

The sensations of my own body may be the only subject on which I am qualified to claim expertise. Sad and terrible, then, how little I know. “How do you feel?” the doctor asks, and I cannot answer. Not accurately. “Does this hurt?” he asks. Again, I’m not sure. “Do you have more or less pain than the last time I saw you?” Hard to say. I begin to lie to protect my reputation. I try to act certain. Okay, so 2 is also doubt. That gray area when we’re not certain. I don’t mind not knowing, when knowing is not possible — embracing the mystery — but not being certain, not knowing when you feel like you should know, are supposed to know, is very difficult.

And here Biss introduces the Beaufort Scale!

Wind, like pain, is difficult to capture. The poor windsock is always striving, and always falling short. There’s the difficulty of describing, and there’s the difficulty of feeling, knowing, experiencing accurately . . .

It took sailors more than two hundred years to develop a standardized numerical scale for the measure of wind. The result, the Beaufort scale, provides twelve categories for everything from “Calm” to “Hurricane.” The scale offers not just a number, but a term for the wind, a range of speed, and a brief description. Creating a standard — a common language from which to communicate and connect with others, a scale that is practical

A force 2 wind on the Beaufort scale, for example, is a “Light Breeze” moving between four and seven miles per hour. On land, it is specified as “wind felt on face; leaves rustle; ordinary vanes moved by wind.”

3

Left alone in the exam room I stare at the pain scale, a simple number line complicated by only two phrases. Under zero: “no pain.” Under ten: “the worst pain imaginable.” Too much is contained between these numbers. . . . This idea of “the worst pain imaginable” produces anxiety. I don’t want to even imagine what the worst pain imaginable might be.

“Three is nothing,” my father tells me now. “Three is go home and take two aspirin.”

“You are not meant to be rating world suffering,” my friend in Honduras advises. “This scale applies only to you and your experience.” At first, this thought is tremendously relieving. It unburdens me of factoring the continent of Africa into my calculations. But the reality that my nerves alone feel my pain is terrifying. I hate the knowledge that I am isolated in this skin—alone with my pain and my own fallibility.

The more I read of Biss’ essay, the more I’m thinking about the purpose of these scales and what other purposes descriptions/words/language can offer. The wind scale is for utility: to help sailors estimate the wind speed using visual observations. The pain scale’s purpose: to better understand and care for patients.

4

conflating physical and emotion pain — is there actually a distinction? hurting vs. feeling?

pain as seen in a face — Biss wonders, no face, no pain? Then she describes how there are no visible markers of her pain — there was nothing to illustrate my pain except a number, which I was told to choose from between zero and ten. My proof. I’m thinking about how invisible my vision problem often is to others and also, how the doctors could tell immediately that something wasn’t right: I got a diagnosis. What relief! I’m also thinking of a New Yorker article I read recently about gaslighting that mentions how the gaslit crave a diagnosis because it offers irrefutable evidence of something being wrong.

Okay, more of the pain scale in the next entry. I’m thinking about a key distinction between the Beaufort and Pain scales: the Beaufort offers brief descriptions to accompany the numbers, not just the numbers.

And, returning to point of these scales: they’re practical, which would seem to make them, at least to some, not poetry. Poetry is impractical and about making strange what we thought was familiar. It removes the utility of language, making it delightfully useless. Of course many poets disagree with this simplistic assessment, myself included. One reason I’ve turned to poetry is because it is useful; it gives me language and a method for describing my strange ways of seeing to others.

I found the following poem in an entry from aug 1, 2019. I think the descriptions might offer a more compelling and practical way than numbers on a scale to understand what pain feels like.

Let us for a moment call this pain by other words/Dominik Parisien

Ask, How many roses does the hammer weigh

when it bears down on your skull? 

Does the sword seem toothed like a toddler’s smile

or sharp as your first ice skates?

On a scale of anglerfish to northern lights

how bright are the flashes in your head? 

When I touch this, here, which constellations

light the sky behind your eyes?

Would you say that pulsing is the flicker of a satellite 

or the stubborn heartbeat of a newborn chick?

Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty

the measure of our pain? and I will answer.

april 18/CORERUN

core: 10 minutes
walk: 45 minutes
wind: 15 mph / gusts: 28 mph

Did 10 minutes of core, which I’ve been doing almost every day for the last week, or longer, I can’t remember. Later, took Delia on a walk to the winchell trail, then over the grate, up the gravel, down through the floodplain forest, across the road, up to edmund, around the rim of 7 oaks, then home. Breezy enough that I needed to hold onto my hat several times.

beaufort scale: another 5, I think. Today’s 5 was storm window rattling, hat raising, branch dropping*, door howling.

*climbing the gravel out of the ravine, I stopped for Delia to sniff. Heard some loud not-quite-cracking noises then a crash behind me: I didn’t see them, but I think it was a few smaller branches. Glad they didn’t hit me on the head!

So much green in the floodplain forest, but not enough to hide my view of the floor. Caught a glimpse of a black biggish dog on the trail, their owner a few steps behind.

the Pain Scale / Eula Biss, 0 and 1

Since I’m diving deeper into the Beaufort Scale for the rest of the month, I thought I’d look at another scale, the pain scale, and the essay about it that introduced me to the Beaufort Scale a decade ago: Eula Biss’ “The Pain Scale.”

The essay is organized around the 12 levels of pain, starting with 0 and ending at 12. Within each level she offers stories about her own pain, the history of pain management in the West, and various reflections that wander and wonder about pain and whether or not it is scaleable. That’s the most summary I’ll give, I think. Summarizing takes too long and uses up energy that I’d like to devote to engaging with Biss’ ideas. Instead of a summary, here are my notes about the essay, starting with 0 and 1 on the scale:

0

0 as something we must believe in without proof. It requires faith. A good place to see how religion and science have points of connection.

0 as no pain? Is it even possible to not have pain? Is that desirable? I’m thinking about how dangerous it is to not be able to feel pain. It makes us reckless, unable to prevent us from hurting ourselves. I’m reminded of the book, The Covenant of Water and the leper colony — the key problem for the lepers was their inability to feel pain when they cut themselves or broke something. This led to infections and loss of limbs and worse.

0 is not a real measure, but fulfills the need for a fixed point on the scale.

The concept of 0, as a fixed point on temperature scales, differs according to the scale — Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin — and who’s using it. 0 can indicate the point of freezing, but it used to indicate the boiling point. 0 is a construct — human-made, fallible, sometimes arbitrary.

0 on the Beaufort Scale is calm, still, no (evidence) of wind. At 0 is it just air? atmosphere?

1

This pain scale was introduced by the hospice movement in the 70s; it’s designed to quantify pain. To make what’s inner — our feelings, which are subjective — visible to the outer world and to make them more objective.

Minor pain, pain that doesn’t matter, that’s no big deal.

Where does pain worth measuring begin?

Hospice nurses are trained to identify five types of pain: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and financial. The pain of feeling, the pain of caring, the pain of doubting, the pain of parting, the pain of paying.

1 in the Beaufort Scale is light, barely ripples, hardly any disruption.

april 17

5.15 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees
wind: 15 mph / gusts: 30 mph

So windy! A crosswind heading north towards Franklin, then straight into it heading west over the Lake Street bridge. Cooler too. Wore my running tights and my orange sweatshirt. My left knee felt tight for the first few minutes, then fine for the rest of the run.

Wet and green. Noticed that the floodplain forest is filling in. Last week, bare and brown. Today, an outline of green. The river was gray with ripples. When I looked down at it from the bridge I could tell by the ripples that it was blowing south.

All of the pedestrians I encountered were bundled up in hats and winter coats. One runner was in shorts and white shoes. After he passed me I was mesmerized by his heels floating up and down, up and down, up and down. So smooth and rhythmic.

No eagle on the dead tree branch. Spotted 2 lone black gloves discarded at different parts of the path. Heard one woman talking to another. She said something strange, but I can’t remember what. Heard lots of black capped chickadees but no geese or woodpeckers.

more on wind: According to the Beaufort Scale, today was a 5 — fresh breeze. Brisk? Bracing. Stiff. Not breath-taking but ponytail whipping and energy sapping and eye watering. A few times, it howled in the trees. No dust in eyes or big branches falling from trees, but leaves whirling on the ground. At one point, running across the bridge, I felt like I was being held up by the wind — both slowed down and suspended in mid-air. Running south, with the wind at my back, it felt easier, like the wind was pushing me along.

beaufort scale

Thinking about wind some more and wondering if I shouldn’t narrow my focus to the Beaufort Scale? Maybe try to play around with my own Beaufort Scales. Today, while reviewing Marie Howe’s “The Moment” I thought about gathering lines from poems that fit with the scale. The line in Howe’s poem that Inspired this was the last one:

the white cotton curtains hanging still

The poem is about that moment when everything stands still and is silent. No to-do lists. No traffic. No I-should-bes. With these curtains, I think Howe is referencing sitting silently in her brother’s room, as he was dying. I imagine this moment of stillness as 0 on the Beaufort Scale.

And here’s another stillnes from Rime of the Ancient Mariner / Samuel Coleridge

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
’Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

a bird moment, possibly for my bird project: After I finished my run, walking back on Edmund, I heard 2 black capped chickadees calling back and forth. Their notes were slightly different than I usually hear. By the time I got out my phone to record them, only one chickadee was calling. No response. They kept trying their fee bee call, maybe 5 or 6 times, but no reply.

april 16/BIKERUN

bike: 16 minutes
run: 2.3 miles
basement
outside: 54 degrees / rain, wind

Before I started writing this but after my workout, I got up from my chair and my right kneecap missed the groove and slipped out hard. So hard that I uncontrollably yelled, “God Dammit!” No pain and it went right back in, or I was able to pop it back in. But it was shocking — mentally and physically. My LCL or meniscus seem as reticent to walk as my brain does — a strange sentence to write: can you imagine ligaments feeling something independent of the brain? Now I’m nervous about when this might happen again. As is usually the case, I had absolutely no warning. I didn’t do anything abrupt or dramatic; I just stood up and turned. I’ll get over it in a few minutes and stop imagining different scenarios in my head when the kneecap suddenly slides and it hurts and I can’t get it back into place. For now, I’ll breathe and attempt to remember how happy I was to work out before my subluxation.

It’s raining today, and there’s a wind advisory. Decided to go to the basement and do a bike run combo. After pumping up the air in my tire — it is still leaking air even though I got new tires last spring — I found the SuperLeague e-tri championships. I’ve been watching SuperLeague while biking in the basement since it started — when? 2018? Then I ran for 22.5 minutes while I listened to a “If Books Could Kill” podcast and then a playlist.

I don’t remember thinking about much except for that I had to go to the bathroom. Scott and I have new euphemism for it: unfinished business. Anything else? I recall looking straight ahead at the water heater and I remember feeling like a badass when I increased my cadence to try and match the bikers I was watching.

Here’s a victory: I didn’t think at all about the text exchange I had with FWA about what “fun” or “interesting” or “non-music” classes he could take to fill up his pretty bare schedule for senior year. No double major or minors for him. Just music, which he’s very good at, but still . . . . I’m trying to let him figure out his own way, but it’s so hard to watch him make choices that seem foolish or short-sighted. Sigh. Parenting is hard; backing off is hard; trusting is hard. When I worry too much, I’ll go back and watch his recital from Sunday and remember how proud I am of him and that he can (and is) creating an exciting future for himself.

update: I didn’t need to worry; he figured out some great classes on his own: Japanese!, Environmental Geography, and Criminology.

before the bike and run

Yesterday was the poet, Tomas Tranströmer’s birthday. He would have been 92. I’ve posted a few poems from him on here before. While looking for “air” poems, I found this one. It’s an ekphrastic! Those ekphrastic poems keep appearing. Are they trying to encourage me to keep working on my ekphrastic project? I’d like to believe so. Anyway, here’s the Tranströmer poem I found:

Vermeer / Tomas Tranströmer

translated by Robert Bly

It’s not a sheltered world. The noise begins over there, on the other side of the wall
where the alehouse is
with its laughter and quarrels, its rows of teeth, its tears, its chiming of clocks,
and the psychotic brother-in-law, the murderer, in whose presence
everyone feels fear.

The huge explosion and the emergency crew arriving late,
boats showing off on the canals, money slipping down into pockets
— the wrong man’s —
ultimatum piled on the ultimatum,
widemouthed red flowers who sweat reminds us of approaching war.

And then straight through the wall — from there — straight into the airy studio
in the seconds that have got permission to live for centuries.
Paintings that choose the name: “The Music Lesson”
or ” A Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.”
She is eight months pregnant, two hearts beating inside her.
The wall behind her holds a crinkly map of Terra Incognita.

Just breathe. An unidentifiable blue fabric has been tacked to the chairs.
Gold-headed tacks flew in with astronomical speed
and stopped smack there
as if there had always been stillness and nothing else.

The ears experience a buzz, perhaps it’s depth or perhaps height.
It’s the pressure from the other side of the wall,
the pressure that makes each fact float
and makes the brushstroke firm.

Passing through walls hurts human beings, they get sick from it,
but we have no choice.
It’s all one world. Now to the walls.
The walls are a part of you.
One either knows that, or one doesn’t; but it’s the same for everyone
except for small children. There aren’t any walls for them.

The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall.
It is like a prayer to what is empty.
And what is empty turns its face to us
and whispers:
“I am not empty, I am open.”

I love this poem and how it imagines the world outside of the painting and its relationship to the world inside of it. Starting with the first line: It’s not a sheltered world. The noise begins over there, on the other side of the wall . . . . That alehouse, that psychotic brother-in-law. The explosion, the money being dropped into the wrong man’s pocket. Then the airy studio and the seconds that have got permission to live for centuries — the differences between what we notice and try to remember and what we ignore or try to forget — what is worthy of attention, a painting, and what is not.

What is worth noticing in a poem describing a painting, and what is not? The Vermeer painting the poem is titled, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” but there’s no mention of the letter or the woman’s expression, and the blue described by Tranströmer is the blue fabric on the chair, not of the woman’s jacket.

This poem is about the wall, the other side of the wall, the pressure that the other side creates, pressing in on us. The wall between our interior and the exterior world. The edge of the void, the abyss. All of this is kind of, almost, not quite making sense to me. I should spend some more time rereading Tom Sleigh’sToo Much of the Air: Tomas Tranströmer“.

I’m struck by the last lines:

The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall.
It is like a prayer to what is empty.
And what is empty turns its face to us
and whispers:
‘I am not empty, I am open.’

I’m thinking of the gorge here and the limestone walls that contain it and how it is both empty of land/rock and filled with air and openness. To think of the void — the unknowable, unsayable, mystery — as both frightening (emptiness, nothingness) and inviting (openness, possibility).

Yesterday I talked about believing in the unseen. Today I’m thinking about what it could mean to be believe in the unseeable. Unseen could mean, not-yet-seen or unnoticed, but unseeable suggests that seeing is never possible.

Before writing this, I was reviewing an old log entry from April 16, 2022. In it, I discuss Elisa Gabbert’s article about poetry and the Void.

They [poets] write in the line, in the company of the void. That changes how you write — and more profoundly, how you think, and even how you are, your mode of being. When you write in the line, there is always an awareness of the mystery, of what is left out. This is why, I suppose, poems can be so confounding. Empty space on the page, that absence of language, provides no clues. But it doesn’t communicate nothing — rather, it communicates nothing. It speaks void, it telegraphs mystery.

By “mystery” I don’t mean metaphor or disguise. Poetry doesn’t, or shouldn’t, achieve mystery only by hiding the known, or translating the known into other, less familiar language. The mystery is unknowing, the unknown — as in Jennifer Huang’s “Departure”: “The things I don’t know have stayed/In this home.” The mystery is the missing mountain in Shane McCrae’s “The Butterflies the Mountain and the Lake”:

the / Butterflies monarch butterflies huge swarms they
Migrate and as they migrate south as they
Cross Lake Superior instead of flying

South straight across they fly
South over the water then fly east
still over the water then fly south again / And now
biologists believe they turn to avoid a mountain
That disappeared millennia ago.

The missing mountain is still there.

The Shape of a Void / Elisa Gabbert

This past weekend, Scott and I watched the 2 part documentary about Steve Martin, STEVE! I really enjoyed it. I remember responding to this idea offered by one of Steve Martin’s artist friends:

How to close the void. I think that’s the nature and the drive in art, it comes from that deep awareness of that void.

STEVE! — 53:30, part 2

I agree with the second part of that statement, about the deep awareness of the void, but not the first — at least how it’s worded. It’s not to close the void, but to navigate it, develop a relationship to it, engage with it, learn how to live with it. I mentioned this to Scott and he argued that the void in this quotation is not the unknown or mystery, but something else. Maybe lack or longing? A desire to be whole? To have/feel meaning? I still don’t like the word close. Can you ever close the void? Tranströmer doesn’t think so; it’s always on the other side of that wall. Even with a wall between you and it, you feel its pressure in your ears. And it’s this pressure that drives/shapes/enables your art — that makes each fact float/and makes the brushstroke firm.

A final (for now) word on this ekphrastic poem: I like how Tranströmer is responding to the work of art in this poem, how we uses the image to reflect on the abyss/void, history, interior/exterior, and why we make art. I want to think about it some more and try to write something for my “How to See” project inspired by his approach.

april 15/RUN

5k
trestle turn around
67 degrees

Ran in the afternoon with Scott. Wore my warm summer attire: black shorts and tank top. Wow. Feels like summer. Tried my new bright yellow running shoes — Saucony Rides. Love the color, but not the fit. My feet and right calf hurt now. Guess these shoes will just be for walking. Oh well.

There was some wind, but mostly it felt refreshing. There was only one stretch where it made running more difficult.

We talked about how the first mile is the hardest, how my shoes weren’t working (poor Scott had to listen to that a lot), and what a badass Helen Obiri is — moderate pace for most of the marathon then unleashing a 4:40 mile near the end.. Then I mentioned an edited version of my birding poem that I’m planning to submit to some journals.

Right before descending below lake street, we encountered another, older runner. I said that I liked his orange shirt and then asked Scott if the shirt was actually orange. It was a gradient, Scott replied. It started orange then magenta then red — at least I think that was the order of colors. Well, I just heard ORANGE in my head, I said. Then: orange shirt
old guy
struggling

Scott pointed out that it was in my running rhythm — 3/2, with an extra 3. Nice.

Random Thoughts Recorded Earlier Today on a version of the wind: air

from Living Here/ Cleopatra Mathis

In the world of appearances, teach me
to believe in the unseen.

from long entry dated 16 august 2022

Of course, appearances refers to more than vision or looking; it’s about “the world of sensible phenomena” (Merriam-Webster). And, to be seen or unseen, can mean much more than what we perceive with our eyes. But how often is appearance/seen reduced to vision and sight? (rhetorical question — my answer: too often or all the time or most of the time).

To appear can mean to be present, to attend, to show up for something.

To believe in the unseen — believing in that which we can’t prove? Believing in something that I know is there but that I cannot see? An orange buoy?
What does it mean to be unseen? To not be seen with our eyes? To not be consciously aware of what some part of us might be seeing or sensing?

belief trust faith confidence acceptance conviction

Mostly, we can sense the wind, or at least see the evidence of it all around us — swaying trees, swirling leaves, flapping flags. But what about air? Air, which we often mis-identify as emptiness?

april 13/RUN

10k
hidden falls and back
66 degrees
wind: 13 mph / gusts: 25 mph

Another run with Scott. Today, too hot! We ran around 11, which was too late. So much sun and no shade. It’s time to adjust to running much earlier.

Of course, I’m writing this right after the run, when I’m feeling wiped out, so my perspective on it is skewed.

We talked about the Beaufort scale and songs that might fit with the different levels of wind. Scott recounted the history of the man behind Chef Boyardee. That’s all I remember.

10 Things

  1. wind — strong enough that I took my hat off on the ford bridge and held it so it wouldn’t blow off my head
  2. ripples on the river — I mentioned to Scott that they were referred to as scales on the Beaufort scale
  3. wind chimes, all around the neighborhood chiming
  4. soft shadows
  5. after months of not being lit, the street lamps along the river road are finally lit again
  6. on your left! a biker passing us on the bridge
  7. the water fountains aren’t working yet — we kept stopping to check, but no water yet
  8. a few LOUD blue jays
  9. swarming gnats!
  10. bright yellow and orange and green running shirts on other runners

before the run

Reviewing a link I posted earlier this month — Historical and Contemporary Versions of the Beaufort Scale — I started thinking about different versions of the Beaufort Scale that I could do. On the run, I’d like to talk with Scott about a wind song Beaufort scale that describe/ranks the wind using song lyrics. I’m thinking that Summer Breeze might be on one end and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on the other.

Other versions of the Beaufort Scale might include poetry lines — yes, a wind cento! — and things experienced while running.

Beaufort Scale

force / name / for use at sea / for use at land

  • 0 / calm, still / sea like a mirror / smoke rises vertically
  • 1 / light air / ripples on water / direction of wind shown by wind
  • 2 / light breeze / small wavelets / wind felt on face, leaves rustle
  • 3 / gentle breeze / crests begin to break, scattered white horses / leaves and small twigs whirl, wind extends small flags
  • 4 / moderate breeze / small waves, fairly frequent white horses / wind raises dust and loose paper, small branches move
  • 5 / fresh breeze / moderate waves, many white horses, some spray / small trees in leaf start to sway, crested waves on inland waters
  • 6 / strong breeze / large waves, white foam, spray / large branches in motion, whistling wires, umbrellas used with difficulty
  • 7 / near gale / breaking waves blow in streaks / whole trees in motion, inconveniant to walk against the wind
  • 8 / gale / moderately high waves / twigs break from trees, difficult to walk
  • 9 / strong gale / high waves / slight structural damage, roof slates removed
  • 10 / storm / very high waves / trees uprooted, considerable structural damage
  • 11 / violent storm / very high waves / widespread damage
  • 12 / hurricane / air filled with foam, spray / widespread damage

I’m struck by how mild the wind is here in Minneapolis by the river gorge. The roughest wind I’ve run (or swum) in is 6, which is about 31 mph. That’s only a strong breeze and when umbrellas are used with difficulty. And that’s only halfway up the scale! I’m a wimp, I guess.

Looking at this a different way, I think there’s a lot more levels between light breeze and strong breeze. maybe I should try to notice and describe the differences between leaves rustling and leaves in a whirlwind? Or wind felt on my face as a soft kiss versus wind whipping my hair?

during the run

Scott was excited about the idea of creating a Beaufort scale with songs/song lyrics. So far:

0 / In the Still of the Night / Dion
1 / In the Air Tonight / Phil Collins
2 / Summer Breeze / Seals & Croft
3 / Sailing / Christopher Cross
4 / Dust in the Wind / Kansas
5 / Breezin’ / George Benson
6 / Blowing in the Wind / Peter, Paul & Mary
7 / Windy / The Association
8 / They Call the Wind Maria / Paint Your Wagon
9 / Ride Like the Wind / Christopher Cross
10 / Tear the Roof Off the Sucker / Parliment
11 / The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald / Gordon Lightfoot
12 / Rock You Like a Hurricane / Scorpion

This was fun and a great distraction as we ran!

april 11/RUN

3.1 miles
edmund, south/river road, north/edmund, south
56 degrees
wind: 12 mph/ gusts: 22 mph

Shorts and bare legs again today. Hooray! Was planning to do the 2 trails, but when I reached the entrance to the winchell trail I heard some very noisy rustling of leaves. Too big for a squirrel. A dog? A bear? A human? I tried to look ahead but all I saw was a black blob. I thought it was a person with a stroller so I moved a little closer. Nope — a male turkey with its tail spread like a peacock, a red wattle glowing, even for me with my bad color vision. Wow. I mentioned it to a man walking down the hill and he said, well, this is the way I’m going! and slowly and calmly walked toward the turkey. A showdown. After 30 seconds or so, the turkey relented and the man walked past. Not me, I climbed the hill and ran on the trail next to the road. This encounter will be my birding poem for the day!

10 Things Other Than Tom Turkey

  1. a woodpecker cry — pileated, I think
  2. another woodpecker cry a few minutes later — was this bird following me?
  3. loud kids at the playground, mostly having fun
  4. 2 bikers heading north — we can ride the wind now. I thought this meant that they would have the wind at their backs, so I would too, when I turned around. No. Wind was in my face heading north, later in the run
  5. admiring the view of the river from the overlook — the water on the other shore was sparkling
  6. mud and roots on the dirt trail between edmund and the river
  7. the clickity-clack of roller skiers poles behind me
  8. several of the benches had people on them — more than half?
  9. bird shadows
  10. a shrieking blue jay above me

After turning around because of the territorial turkey, I put in my “It’s Windy” playlist: They Call the Wind Maria/ the furies; Dust in the Wind/ insignificant or fleeting

The wind wasn’t overpowering but it was everywhere, coming from every direction. I remember noticing how it played with my hair, making my ponytail bob and my little loose strands fly around my face. Only once did I need to adjust my hat for fear that the wind might blow it off. I don’t remember hearing any skittering leaves or getting dust in my eyes, grit in my teeth. The wind didn’t sing or howl. It did push me forward and hold me back. And I think it made the whole run harder.

Earlier this morning, I checked out Mary Oliver’s West Wind and found this delightful part of a poem about wild turkeys. It seems fitting to include today after seeing several hens — being guarded by the male turkey on Winchell.

from Three Songs/ Mary Oliver

1

A band of wild turkeys is coming down the hill. They are coming
slowly—astheywalkalongthey look under the leaves for things to 
eat, and besides it must be a pleasure to step alternately through the
pale sunlight, then patches of slightly golden shade. they are all hens
and they lift their thick toes delicately. With such toes they could
march up one side of the state and down the others, or skate on water,
or dance the tango. But not this morning. As they get closer the sound
of their feet in the leaves is like the patter of rain, then rapid rain. My
dogs perk their ears, and bound from the path. Instead of opening their
dark wings the hens swirl and rush away under the trees, like little
ostriches.

Returning to my birding poem for the day. I’m having a little difficulty finding the focus, so I thought I’d write a little more around this little poem. What are the details that I remember, that I might want to write about?

  • First thing noticed: an unusually loud rustling sound that I thought was too big for a squirrel, too much for a human
  • the moment of seeing something but not knowing what it was — a bear? a dog? a stroller? Not feeling scared, but feeling like I should stay back until I figured it out, feeling that it was something unusual. This moment last a long time, which was fine because I had time, but wouldn’t have been if I had needed to make a quick decision, like if the turkey was running towards me
  • the turkey was so big! its tail was up and spread out like a peacock, making him look even bigger and framing his face
  • the face — fuzzy but clear enough to know that this turkey was telling me to back off! I couldn’t make out his eyes, but I could see — or, maybe I guessed a little — when he was facing me — yes, it was the contrast of light and dark — when he was turned away, he was just a dark, hulking shape, when he was turned toward me I saw a pale beak
  • the red wattle — was it bright? I can’t quite remember, but I know it was red and big
  • when I felt fairly certain it was a turkey, I still couldn’t see details — just a small, light head with red, framed by broad dark tail feathers — how much of his bigness was because of his tail, how much his body? the form — menacing and comical at the same time, with its big circle for a body and its tiny head
  • the approaching man — I said to him, there’s a big turkey down there! He said something like, well, THIS is the way I’m planning to go! His tone wasn’t too jerky, just matter-of-fact. When he approached the turkey he called out sternly but not too aggressively — hey hey move! At first, the turkey wouldn’t budge and the guy looked back at me, but after some time, the turkey moved

Reflecting on these details some more, I’m thinking that the guy, albeit interesting, is unnecessary for my purposes. I think adding him might take the poem in a different direction. . . although, I am struck by the encounter between me, him, and the turkey. The guy didn’t seem like a jerk, but he did give off some older white guy energy — this is the way I’m going turkey! Your puffed up feathers can’t stop me! I was happy to stand back and observe the turkeys from a (respectful?) distance, while he was ready to keep moving through the turkeys.

The uncertainty from not being able to see what the turkey was is what I’d like to focus on, although I want to weave in the strange mix of menacing and comical too. Here’s a long passage from Georgina Kleege that is helpful in explaining my own process of seeing things. She is able to see most things because she expects to see them; it’s the unexpected things that make it difficult. oh — I like this idea of bringing surprise in here!

Expectation plays a large role in what I perceive. I know what’s on my desk because I put it there. If someone leaves me a surprise gift, it may take a few seconds to identify it, but how often does that happen? . . . . I can recognize most things through quick process of elimination. And that process is only truly conscious on the rare occasions when the unexpected occurs, as when my cats carry objects out of context. A steel wool soap pad appears in the bath tub. I see it as a rusty, graying blob. Though touch would probably tell me something, it can be risky to touch something you cannot identify some other way. . . . I once encountered a rabid raccoon on a sidewalk near my house. I learned what it was from a neighbor watching it from his screened porch. What I saw was an indistinct, grayish mass, low to the ground and rather round. It was too big to be a cat and the wrong shape to be a dog. Its gait was not only unfamiliar but unsteady. It zigzagged up the pavement. I moved my gaze around it as my brain formed a picture of raccoon. The raccoon in my mind had the characteristic mask across its face, a sharply pointed nose, striped tail, brindled fur. Nothing in the hazy blob at my feet, no variations in color or refinements in form, corresponded with that image. Its position was wrong. The raccoon in my image was standing up on its haunches, holding something in its front paws. And what does a rabid raccoon look like?

Sight Unseen/ Georgina Kleege (105-106, print version)

Kleege grew up, from age 11, with a big blind spot in the center of her vision. That was roughly 50+ years ago, so she’s had time to learn how to guess and eliminate and handle identifying unexpected objects. I’m still learning. Mostly, it doesn’t bother me, although i occasionally worry about my safety. Anyway, I find Kleege’s description of her process helpful in enabling me to describe what I did. Kleege saw “an indistinct, grayish mass, low to the ground and rather round.” I saw an indistinct, dark mass, somewhat low to the ground and rather round. My dark mass moved slowly but not awkwardly and was accompanied by a loud racket. I might have guessed turkey earlier if he, and his hens, hadn’t been so loud, and if he hadn’t been so big and round.

How many times have I seen a male turkey with its feathers puffed up? Looking it up, I read that this puffing could be a courtship ritual or a sign of intimidation — in my encounter, was it both? The courtship version involves a strut and a gobble — oh, I wish I would have heard him gobble! The only noises my turkeys made were with their beaks or feet as they rooted around for food. And, maybe his low, un-awkward (graceful?) gait was a strut that I couldn’t quite see?

possible ideas, images, descriptions to add: gobble-less, unexpected and unusual for this regular route, rotund (or round or a puffed up dark dot/circle), rooting racket.

clues to choose from: a dark mass too big for a bird (or so I thought), too small for a bear, a slow strut.

Something to think about: was it just the puffed up feathers that made seeing turkeys strange? I think so.

I almost forgot. I took a picture! Look at me, at a safe distance!

turkey sighting / 11 april 2024

april 10/RUN

5.1 miles
bottom of franklin and back
61 degrees
wind: 8 mph / gusts: 18 mph

Ah, spring! Sun and shorts and short sleeves! Birds — black-capped chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, a turkey! I looked at the river but I don’t remember what I saw. Too distracted by blue sky and sharp shadows and the spring breeze — which is less relaxed than a summer breeze, but still pleasant — a word my mom used to say, or did she say it just that once when I was barely four and was talking with her in our new backyard in Hickory, North Carolina as she hung laundry out to dry. It feels pleasant out here or It’s a pleasant day. It’s a terribly bland word, but I love it because I always think of her and that moment.

Encounters:

  • Dave: Hi Sara!
  • while running up a hill, a woman walking down it: Looking good! me: Thank you!
  • two women walking towards me after I finished my run: Well, you look springy!

overheard:

  • from talk radio across the road: Don’t you think I think about it? Don’t you think it keeps me up at night?
  • distorted music coming out of a bike radio

Listened to birds, my breathing, and the smooth wheels of a rollerblader as I ran north. Ran up the franklin hill and sang, Running up that hill, in my head. Put in “It’s Windy” playlist: Let’s Go Fly a Kite: not childish but childlike; Don’t Mess Around with Jim: karma; Ride Like the Wind: haul ass; You’re Only Human (Second Wind) — be generous to yourself; Summer Breeze: relax

my birding moment: running north, listening to Billy Joel, distracted by the song or memories or some thought, something suddenly appeared in front of me — a turkey! It wasn’t too close, but close enough that I was able to watch it awkwardly run across the path. For the poem: distraction, interruption, awkwardness, dragged out of the inner into the outer

Stuck inside
a thought

Unaware
seeing

only bare
path when

Poof! Bobbing
head sleek

body move
past me

faster than
I thought

possible
I watch

then admire
this show

grateful to
be dragged

out into
the world.

a breeze

Before I run, I decided today’s version of the wind would be: breeze.

breeze 1

The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
(from The Work of Happiness/ May Sarton/May Sarton)

breeze 2

definition of breezy: pleasantly wind; airy, nonchalant — as in, breezy indifference

breezy 3

Easy breezy beautiful cover girl
Beautiful skin can be a breeze with sea breeze — or, what my sister Marji used to sing, Beautiful skin can be a breeze with sea grease

breeze 4

Yet again, the ekphrasis appears!

How to Look at Pictures/ Rebecca Morgan Frank

title after Robert Clermont Witt, 1906

Refuse to make eye contact with the subject.
He has been following you around the gallery.
You are certain that he can see down your shirt.
Look at other subjects, but know that they, too,
are not of primary interest. Even when they watch
you. Try not to consider what happened
to the small girl staring furiously, the thin-faced
woman wanly looking away. Do not think about
what they had for breakfast, if the bread was hard.
Certainly do not consider the odors underneath
their arms and skirts. Do not allow a breeze into
the room they sit in. Do not assume I am talking
about any painting: step away from the subject.
All subject. Was the painter in love? Do not ask
the question. Imagine you are the painter,
blocking out everything you don’t want to see.
Everything is out of the picture. Stop looking.
Stop seeking what isn’t there. Tuck your narratives
back in your pocket. Look for perspective, light,
shade. Let your eyes wander back to the girl.
She is trying to say something but her mouth
has been painted deliberately shut. Her lips, thin.

april 8/RUN

10k
the flats and back
48 degrees
wind: 10 mph

Because of the ran yesterday, Scott and I did our long run today. It was wet and dark and so humid that we could see our breaths. First we talked about anxiety — Scott’s was about missing some notes at a rehearsal, mine was about waking up with it, feeling it in cramped feet. Then I described a New Yorker article I was reading before we left about forensic linguistics. My description included misplaced apostrophes, devil strips, and Sha Na Na. Wow. Scott spent the last mile of the run trying to remember the name of the guy who was always on 70s game shows, had curly yellow hair, and shot out confetti — Rip Taylor.

We greeted Dave the Daily Walker — Hi Dave! — and listened to some cool-sounding bird. Heard a seep that had turned into a little waterfall below the U. Smelled the sewer. Watched the river move so slowly that it didn’t look like it was moving. We walked part of the franklin hill then ran the rest.

According to my watch, the wind was 10 mph 18 mph gusts. I don’t remember feeling much wind, or hearing it in the trees, of seeing it move the leaves. In fact, the wind was so calm that the water looked still. Not smooth, but no waves, not even ripples. Am I forgetting?

Here’s a wonderful little poem about wind by A. R. Ammons that I found on a favorite site, Brief Poems:

Small Song/ A. R. Ammons

The reeds give way
to the wind

and give
the wind away

A note about the total eclipse: it didn’t really happen here in Minnesota — it was overcast and we weren’t in the path of the eclipse. Oh well. Here’s a pdf of Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse” which I must have read for a writing class but that I can’t find a copy of in my files.

april 7/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
41 degrees
wind: 15 mph / 35 mph gusts

More wind. Ran between raindrops and beside a 10 mile race. The wind was at my back running north, in my face south. Those racers were hardcore, running the first 5 miles into that wind — yuck! Puddles and mud and an over-sized green rain jacket puffing up like a balloon about to float away:

Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

from Ode to the West Wind/ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Listened to the racers, spectators, a drummer drumming, a runner giving a motivational speech as he ran — good job! you can do it! the finish line is almost here! you got this! — which might have been inspirational or insufferable depending on how you felt six miles into a race that started with rain and cold and continued with wind. At the turn around I stopped and put in my wind playlist. Today: Wind it Up — sexual empowerment (I know he thinks you’re fine and stuff, but does he know how to wind you up?). Classical Gas – the 70s, Bohemian Rhapsody – fate, and Don’t Mess Around with Jim – street smarts

After I finished running, as I was walking back, I noticed the flash of a bird fly up from the street to the top of a sign, then 3 or 4 other small birds fly out of the tree and into the air. The small dark dots against the smudged sky looked like static or the stars I see when I’m dizzy or had too much caffeine, or (sorry not sorry to be gross) dropped a big deuce — am I the only one that happens to? I decided that these birds would be the subject of my birding poem for today.

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is

from Ode to the West Wind/ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Yesterday, Scott and I met up with FWA in St. Peter. After taking him shopping for his clarinet recital next week, we went back to campus and took a walk through the Arb. So windy! I didn’t have a hair tie and my hair was swirling around my face as we walked on the uneven dirt trail in the open field. Later, winding through the pine trees we had some shelter. Scott saw the tiniest bird, then I saw it too, first as a flash of movement, then as a small dark form on a low limb. FWA guessed that it was a warbler, which it probably was. We listened for birds and heard a creak: one tree rubbing against another — Shelley’s forest lyre! I told Scott and FWA that I knew a beautiful poem that I wish I had memorized for this occasion — Cello by Dorianne Laux

april 6/WALK

1 mile with Delia
neighborhood
40 degrees

A second day of taking Delia for a walk in the morning, and what a morning! Not warm, but sunny and calm. Birds, a slight breeze, blue sky. Did a lot of deep breaths as I walked. This morning, I was anxious, but I recognized it as a phase that I could endure, and that recognition helped. Slowly I’m getting a little better at navigating perimenopause.

Wind in Leaves or, Leaves in Wind

This entire poem by Donika Kelly is great and I want to return to it, but for now, I’ll just post the opening and its description of wind in leaves through the seasons. Such a fun way to think about wind — how it sounds in leaves in spring or summer or fall.

from When the Fact of Your Gaze Means Nothing, Then You Are Alongside/ Donika Kelly

late spring wind sounds an ocean 
through new leaves. later the same 
wind sounds a tide. later still the dry 

sound of applause: leaves chapped 
falling, an ending. this is a process.

What does it mean that the wind sounds an ocean, and how does that differ from that wind sounding a tide?

Thinking about leaves and wind I’m remembering a line from “Dear One Absent this Long While” by Lisa Olstein:

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,
you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves

How do I describe the leaves in wind? Something to think about on my run.

april 5/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
54 degrees
wind: 5 mph

What a day! Took Delia out for a walk this morning. An hour later, sat on the deck and was inspired by the birds to write a beautiful little poem conjuring my mom. Then, around 12:30, went for a run by the gorge. Okay spring! The run wasn’t easy, but wasn’t hard either. My legs are sore from running every day since Tuesday. Tomorrow I’ll take a break.

Listened to birds running north, my “It’s Windy” playlist on the way back south. Wind songs heard today: “Ride Like the Wind” — fast? frantic? under pressure? and “You’re Only Human (Second Wind); — forgiving and resilient and a reprieve

I’m sure I looked at the river, but I don’t remember doing it, or what it looked like. I do remember that the floodplain forest looked open and brown and full of trees that had been through a flood or two. No roller skiers or rowers. No radios or impatient cars. Did hear a few unpleasant goose honks near the lake street bridge.

Beaufort Scale

The History of the Beaufort Scale

Before the run I reviewed the Beaufort Scale and rediscovered a Beaufort Scale poem by Alice Oswald. Gave myself the task of trying to describe the wind today:

running north: make your own wind — or breeze?
south: hair raising . . . leg hair raising . . . calf hair raising
east: no need to shield the microphone; a welcomed air-conditioning after a hard effort; still leaves still; the branches moving so slightly my cone-dead eyes cannot detect their movement — no trees waving to me today . . . rude; flag flapping but no wind chiming

Alice Oswald on wind:

Everything you write about the wind really has to be about something else, because the wind itself is so non-existent. I like the way the Beaufort Scale [a system used to estimate wind speed based on observation of its effects] categorizes something so abstract and undefinable. That is partly what drew me to the project. I regard the words as secondary to the silences in my poetry, so I’m drawn to write about things that will exist without the words. The poems are full of gaps and silences through which something that isn’t linguistic can be heard.

A Poem A Day

wind will exist without the words

Beaufort Poem Scale – Alice Oswald

As I speak (force 1) smoke rises vertically,
Plumed seeds fall in less than ten seconds
And gossamer, perhaps shaken from the soul’s hairbrush
Is seen in the air.

Oh yes (force 2) it’s lovely here,
One or two spiders take off
And there are willow seeds in clouds

But I keep feeling (force 3) a scintillation,
As if a southerly light breeze
Was blowing the tips of my thoughts
(force 4) and making my tongue taste strongly of italics

And when I pause it feels different
As if something had entered (force 5) whose hand is lifting my page

(force 6) So I want to tell you how a whole tree sways to the left
But even as I say so (force 7) a persistent howl is blowing my hair horizontal
And even as I speak (force 8) this speaking becomes difficult

And now my voice (force 9) like an umbrella shaken inside out
No longer shelters me from the fact (force 10)
There is suddenly a winged thing in the house,
Is it the wind?

april 4/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
45 degrees
wind: 12 mph / 21 mph gusts

I thought it was supposed to be less windy today, but it didn’t feel like it. Heading north, I was running straight into the wind. Sometimes it felt fine, and sometimes it felt hard. Listened to birds, especially black capped chickadees but also the faint knocking of a woodpecker somewhere near a house being built. Admired some gnarled shadows from the oak trees I passed by in the park. Heard rushing water at the falls and the recorded ding of the light rail across the highway. Managed to step in almost every pothole without twisting or rolling anything. Remembered to look at the river and notice how it sparkled in the sun.

Listened to the birds and the wind and the water as I ran south. Listened to my new “It’s Windy” playlist, and a LOUD kid on the playground, as I ran north.

wind!

A lot pf wind outside today, and more inside, at my desk (and no, I don’t been gas). Started with a playlist:

It’s Windy

  1. Windy/ The Association
  2. Summer Breeze/ Seals & Crofts
  3. I Talk to the Wind/ King Crimson
  4. Dust in the Wind/ Kansas
  5. The Wind Cries Mary/ The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  6. Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow/ Frank Zappa
  7. Summer Wind/ Frank Sinatra
  8. Wind of Change/ Scorpions
  9. Blowin’ In the Wind/ Peter, Paul & Mary
  10. In the Air Tonight/ Phil Collins
  11. The Chain/ Fleetwood Mac
  12. Ride Like the Wind/ Christopher Cross
  13. Wind Beneath My Winds/ Better Midler
  14. Break Like the Wind/ Spinal Tap
  15. Listening Wind/ Talking Heads
  16. You’re Only Human (Second Wind)/ Billy Joel
  17. Wind Chimes/ The Beach Boys
  18. The Long and Winding Road/ The Beatles
  19. They Call the Wind Maria/ Paint Your Wagon
  20. The Zephyr Song/ Red Hot Chili Peppers
  21. Wind It Up/ Gwen Stefani
  22. Shining Star/ Gwen Stefani
  23. Shining Star/ Earth, Wind & Fire
  24. Runnin’/ Earth, Wind & Fire
  25. Classical Gas/ Mason Williams
  26. Bohemian Rhapsody/ Queen
  27. You Don’t Mess Around with Jim/ Jim Croce

Here are the songs that I listened to today as I ran:

Windy/ The Association
Summer Breeze/ Seals & Croft
I Talk to the Wind/ King Crimson
Wind of Change/ Scorpion
Blowin’ In the Wind/ Peter, Paul & Mary*

*I started with the Bob Dylan version but when he busted out the harmonica I had to switch to the version I remember when I was kid

Somewhere between Summer Breeze and Wind of Change I thought about what words I might associate with these songs: Windy – capricious; Summer Breeze – carefree; I Talk to the Wind – indifferent; Wind of Change – hope; Blowin’ In the Wind – possibility

Listening to Blowin’ In the Wind, I thought about all of the questions posed in it and was reminded of a line I recited earlier this morning from Rita Dove: Someone once said: There are no answers/just interesting questions. I thought about the idea of questions being spoken into the wind and how there are no certain answers to them but that doesn’t mean they’re just rhetorical. Oh — now I’m thinking about the unanswerable questions and the koan.

other things noticed: the word straight was used several times — In I Talk to the Wind: said the straight man to the late man and Wind of Change: The wind of change blows straight into the face of time. In Windy, the wind is tripping down the street. I wonder if the swirls or whirls in any of my songs?

first definitions of wind from the OED: Air in motion; a state of movement in the air; a current of air, of any degree of force perceptible to the senses, occurring naturally in the atmosphere, usually parallel to the surface of the ground.

  • with specific reference to direction from which it blows
  • in reference to navigation, as means of propulsion
  • to take, have, get, gain the wind of, to scent or detect by or as by the wind
  • As a thing devoid of sense or perception, or that is unaffected by what one does to it — talk to the wind, spit into the wind
  • a type of violence, a fury: swiftness, freedom or unrestrainable character, mutability or fickleness, lightness or emptiness — the furies? fates and furies?
  • air in general, as a substance or element
  • gas
  • air inhaled and exhaled by the lungs
  • air as used for blowing or sounding an instrument

So many directions in which to go!

Revisiting a poem from a past entry:

Project/ A. R. Ammons

My subject’s
still the wind still
difficult to
present
being invisible:
nevertheless should I
presume it not
I’d be compelled
to say
how the honeysuckle bushlimbs
wave themselves:
difficult
beyond presumption.

As I wrote about on this log before, wind is a great counter to the claim, what you see is what you get or seeing is believing.

wind thoughts

Early on in this log I was obsessed with the wind, particularly in terms of my run. How much wind was there outside? Would I have to run into it? I disliked running into the wind; it made it so much harder and I needed it to be as easy as it could be. At some point, I’m not sure when (maybe I’ll try to find it?), I stopped caring so much about how windy it was. It’s never really that windy in Minneapolis, not like St. Peter or Rochester. High winds freak me out.

I’d like to search back through my archive, but I have a problem: I mention the wind a lot, over 700 times. I often record the wind speed, or make a brief reference to it in the first lines of the entry like, it was windy today or so windy! Is this an impossible task, to read through and tag all of these entries? Perhaps. I think I might just start looking through entries and see what happens. . . . A few entries in and I’m already remembering some thoughts about and experiences of the wind:

  • shaking the leaves in the trees
  • sounding like sizzling bacon
  • unnoticed, forgotten at my back, but when I turn around I remember!
  • trying to rip my hat from my head — it’s only happened once!
  • making the tassel on my hat tap me on the shoulder, making me think of my mom
  • rushing past my ears, almost forgotten when I have my ears covered
  • making waves on the water, making the river sparkle
  • in the lake, making the waves so choppy — the past few summers it’s been windier
  • summer breeze — on a playlist

two more random wind thought that just popped into my head:

  1. FWA and his love of the Zelda video game, Wind-waker
  2. FWA telling me one day when he was 8 or 9: I hate the wind. When I grow up I want to invent a device that gets rid of the wind

Walking back to the house after my run, I thought about how fun it is to explore an image like wind and how helpful it is to give so much attention to it and to be open to so many possibilities. Future Sara will appreciate all of the wind options I’m giving here, I think.

april 3/RUN

3.15 miles
2 trails
41 degrees
wind gusts: 35 mph

Windy! Overcast. Quiet. A good run. Slow and relaxed until I reached a runner ahead of me with a dog who stopped then started then stopped again. At this point, I passed them and picked up the pace, hoping to avoid any more encounters. It worked! I felt good enough to keep running faster and faster. Fun!

Listened to the wind and some yelling in the gorge running south and on the winchell trail. Put in my winter playlist for the last mile, heading north on the trail.

10+ Things

  1. wind 1: soft, gentle, haunting wind chimes
  2. wind 2: a small branch of a pine tree with some green needles on the sidewalk
  3. wind 3: a swishing ponytail
  4. an empty playground, or a quiet playground
  5. nearing the Cleveland overlook: the memory of the very LOUD knocking of a woodpecker
  6. an open view of the river — can’t remember what the river looked like, just that it was wide and open
  7. mud on the trail
  8. empty benches
  9. the strong smell of weed in the 36th street parking lot
  10. wind 4: leaves scratching the street
  11. wind 5: a white plastic bag rolling across the street, then stopping in the middle, once side being lifted up
  12. wind 6: a waving bush

before the run

The difference between a sunset and a sun set/ting.

or, the moment or the space that exists between a sun set/ting and a sunset. Ever since I read James Schuyler’s “Hymn to Life” and misread a sunset for a sun set, I’ve been thinking about the difference between them — one is a object (sunset), the others an action (sun set) or a process (sun setting). The difference between something fixed and something happening, moving, doing. Why does a sun set/ting appeal to me more? One obvious reason: understanding the sun as a subject, the natural world as an actor. Another reason: movement. A sunset is a fixed image, a sun set/ting moves. Poetry is about movement — associations between ideas, the flow of words and rhythms, the refusal to land (stand still) on one meaning or ending for too long or at all. My life is about movement — restlessness; the practice of running and writing; a difficulty in ever seeing objects as fixed, always slightly fuzzy, buzzing like static, not flickering but bouncing or shaking (or something like that). (quick thought: I’m drawn to light, but just as much to motion. How true is that for people with all of their cone cells?)

note: writing about this sparked new ideas, including a tentative focus for April, and some thoughts for a artist statement — more on that below.

Since last month, I’ve been playing around with a poem that attempts to describe the differences between a sunset and a sun set/ting. It’s slow-going. Here’s something to add to my already swirling, meandering thoughts: it’s a poem by Nikky Finney from Ross Gay’s discussion of her work in his talk, Be Camera, Black-Eyed Aperture. It’s not about a sun set/ting, but one rising. The italics are Gay’s; I’m keeping them because they’re helpful for seeing the connections to the movement of a sun set/ting:

The Squatting Sun/ Nikky Finney

6:38, flying east, I witness birth,
pushing out of the blushing vaginal rim

like some wide cherry-dropped child.
All the colors that make red have come

to the only straight line on the earth.
Ghostly, I blink, my eyes tweak her nipples,

she releases and the head does not wait
for my awe.

I thought I knew what red looked like.
Believed I had seen this daily drama before;

the earth in morning-mother motion,
the first bowl of earth-bread sipped,

but never had I been asked
inside the sun’s womb so deep.

What I see has so much to do
With the permission to look
.

My egg-white eyes labor to midwife
this moment out all the way.

The baby day pushes clean,
a quarter rim of cherry-spilled earth

lands in a head-back wail
inside my ladling pupils,

the first rising brightness, its long
equatorial head bursts, then crests;

new life passed on
to a pan of waiting salted water.

Some thoughts on the poem by Ross Gay:

. . .this poem witnesses the quiet interior horizon of experience, during which the unfathomably beautiful emerges, and is the contemplation of it. As Finney says, “I thought I knew what red looked like, / believed I had seen this daily drama.” Indeed, it’s the quiet looking that brings the sunrise, the day, wailing into the speaker’s eyes. 

Be Camera, Black-Eyed Aperture/ Ross Gay

Gay’s mention of quiet looking here is about black interiority and comes from Kevin Quashie’s The Sovereignty of Quiet. I’m thinking about the quiet looking as the labor it takes to see something — the process from light to cell to signal, from retina to optic nerve to brain, from being distracted to quieting to noticing. Usually, this labor is invisible; we believe we just see things, they are just there for our camera eye or eye-as-camera to see.

Whew — that’s a lot to think about and to try to make sense of. Anyway, back to what this sunset and sun set/ting thread inspired. An April challenge: wind! And, some thoughts for an artistic statement:

To describe the world (primarily in poetry) from the perspective of the peripheral and from where some central vision exists but is not/no longer centered. . . . new ways of writing about noticing the world that don’t center central vision or that rely on but don’t center peripheral vision (because peripheral vision, by virtue of how it works, can never be centered in the same way that central vision was/is). . . . a few images I’m currently obsessed with: birds, wind, the idea of the Form, not as Platonic but as vague, basic, lacking the specificity of focus — Tree Bird Cloud. 

after the run

After I finished the run, I took out my phone and recorded some thoughts, including:

Somewhat similar to sunset vs. sun set/ting: windblown vs. wind blowing
windblown = evidence that wind existed, witnessed, after the fact
wind blowing = moving through a seemingly invisible force that is happening right now

another example: the absence of birdsong — very quiet, which could have been caused by the birds not singing in the wind, but also by the wind carrying the sound elsewhere

birding: thought about the memory of the woodpecker’s knock near the overlook

i.

an echo
almost

memory
of dead

wood hit hard
somewhere

across the
ravine

ii.

Quiet. Not
absence

of singing
birds but

the presence
of wind

carrying
their notes OR their tune

somewhere else.

A good start. I don’t think I should use somewhere for both.

wind!

So many possibilities for this monthly challenge!

  1. Gathering all of the wind poems I’ve already collected.
  2. A wind playlist.
  3. Tagging related entries with “wind”.
  4. Reading The Wind in the Willows, which I was reminded of by Mary Ruefle when she described it as one of her favorite book on a podcast.
  5. Exploring the idea of wind as both a noun for a weather condition and a verb for wrapping something around something else — a scarf around a neck — or for traversing a curving course.
  6. Returning to the Beaufort Scale

april 2/RUN

5.2 miles
ford loop
38 degrees
snow flurries into rain drops

Woke up this morning to snow. What? A little stuck on the deck but nowhere else. Sometime during the run it turned into rain. Or, was that sweat? I think it was rain.

A good run. Right before I left the house, I had a little calf pain — a few flares of dull pain. Why? Not sure, but I decided it would be fine. In fact, it might help to go out and move. It was and it did. Whenever my calf grumbled, which it didn’t do very often, I sang the song, “Old Friends” from Merrily We Roll Along in my head. Hey old friend/ are you okay old friend? I’m trying to shift my perspective and remember to think about my body, pain, worry as old friends.

Before the run, I was adding some things to my “How to be” project on Undisciplined about not looking away:

An occasional poem by Danni Quintos:

Once I wrote a poem on a bridge
because you told me to find my ghosts.
I remembered you once said, Our job as poets
is to not look away. I looked & wrote
the scariest thing I could think & after
you read it, you gave me a book
(to borrow) which I hugged so hard
that the million synonyms inside
could hear my heart beating.

This looking, described above by Finney and Quintos, this black-eyed opening—this not looking away—is a poetics, yes, but as any poetics is, it is also an ethics. What we look at, what we see, and how, and if we say what we see, is an ethics.

Be Camera, Black-Eyed Aperture / Ross Gay

Unable to see faces, often staring into a void or a smudge or a darkness, it is hard to see, difficult to not look away. How do I reimagine this ethical beholding in ways that I can practice? What might not looking away mean without the looking? Not turning away? 

This is a problem of language, and more than a problem of language, I think. 

Behold is to eyes as ___ is to ears?
An ear-witness?

While I was running, I wanted to think about how I could reframe this not looking away. What does being present, noticing, witnessing mean for me? A thought popped into my head: be with the bird. To be with the bird — to notice them, not try to identify or know or classify them. Ever since I heard J Drew Lanham discuss this concept with Krista Tippett, I’ve loved it. Today I tried to be with the birds. Mostly I was, except for when my calf flared or when I smelled burnt toast —

The other day, I told my son that it smelled like coffee or burnt toast outside. He asked jokingly, are you having a stroke? Maybe I’ve heard this before and had forgotten, but the smell of burnt toast is, according to Scott and FWA, the sign of a stroke. . . . Just looked it up, and there’s no evidence to support that claim. Whew. Anyway, it is irritating and ridiculous and embarrassing to admit that I did contemplate whether or not I might be having a stroke as I smelled the burnt smell. Fairly quickly I concluded: no fucking way. It’s just smoke from somewhere.

Be with the Bird, 10 Things

  1. the soft, sharp knocking on wood somewhere
  2. a flicker from a tree branch, flight, then a shower on my head, then birdsong
  3. an eagle-less tree by the bridge
  4. tweet tweet tweet
  5. chirp chirp
  6. fee bee
  7. a thought: could it be what I’m hearing is not birdsong, but bird warning calls alerting others to my presence?
  8. birds singing in the far off trees
  9. birds calling in the bushes beside me
  10. another thought: do birds like the rain?

a few poetry inspirations

1 — my weather description: snow flurries into rain drops. This transformation of states reminded me of a poem I read in an entry of april 2, 2020:

Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry/ Howard Nemerov – 1920-1991

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow 
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

Of course today, the water went the opposite way, snow to rain. So poetry to prose?

2 — to rain, raining. As I ran beside the gorge, I frequently heard water falling below me. The snow/rain was creating waterfalls on the limestone and through the sewer pipes, making it sound like it was raining. Suddenly I thought: there’s no rain, but it’s raining, which reminded me of a poem I posted a few days ago:

an excerpt from Raining, Outlined/ Margarita Pintado Burgos

Translated from the Spanish by Alejandra Quintana Arocho

The forest. To say the forest. To suggest some music.
To carve the breeze.
To see a landscape. See it raining. Without rain but with raining.