may 29/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls
57 degrees

A beautiful morning for a run! Sun! Shadows! A slight breeze! Ran with Scott to the falls — no stopping today. Mostly it was fine, but the last mile was hard. My left leg was tight. I kept going because Scott wasn’t stopping and I knew I could do it. And now, since I did do it, I know I can do it the next time. Because of my effort, I can’t remember what we talked about. But I do remember encountering some little kids on the path — I was too distracted by the old guy muttering, share the path, as they passed to hear them, but Scott did: the kid, pointing to some flower near the path: We used to have those, but now they don’t grow anymore. Scott was delighted by the way the kid said one of the words — now? — and tried to imitate them.

Oh! Just remembered something I talked about: Emily Dickinson’s “To Make a Prairie.” I was trying to recite it, but I could only remember 2 of the 3 things it took to make the prairie, a/one bee and reverie. Had to look it up: a clover! Of course.

seen: the fine spray of water coming off of the falls, making everything look hazy and dreamy
felt: that same spray, soft, cool, refreshing, barely perceptible
heard: the song, “Eye of the Tiger” from a painter’s radio at a house we passed by at the beginning of our run
smelled: our neighbor’s lilac bush, overpowering, sickly sweet, giving off intense floral energy
taste: anything? probably the salt from my sweat at some point

A few weeks ago, I requested Victoria Chang’s The Trees Witness Everything. Love the brevity of her form! Back in Jan 2022, I got an early, chapbook version of this collection. In the notes of that chapbook, she describes her project:

notes from Victoria Chang’s chapbook, Another Lost Year

Her project of using the different court poetry of Japan is inspiring me to do more with my breathing and striking rhythms: 3/2, 2/1, 3/3/3, and 3/3/3/4. Also, her use of Merwin titles makes me want to use titles/lines-as-titles from Emily Dickinson and other “vision” poets! Yes!

Here are a few:

Losing Language/ Victoria Chang

We were born with a
large door on our backs. When will
we know if it opens?

The Flight/ Victoria Chang

I no longer watch
the birds during the day. I
prefer to save them
for my dreams where an owl’s face
has more than one expression.

In the Open/ Victoria Chang

Weather is wet, it
doesn’t have joints. How snow just
becomes rain, what’s that
change called? Trees witness everything,
but they always look away.

Thinking more about my running rhythms, I’m realizing that I want to tighten up the form some more by limiting the number of lines and total syllables. I like 5, but that might be too few?

Late Wonders/ Victoria Chang

My face is now gone.
Instead, I have a hawk’s face.
None of the poets
notice, they only want fame.
Fame is a bucket of eyes.

and for this month’s focus on shadows:

The Time of Shadow/ Victoria Chang

The zookeepers feed
all the shadows light and meat.
The shadows wish so
badly to leave their bodies,
but they stay for the children.

Thinking about Chang’s use of Merwin titles and my interest in using ED titles, I am reminded of a discussion in Ted Kooser’s book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual:

You can open just about any book of poetry and find poets using titles to carry information. Just look at a table of contents and you’ll see how useful titles can be in suggesting waht poems will be about. . . .

In short, a title isn’t something you stick on just because you think a poem is supposed to have one. Titles are very important tools for delivering information and setting expectations.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual / Ted Kooser

may 28/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
59 degrees
drizzle, off and on

Didn’t realize it was raining the first time I left for my run. Returned home and waited a few minutes until the sun was shining. A mix of sunny and overcast for the whole run. On my walk back: drizzle again. At least I think it was drizzling; it could have just been dripping trees or ponytails. It’s been raining then not raining then raining again for the past few days.

The run was not great, but better than I thought it would be. Yesterday afternoon, without much warning, I started feeling light-headed, like I might faint. Then strange. I put my head down and breathed deeply for 10? 20? 30? minutes. My pulse wasn’t too low or too high, I could talk normally, and my breathing was fine. But I felt wrong. At one point I wondered, do I need to go to the hospital? I drank a glass of juice in case it was low blood sugar. I asked Scott to look up “symptoms low blood sugar” online. Nope, my symptoms didn’t match that. So then I had him look up panic attack. Yep. As he read the symptoms and I recognized them, I instantly felt something lift, at least a little. Ok, just a panic attack — don’t get me wrong, it was awful and I’m not pleased to be experiencing a panic attack, but it seemed better than the alternatives I had been imagining just a few minutes before. Sigh. The next phase of perimenopause for me, increased anxiety and panic attacks? Time to go to the doctor and figure out better solutions, I think.

For the rest of the day, I was tired and a little shaky. I wanted to run today, because I felt better and if it was a panic attack, it seemed important to get out there and keep doing this thing that I love despite any fear I might have over suffering from another panic attack. I read that one of the biggest dangers with panic attacks is that you will stop doing things because you’re afraid of another panic attack. Mostly the run was fine. My legs felt a little heavy — which was already happening last week — and I was a little anxious a few times — do I feel dizzy? am I pushing myself too much?, but I ran about 2 miles before stopping to walk for a minute, then ran another mile before a 10 second break, then ran the rest. And my heart rate was the same as it always is — 161 average. Panic attacks are no joke. Before it happened, I wasn’t upset or experiencing any anxiety. And when it happened, it was purely physical. I think it was a mild one, because I wasn’t terrified, but it did derail the rest of the day: 30 minutes of my head between my knees breathing, then the rest of the day on the couch.

10 Things

  1. everything wet and slick, the sidewalk slippery
  2. dripping trees
  3. gushing sewers
  4. spraying falls
  5. rushing creek
  6. robins hopping on the wet grass
  7. a walker in a BRIGHT red shirt
  8. puddle and mud on the dirt trail that winds through the small wood by the ford bridge — I saw them out of the corner of my eye as I ran by
  9. kids on the playground, laughing, yelling
  10. maybe there were some shadows, but what I remember was dark/wet pavement with the occasional patch of light

Running south to the falls, I listened to the water dripping. Running back north, I put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist.

Before I went out for my run, I was thinking about the silhouettes in the opening credits to the James Bond movie Scott and I watched last night: For Your Eyes Only. One of my favorites, partly because it was on HBO all the time when I was a kid. Click here to watch the opening on YouTube.

My echo, my shadow, and me

Wow, doing a little more research, I found this great article: James Bond: 50 Years of Main Title Design

may 26/RUN

7 miles
to the washington bridge and back
60 degrees
overcast – drizzle – soft steady rain

Overcast at the start, cool. Calm, quiet. The green felt deeper and darker in the gray. A block before I reached the river road, an ambulance sped by, siren blaring. A few minutes later, a police car, silent, but with frantic, flashing lights. I felt relaxed for the first mile. In the second mile my left ankle hurt a little. Started chanting triple berries to lock into a rhythm and to block out creeping doubt. Nothing fancy, just strawberry blueberry raspberry over and over. Once or twice: strawberry blueberry raspberry ice cream caramel strawberry chocolate ice cream

Just before I reached the bridge and the turn around point: drops drizzle rain — soft, steady, soaking. A few reprieves under the leaves, but mostly insistent water. I didn’t care; it cooled me down. The only thing I didn’t like was how my water-logged shorts stuck to my legs. Yuck!

assessment: I had some moments of struggle during the run — my legs were sore, feeling the need for a bathroom — but I also had some moments where I powered through. So much of it is mental. I’d like to come up with some fun distractions. I should return to my St. Paul sidewalk poetry project, find some more poems to run to. I could also do another poem-inspired scavenger hunt. I need a purpose for these runs that isn’t marathon training related.

10+ Things

  1. approaching from behind, rhythmic slapping –the slap slap slap of heavy, striking feet — then a fast runner in a blue shirt ran past me and up the hill near lake street
  2. passed him again when he stopped to study the map at the kiosk — was he lost?
  3. a rower on the river! single shell, their oars skimming the water — not sounding soft like a goose skimming the water, but choppy and hard like ___?
  4. the coxswain, instructing rowers through her bullhorn
  5. slap slap slap the blue-shirted runner passed me again between the trestle and franklin
  6. limestone leaks: even before it started raining, the limestone bluff in the flats was gushing water and leaving puddles on the pavement
  7. whoosh! a car’s wheels driving through the puddles
  8. a strange, intense floral smell — sweet, I think, and not entirely pleasant or unpleasant, just smell and flower and sweet
  9. a honking goose perched on the wall that holds back the river in the flats — were they honking at me? at a biker approaching from the other way?
  10. slap slap slap Mr. Blue Shirt is back! Nearing the end of my run, heading south, he zoomed past
  11. sometimes the rain sounded like footsteps from behind, but when I glanced back, there was no one there
  12. flash flash flash flash lights on the back of two bikes flashed red to let everyone know they were there, which was helpful in this gloom
  13. Good morning! a vigorous greeting from Mr. Morning!
  14. the return of Mr. Blue Umbrella, who walks in the middle of the path and never moves over. I’ve complained about him before — maybe last year? As I ran by him, the smell of stale cigarettes
  15. soft green fuzz on the edge of the trail, above the floodplain forest — was it from one of the cottonwood 3 — 3 giant trees in a yard. Last week, Scott and I walked past them; I have never seen that much cottonwood fuzz: the lawn was almost all not-quite-white!

Because of the rain and the cloud-covered sun, I didn’t see any shadows. I remember wondering if I might be able to see one if I was closer to the streetlamp or a car’s headlight.

may 24/RUN

3.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back
64 degrees

Another hot and hard run with heavy legs. Not enough water or iron or rest? My body adjusting to warmer, heavier air?

Ran with Scott to the falls. Windy, green. We talked about the runner’s high and I mentioned my log post from may 24, 2017 that included an early poem about the runner’s high. I’d like to edit it, or at least revisit the ideas in it. This revisiting will include trying to experience more runner’s highs. I also mentioned Jaime Quatro’s article, Running as Prayer, and the deepest level of the runner’s high. Scott said he preferred the word meditation to prayer: less Christian baggage. That conversation lasted about 15 minutes, I think. I can’t remember what else we talked about — oh, the wind, the value of having designated spots for returning your ride share bikes, side stitches.

10 Things

  1. slick path or slippery shoes or both — mud, worn-down tread
  2. wind in our face, running south. Scott suggested that the wind was like a trainer holding a belt around your waist as you ran, which is something we noticed happening before the twins game last week with a player and his trainer and a belt
  3. flashes of pale blue, almost white, river through the thick trees
  4. plenty of puddles
  5. kids yelling on the playground
  6. spray coming off the rushing falls — water falling down and from the sides of the limestone
  7. a long queue for paying for parking in the minnehaha lot
  8. the surreys are back — bunched together near the falls overlook
  9. a cooling breeze heading north again
  10. minneapolis parks mowed a wide strip of grass near the trail by the ford bridge but left the meadow — good news for the bull frogs! Today I couldn’t hear them because of the wind and the traffic but I bet they’re there

Yesterday I posted part of a poem from Lucie Brock-Broido. Here’s part of another beautiful one:

from Periodic Table for Ethereal Elements/ Lucie Brock-Broido

A girl ago, a girlhood gone like a phial of ether
Thrown on fire-just

A little jump of flame, like grief, or,

Like a penicillin that has lost its will for killing
Off, it then is gone.

And, here’s a recording of her reading the whole poem.

may 23/RUN

5.35 miles
flats and back
61 degrees

10 Things

  1. globs of white foam on the river surface, moving slowly south, flat, brown, opaque water near the shore
  2. a hissing goose
  3. dazed, dreamy, almost disembodied, running fast up the franklin hill
  4. dandelion stalks on the grass, right before the ancient boulder, illuminated by sun, casting ragged shadows
  5. looking down at the green of the grass, seeing it as just a clump of green, wondering if people with better vision than me can see the individual blades
  6. walking along the cracked concrete wall that holds back the river, comparing the actual wall to its shadow, noticing what I see better in each. The shadow, the line/edge of the wall, especially when it is cracked — noticing how the shadow breaks there. The “actual” wall: texture, not in fine detail but roughly — all over, not smooth / specifically, gray depressions where shadows inhabit the spots the wall has broken off
  7. approaching a person standing in the middle of the path under the trestle, realizing at the last minute they were not alone, but hugging another person — were they comforting them (or vice versa)? or were they just expressing affection? They held the hug for a long time, much longer than one would in a greeting
  8. Hi Dave!
  9. (how could I almost forget!?) catkin fuzz! white fuzz from cottonwood trees, looking like a dusting of snow, lining the edges of the path. White fuzz, not looking like snow, floating through the air. I had fun trying to bat it around
  10. Taking a walk break, feeling a strange drop of water on the back of my knee, wondering what happened, realizing it was a drip of sweat from my ponytail

Not an easy run. Somewhat of a grind. The first 3 miles were fine. Then I stopped to walk for a few minutes until I returned to the bottom of the hill. Put in a playlist and picked up speed as I run up the hill. Walked for a minute near the crosswalk, then ran faster up the rest of the hill. Ran then walked then ran again for the rest of the run.

No rowers or shadows from birds or big groups of runners or frantic squirrels or unleashed dogs or menacing turkeys. At least one roller skier. Today my shadow only appeared at the end of the run, looking strong with broad shoulders.

the shadow of death

Yesterday as I was reading more of C.D. Wright’s Casting Deep Shade, I was thinking about how she unexpectedly died before it was published, wondering what “unexpectedly” meant. So I looked it up. Maybe a little out of morbid curiosity, but mostly because concrete details about death help me (us, I think) to engage with death in deeper ways that go beyond fear or discomfort or dismissal. Anyway, I looked it up and discovered that she died at 67 in her sleep from a blood clot she got on an overly long plane ride from Chile. Woah — that is unexpected. Thinking about this unexpected fact while I was running this morning, I thought that, for the person dying at least, this might not be a bad way to go — in your sleep. Then I wondered what experience of dying you might miss out on in your sleep. Would you dream about going into a light? Would your life still flash before your eyes as you slept? Or would all just be suddenly nothing?

A few days ago, someone somewhere (a poetry person on instagram?), posted a poem by Lucie Brock-Broido: After the Grand Perhaps. She died a few years ago. I remember that it was shocking and upsetting to many poetry people. She had been 61 and it was a brain tumor. Reading another poet’s account of her, I know she knew she was dying for at least a few months. I thought about her as I ran today, too.

2 shadow moments from After the Grand Perhaps/ Lucie Brock-Broido

After the pain has become an old known
friend, repeating itself, you can hold on to it.
The power of fright, I think, is as much
as magnetic heat or gravity.
After what is boundless: wind chimes,
fertile patches of the land,
the ochre symmetry of fields in fall,
the end of breath, the beginning
of shadow

*

After what is arbitrary: the hand grazing
something too sharp or fine, the word spoken
out of sleep, the buckling of the knees to cold,
the melting of the parts to want,
the design of the moon to cast
unfriendly light, the dazed shadow
of the self as it follows the self

may 22/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
57 degrees
wind: 14 mph / gusts: 31 mph

New shoes! The Brooks Ghost, black. I’ve been wearing Saucony shoes for 13 years, but after 3 disappointing pairs, it’s time to move on. I like the Ghost — the name and the feel of them. Even so, this run was hard. I feel drained, like I hit a wall. By the end, it felt harder lifting my left leg.

Listened to the wind and the cars and rushing falls for the first half. Put in “Billie Eilish” Essentials for the second half. At the very end of the run, listening to “Chihiro” off of her album that dropped last Friday, I noticed her rhyming:

[verse] I was waitin’ in the garden
Contemplatin’, beg your pardon
But there’s a part of me that recognizes you
Do you feel it too?

[chorus] Open up the door, can you open up the door?
I know you said before you can’t cope with any more
You told me it was war, said you’d show me what’s in store
I hope it’s not for sure, can you open up the door?

Often, I don’t like a lot of rhyming. It can feel forced. But not here, especially with the interesting music underneath and Eilish’s voice. Still, I noticed the rhymes in a way that took me out of the song a little. But not as much as the overdone, forced rhymes in Taylor Swift’s “Peter,” also from her latest album:

Forgive me Peter
My lost fearless leader
In closets like cedar
Preserved from when we were just kids
Is it something I did
The goddess of timing
Once found us beguiling
She said she was trying
Peter was she lying
My ribs get the feeling she did
And I didn’t want to come down
I thought it was just goodbye for now

In closets like cedar? Ugh. I like Taylor Swift, and I like her new album, but I don’t like this song (which means I probably will after giving it more of a chance) and I think Billie Eilish’s music is more exciting and interesting and rich in complexity and complicated emotions.

10 Things

  1. burning silver sliver of river noticed through a gap in the green
  2. no puddles, but stretches of deep brown mud on the path
  3. repaired split rail fence — such a contrast between the weathered wood and the pale new boards — how long will it take for these boards to blend in?
  4. a glance to my left into the savanna: thick green
  5. lime green scooters everywhere — none on the path but parked on the side, down in the ditches
  6. little robins hopping on the grass
  7. 2 kids biking on the walking side of the double bridge
  8. at my favorite view of the falls: I used to be able to see the little bridge below and part of the trail, now it’s all green with only the white foam of the falls cuting through
  9. I was wrong in #2, there was one big puddle near the locks and dam no 1 parking lot
  10. no bugs . . . yet

currently reading in support of shadows: Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright

shade: shelter from direct light; the cooling effect and darkness that that shelter causes; darkening (with a pencil); when black had been added to a hue to make it darker (as opposed to tint, when white was added to make the hue lighter), and:

Reading came first. Reading is the real art form of insult. You get in a smart crack and everyone laughs and kikis because you found a flaw and exaggerated it then you got a good read going. When you are all of the same thing then you have to go to the fine point. In other words if I’m a black queer and you’re a black queer we can’t call each other black queers because we’re both black queers. That’s not a read, that’s just a fact. So then we talk about your ridiculous shape your saggy face your tacky clothes. Then reading became a developed form where it became shade. Shade is, I don’t tell you you’re ugly. I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly. And that’s shade.

Dorien Corey/ Paris is Burning

I remember teaching Paris is Burning in my Intro to Women’s Studies and Feminist Theory courses, when we talked about gender performativity and Judith Butler. That’s when I first learned about shade, I think: 2001. Anyway, this last version of shade seems to loosely (?) fit with C.D. Wright’s title, at least as one reviewer for the New York Times Book Review reads it:

C.D. Wright, renowned poet and essayist, completed ”Casting Deep Shade” just before her sudden death in January of 2016. This posthumous book might have been read strictly as elegy, yet Wright, as if presciently marking a trail through the woods for future readers, came up with a sly signpost of a title as ”pre-amble” to her work, briskly excluding melancholy even while taking stock of crimes against nature. The title is a trick or a kind of riddle. The gerund points to a ”Macbeth”-like conspiracy of tree and human, each ”throwing shade.” Here, for example, is Wright on privacy in an all-witnessing age: ”For the moment, I can locate you, whosoever you are, or re-imagine you in a keystroke. I can see the tree that cast your lawn in deep shade when you were wearing a linen dress, a string of seed pearls, and no underpants.” You get her drift?

Roots / Carole Muske-Dukes (referenced here)

Here’s another definition of “throwing shade” from Merriam-Webster:

to express contempt or disrespect for someone publicly especially by subtle or indirect insults or criticisms

“throwing shade” / Merriam- Webster

I can’t quite express it yet, but there’s something about throwing shade that involves connection and accountability and being implicated in something. It’s more than “expressing contempt or disrespect for someone publicly”. It’s rooted (rooted!) in communities, and the shade is being thrown by people who are deeply connected to each other.

Speaking of implication, can I fit this paragraph for another reviewer in here?

One of the gifts of her imagination is the insight of implication. In a passage where she acknowledges she had not been able yet to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, Wright notes “I sit here eating ‘carefully watched over’ cashews grown in India, from one of the 102 billion plastic bags used annually in the US, wearing a linen shirt (albeit secondhand) made in China, jeans fabrique en Haiti, Delta Blues Museum T-shirt made in Honduras . . . a walking, talking profligate.” If she was, as we all are, profligate, she was also prophet. She spoke to and for trees, and the creatures that owe their well being to arboreal health. She refers to “my standing brothers and sisters, the hardwoods.” Her work documents “the buds of tree consciousness.” Like so much of her language, that phrase operates in multiple planes, conjuring both human awareness of trees, and the fact that trees themselves are conscious, as well as the concrete responsibility of a poet: to cast an image, as a tree casts shade through its limbs and buds. Though any book written about trees in our modern era will necessarily be rife with dire predictions and realities, Casting Deep Shade is hardly dour. Subtitled “An Amble Inscribed to Beech Trees & Co.,” it has the charm and healing properties of a walk in the woods.

Some Trees

Fun with Acrostics: Bring Ya Ass

The Timberwolves have made it to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. People here are excited. During an interview with Timberwolves star, Anthony Edwards, Charles Barkley said, “I have not been to Minneapois in 20 years.” To which Ant replied: Bring Ya Ass. Bring Ya Ass is now a meme and state officials and organizations are into it. Today, Governor Walz issued a proclamation that has fun with acrostics — the first letter of each Whereas paragraph spells out, Bring Ya Ass:

may 20/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
66 degrees
dew point: 61

Ugh! Sticky out there this morning. Lots of sweating. A hard run that didn’t feel great. Mostly sore legs. My shoes have worn out and the pair I bought to replace them hurt my feet. What did I notice in this distracted, uncomfortable state?

10 Things

  1. small purple flowers lining the trail
  2. the path near the ravine that winds through the welcoming oaks was wet from last night’s rain
  3. the path leading down through the tunnel of trees was almost all shade with only a few splotches of light
  4. the flash of squirrel on my right side so faint that I thought it be a shadow or a ghost — not really but I like the idea of Ghost Squirrel
  5. a gritty, slippery path
  6. Dave, the Daily Walker — Hi Sara! Hi Dave!
  7. a hiker wearing a loaded back pack — saw them last week too. Are they camping in the gorge?
  8. at least 2 sweaty, shirtless runners
  9. my shadow beside me
  10. a motorized scooter zooming by on the bike path

That was hard!

before the run

When returning to a favorite childhood book (this works with movies too) for the first time in decades, a question arises: Does it hold up? Is it a good book, or did I love it because I didn’t know any better? In my 20s and 30s, I applied a feminist lens to these books and usually they didn’t hold up. Now, a month from 50, I’m more generous; I like to think about the influence something has had with less judgment. I don’t remember the first time (or how many times) I read The Shades. But I remember liking it and finding the idea of shadow people fascinating.

brief synopsis: Young Hollis stays with a random college friend of his mother’s (beautiful, cool, kind painter Emily) in a creepy old house near a beach while his parents travel through Europe. One day, exploring the overrun, a-century-past-its-prime-garden, he discovers a dolphin fountain. After bathing in it, an older boy in strange clothing (those pants that buckle just under the knee — britches? breeches?) appears — Carl Shade. Turns out he’s a shadow that was cast by Emily’s grandfather. And Carl is not the only one. He’s part of a family — the Shades — and they live in the garden. All of their food comes from the shadow’s cast by real food, their house cast from the shadow of the old summer house that “broke Emily’s heart” when it was torn down. Most of the time they do what they want, but when a human enters the garden, whichever of them best fits that human’s form must shadow them around the garden. Sometimes this shadowing is fun, other times it’s tedious, and occasionally it’s dangerous: if a human climbs over the garden wall, the shadow must follow and be lost to the outside world forever. There’s a benevolent dictator/God (the dolphin fountain whose magic makes the shadow world possible) and an evil, jealous enemy (the beautiful greek statue of a woman/siren who sings seductive songs designed to lure the shadows out of the garden). There’s the magic of the fountain — only those who bathe their eyes (the eyes, of course!) under the bubbling fountain can see the Shades. There are the poor, unfortunate souls of the shadows that listened to the Siren and left, and then tried to return only to be enslaved by the siren in the house (which, we learn near the end, is why the house always looks so gloomy). And there’s the biggest threat of all: the loss of the Self — and connection, memory, family, home — on the other side of the garden wall.

I could probably spend all day writing into and around this story. But that would take too much time. First — does this story hold up? Not if you think too hard about the structure — either of the world of shades and shadows within or the plot. But it was still fun to read again and to inhabit the haunting strangeness of the Shades in their weird garb and with their not-quite-tragic position between real and not real — dependent on humans, yet independent of them too, feasting on shadows yet able to “taste” and enjoy/detest the food.

It’s not the plot, but the images that hold up for me. The scene when Hollis gets a tour of the larder and all of the shadow food stored there, including Emily’s birthday cake from when she was a kid and had a party in the garden. Or the red, fluffy, wonderful rug in Hollis’ room that comforts him when he’s afraid. Or the creepy shadows of the children that encircle the evil Siren. Those little kid shadows remind me of a book that I started reading last year, but had to return before I finished. There are creepy shadowy unseen malevolent kids in it — A Good House for Children by Kate Collins.

Regardless of some plot holes and an underdeveloped Shade world (and the faint classism with its nostalgia for old money and grand houses and its disdain for encroaching “hooligans”), I still like this book and think it taps into some larger feelings I have about shades and shadows as things that are both traces of us and their own things too, and how that combination is haunting and strange and magical and delightful. Does that make any sense?

Just had another thought about the Shades and their shadow food. I’m reminded of the line from Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms”: We diet of water/on crumbs of Shadow.

during the run

I tried to think about shade and shadows and Hollis and Carl while I ran, but I was mostly too distracted by humidity and aching left calves and a constant voice whispering stop and walk and we’re tired in my head. Maybe that was my Shade?

after the run

Now that I have typed the word “shades” so many times, I’d like to study shades, as a variation of shadows, today. Different definitions, expressions, etc. Looking it up, I found a review for C.D. Wright’s Casting Deep Shade. I bought this book several years ago — I can’t remember why, maybe because I was really into thinking about the trees in the gorge? Anyway, I’ve been wanting to read it, but haven’t had a chance. Today’s the day, I think. Well, I’ll start it, at least.

added an hour later: I’m reading Casting Deep Shadow on my back deck under the shade of a bright green umbrella. Listening to the torpedoed call of a cardinal coming in slow waves of four (like Didi Jackson’s “Listen”), with additional notes at the end. I love this book and C.D. Wright’s wandering (and a little whimsical) approach to writing about beech trees. She describes different varieties, defines beech terms, recounts childhood stories sometimes only peripherally related to the beech, and places the trees geographically. On page 25, she even describes an anxiety dream she had about not practicing the piccolo which she believes must be “tangential to signing on to write about beeches.”

So far, she’s written about Beech Bark Disease (BBD), lingering beech leaves, trees from her childhood yard, roots. Here are a few examples of her writing:

Crowley’s Ridge is coated with a windblown sediment known as loess or rock flour. That’s where your kitty litter comes from. Grasses keep it from flying all over. Beeches don’t mind loess. Nor do peach trees, judging from the seet Elbertas that grew there–where Hemingway penned A Farewell to Arms when he was married to Pauline. It is the only rise in the Alluvial Plain of Old Man River. In the event the river floods, rather, when, head for the Ridge.

Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright, page 14

The other distinctive aspect [of the beech] is that in the winter, most younger, lower branches always hold on to a few of their dead leaves all winter. They have a distinctive parchment color, and when backlit transmit light. I love that about them. However, these leaves are dropped promptly as the spring buds expand . . . .So noted by San Francisco-born Robert Frost:

We stood a moment so, in a strange world.
Myself as one his own pretense deceives;
And then I said the truth (and we moved on).
A young beech clinging to its last years’ leaves.

Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright, page 19-20

As a by-product of the Ozark Mountains, I have long been at least semi-aware of my standing brothers and sisters, the hardwoods. Rocks, rivers, and trees we had in surplus. In our yard were four species of oak–white, post, blackjack, and Arkansas oak There are 29 species in the state); 7 or 9 pink and white dogwoods, a handsome blue spruce, an A1 southern magnolia, and two cedar sentinels beside the front steps. The red maple was lost early on.

Casting Deep Shade/ C.D. Wright, page 25

I love her writing style and the stories and accounts that accumulate, creating the feeling of wandering and wondering about beeches. I also like how she weaves in the I and her personal stories — including them, but not making them the center of this story. There is no center, only stories and information culled from a range of sources. I see this book as an inspiration as I continue to work towards polishing my log writing and turning some of my words here into something more condensed, crafted.

may 19/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/north
60 degrees

Ran a littler earlier, so it was cooler, quieter, calmer. Everything green. Everywhere orange cones from yesterday’s race. Encountered a strange squirrel that panicked as I approached — it spun around a few times, then hesitated before darting past me. Saw 4 roller skiers. Kept thinking the bag protecing the base of a new tree was a turkey. Noticed the faint shadows cast by the welcoming oaks. Faint because of the thick air, I think.

Listened to the birds as I ran south, my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist on the way back north.

Just after I finished my run, as I walked back, I could hear a man across the street talking on this phone, his voice loud and a little agitated. Was he mad, or was this just how he talked to people on the phone? At one point he paused then said, Hello? Are you still there? Silence. But someone must have still been there because he started talking again.

Almost home, I was thinking about shadows some more as I recited Jorie Graham’s “Still Life with Window and Fish.” In particular, I was thinking about the last line, We are too restless to inherit this earth. Then I thought about the beautiful interruptions — the shadows and the motion washed in kitchen light — and imagined myself as a restless shadow flickering fanning gliding upstream. Then this thought took me to a line from one of Victoria Chang’s Obit poems:

She switched
places with her shadow because
suffering changes shape and happens
secretly.

Not the suffering in secret part, just the switching places with my shadow.

Typing all of this now, I’m thinking about another J Graham line, The whole world outside wants to come into here, and twilight walks around the neighborhood before people close their curtains, when you can see inside their living rooms, watch the shows on their ridiculously big TVs with them.

added many hours later: In the late morning/early afternoon, I read a favorite childhood book, The Shades/ Betty Brock. I read the whole thing — all 128 pages of it — in about 5 hours. For normally sighted people that might not be a big deal, but for me it is. I read it with my eyes, not my ears! Yes, there was a rough stretch where I kept falling asleep every minute or so and stayed on the same page for about 10 minutes (or, maybe a lot more? It felt like a long time), but I still did it. Tomorrow, I hope to write about a few things in the book, and to also think about those things on my run. One thing that came up a lot in the book was the idea that the shadows in the garden ruled by a dolphin fountain and his magic were both beholden to the humans who entered the garden and independent of them once those humans left. A question I had a few weeks ago: what is the relationship between an object and its shadow?

may 18/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
67 degrees

Warm this morning. Humid, too. Lots of sweat and a flushed face. Ran alongside the 10 milers for the “Women Run the City” race — just briefly; they passed me quite quickly. Everything was wet from the all-night rain. Was there sun? I can’t remember. Rowers? Not sure. Lots of people on the edge of trail, cheering on the runners.

Running north, I listened to the spectators. Running south, Beyoncé’s “Carter Cowboy.”

Right after I got back, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk. No more runners, but the road was still closed. So quiet! Scott remarked, and I agreed, that you don’t realize how much car noise there is on the river road until the cars are gone. I wish they could close the road to cars more — like they did during the pandemic.

shadows: cave paintings

The other day, I came across a poem by Muriel Rukeyser that reminded me of a great topic for shadows, especially in terms of painting:

The Painters/ Muriel Rukeyser

In the cave with a long-ago flare
a woman stands, her arms up. Red twig, black twig, brown twig.
A wall of leaping darkness over her.
The men are out hunting in the early light
But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
and a woman among them.
Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
a woman among them, painting.

I know very little about cave paintings. Here’s an article to read: Were the First Artists Mostly Women? Also, I could watch the documentary: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

may 17/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill
65 degrees

Feels like summer is here. Everything green, my view of the river gone. I did see the river for a few minutes, as I ran down to the flats, but I don’t remember what I saw. Wait — yes, I recall seeing the reflections of trees.

Felt good for the first half, not so good the second. Tired legs, some gastro stuff.

added a few hours later, when I remembered: Along the river road, the workers were out patching asphalt and replacing wires in the street lights that were recently disemboweled again. How many times has this happened? Running north, I saw a guy in an orange vest with a big spool of coated wire, rolling out a lot of it on the bike path. Later, returning south, I saw another worker sitting at the base of a street lamp, fiddling with the wire. It looked like a time-consuming job. I read somewhere that all this stolen wire has cost St. Paul millions of dollars this year. I also read — maybe in the same article? — that the coated wire was stamped with “City of St. Paul” on it and that that stamped wire had been recovered at at least one scrap metal company that frequently bought stolen wire. Is Minneapolis wire stamped too?

I think I partly remembered witnessing the street lamps and the wire because of reading today’s episode of the Slowdown. Major Jackson picked a poem by Liesel Mueller that I gathered a few years ago for my list of vision poems: Monet Refuses the Operation. When I first encountered it, I didn’t really get it. Then, a few months ago (18 feb 2024), I read it again and it suddenly made so much sense. Yes, I thought, she gets it. She starts the poem with an image of streetlights:

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.

I don’t think I see halos around street lamps, but the idea of things blurring together, and edges not being visible (or not existing), is very true to my experience. This poem, along with several others I’ve collected, including Ed Bok Lee’s “Halos” offer ways to think about how I see as beautiful and magical, not tragic. Here’s how Major Jackson (love his poetry!) describes this “bad” vision as beautiful:

Poets and visual artists work to give representation to the world which shimmers and blurs. Sometimes only impressions are available. Rather than a fidelity to things as they are, we desire to represent those very distortions. Today’s dramatic monologue is a gem of a poem, one that reminds how everything around us is divined with light, even our imperfections.

Episode 1120

I can’t remember what I listened to for the first half of my run, but after running up most of the hill, I stopped to walk and put in my “Slappin’ Shadows” playlist. My favorite came from, “Dancing in the Moonlight”: you can’t dance and stay uptight

Favorite song: “Evening” — the haunting flute! the melancholy bass clarinet! love it

Evening makes me think of a wonderful poem that I encountered while rereading old entries from on this day.

Evening/ Jeremy Radin

Another word I love is evening
for the balance it implies, balance
being something I struggle with.
I suppose I would like to be more
a planet, turning in & out of light
It comes down again to polarities,
equilibrium. Evening. The moths
take the place of the butterflies,
owls the place of hawks, coyotes
for dogs, stillness for business,
& the great sorrow of brightness
makes way for its own sorrow.
Everything dances with its strict
negation, & I like that. I have no
choice but to like that. Systems
are evening out all around us—
even now, as we kneel before
a new & ruthless circumstance.
Where would I like to be in five
years, someone asks—& what
can I tell them? Surrendering
with grace to the evening, with
as much grace as I can muster
to the circumstance of darkness,
which is only something else
that does not stay.

I think I’d like to memorize this poem, just so I can spend some more time with it, especially out on the trail.

random line encountered again: “squirrels devote much of their life to not-dying.” Today, I’d like to write around and into this stark line.

silhouettes

On Wednesday, I picked up three books related to my shadow month: the kids’ book, The Shades, Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost of, and Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. Today, I’m skimming through Nguyen’s and Walker’s books and thinking about silhouettes again.

When I look at Kara Walker’s work, I see adamantly two-dimensional images — images pinned and flattened in a rejection of Renaissance space.

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Okay, I would love to be able to read all of this book, but, wow, there is very little contrast and even with my brightest lamp, I’m struggling to read the words. Bummer.

I observe in Walker’s visual liexicon a world I’ve never seen quite so explicitly: a pictorial vision in which everyone is a mere silhouette of self, a profile drained of facture (def: the manner in which — a painting — is made) or flesh, pushed flat and up against the wall.

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Halbreich references an interview with Kara Walker in Index, which I can read much more easily than the book:

The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that’s also what the stereotype does.  So I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked.  Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people, and a lot of people can understand it, the other side of this is that it also reduces difference, reduces diversity to that stereotype.  I was kind of working through this in the tableaus and things that I’ve been doing, where the intention was to render everybody black and go from there.  Go from this backhanded philosophy that blackness is akin to everything.   

Kara Walker

In a quiet voice, she [Walker] might say that her narratives are a radical condensation of a faith in shadows, or “becoming.”

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Two silhouettes I recall encountering during my run:

one: Running down into the tunnel of trees, dark and thick with green, I saw a figure ahead moving strangely, something dark trailing around them, almost like flapping wings. Getting closer, I could see it was a dark jacket of sweatshirt tied around their waist. As they swung their arms widely, the sleeves of the jacket were ruffled.

two: Hi Dave! Thinking again about how I (almost) always can identify Dave the Daily Walker because of his distinctive form: one arm that swings out from his side — wide and awkward.

may 16/RUN

4.2 miles
ford loop (short)
56 degrees / humidity: 84%

Sticky with a cool wind. Glad to have my orange sweatshirt on when we started, but happy to take it off after 2 miles. Very moist. I told Scott I felt like one of those sponges you use for moistening stamps — damp all over. This led us to a discussion of how most stamps are stickers now and how hard it is to find non-sticker stamps. I suggested that my comparison — between sweaty me (would that be the tenor of a metaphor?) and the sponge (the vehicle?) — might be a dead metaphor. Then I took it a step further and suggested that stamps and letters were becoming metaphors that no longer worked because people don’t use stamps and send letters as much as they used to. Now it’s all online. This lead us to a discussion of library archives and old papers and what’s being lost when all of our evidence is online (and easily manipulable). I think that conversation was wrapping up as we headed east on the franklin bridge.

I remember admiring the dark, flat river and hearing a far off woodpecker. No sun or shadows today.

note: this paragraph was added later in the today. Earlier I couldn’t remember what we talked about on the east side of the river, finally it came to me. Between Franklin and the trestle on the east side, we talked about Still Life paintings and I mentioned how many dead animals are in the ones I’ve seen — the only way to study them closely — and with pools of blood or strung up, their bodies contorted in grotesque ways — or were those just the still life paintings Diane Seuss picked for her poetry collection? Anyway, I mentioned wanting to play around with different meanings of still: not just keeping still, but enduring. Scott mentioned a whiskey still and I thought that, since we both like bourbon, I should write a poem titled Still Life that was about drinking bourbon.

Sometimes it felt gloomy and sometimes, like walking back over the lake street bridge after we finished, it felt intense, vibrant as a certain slant of light made the green leaves glow. Woah! What a bright green!

After delighting in the green, we talked about the difference between shadows and reflections and I mentioned how I always see the edge of the water, darkened by trees, as shadows and not reflections. Scott couldn’t understand how I would get reflections and shadows mixed up. I couldn’t either until I realized much later that my confusion stems from my vision loss, at least partly. The dark forms at the edge of the shore don’t look like reflections, they look like dark shadows — no details, no evidence that it’s anything but a mass of darkness. When it’s brighter, I can easily see and understand that the smiling bridge in the water is a reflection and not a shadow. Another example: I can picture and imagine easily the difference between the shadow of a cloud crossing over me and the reflection of a cloud on the water.

At the beginning of the run, I recited the Jorie Graham poem I memorized this morning. Then I talked about the other Graham poem I encountered (see below). After I finished reciting the poem — which I did successfully while running! — Scott and I discussed the difficulty of listening to modern poetry and trying to grasp the meaning of strange language, or language used strangely with ears instead of eyes. As part of this, we discussed the oral tradition and its different methods for telling stories that people could make sense of as they listened. Again (because I have mentioned it on this blog before), it makes me want to study more oral forms of poetry, especially as I learn to rely more on hearing rather than seeing words.

a poet speaks to me from across the page

This morning, before running with Scott, after I finished memorizing Jorie Graham’s “Still Life with Window and Fish,” something strange and wonderful happened. Looking through the collection that “Still Life” is from, Erosion, I found another poem I wanted to read: To a Friend Going Blind. I began to read it and, seven lines from the end, there it was, me. Not Sarah but Sara. Out of nowhere, like the narrator or Graham was speaking just to me. Wow. Maybe I’m missing something and her Sara is referencing something earlier in the poem, but reading it for the first time, I gasped. I am Sara, and I am (most likely) going blind, and I know the beauty of the walls.

To a Friend Going Blind/ Jorie Graham

Today, because I couldn’t find the shortcut through,
I had to walk this town’s entire inner
perimeter to find
where the medieval walls break open
in an eighteenth century
arch. The yellow valley flickered on and off
through cracks and the gaps
for guns. Bruna is teaching me
to cut a pattern.
Saturdays we buy the cloth.
She takes it in her hands
like a good idea, feeling
for texture, grain, the built-in
limits. It’s only as an afterthought she asks
and do you think it’s beautiful?
Her measuring tapes hang down, corn-blond and endless,
from her neck.
When I look at her
I think Rapunzel,
how one could climb that measuring,
that love. But I was saying,
I wandered all along the street that hugs the walls,
a needle floating
on its cloth. Once
I shut my eyes and felt my way
along the stone. Outside
is the cash crop, sunflowers, as far as one can see. Listen,
the wind rattles in them,
a loose worship
seeking an object
an interruption. Sara,
the walls are beautiful. They block the view.
And it feels rich to be
inside their grasp.
When Bruna finishes her dress
it is the shape of what has come
to rescue her. She puts it on.

Her use of inside and rich and interruption here surely must be connection to the poem I just memorized: the beautiful interruptions, the things of this world and even the windowpanes are rich and I love it here where it blurs and nothing starts or ends but all is waving and colorless and voiceless.

may 14/RUN

7.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
59 degrees

Whew, that was hard. Running to the lake wasn’t too bad but on the way back, my legs were tired and I was hot and thirsty. I managed to bargain with myself — just keep going until you get to the water fountains or the light or the top of the hill — and do more running than walking in the second half. I think I needed to start earlier and bring some water.

I’m wiped out now, writing this, but I don’t care. It was worth it to get to run to Lake Nokomis and watch the glittering water, hear the seagulls, feel the lake air. Summer and open water swimming is coming! I signed myself, and FWA and RJP up for open swim this year! Will either of them swim? Hopefully at least once or twice. One more thing to note: looking out at the water, then to the little beach, I noticed the lifeguard boat — the main marker I use to navigate when I can’t see the buoys — has been moved. Hopefully it will be moved back again or I’ll have some difficulty sighting this summer.

Listened to the birds and the traffic and a song drifting out of a car window as I ran to the lake. Put in my “Slappin’ Shadows” playlist on the way back:

Moonshadow
Golden Years
The Shadow of Your Smile
I’m Beginning to See the Light
I’m Shadowing You
Shadow Dancing
If You Go Away
Hot Lunch Jam
Watching the Wheels / John Lennon

The last one about the wheels was just added last night. In addition to watching the wheels going ’round, he’s also doing time, watching the shadows on the wall. After he’s done singing, the song ends with random street noise: clopping horses, a person’s foot steps, someone talking. The clopping horses made me think of one of the rooms in an exhibit at Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). You sit on a bench in the room as a day cycles through, complete with the light changing throughout the day to simulate dawn, midday, dusk, evening, and with a recording of sounds outside of the room, including . . . horses clopping. I recall having some deep thought about shadows and my relationship to them as I listened to this song, but I can’t remember what it was. I recall having a general feeling of agreement: letting it go and just watching the wheels go ’round or the shadows on the wall sounds good to me!

One other random shadow thing I remember: In the middle of the night, during one of 3 or 4 sessions of being restless and getting out of bed, I looked around the room and noticed the shadows. The moon must have been bright last night because there were lots of shadows even though we have the blinds closed. At one point, a car drove by and their headlights looked cool and strange traveling across the wall.

As I ran along the creek and switched from sun to shade to sun again, I thought about how welcome shade is on a too sunny day. When I’m running in the spring and summer, I almost always cheer for the shadows and the coolness they offer.

Yesterday I picked up a book I requested from the library, Margaret Livingstone’s Vision and Art. Very cool. I got it so I could read more about how artists have used luminance and shadows and light to create images that look real.

Another thought I recall as I drifted in and out of sleep last night: I’d like to think about how the way artists manipulate light and shadow to create their illusions of realness, might be similar to how the brain does it for us. The brain as an artist — filling in, filtering, transforming signals into images that we can use and admire.

Yesterday I revisited Jorie Graham’s poem, “Still Life with Shadow and Fish” and understood it in a way I hadn’t before. Wow! I decided to listen to/read something else by her. Listening to this recording helped me to understand it a little better.

Two Paintings by Gustav Klimt/ Jorie Graham

Although what glitters
on the trees,
row after perfect row,
is merely
the injustice
of the world,

the chips on the bark of each
beech tree
catching the light, the sum
of these delays
is the beautiful, the human
beautiful,

body of flaws.
The dead
would give anything
I’m sure,
to step again onto
the leafrot,

into the avenue of mottled shadows,
the speckled
broken skins. The dead
in their sheer
open parenthesis, what they
wouldn’t give

for something to lean on
that won’t
give way. I think I
would weep
for the moral nature
of this world,

for right and wrong like pools
of shadow
and light you can step in
and out of
crossing this yellow beech forest,
this buchen-wald,

one autumn afternoon, late
in the twentieth
century, in hollow light,
in gaseous light. . . .
To receive the light
and return it

and stand in rows, anonymous,
is a sweet secret
even the air wishes
it could unlock.
See how it pokes at them
in little hooks,

the blue air, the yellow trees.
Why be afraid?
They say when Klimt
died suddenly
a painting, still
incomplete,

was found in his studio,
a woman’s body
open at its point of
entry,
rendered in graphic,
pornographic,

detail—something like
a scream
between her legs. Slowly,
feathery,
he had begun to paint
a delicate

garment (his trademark)
over this mouth
of her body. The mouth
of her face
is genteel, bored, feigning a need
for sleep. The fabric

defines the surface,
the story,
so we are drawn to it,
its blues
and yellows glittering
like a stand

of beech trees late
one afternoon
in Germany, in fall.
It is called
Buchenwald, it is
1890. In

the finished painting
the argument
has something to do
with pleasure.

may 12/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow
67 degrees

Too hot this morning! My usual refrain: get up and go out earlier! Lots of shadows, birds — several turkeys in the neighborhood just past turkey hollow! None of them menacing today. I decided to put together another shadow playlist with all my favorites. Called it “Slappin’ Shadows.” I listened to it for the whole run instead of the birds.

I remember these lyrics from “Moonshadow” especially:

Did it take long to find me?
I asked the faithful light
Oh, did it take long to find me?
And are you gonna stay the night?

I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow

10 Surfaces I Ran Over

  1. sidewalk
  2. street — smooth
  3. street — cracked, rutted
  4. grass
  5. roots
  6. soft, sandy, slippery dirt
  7. soft dirt that was mud 2 day s ago
  8. curb
  9. paved trail
  10. edge of road, slanted, over a grate

Last week, I checked out Dorianne Laux’s new collection, Life on Earth. I especially love this poem:

Mugged By Poetry/ Dorianne Laux    

—for Tony Hoagland who sent me a handmade chapbook made from old postcards called OMIGOD POETRY with a whale breaching off the coast of New Jersey and seven of his favorite poems by various authors typed up, taped on, and tied together with a broken shoelace.

Reading a good one makes me love the one who wrote it, 
as well as the animal or element or planet or person 
the poet wrote the poem for. I end up like I always do, 
flat on my back like a drunk in the grass, loving the world.  
Like right now, I’m reading a poem called “Summer” 
by John Ashbery whose poems I never much cared for, 
and suddenly, in the dead of winter, “There is that sound 
like the wind/Forgetting in the branches that means 
something/Nobody can translate…” I fall in love 
with that line, can actually hear it (not the line 
but the wind) and it’s summer again and I forget 
I don’t like John Ashbery poems. So I light a cigarette 
and read another by Zbigniew Herbert, a poet 
I’ve always admired but haven’t read enough of, called 
“To Marcus Aurelius” that begins “Good night Marcus
put out the light/and shut the book For overhead/is raised 
a gold alarm of stars…” First of all I suddenly love 
anyone with the name Zbigniew. Second of all I love 
anyone who speaks in all sincerity to the dead
and by doing so brings that personage back to life, 
plunging a hand through the past to flip off the light.  
The astral physics of it just floors me. Third of all 
is that “gold alarm of stars…” By now I’m a goner, 
and even though I have to get up tomorrow at 6 am 
I forge ahead and read “God’s Justice” by Anne Carson, 
another whose poems I’m not overly fond of 
but don’t actively disdain. I keep reading one line 
over and over, hovering above it like a bird on a wire 
spying on the dragonfly with “turquoise dots all down its back 
like Lauren Bacall”. Like Lauren Bacall!! Well hell, 
I could do this all night. I could be in love like this 
for the rest of my life, with everything in the expanding
universe and whatever else might be beyond it 
that we can’t grind a lens big enough to see. I light up 
another smoke, maybe the one that will kill me, 
and go outside to listen to the moon scalding the iced trees.  
What, I ask you, will become of me?

may 11/RUN

5.25 miles
ford loop
60 degrees

Shorts, tank top, sun! Only one rower on the river. Under the bridge the water was sparkling — was it because of the sandbar? There was some sort of informal running event — no signs, but a stream of people, adults and kids, running and people on the edge of the trail cheering.

I ran on the soft dirt trail beside the pave path a lot. Gritty and fun to slide on — not slide as in slip but as in glide.

Encountered other runners, walkers, one rollerblader who kindly said, on your left, as he passed me. I could hear the metallic clunking of his wheels before and after he passed.

Birds, of course. The run began with the haunting coo of a mourning dove. I don’t hear mourning doves that often. I didn’t know, or if I did I forgot, that they are also called turtle doves. Also heard some black-capped chickadees. At the end of the run as I walked back home through the neighborhood, I heard a little kid call out, bird!, and the adult with him say, sparrow.

Lots of shadows: tree trunks, leaves, fence railings, birds, me, beside rocks, under benches. My favorite shadow was mine — running close to the railing, overlooking the gorge and the river on the east bank, my shadow was way down in the trees, near the water. I kept moving closer to the railing, trying to get my shadow in the water. I never got close enough for her to swim.

Another memorable shadow: the sidewalk was almost all gray shade, with just a little light, where the leaves hadn’t filled in it. I imagined doing an erasure poem that mimicked this form. Most of the text shaded out with just a few words sprinkled around — dappled? I want to try it! Speaking of dappled, the other day I was describing all of the shadows in my plague notebook (vol 20!). I noticed the speckled light under the crabapple tree and wrote: crabapple dapple. Told Scott about it and he responded, ugh!

Almost 4 miles in, on the ford bridge, I stopped to put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist. Put it on shuffle: “The Shadow Knows,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “We Will Become Silhouettes,” and then a song I haven’t heard yet while running: “Shadows and Light”/ Joni Mitchell. I’ll have to think about her lyrics some more.

Here’s a poem that mentions shadow, and is about questions! Last year, I listened to a wonderful podcast with Alabi: Kemi Alabi vs. Divinity. It’s not available right now; is it because the hosts are protesting Poetry Foundation’s refusal to make a statement against the genocide in Palestine?

44 Questions to Ask While Bingeing/ Kemi Alabi

After Benji Hart

  1. How many hands have touched this food?
  2. What were their intentions?
  3. How vast is the range?
  4. What makes them hands at all?
  5. How many seeds survived their birth for this?
  6. Did you count yourself?
  7. From sprout to pluck, how many breaths old was the oldest?
  8. What’s become of its homeland?
  9. How many breaths will it add to yours?
  10. Or is this a thing that takes?
  11. Which things were born dead for this?
  12. Did you count yourself?
  13. Which born free?
  14. Which born food?
  15. Is there a state in-between?
  16. How old was the well of that answer?
  17. If governments and their signed scrolls are Plato’s cave wall shadows, where is the real sun?
  18. What’s become of its homeland?
  19. How many generations removed from the land are you?
  20. What floor takes its place?
  21. What is it built on top of?
  22. Are the people who tended that place still alive?
  23. Are there any living descendants?
  24. Is their language still spoken on earth?
  25. If you heard it, would your feet twitch?
  26. Or does dead mean gone?
  27. How many gone things in your place?
  28. Did you count yourself?
  29. What does your body and the day it makes cost?
  30. What is its price, in gone things?
  31. Is this sustainable? Better—regenerative?
  32. Or will this make you the most gone thing alive?
  33. Is god or the human the cave wall shadow?
  34. Who says the shadow is nothing at all?
  35. Are you still eating?
  36. Who?
  37. What for?
  38. What have you grown in its place?
  39. How much is enough?
  40. Is enough a place or a count?
  41. Is there a state in-between?
  42. Or does enough mean gone?
  43. Did you enough yourself?
  44. In the language of the oldest gone thing, how do you say devour?

Who says the shadow is nothing at all?
Did you enough yourself?

So good!

may 9/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
53 degrees

Overcast, then sun, then overcast again. This cycle happened throughout the run. Enough sun to admire the soft shadows — leaves stirring in the wind, tree trunks, fence slats, me. Went out earlier today and noticed more cars on the river road. No kids on the playground yet. No big turkeys. Greeted Mr. Morning! and smiled at a roller skier. Said good morning to a few other runners. Saw lots of light, glowing green, the small dark form of a flying bird.

Listened to car wheels whooshing and birds chirping as I ran to the falls. Put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist on the way back and kept working my way through the songs.

White Shadow/ Peter Gabriel
Glamour Professional/ Steely Dan
Hot Lunch Jam/ Irene Cara
We Three (My Echo, My Shadow, and Me)

It’s hard to tell black from white
When you wake up in the middle of the night

I thought I heard the line as, in the middle of the light, which makes more sense to me. Maybe I can’t see “white” at night, but I can see contrasts, light from dark, very easily. It’s color I can’t see. Waking up in the middle of light would be far more blinding, I think.

Reading the lyrics for “White Shadow” I was turned off by the rhymeiness of it all; he even did that annoying thing of altering the words a little to make them fit the rhyme. Ugh. But, dammit, when I listened to him singing them again, he made them sound cool. How can you make No one knew if the spirit died/All wrapped up in Kentucky Fried sound cool?

“Glamour Profession” was Scott’s addition. I kept waiting to hear where shadow fit in, but didn’t. I missed it; maybe because I was distracted by the name, Hoop McCann:

6:05 p.m., outside the stadium 
Special delivery for Hoops McCann 
Brut and charisma poured from the shadow where he stood 
Looking good, he’s a crowd-pleasing man

Shady Sadie/Serving Lady skimming off the top, making the same cheap and barely edible lunch for those Fame kids and pocketing the rest of the money. I always thought Irene Cara sang, southern lady. If it’s yellow, then it’s yellow/if it’s blue it could be stew

I want to include all of the lyrics for “We Three”:

We three, we’re all alone
Living in a memory
My echo, my shadow, and me

We three, we’re not a crowd
We’re not even company
My echo, my shadow, and me

What good is the moonlight
The silvery moonlight that shines above?
I walk with my shadow
I talk with my echo
But where is the one I love?

We three, we’ll wait for you
Even till eternity
My echo, my shadow, and me

“We three we’re all alone. Seems like we’re livin’ in a memory. 
That’s my echo my shadow and me. 
We three we ain’t no crowd. 
Fact is we ain’t even company. 
That’s my echo my shadow and me.
You know I been wonderin’ what good is the
moonlight that silvery moonlight that shines way, way up above? 
Yeah, I walk with my shadow, I talk with my echo, but where is that gal that I love?”

We three, we’ll wait for you
Even till eternity
My echo, my shadow, and me

I really like this song and thinking about the relationship between a self, its echo, and its shadow, although I think more positively of these three than the Ink Spots do.

At some point during the run, I remember thinking about how some shadows are still, frozen, sharply formed, while others stutter or flutter or vibrate like echoes.

When I heard the line, Seems like we’re livin’ in a memory, I thought about how I mostly can’t see people’s faces clearly and that I’ve either learned to tune it out and speak/look into the void, or I just fill in the smudge with the memory of their face. I’m used to it, and often forget I’m doing it until suddenly I wonder as I stare at the blob, am I looking in the right place, into their eyes, or am I staring at their chin? I don’t care, but I imagine the other person might, so I try to find their eyes again.

Almost home, the playlist returned to the beginning and I hear, “I’m shadowing You” again. This time I thought about shadowing as obsessing over something. To shadow someone or something is to be obsessed with it.

silhouette theory

Read about the silhouette theory this morning —

The Silhouette Theory of character design. What you do is take your lead character (or characters) and reduce them down to a silhouette — plain old black and white — and see how distinctive they look.
    It’s a common technique in animation. One of the initial decisions in creating a character is to choose a shape (before contour or even color) that is eye-catching and conveys attitude, so the character ‘lands’ in the animated world, has impact, and is easy to track.
    It works because our minds tend to register size, posture, shape and body language before processing other cues, like facial expressions or actions.

There is poem in here. Time to write it!

may 8/RUN

4 miles
trestle+ turn around
60 degrees

Okay spring. What a glorious morning! Birds, sun, shadows, green. Ran north, past the trestle. Didn’t see the river (too much green), but said Hi! to Dave and waved to Daddy Long Legs. Encountered, twice, a trio of very fast runners, someone on an eliptigo, and a roller skier.

Thought about shadows as the world of almost — echoes and reflections too. Welcome to the world of almosts not quites nearly theres. Glad you could join me. Some day, I’ll write a poem, or a series of poems, about the almost world I inhabit, where the shadow of a fence feels more real than the fence. As my mind wandered, I also thought about one of my favorite books as a kid: The Shades. I should read it again — just requested it from the library. I would buy it, but it must be out of print: a used copy is $300!

On the way back, I put in my “I’m Shadowing You” and listened to more of my shadow songs:

  • I’m Beginning to See the Light
  • Twlight
  • The Shadow Knows (just the beginning)
  • Yesterday
  • Moon Shadow
  • Golden Years
  • Candle Mambo
  • If You Go Away
  • We Will Become Silhouttes

So many interesting thoughts about shadows, some of them already gone: used to ramble through the park/shadowboxing in the dark — twilight as a time when shades are drawn and silhouettes appear on them — there’s a shadow hanging over me

And if I ever lose my eyes
If my colors all run dry
Yes, if I ever lose my eyes
Oh if, I won’t have to cry no more

Yes, I am bein’ followed by a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow

When this part of “Moonshadow” played I got excited. Yes! Losing my eyes? Color running dry? That’s me. It didn’t make me sad, but almost, strangely (I suppose), joyful in my recognition of my experience. And, yes, I will always have the moonshadow. In fact, as my vision diminishes, shadows are even more meaningful.

Run for the shadows/Run for the shadows

I wondered if the singer in “Candle Mambo” was dancing with his own shadow in the candlelight.

Listening to Neil Diamond’s version of “If You Go Away,” I was struck by the absence of shadows — when the person he loves goes away, all dark; when they’re there, all light. No in-between — either nothing matters, or it matters too much. Neil needs some shadows to temper all his drama.

Just as I reached home, “We Will Become Silhouettes” came on. Very fitting for what I was thinking about before my run:

silhouettes

    Thinking about shadows and light, I was reminded of a video I watch 10? years ago on Steven Spielberg and his use of shadow and light. I couldn’t find it, but found something else. Near the end, on a segment featuring shadows, I heard this line:

    A rule in comic books is that a character should be recognizable just by looking at their silhouette.

    Immediately I thought about forms and my interest in experimenting with how little visual information we need to recognize something — the silhouette as form. I also thought briefly about Platonic Forms. Then I thought about silhouettes, especially the ones I remember making in elementary art class. I looked up “silhouette” and found an article from the Smithsonian: Q and Art: Silhouettes. It mentions the influence of silhouettes on current artists like Kara Walker — Yes! I remember seeing an exhibit of her work at the Walker — in 2007 (I looked it up). Very cool.

    I found this video about Walker’s work that I’d like to watch after my run.

    The silhouette lends itself to an avoidance of the subject, you know, not being able to look at it directly.

    [about Stone Mountain, GA, where Walker grew up, after moving there from Stockton, CA] So that place has a little more resonance. It’s so in-your-face. There’s just no hiding the fact of what black stands for in white america and what white stands for in black america — they’re all loaded with our deepest psychological perversions and fears and longings.

    I was tracing outlines of profiles and thinking about physiognomy and racist sciences and minstrelsy and shadow and the dark side of the soul. And I thought, you know, I have black paper here, and I was making silhouette paintings, but they weren’t the same thing. It seemed like the most obvious answer, it took me forever to come to, was just to make a cut in the surface of this black thing. You know I had this black surface and if I just made a cut in it I was creating a hole. It was like the whole world was in there for me.

    Discussing her work Insurrection, she describes how overhead projects were used so that the shadows of visitor’s moving through the exhibit would be projected on the work, “so maybe they would feel implicated” in the scene, the history.

    I began to love the kind of self promotion surrounding the work of the silhouette artist. They would show up in different towns and advertise their skills, sometimes very overblown language describing their incredible skills: able to cut in less than a minute, 10 seconds, for your likeness, your accurate likenesses. I also began to question this whole idea of accurate likenesses.

    vision moment: While watching the video on my iPad, I paused it to transcribe what she was saying. When I put my finer on the iPad to scroll back a little and start again, my finger had disappeared. Georgina Kleege talks about this happening to her in Sight Unseen, but I didn’t remember experiencing it until today. It’s very localized, in one spot, and only if the contrast is bad. Am I mis-seeing this? Is it just the lack of contrast?

    a thought about the monthly challenges

    I’ve done monthly challenges about individual poets — Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson, Linda Pastan — or single books — Dart, garbage — or a single poem — Hymn to Life. I’ve studied birds, water, wind, windows, ghosts, shadows. Sometimes, these studies lead to poem, and sometimes they’re the chance to care about something new, something I’ve never noticed or bothered to think about. I love these challenges. Today I loved thinking about silhouettes and remembering art projects I did as a kid and having a chance to think again about art work that I saw years ago but didn’t quite understand.

    may 7/WALK

    30 minute walk
    neighborhood, with Delia
    65 degrees

    Walked around the neighborhood on a beautiful, windy morning. A few hours before, it had been raining. Puddles everywhere. Mud, too. Birds, laughing kids, yellow and orange and red tulips all around. Also: overgrown weeds, dandelions, unruly grass. Oh — and pollen! I know that it could be much worse, but I still felt it: scratchy throat, itchy eyes, fatigue.

    This morning I renewed my driver’s license. For me, it was a big deal. I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy in 2016, two months after I had barely renewed my license because I couldn’t initially read the Snellen chart. The woman behind the counter was generous — I remember her looking at me strangely after I said the wrong letters and then asking, Do you want to try that again? Slowly? For years I had been nervous about the vision test without knowing why.

    When the ophthalmologist first told me I would probably lose all of my central vision, I felt relief — I just renewed my license so I don’t have to worry about doing the vision test until 2020! — and worry — What’s will happen in four years? As 2020 approached, my anxiety increased. But, because of the pandemic, I was able to renew my license online. No vision test! Another reprieve for four years!

    Next month I turn 50 and it’s time to renew my license again. I decided to do it early, partly to get it over with and partly because Scott and FWA had both renewed their license’s two months ago and the person behind the counter didn’t make them take a vision test. Could I be so lucky? I hoped so.

    This morning I was anxious. I tried to convince myself that it would be fine if I had to take the test — I told Scott, it’s great material for a poem. But the same guy was there and I didn’t have to take the test and now I have another four year reprieve.

    10 Small Things I Remember

    1. the woman at the front desk was wearing blue gloves
    2. before we entered, a group of teenagers were called in — Anyone planning to take the test should follow me!
    3. I heard those same teenagers giggling a few minutes later
    4. my number, ended with a 54
    5. when it was called, I was told to go to A14
    6. the guy who issued my license asked me to meet him around the corner at A17 for my picture
    7. he had two thick textbooks on the counter — did he ever have time to study? I couldn’t read the titles
    8. for the first time, I wore glasses for my picture — before he took it he said, look at the blue dot. I couldn’t see any blue dot, but the picture turned out fine
    9. earlier, nearing the entrance to the building, a man held a door for a woman as she walked out. She apologized when she almost ran into him and said, I’m sorry, I’m in my own head right now
    10. also nearing the building: birds! so much birdsong!

    I am not planning to drive. I haven’t for five or six years. It’s too scary and dangerous. Still, it’s nice to have my license, just in case.

    My anxiety over the vision test has some layers, I think. It’s not just about failing it, or even primarily about failing it. I think it’s time to do some digging.

    the allegory of the cave, part 2

    Yesterday Scott and talked about Plato’s Cave and what we remembered from when he first heard/read about it. Then I watched a few more videos about it, all of which connected the cave and the shadows to a hero’s quest and being enlightened by a Philosopher King. Thought about writing against that and decided I didn’t want to. Instead, I attempted to read Jack Collum’s hard-to-understand-poem, Arguing with Something Plato Said. Some of it, I think I understand and some of it, I don’t. Learned a new word: chiaroscuro

    This is an Italian term which literally means ‘light-dark’. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted.

    Artists who are famed for the use of chiaroscuro include Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. Leonardo employed it to give a vivid impression of the three-dimensionality of his figures, while Caravaggio used such contrasts for the sake of drama. Both artists were also aware of the emotional impact of these effects.

    Nice! With my interest in ekphrastic poems, I plan to think about this concept some more.

    may 6/RUN

    7 miles
    st. kates and back
    60 degrees

    Ran with Scott on a beautiful spring morning. Sun, shadows, a welcome breeze. We ran over to St. Catherine’s University, across the river. RJP has almost decided to go there (hopefully she makes up her mind tonight) and we wanted to check it out. I’m impressed and excited to visit her next year. We talked a lot more in the first half of our run; we were both tired the last 2 miles. Scott talked about some Threads exchange involving Drake, Kanye West, and a diss track. We heard a creaking tree and I said it sounded like the squeaking gate we heard yesterday afternoon while we were walking. The mention of the gate reminded me of Marie Howe’s poem, “The Gate,” which I recited for Scott (of course I did). We talked about many other things but I just remember discussing what a wonderful campus St. Cates is and how great it will be for RJP.

    On the sidewalk just outside of campus, we encountered several sidewalk poems that are part of the Public Art Sidewalk Poetry project. Scott took a picture of one:

    November/ Marianne McNamara and Scott’s feet

    November/ Marianne McNamara (2009)

    Autumn winds drag leaves from the trees,
    clog the streets in dreary finale.
    Bare branches crisscross the heavy sky.
    Icy rain spatters, ink-blots the pavement.
    I settle at the window, stare into the black flannel, search the woolly lining of the night for winter.

    I was unable to read this on the sidewalk, so I’m glad I could find it online. How hard is it for someone with good vision to read? I like the idea of this project, but in practice, it doesn’t quite work. Scott suggested they should use black paint on the letters, to make them stand out.

    10 Things

    1. smell: lilac, intense
    2. tree shadows, more filled in than last week
    3. a loud leaf blower
    4. a safety patrol on the corner near Dowling saying I hate you, I hate you — who was he talking to?
    5. the soft trickle of water falling from the sewer pipe near the 44th street parking lot
    6. mud and ruts filled with water at a construction site on the edge of campus
    7. feeling a fine film of dust on my face near the end of the run
    8. more than a dozen signs in the grass outside a liquor store, each one said the same thing: wine sale. Scott: I guess they’re having a wine sale
    9. running down Randolph encountering 3 or 4 sidewalk poems, none of them marked on the map
    10. noticing a faint white thing flying through the air, high above us: a bird? a plane? a trick of the light or corrupted data from my eye to my brain?

    the allegory of the cave, part 1

    I want to read the cave parable and think about its shadows, but I want to read it in the context of The Republic so I’ve been searching my shelves for my copy. Which class in college did we read this for? Probably The Individual and Morality. Maybe a philosophy class? Anyway, it is very hard for me to find one book among almost a thousand. When we moved in I organized them, but over time, books have moved. Also, it’s dim in our living room and I have a lot of trouble reading book titles with my bad eyes. Yesterday I asked RJP to help, and she found it! Maybe I’ll try reading some of it out on the deck this afternoon. Reading physical books, as opposed to e-books, can be hard; there’s never enough light unless I’m reading it under my special lamp (designed for sewers and cross-stitchers and 80 year-olds with bad eyes and me). Reading outside in natural light helps.

    an hour spent outside reading and dozing off and reading again . . .

    First, two links that connect Plato and his cave with poetry:

    Reading through the allegory, I cam accross these lines:

    . . . the eyes may be confused in two ways and from two causes, namely when they’ve come from the light into the darkness and when they’ve come from the darkness into the light. . . whether it has come from a brighter life and is dimmed through not having yet become accustomed to the dark or whether it has come from greater ignorance into greater light and is dazzled by the increased brilliance.

    518a, The Republic / Plato, trans. G.M.A. Grube

    Of course, I immediately thought of two of my favorite vision poems (what I’m calling them) by Emily Dickinson. And of course I have both of them memorized — but not her punctuation.

    We grow accustomed to the Dark
    When light is put away
    As when a neighbor holds the lamp
    To witness her goodbye.

    A Moment — We uncertain step —
    For newness of the Night
    (We Grow Accustomed to the Dark/ ED)

    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The truth’s superb surprise

    . . .

    The truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind.
    (Tell all the truth but tell it Slant/ ED)

    I remember Plato’s cave and the shadows and the inability to access Truth, but I didn’t remember him discussing how both too little light and too much light blind us. The emphasis, as I recall, was always on darkness = bad, ignorance, the problem. Was I just not paying attention in philosophy class?

    Searching for “plato cave,” I came across a video about it and decided to watch it:

    The School of Life

    I’d like to write more about what I find to be missing (also what’s helpful) in this account, but I’ve run out of time. Here’s one more video for comparison that I just started watching. When I have time, I’ll reflect on both:

    After Skool

    may 5/RUN

    3.1 miles
    turkey hollow loop
    60 degrees

    Late morning felt hot today. Bright sun, not much shade. The river road was closed off for the annual Walk MS charity event so I ran on the dirt/mud trail between it and edmund. Listened to my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist for the whole run:

    (skipped Shadow Song/Screaming Trees, Shadows and Light/ Joni Mitchell)
    Silver Shadow/ Atlantic Starr
    Total Eclipse of the Heart/ Bonnie Tyler
    Help Me Make It Through the Night/ Kris Kristofferson
    Sunshine in the Shade/ The Fixx
    The Shadow of Your Smile/ Astrud Gilberto
    Evening/ The Moody Blues
    White Room/ Cream

    I wondered what a silver shadow might look like, then I wanted to see one. The silver outline of the sun behind the clouds? My shadow on the blue-white snow? I know — it’s Eamon Grennan’s birdsong in his poem, Lark-Luster:

    . . . when summer happens, you’d almost see the long silver ribbons of song the bird braids as if binding lit air to earth that is all shadows, to keep us (as we walk our grounded passages down here) alive to what is over our heads—song and silence—and the lot of us leaning up: mind-defeated again, just harking to it.

    Then I got distracted by mud and people and the sun and didn’t give close attention to the lyrics for the next three songs, only briefly registering that Bonnie Tyler was singing to someone whose love is like a shadow on her, keeping her in the dark; Kris Kristofferson was comparing someone’s hair “laying soft upon his skin” to the shadows on the wall; and The Fixx were declaring that they were the sunshine in the shade of life.

    Off the grass, back on the road, I thought about Astrud Gilberto’s affection for the shadow of a smile — was the shadow cast by a very bright smile? Looking at the lyrics now, I understand the shadow to be the wonderful (but haunted?) memory of a love that didn’t last.

    I am really digging The Moody Blues, “Evening.” That flute! Shadows on the ground/never make a sound/fading away in the sunset/Night has now become/Day for everyone

    I thought about the white curtains in Marie Howe’s dark room instead of Cream’s black curtains in a white room. where the shadows run from themselves.

    This is fun! I like thinking about silver shadows as birdsong, and shadows softly caressing the wall, and what it would be like to see shadows running from themselves.

    Near the end of “Shadow of Your Smile,” I saw something ahead of me, in the middle of the road. A big black dog? No — it’s that menacing turkey again! The one I wrote about on april 30th and april 11th. Just standing there in the middle of the road, his feather fanned out. This time I didn’t turn around, but walked by him, at a safe distance. I also took a picture:

    RJP has named this big turkey Jon.

    Zooming in, I see a brave person on the sidewalk, nearing Jon.

    Recounting the story to Scott when I returned home, I decided that I wanted to imagine this turkey as a friend, not an enemy — or a frenemy? I also began to believe that he’s trying to tell me something: write about ME! And I will. Well, I already wrote one poem:

    Unsettled

    by noise

    I stop to
    witness

    a dark shape
    draw near

    too big for

    a squirrel

    too small for
    a bear.

    The moment
    suspends

    unresolved
    until

    the shape turns —
    pale beak

    red wattle
    framed by

    tail feathers.
    This Tom

    wants trouble.

    What if this turkey is my shadow-self? Will he be around for my next run? I guess it’s the spring of the turkey — maybe the summer, too? I will add Jon — I might name him myself if he appear again — to my list of Regulars!

    Inspired by another turkey sighting, and deciding that I will embrace these visits, here’s another amazing poem from Diane Seuss’s Sill Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl:

    Still Life with Turkey/ Diane Seuss

    The turkey’s strung up by one pronged foot, 
the cord binding it just below the stiff trinity
of toes, each with its cold bent claw. My eyes

    are in love with it as they are in love with all
dead things that cannot escape being looked at.
It is there to be seen if I want to see it, as my

    father was there in his black casket and could not
elude your gaze. I was a child so they asked 
if I wanted to see him. “Do you want to see him?”

    someone asked. Was it my mother? Grandmother? 
Some poor woman was stuck with the job. 
“He doesn’t look like himself,” whoever-it-was

    added. “They did something strange with his mouth.”
As I write this, a large moth flutters against
the window. It presses its fat thorax to the glass.

    “No,” I said, “I don’t want to see him.” I don’t recall
if I secretly wanted them to open the box for me
but thought that “no” was the correct response,

    of if I believed I should want to see him but was 
too afraid of what they’d done with his mouth.
    I think I assumed that my seeing him would

    make things worse for my mother, and she was all 
I had. Now I can’t get enough of seeing, as if I’m paying
a sort of penance for not seeing then, and so

    this turkey, hanged, its small, raw-looking head, 
which reminds me of the first fully naked man
I ever saw, when I was a candy striper

    at a sort of nursing home, he was a war veteran, 
young, burbling crazily, his face and body red
    as something scalded. I didn’t want to see,

    and yet I saw. But the turkey, I am in love with it, 
its saggy neck folds, the rippling, variegated
feathers, the crook of its unbound foot,

    and the glorious wings, archangelic, spread
as if it could take flight, but down, 
downward, into the earth.

    may 3/RUN

    4.25 miles
    minnehaha falls and back
    58 degrees

    Warm, too warm. I need to remember to start these runs much earlier and to wear a tank top. A beautiful morning. All sun. Perfect for giving attention to shadows. Noticed many, cast from: new leaves on trees, tree trunks, lamp posts, a swooping bird, a parks truck, me.

    Listened to water — dripping then trickling then gushing, vigorous rustling in the brush, some frogs in the marshy meadow near the ford bridge as I ran south to the falls. Put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist on the way back north.

    I’m Shadowing You/ Blossom Dearie
    Me and My Shadow/ Frank Sinatra
    Shadowboxer/ Fiona Apple
    My Shadow/ Keane
    Shadow Dancing/ Andy Gibb

    I didn’t think too much about the first two songs, but when I got to “Shadowboxer” it hit me: shadow box. I wrote the following before the run:

    May is for shadows and I was thinking that I’d like to reread/study Plato’s Cave until I read this line in Readers recommend: songs about shadows without them everything would be a floating morass of light and colour — drop shadows bring a third dimension to the 2D world. It made me think about one of my ongoing obsessions: ekphrastic poems and visual art. Just yesterday afternoon, I was reading Diane Seuss’ Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl. (The title is a reference to Rembrandt’s “Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl“) In several of the poems I read, Seuss describes the dark and light in some famous paintings — does she ever mention shadows? Here’s one of my favorites, both her poem and the painting:

    Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber/ Diane Seuss

    Anything can be a marionette. A quince, a cabbage, a melon, a cucumber,
    suspended against a black background, illuminated by a curious
    white light. In this little show, the quince plays a full gold moon. The cabbage
    is the antagonist, curled outer leaves fingering the charcoal void.
    Cucumber’s the peasant, nubby belly to the ground like a frog.
    That leaves melon, center stage, rough wedge hacked out of her butter side.
    Each object holds its space, drawing the eye from quince to cabbage, melon
    to cucumber, in a left to right, downward-sloping curve. Four bodies
    hang in the box of darkness like planets, each in its private orbit.
    It’s a quiet drama about nothing at all. No touch, no brushing
    up against each other, no oxygen, no rot, so that each shape, each
    character, is pure, clean in its loyalty to its own fierce standard.
    Even the wounded melon exudes serenity. Somewhere, juice runs
    down a hairy chin, but that is well beyond the border of the box.

    This poem is about a painting by Sánchez Cotán: Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber

    What would these four objects look like without the shadows around the curves, in the cracks, below the belly? Would they look more real? Less real? This painting is strange and haunting, and both difficult and easy for me to see. Can I remember it on the first part of my run? I’ll try. I’ll also try to notice how shadows offer depth, make things seem real, substantial, not just dots or flat objects.

    side note: These fruits and vegetables as subjects reminds me of a movie that Scott and I rewatched the other week: The Four Seasons, with Alan Alda, Rita Moreno, and Carol Burnett. One of the other characters, Anne, has taken up photography and has spent the last 2? years photographing vegetables, one at a time. Her husband thinks this is ridiculous and offers it up as evidence for how little she does, and as one of the reasons he’s divorcing her. Reading Seuss’ poem and staring at Sánchez Cotán’s painting, I am far less judgmental of her choice than my 7 or 8 year old self was when she watched this movie, over and over, on HBO.

    I searched for a clip from the movie and found it! Unfortunately it starts right after the photographs of the vegetables are shown.

    Still Life with Vegetables and an Asshole Husband

    During the run, I kept thinking about the painting and the objects painted in a box. How each of them were separated from each other, isolated, with some amount of light shining on them to display them. I thought about how sometimes I feel like I’m on display, a bright light shining on me, blinded, unable to see other people clearly even as I know they can see me. Disconnected from the world by the box. The shadow box, which brings me back to the Fiona Apple song, “Shadowboxer.” I started wondering about shadowboxing as a verb that didn’t mean boxing at shadows, but the act of putting someone on display, isolating them, turning them into a keepsake in a box on a wall, like the set of small boxes my mom had hanging in our many houses when I was growing up. I also thought about how there’s no reference point for size in the painting. What if the box was a small shadow box, and what if the fruit were miniatures, made out of wood or silk or plastic? (my mom loved wooden fruit) These thoughts made me want to study the history of shadow boxes.

    Okay, just looked up shadow box origins and found some interesting stuff, which I’ll get to in a minute.

    But first, any connection between Apple’s song and my version of shadowboxing? These lyrics seem promising:

    Oh, your gaze is dangerous
    And you fill your space so sweet
    If I let you get too close
    You’ll set your spell on me

    Now, the history of shadow boxes. I had no idea —

    Sailors were the first to create shadow boxes. They made them out of wood salvaged from their ships. They made them out of fear. Sailors believed that if their shadow reached shore before they did, their life on land would be cursed. The box, containing the sum total of a sailor’s personal effects, protected their true self.

    Shadow Box — The Art of Assemblage

    In this post, Karen Kao also mentions Cornell Boxes, named after Joseph Cornell who collected objects then arranged them in whimsical and weird ways in little wooden boxes. Adam Gopnik wrote about for the New Yorker in 2003: Sparkings.

    Kao opens her post with an intriguing way to think about shadow boxes:

    Think of a literal box, perhaps protected by a glass front, inside of which resides a world of whimsy. Think of it as found poetry in three-dimensional form.

    Interesting, but what does this have to do with shadows? Not much, or at least not much in the way I expected. Shadow boxes don’t involve literal shadows, but figurative ones — the shadow-self as embodied through cherished objects. Am I getting that right? This shadow-self, serving as proxy for the real self, needs to be protected, plucked out of the world and made safe, preserved, in its own little box.

    The idea of the shadow-self and the shadow as the property of the self bothers me a little. Even as I imagine my shadow to be connected to me, I don’t see it as me, mine. This leads me to a question for another day: what is the relationship between an object and the shadow it casts?

    I want to return to the painting and Seuss’ poem and the shadows and dark and light within them, but I also want to finish this entry so I can go outside and sit in the sun.

    Okay, I sat (and napped) in the sun for about an hour. I’m looking at the painting of the quince, cabbage, melon, and cucumber and thinking about light and darkness and shadows. Then, color. I think that this painting would look the same to me if it were in black and white — I searched for a black and white version, but couldn’t find one. Okay, back to shadows. They offer texture, especially on the cabbage. They also suggest that the light source is coming from the left side — a window? Anything else? I’ll keep thinking about it.

    may 1/RUN

    4 miles
    veterans home and back
    57 degrees
    wind: 14 mph / 28 mph gusts

    Ran with Scott. What did we talk about? I remember Scott talking a lot at the beginning — it was something he was excited about — but I can’t remember what it was. I do remember him complaining about Spotify and how some of their new policies hurt independent musicians like him. I talked about shadows and wind and marveled at a tree branch creaking in the wind. Oh — and I complained (again) about my new yellow shoes. I tried them one more time and they still hurt my feet and make my calves ache. I need to remember: no more yellow shoes!

    The water was gushing at the falls. We could smell something being fried at Sea Salt — it’s open for the season! I heard and saw a cardinal. I was dazzled by the bright white paint on the locks and dam no 1 sign — we both wondered if it was a reflective paint that made it so bright. A mile later, I could barely make out the bright yellow sign at 38th — the one I referred to as a bee last month. It was dull and blended in with the greenish-yellow trees behind it.

    My favorite thing today: the wonderful shadows the new leaves made on the sidewalk. Tiny little jagged dots or points, making the tree shadow look like something other than a tree. What? Not sure. A strange, magical sculpture? Glitter shadow? The leaves made the shadows strange, the shadows made the path strange. First encountering them on the double bridge, I didn’t think they were shadows but some sort of blob on the asphalt.

    During the run I had mentioned that I didn’t know what my May challenge would be but that it would be fun to have a theme that I could make a playlist for. By the end of the run, after witnessing the wonderful shadows, I had my topic: Shadows! As we walked back, I was already creating my playlist.

    I’m Shadowing You

    1. I’m Shadowing You / Blossom Dearie
    2. Me and My Shadow / Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
    3. Shadowboxer / Fiona Apple
    4. My Shadow / Keane
    5. Shadow Dancing / Andy Gibb
    6. Shadow Song / Screaming Trees
    7. Shadows and Light / Joni Mitchell
    8. Silve Shadow / Atlantic Starr
    9. Total Eclipse of the Heart / Bonnie Tyler
    10. Help Me Make It Through the Night / Kris Kristofferson
    11. Sunshine in the Shade / The Fixx
    12. the Shadow of Your Smile / Astrud Gilberto
    13. Evening / The Moody Blues
    14. White Room / Cream
    15. Shadow Stabbing / CAKE
    16. I’m Beginning to See the Light / Ella Fitzgerald
    17. Twilight Time / The Platters
    18. The Shadow Knows / Link Wray
    19. yesterday / The Beatles
    20. Moonshadow / Cat Stevens
    21. Golden Years / David Bowie
    22. Candle Mambo / Captain Beefheart
    23. If You go Away / Neil Diamond
    24. We Will Become Silhouettes / The Postal Service
    25. Crepuscule With Nellie / Thelonious Monk

    Discovered this poem on the Slowdown before my run. Oh, Dorianne Laux, what a gift your poem is today!

    Life On Earth/ Dorianne Laux

    The odds are we should never have been born. Not one of us. Not one in 400 trillion to be exact. Only one among the 250 million released in a flood of semen that glides like a glassine limousine filled with tadpoles of possible people, one of whom may or may not be you, a being made of water and blood, a creature with eyeballs and limbs that end in fists, a you with all your particular perfumes, the chords of your sinewy legs singing as they form, your organs humming and buzzing with new life, moonbeams lighting up your brain’s gray coils, the exquisite hills of your face, the human toy your mother longs for, your father yearns to hold, the unmistakable you who will take your first breath, your first step, bang a copper pot with a wooden spoon, trace the lichen growing on a boulder you climb to see the wild expanse of a field, the one whose heart will yield to the yellow forsythia named after William Forsyth—not the American actor with piercing blue eyes, but the Scottish botanist who discovered the buttery bells on a highland hillside blooming to beat the band, zigzagging down an unknown Scottish slope. And those are only a few of the things you will one day know, slowly chipping away at your ignorance and doubt, you who were born from ashes and will return to ash. When you think you might be through with this body and soul, look down at an anthill or up at the stars, remember your gambler chances, the bounty of good luck you were born for.