august 14/RUN

2.4 miles
winding down towards the river*
77 degrees
humidity: 88%
dew point: 70

*43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/47th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south (including tunnel of trees)/36th st, west

Inspired by Scott and his winding routes through the neighborhood, I decided to try one of own. It’s a nice change of pace to run on different streets after running the same way for so long. I’m surprised this route isn’t a bit longer.

When I reached the river, I noticed Dave the Daily Walker up ahead! I haven’t seen him for months–since April or May, I think. So glad he’s doing okay. I’ve wondered about him.

Ran through the tunnel of trees. Dark and thick and wonderful. Encountered one runner but we both moved over as far as we could–almost 6 feet apart, I think.

I’m pretty sure I glanced at the river quickly. I can’t remember if I heard the rowers today, or was it yesterday? Yesterday.

I recited “Babel” several times as I ran. I know it better today than yesterday. The most awkward lines:

the electrical bugs so loud
the air is stunned, windy the trees’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings
of magpies?

Windy the trees’ applause? That sounds strange to me. I tried to find some audio of Johnson reading the poem but I couldn’t. I don’t feel like I can properly deliver that line yet because the windy the tree part doesn’t quite make sense. Favorite bits? “the trees blustered to howls,” the “huckster cackle,” and “the air stupid with the shrieks of devils,–of angels,–“

I recorded myself reciting it when I returned home. I’m finding this poem to be awkward to read. Some of the lines, like the awkward one about windy the leaves’ applause, are very difficult to keep flowing. I struggle to keep the tone of a question throughout the long sentence. I’d like to try recording myself reciting this while I run and/or walk? Would it be flow better or worse?

Babel, August 14


august 13/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/edmund, north
72 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Warmer today. Started slow and got faster each mile. Ran north on 43rd again, noticing more of the familiar houses. I run on the right side so I miss running by one of my other favorite 43rd avenue houses on the left side: the one with the 2 lion statues guarding their stoop, at the edge of the sidewalk. For every season, they wear different visors. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been wearing masks–or at least they have the last time I checked, which was a month ago. In the spring, they wear bunny ears, in July, spangled stars, at Christmas-time, reindeer antlers. I know they do something for Halloween too, but I can’t remember what.

Ran past the field at Cooper school, the Aspen eyes, the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy, filling up with cars. Decided to try running on the trail through the tunnel of trees again. No problem! Forget to check out the amphitheater of green air, but did notice the construction trailer–where they’re doing the sewer work–and how, on this side, it was heavily tagged with graffiti. I was moving too fast to read what it said, but it looked cool with the big, brightly colored block letters. Heard the voices of 2 women behind me somewhere. So loud! Was it the two runners I passed–and managed to get 6 feet of distance from because I ran up the side of a small hill–right before entering the tunnel of trees? Ran through the welcoming oaks and above the ravine. Wondered why I wasn’t hearing any water gushing through the pipe, over the limestone ledge, down to the river after all of the rain yesterday. Stayed on the trail until 42nd st when I turned around but was too busy looking out for other people to notice the river. It is often difficult for me to see when a person is ahead–most of the time I can, but I have to be extra careful for those times when I can’t. Haven’t run into anyone yet!

Tried reciting the poem I started memorizing this morning: “Babel” by Kimberly Johnson. I thought I had it memorized, but I got hopelessly stuck halfway through. I thought about briefly stopping and looking up the words on my phone but didn’t.

My God, it’s loud down there, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, their huckster cackle, their huckster cackle!?

Stuck. I knew the next line had something to do with trees but no matter how hard I concentrated, patiently waiting for the words to appear, they didn’t. When I got home, I checked and, of course!, the line is:

can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whined loudly to the shocked air?

Yes! How could I have forgotten those howls or the tesla bees? Are tesla bees a thing? I looked it up and aside from a mention of Nikola Tesla’s idea that women would soon rule the world as “Queen Bees” and references to the “tesla of honey” on a beekeeping forum, I couldn’t find anything. I asked Scott and he wondered if it could be a reference to the buzzing sound a Tesla coil makes. When I looked up, “Tesla coil sound” I found an article about a band that gets the Tesla coil to “sing”. Wow.

Here’s the full poem:

Babel/ Kimberly Johnson

My God, it’s loud down here, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whine loudly to the shocked air? O who
can think of heaven in such squall, shrill wind
of trees, magpie wings, and throats in fracas,

the bluebottle static, the air stupid
with the shrieks of devils,— of angels,—
who in such squall can think of anything

but heaven?

I love this poem and all it’s chatter. I was thinking about it this morning as I drank my coffee, sitting in the chair I always sit in while drinking my coffee with all the windows open, listening to all the birds and the low insistent hum of the crickets. So much noise!

august 12/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/hill loop
71 degrees

Just updated to the latest version of WordPress (5.5) and they have changed the interface again. Initial reaction: why do we need this change? I’ll give it some time.

Writing this, an hour after my run, the sky is dark, foreboding. Looked at the radar on the weather app and bright yellow and orange and red are approaching. A heavy storm. Hopefully not too heavy.

Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog first, then went for a shorter run. Listened to a playlist and don’t remember much. Noticed the house on 43rd that used to have the best Halloween decorations–a light/sound show with Toccata and Fugue, a coffin opening up to reveal a skeleton, a graveyard with bloody heads–until the cool people moved away. The new owners have a large cross hanging on their front door and have lined their path with cutesy flowers. Yes, I guess I am bitter.

The run was nice. Noticed lots of cars at Minnehaha Academy–looked it up, student are returning to campus on August 27th. Wow. Also looked up tuition for high schoolers: $23, 980 a year! Forgot to notice the Aspen eyes. Ran on the sidewalk past the trees that, in less than two months will be glowing yellow, and my favorite trio of some of the biggest cottonwood trees I’ve ever seen. Ran past the house that seemed abandoned for almost a year until suddenly it wasn’t and now they’ve been doing minor renovations all spring and summer. Switched over to other side of Edmund and ran right above where they’re working on the sewers. When I reached 36th I turned left onto the river road and ran down the hill until I reached the bottom. Turned around and ran back up it. Saw some bikers, runners, walker. Any roller skier? Don’t think so.

Before I run I noticed the quiet buzz of bugs. The buzz didn’t sound electric. Was it crickets? Speaking of electric buzz, I found another useful site about cicadas with this harsh and haunting description:

Nymph FoodRoot juices of pine and oak
Adult Food Adults do not eat. After mating they die.

When You Walk Over the Earth/ Katie Farris 

When you walk over
the earth, it asserts
itself: “Here. Here.

Here,” it says to your
feet. You must reckon
with the earth, though it enters

you less. The sky always
has its hand in you,
as if you were a puppet,

through your ears down
your throat into your
lungs—and with the tips

of its fingers there, it caresses
every capillary, every blood cell,
until they blush.

After initially posting this entry, I sat at my desk and listened to the gentle rain falling and decided I needed to add something more here. “A Short Story of Falling” by Alice Oswald is a favorite poem of mine–I should memorize it. A few years ago, I turned it into an homage poem about crunching snow.

A Short Story of Falling/ ALICE OSWALD

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

And here is a recording of the rain, just outside my window in the front room:

Falling Water, August 12


august 11/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow loop
63 degrees

Beautiful morning! Calm, sunny, not too warm or crowded. Was able to run on the path above the river heading south. Encountered a few runners and bikers but was able to keep my distance. The river was glowing white, over half the sky green. Passed the tall old guy with the long legs made longer by old school running shorts and a torso made shorter by a tucked-in tank top–or should I call it a muscle shirt? The alliteration of tucked-in tank top sounds better. Passed the ridge above the oak savanna, the steps at 38th street, the bench near Folwell, the ancient boulder at 42nd. Crossed over by Becketwood to the paved trail on the other side of the road, then ran down the hill on Edmund to turkey hollow. No turkeys today. Ran up 47th, back to the river road, on the narrow grassy stretch between Becketwood and 42nd that Scott and I have named the gauntlet, and then back over to edmund.

Between 42nd and 36th, many of the houses on Edmund are modern and big–lots of huge windows and intensely colored doors (red, lime green) and inviting decks, funky chandeliers, and futura-fonted house numbers. From ages 5 to 9, I lived in a modern house in Hickory, North Carolina–2 1/2 levels, with open staircases you could hang from by your legs and that had hiding places behind them, several balconies, both inside on the top floor, and outside, above the private front patio, a stone fireplace you could walk behind, cubby holes, a screened-in porch off the kitchen on the second floor overlooking the neighbor’s pool, huge light fixtures that glowed like ghostly heads at night, awesomely 70’s zig zag wallpaper in the kitchen, a family room that could fit a 20 foot christmas tree. I loved that house and all of its quirks. I wonder, what quirks do the houses I ran by (and almost every day for the last 5 months) contain?

sound: buzzing bugs

Every August, there are still birds chirping and cooing and trilling, but they are harder to hear because of the relentless electric buzz of the bugs. Cicadas. There are 2 types of cicadas: those that appear every year (dog day) and those that emerge from underground in large numbers every 13-17 years (periodical). I just learned that in Minnesota we only ever get the dog day kind. And I am glad after reading about how many periodical cicadas can emerge, covering cars, sidewalks, and emitting obnoxious noises! I could hear their power line buzz as I ran. I don’t like the sound as much as the black capped chickadee’s call or the pew pew pew of the cardinal, but it doesn’t bother me. Whenever I think about cicadas, I remember my introduction to them: the 1986 movie, Lucas, which is set during a summer when a brood of periodical cicadas are emerging from the ground….Reading an article from the Smithsonian about how weird they are, I discovered zombie cicadas:

In recent years, researchers have unearthed peculiar and sometimes horrifying relationships between cicadas and fungi. Massospora fungi infect cicadas and hijack their bodies. The fungi can even synchronize to the cicada’s life cycle, staying dormant until the cicada is ready to emerge. Once active, they take over the bottom half of the cicada’s body while somehow keeping the cicada alive. The infected cicada flies away, spreading spores that infect future generations (Source).

Also, while early Americans despised cicadas, confusing them with plagues of locusts, the ancient Greeks loved cicadas, writing odes about them.

[the cry of the cicada]/ Matsuo Basho

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die

august 10/RUN

3.1 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/33rd st, east/river road trail, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
67 degrees
humidity: 80%

Non-stop thunder and lightening for most of the night. Wild. Unsettling to the dog, but no damage or power outages. This morning everything was wet and a darker (but not an ominous dark) green.

Ran north on 43rd until 32nd then turned right. I think this is my new usual route. Ran on 32nd to edmund, right before the river, and ran a block until crossing at 33rd to enter the trail. I decided today I would try to run the tunnel of trees and hope there weren’t too many people when I reached the narrowest parts. Success! Didn’t encounter anyone.

Ran past the old stone steps, past the concrete wall/ overlook/ bench that Delia likes to jump on, past the four barriers (2 walls, 2 fences), past the amphitheater of green air (the spot where the trees open up slightly to create wide space surrounded by trees, blocking out the sky but still feeling uncrowded), past the spot on the trail where you can just see the top of the hill. Beautiful! I had forgotten how much I love this stretch of the trail. Above the forest, on the edge of a ridge, looking out at endless layers of green with no floor and no sky. Tucked below the road, hidden behind a wall and a fence. Dark and mysterious. Quiet. Enough time alone to gain some peace, not enough to feel afraid (of critters* or lurking humans).

*Speaking of critters, I have seen, earlier this year in March, a coyote run down into the tunnel of trees. I was not running, but walking and was across the road. And yesterday, a jogger reported seeing a black bear near the Summit Monument overlooking the river on the east side close to the trail that’s part of one of my frequent (in non-COVID times) routes: the Ford loop! One more, less scary one: at least twice, while walking around the neighborhood, Scott and I saw an albino squirrel.

After the tunnel of trees, I ran through the welcoming oaks and above the ravine. I was surprised to not hear any water rushing out of the sewer pipe. Ran past the oak savanna–too many leaves to see anything, past the steps at 38th street, past the bench on the dirt path that links two steep hills each winding back down to the Winchell trail. Encountered some bikers who didn’t even try to move over for me and when I moved off the edge of the path to give them room, they biked even closer. Did this happen, or did it seem like it did because of my bad vision and lack of depth perception? People always seem too close to me with my messed up macular.

As I ran, I tried to recite “Push the button, hear the sound” again. I made it through several lines, but became distracted as I tried to avoid other people. It’s hard to recite poems and get lost in the words when you’re having to look out for other runners. Thinking about the poem and it’s refrain, Listen and can you hear?, I thought about what I’d like others to listen to by the river and what I wonder if they can hear:

Listen to the gravel crunching on the trail.
Can you hear the electric buzz of the cicadas, relentless and rumbling under everything?
Can you hear the rowers on the river?
Listen to the roller skier’s ski poles striking the ground.
Can you hear the poles clickity-clack or do they just clack, or only click?
Listen to the doppler effect on the bike’s speakers.
Can you hear the talk radio host yelling through someone’s phone?
Listen to the pileated woodpecker laughing at us.
Can you hear that circle of light on the surface of river inviting you in?
Can you hear your shadow running beside you?
Listen to the oaks exhaling.
Can you hear your lost innocence?
Can you still hear your mom’s voice? Her laugh? The way she said your name?
Can you hear the asphalt buckling?
Listen to “Black Wizard Wave” by Nur-d.

Earlier this morning, before heading out for my run, I came across–and not for the first time–Walt Whitman’s wonderful “Song of the Open Road”:

from Song of the Open Road/ Walt Whitman

3
You air that serves me with breath to speak! 
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape! 
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers! 
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides! 
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me. 

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges! 
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships! 

You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs! 
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards! 
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much! 
You doors and ascending steps! you arches! 
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings! 
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me, 
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me. 

5
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines, 
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute, 
Listening to others, considering well what they say, 
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, 
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. 
I inhale great draughts of space, 
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine. 

I am larger, better than I thought, 
I did not know I held so much goodness. 


august 9/RUN

3.1 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
77 degrees
humidity: 80%
dew point: 70

Much warmer this morning. Still managed a 5k without stopping. As I ran down 32nd toward the river I thought about how glad I was that they had closed the road for the sewer work at 32nd instead of 33rd–that way I can run on a long block of the river road without worrying about cars. Then, when I reached the river, I saw that they had moved the road closure ahead to 33rd. No more running on the river road. Bummer.

Was able to run on the trail above the river from 36th to 42nd! Heard some rowers, saw some shining water. Glanced at the empty benches. Don’t remember hearing any birds or crunching on any acorns–they’re covering many of the sidewalks in the neighborhood. No roller skiers or music blasting from bike speakers. No big groups of runners or bikers.

Recited “Push the Button” one time and thought about the constant refrain throughout the poem, “Listen to the…” “Can you hear the…?” I’m curious about how Mort decided which things she wanted us to listen to and which things she wondered if we could hear:

Listen to…

  • the lorikeet’s whistling song
  • the ground giddy with thirst
  • the dog shit on the lawns, murderous water boatmen skimming the green pond
  • the casual racists in the family pub
  • the house Shiraz I drink as if it’s something’s blood
  • my fear, blooming in my chest, and how I water it
  • the noisy penguins on the ice
  • my late night online purchases
  • your half-sister hissing to her friends at 2 am
  • the panic in their emojis
  • the utter indifference of the stars
  • “The Trout” by Schubert
  • the blackbird’s chirpy song
  • that waltz by Paganini
  • the stage as we walk clear off the front of it

Can you hear…?

  • the call of the mynah bird
  • flamingos in the water
  • your small heart next to mine and the house breathing as it holds us
  • the chainsaw start
  • the roses rioting on the trellis
  • the sleepless girls in Attercliffe
  • the aspirin of the sun dissolving
  • your grandfather’s lost childhood
  • the suburban library shutting, the door closing, the books still breathing
  • your father lighting his first cigarette
  • the foxes mating all the way to oblivion
  • me holding you, closer than my life

And two variations on “Can you hear…?”:

O, can you hear the budget tightening?
Can you hear that, Alfie?

I’ll have to study this list some more, I guess, to find a pattern, if there is one. What’s the difference between the command, “listen” and the question, “can you hear?”

Here’s a quick draft of my homage to Mort’s original poem:

Listen to the black capped chickadee’s 2 note song.
Can you hear him posing a question to the gorge?
Can you hear the honking geese overhead?
Can you hear your lungs grasping for air
and the green leaves thickening as they hold us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the tight weave
of the savanna’s oak unraveling?
It’s August, thick, crowded. Listen
to the path, cluttered with acorns. Listen
to the sewer stink near the ravine, the sex-crazed
gnats swarming the hill. Can you hear
the virus spreading through the neighborhood?
Can you make a noise like a panicked rabbit? There are
sounds your tweet lacks names for.

august 7/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
68 degrees
humidity: 83%/ dew point: 66

Decided to run to the trestle and back for the first time with the road open to traffic. Definitely not as relaxing. I had to get closer than 6 feet to 2 or 3 runners as I passed them. I don’t think I’ll be running above the river that much this late summer and fall. Oh well.

I got to see the river for awhile. Didn’t hear any rowers or see any roller skiers. I did smell the sewer above the rowing club and ran through a dark green stretch of the trail.

Tried reciting “Push the button” while I ran. Very difficult as I focused more on avoiding people and staying cool.

Heard some rustling below me as I ran above the river. Was it rushing water or wind through the trees? Decided on wind.

Don’t remember seeing any squirrels or changing leaves or acorns on the path. No Daily Walker. No black-capped chickadees or cardinals or pileated woodpeckers.

Heard at least 3 different people talking above me on the lake street bridge as I ran under it. Saw a mini peloton zooming by on the road.

Right after finishing, as I walked home, I recited the entire poem I’ve been working oA. I didn’t even care that there were a lot of people around who could see me talking into my phone.

Push the buttons, hear the sound/Helen Mort
August 7

august 6/RUN

2.3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/edmund, south/river road, north/river road, south
68 degrees

Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog before heading out for a shorter run. During the walk, we could feel fall slowly coming. Cooler air, a red leaf peeking through the green on a neighbor’s fence:

As I ran north on 43rd, I started reciting “Push the button, hear the sound.” Ran past the abandoned house, growing a forest of new maples, past the house with the easter island head by the front door, past the house that used to have my favorite halloween decorations until it was sold:

Past Cooper School, past the aspen eyes, past the red leaf that Scott, Delia and I had walked by an hour before. Ran for a block on the river road and then turned back onto Edmund. It took me almost a mile and a half to finish reciting the poem.

Ran down and up the hill by the Welcoming Oaks twice. The second time, on my way up, I encountered a biker biking with no hands on the handlebars singing at the top of his lungs–not sure what song. About a month ago I encountered another biker doing this as he approached the hill. I had marveled at his effortlessness and how little he cared that he looked ridiculous. The biker today just looked ridiculous and out of control. I hope he didn’t crash into anyone as he biked down the hill.

A few minutes after I returned home, I recited the poem into my phone. I remembered most of it but forget 2 lines. I guess I need to spend another day with this poem.

Push the Button, August 6

august 5/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow loop
60 degrees

O, this morning! Cool and sunny and calm. Quiet and not too crowded. When I reached the river, I ran on the trail for a few minutes, past the oak savanna and the thick layer of trees. Before I had to cross over to the grassy boulevard because there were too many runners, I saw the beautiful river, glowing white. Also heard a very enthusiastic coxswain yelling out instructions to his crew. Ran past turkey hollow and forgot to check for turkeys–did I even glance over at the huge grassy stretch? I don’t think so. Heard some music coming out of a bike speaker–something pop-y–and obnoxious talk radio out of a runner’s smartphone. Noticed my shadow running beside me.

Memorized another chunk of my first “listen” poem and recited it while I ran. Had trouble with it during the first half of run; I was too busy trying not to twist my ankle on the uneven, rutted dirt path on the boulevard. Had better luck in the second half because I was running on the road. Thought about word choices and what she might be referencing (anything?) with “can you hear the sleepless girls of Attercliff?”

Here’s a recording of myself reciting it after I got home:

Push the button, hear the sound/ august 5

august 4/RUN

3.5 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st east/river road, south/edmund, south and turn around at 42nd st
60 degrees

Today they opened up the river road to cars again. Well, it was nice while it lasted–and it lasted much longer than I would have expected. I’m glad I ran the 2 loops yesterday. Today I ran north on 43rd to 32nd. Ran past the field at Cooper School, past the field at Minnehaha Upper Campus, past the aspen eyes, all the way to the river road. It’s still closed for the sewer work they’re doing above the tunnel of trees so I was able to run on one long block of it car-free. Turned back onto Edmund at 33rd then ran up the hill to the spot high above the river road where the river sometimes sparkles through the thick trees. Not today. Ran to 36th and turned left for a small loop past the Welcoming Oaks, down the hill beside the path above the tunnel of trees and then back up it again. At the top of the hill, kept going south on Edmund until I reached 42nd st, past Dowling Elementary School, past the house that has been posting poetry on their huge front windows, and past the huge 1980s house with the indoor pool and the extra lot that was for sale for over a year until someone finally bought the extra lot and built a super modern house on it. A strange juxtaposition. Encountered some strollers, bikers, walkers, runners, cars. Heard some Northern Cardinals and some gravel crunch crunch crunching on the side of the road. Saw my shadow.

Tried to stop thinking about how difficult this pandemic is and how to solve the problem of a daughter desperate to hang out with her friends while there’s a steep rise in cases here in Minnesota.

Began memorizing a new poem yesterday afternoon in my series on listening: Push the button, hear the sound/ Helen Mort. Recited the first third as I ran.

Listen to the lorikeet’s whistling song.
Can you hear the call of the mynah bird?
Can you hear the flamingos in the water?
Can you hear your small heart next to mine
and the house breathing as it holds us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the bones
of out neighbor’s Eucalyptus breaking?
It’s summer, high, emptied. Listen to the ground,
giddy with thirst. Listen to the dog shit
on the lawns, the murderous water boatman
skimming the green pond. Can you hear
the roses rioting on the trellis? Can you
make a noise like a cheeky monkey? There are
sounds your book lacks names for.

Confused by the line about the water boatmen so I looked it up. Water boatman is a type of insect that feeds off of scum on ponds. I made the mistake of reading more about them and the male’s “singing penis.” To attract a female, a male boatman makes a very loud (99.2 decibels) sound by rubbing his penis against his abdomen. Wow.

Recorded myself reciting the poem as I walked home after my run:

Push the Button, Hear the Sound/August 4

Geese!

Almost forgot to mention the vee of geese, high in the sky! On my post-run walk with Delia the dog, I heard them. A dozen geese flying high in the sky, an uproar of honks. Two nights ago, I heard them too. Fall is coming. Not for a while, but the signs are starting. Usually, I’m excited for these signs, but this year that excitement also carries a dread: how much longer will this pandemic last and what will it feel like in the cold and snow? How much harder will it be for others to endure when the weather isn’t nice? I’m not worried for myself, I love the winter cold, but for other members of my family who are already starting to lose it.

august 3/RUN

3.5 miles
2 loops (36th to 42nd)
62 degrees

Since they’re opening the road back up to cars any day now, I thought I would do 2 loops. Back when they closed the road in early May, I had visions of running loops all summer. I even created a loops page. But it didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t like running loops, or at least multiple loops at once. Halfway through the first loop, I start thinking about how I’m going to have to run another loop and then I think, “How am I going to do another loop?” and I usually stop early. I am often willing to stop something early when I don’t think it’s working. Sometimes this is a good thing–why torture yourself doing something you hate just because you said you’d do it? Sometimes it’s a bad thing–why is it so easy for me to stop when I don’t like it? Mostly I’m fine with my tendency to stop–probably because I usually find something to like about what I have to do so I get the things done I need to and because my willingness to stop early doesn’t reflect a lack of passion or commitment. I’m very committed to my writing and running and family and thinking/living/acting with critical awareness and care.

So–back to the point of this digression–I accept that I don’t like running loops and I don’t run them. But today, I thought I’d try something different. I ran one loop with no headphones, then one loop with a playlist.

loop one

The first loop was about a minute slower. I focused on birds (heard a black capped chickadee) and trees (especially the trees on the boulevard that lean in towards the river road offering more shade, listening in to check how heavily I was breathing) and the big boulders in the grass. I tried to stay relaxed and avoid thinking about how I was still just on the first loop and that I was planning to do another one. I checked out my shadow a few times. She was on my right side, slightly behind me. I decided the best shade was between 38th and 36th.

loop two

Before starting the second loop, I stopped to find a playlist–an older one titled, “august run.” First song: “Misery Business” by Paramore. I remember listening to this my first year of running, nine years ago. To match my foot strikes to the beat, I picked up my cadence. Didn’t think about anything or notice where I was as I ran. What a wonderful thing to get lost in the effort of moving! Lifting my knees, focusing more on driving my left leg. Swinging my arms evenly. Also listened to “Hurt Feelings” by Flight of the Concords and laughed at the lyrics, “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and thought about how much I loved this song when I was kid.

I like this idea of running one loop listening to the gorge and one loop listening to music. It might be fun to try doing one loop reciting one poem and then another loop reciting a different poem. I think I’ve tried something like this already–have I (no, but after looking through old entries, I discovered I had proposed this very idea of may 22nd). I’m glad I found this entry because in it I posted a poem I’d like to memorize: Push the button, hear the sound I think I’d like to do a series of 4 or 5 poems on listening.

Listen, the long list

I’ll have to narrow this list down to 4.

august 2/RUN

4.1 miles
ford bridge and back again + extra
64 degrees

Cooler this morning! Cool enough to wear a short-sleeved shirt instead of a tank top. Overcast, windy. Ran south on the river road to the Ford Bridge and back. Glanced briefly at the river through the trees. Heard some talk radio coming out of a runner’s smartphone as I passed them. Was it MPR? I think so. Lots of bikers, walkers, runners around. Almost passed two bikers heading up the hill between Locks and Dam #1 and the double bridge at 44th because they were biking so slowly and I had picked up my pace. Looked for turkeys in turkey hollow but didn’t see even one. No roller skiers either. Didn’t recite any poems in my head. Tried counting to four for a while and then chanting triple berries: strawberry, blueberry, raspberry. Nothing stuck. I don’t remember much about my run. No deep thoughts, but also no worries about whether or not the US or the world will ever get this pandemic under control. A strange, difficult time.

Yesterday, I had my first break from running since July 9th. Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk instead. We ended up above the Franklin hill before turning around and heading back. So relaxing to watch all the runners and bikers and roller skiers moving below us. Lots of roller skiers! We watched 3 strong, graceful, badass women powering up the hill. I love watching graceful, confident bodies in motion.

TIME FOR SERENITY, ANYONE?/ William Stafford

I like to live in the sound of water,
in the feel of mountain air. A sharp
reminder hits me: this world still is alive;
it stretches out there shivering toward its own
creation, and I’m part of it. Even my breathing
enters into the elaborate give-and-take,
this bowing to sun and moon, day or night,
winter, summer, storm, still—this tranquil
chaos that seems to be going somewhere.
This wilderness with a great peacefulness in it.
This motionless turmoil, this everything dance.

july 31/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill and back again
69 degrees

Since they’re opening up the road next week, I decided I better run on it all the way down the franklin hill before it’s too late. Another beautiful day, with less humidity! I ran for 3 miles then walked for 1/2 mile up the steep hill before running again.

At Annie Young Meadows, at the bottom of the hill, noticed a dozen tents set up–another encampment for people without homes. So awful. I hope Minneapolis figures out better housing for them before winter hits. Everyone should have a home and enough food–what a fucked up country this is.

Down at the bottom of the hill, in the bright sun, the river looked flat and hot and a dull brown.

To end the month and my series of memorized poems about vision, I decided to recite each of the 4 poems for a mile and then spend the last mile reflecting on common themes. What a nerd I am. Mile One: Before I got my eye put out; Mile Two: Natural Forces; Mile Three: I Look Up From My Book at the World Through Reading Glasses; and Mile Four: Halos. At the start of mile four, as I walked up the hill, I recited Halos into my phone and then, after I finished, I recited I Look Up.

Halos, July 31
I Look Up, July 31

During mile five, I thought about the soul and how it’s mentioned in both Dickinson (safer — guess — for just my soul/opon the window pane) and Lee (to believe the soul is/ ubiquitous like water/in our voices, our cells). Could the soul be the water within us? Not some ethereal spirit distinctive from the body but water, the very substance that makes up more than half of us (kids: 78%, men: 60%, women: 55%)? I like thinking about the soul as the most physical, substantial part of us. Of course, now as I write this, I’m thinking about Walt Whitman and “The Body Electric“:

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul, 
O I say now these are the soul!

july 30/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
68 degrees

Walking down to the end of the block before starting my run, I marveled at the slightly cool breeze and the soft sun. What a morning to be outside! Perfect for walking, slightly too warm for running. Ran south on the river road. Heard the birds–which birds? Not sure. Glanced at the river for the brief moment I was able to run on the trail. Saw my shadow. Tried to stay calm and block out the relentless worry, simmering under the surface, about pandemics and tyrants and upcoming elections. Was mostly successful.

Running past the steps at 38th street that lead to the lower trail, closer to the river, I longed for last summer when I regularly ran the 2 trails route. O, to be closer to the river, below the road on the undulating trail!

Recited the rest of Halos this morning. The rhythm of this poem doesn’t work well with running and I found it hard to keep reciting the lines in a steady flow. Lots of stopping and starting. Was this also because of the heat or the effort or my still shaky grasp of the words?

I like, whenever I wish, strolling past
the myopic me
in a window or a mirror or whatever

reflects back to believe the soul is
ubiquitous like water
in our voices, our cells.

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:
to the dead, we’re the ghosts?

I am not sure what he means here or what to do with souls as ubiquitous as water or the idea that we’re the ghosts to the dead. What does it mean to be a ghost?

Ghost (noun), definition (OED)

  1. The soul or spirit, as the principle of life (to give up the ghost)
  2. Philosophy.  the ghost in the machine: (Gilbert Ryle’s name for) the mind viewed as separate from the body 
  3. The soul of a deceased person, spoken of as appearing in a visible form, or otherwise manifesting its presence, to the living. (Now the prevailing sense.)
  4. A shadowy outline or semblance, an unsubstantial image (of something); hence, a slight trace or vestige, esp. in phrase  (not) the ghost of a chance.

Ghost (verb), definition (OED)

  1. to expire
  2. to haunt
  3. to scare with pretended apparitions
  4. To flit about, prowl as a ghost. Also  to ghost it.  to ghost away: to steal away like a ghost.

Ghost (Colloquial), definition (Wikipedia)

Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communicate made by said partner, friend, or individual.

I would like to use the phrase, “to ghost it” somewhere. Also, having stared at the word “ghost” for too long, the letters seem strange, especially the g and h right beside each other.

Thinking about being “ubiquitous like water” I was reminded of Bruce Lee and his great poem? speech? about being like water. Then I was reminded of the poem by Ed Bok Lee that I discovered yesterday and just listened to right now, “Ode to Bruce Lee” from his collection Whorled. In the poem, he says:

Boxer and cha cha champion
style of no style
teacher, waiter, philosopher, dragon

Style of no style is also in Halos. I want to think some more about what this phrase means–to him, what it might mean to me. Fluid, not trapped any identity or label or “box”, flowing like water?

Here’s a recording of me reciting Lee’s “Halos” after I returned from my run. I still have a few extra/wrong words to fix:

Halos, July 30

july 29/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
68 degrees
humidity: 79%/ dew point: 63

Another sunny, beautiful day. I’d like it about 15-20 degrees cooler but I’ll still take today. Ran up 43rd avenue until reaching 32nd street, then ran by the field at Cooper Elementary School (named after James Fenimore Cooper) that’s been closed for as long as I’ve lived nearby (almost 6 years). Noticed a man that I’ve seen there 4 or 5 times before exercising by flipping a heavy sand bag* across the field–at least I think that’s what he does. I can’t really see in a quick glance and I don’t want to stare–both because I don’t want to be rude and don’t want to invite a conversation.

*In trying to determine what he was doing, I looked up sand bag exercises. Wow, it’s a thing. You really have to be a badass to do some of the exercises.

Ran past the aspen eyes on my way to the river road, turned left towards lake street and ran north until I reached the barricade at 29th (I think). Encountered runners, walkers, bikers. No roller skiers. Saw my shadow. Don’t remember hearing any birds–when will I start hearing the geese? I do remember hearing traffic above me on lake street and a lawn mower on the boulevard, the gravel crunching underfoot, a kid calling out to his friend. No music blasting from bike speakers or talk radio from smartphones.

Recited more from Ed Bok Lee’s “Halos” as I ran. Difficult to keep going without interruptions or to think much about the words. I definitely want to spend more time with this poem and his description of seeing strangely. Here’s the part I added this morning:

That visual impairment improves hearing,
taste, smell, touch, is mostly myth.
With it, however, I can detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos around bikers’ helmets;
each street lamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.
I don’t mind opening a book

like a pewter Rorcshach test,
or waking up each morning
inside a fish tank of dream.

Is the idea of losing one sense enhances the others mostly a myth? For me, I’m not sure how much sharper my hearing is, but I’ve devoted a lot of time to building up my listening skills, paying attention aurally and not just visually. However, even though I’ve tried to work on my bird listening skills, I still can hardly identify any birdsongs.

I like how he moves away from good vision to interesting/ strange vision with his lines about fuzzy spirits and halos and street lamps as pink-orange dawns. I don’t see these things, but I do think I see bare branches more beautifully–their blurred edges softening the sky–than someone with “normal” sight. What else do I see strangely?

I recited the poem into my phone when I returned home:

Halos, July 29

july 28/RUN

2.4 miles
river road, south/north
70 degrees
humidity: 85%

Warmer this morning, humid, wet. When I started it was overcast but as I ran the clouds slowly parted and the sun emerged. I remember looking up at the sky, somewhere near 38th street, to see cracks in the clouds with the sun shining through–a glisk?

People on the road, but not too crowded. Two separate groups of walkers taking up most of the road, just two people each, spaced just right to make it difficult to pass on either side. I’m trying very hard to not let something like this bother me but I struggle to understand how some people are so clueless (or uncaring) about the space they take up in the world and it’s negative impact on others–bikers and other walkers, runners, needing to swing wide, veering into each other’s paths, to avoid the space hoggers.

Thankfully I didn’t spend too much time bothered by the clueless walkers. Saw the river and it was a sparkling blue, shining through the trees. Heard some people on the Winchell Trail below me. Ran down the hill that’s closed at the bottom for construction then ran up it again. Briefly glanced at the Welcoming Oaks. As I finished my run, I heard a black-capped chickadee calling.

Speaking of birds, yesterday afternoon and twice this morning, I was dive-bombed by a pair of birds. They flew right by my face, close enough that I called out, “geez!” Do they have a nest in my yard? I hope not. I would like to remain friends with the birds.

This morning, I started memorizing Ed Bok Lee’s wonderful poem about vision: Halos. Because it’s long, I only memorized 5 stanzas for this morning’s run. Also, I started a few stanzas in:

Halos/Ed Bok Lee

on my walk
home, I take off

my glasses to receive the breeze.
I like that any nearing face
is surely smiling, gorgeous;

each blurry body’s aura numinous:
style of no style, racially
ambiguous, a glob, pure

spectral incohesion. Aren’t we alll
just masses of energy and light
approaching or leaving

one another in the jumbled
future or past; sometimes stop-
ping to embrace

for a moment of decades,
before passing way
too far for sight?

I love the generous way Lee describes blurry vision here and how nearing faces are surely smiling–as opposed to seeming hostile or threatening (or clueless like the space hoggers on the river road). As I continue to lose my vision, I’m hoping to embrace–in more moments–the possible beauty and wonder of seeing faces differently, softly, without edges, as globs of energy and light.

I recorded myself reciting the poem about an hour after I returned home:

from Halos, July 29

july 27/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge and back
66 degrees
humidity: 80%

Sunny and cooler this morning, although it still felt warm. Lots of sweating. Ran south on the river road and thought about how they will be opening up the road to cars next week. Will the paths be much more crowded, or will many of the people who came to walk on the road stop coming altogether?

Overheard by one biker to another: “…they are told to just not give a shit.” Who are they? Who told them to not give a shit, about what, and why?

Also overheard: some music coming out of a bike speaker, talk radio out of phone speakers. Couldn’t hear it well enough to recognize any of it.

No roller skiers this morning, only bikers, walkers, runners. Don’t remember hearing any birds–how is that possible? No laughing or crying or yelling kids. No rowers. No river. No trail, only road.

Saw my shadow running beside me.

They have started clearing off the gravel they had put down on the roads to cover the tar they also put down to seal some cracks. To get rid of it, a truck drives through slowly, sweeping and spraying water. Last night on our evening walk, Scott and I witnessed a roller skier attempting to ski on the gravelly road. So awkward and difficult looking! The skier was wearing pajama pants and despite my efforts to not judge him, I did–they looked like flannel pants and it was still 80 degrees outside.

Writing this, I am sitting in the front room, looking out the window at some birds–are they robins?–who are digging up something in the grass near the part of the lawn that we have begrudgingly ceded to the ants. There are 4 of them (at least) and I can’t tell if they’re friends or enemies. Frenemies?…A few minutes later, two squirrels chasing each other…and a few minutes after that, a scuffle on the tree–annoying little squirrel claws clicking and clacking on the dry bark.

Speaking of squirrels, I was just wondering about poems featuring them–are there many and are they odes or love poems or what? I can’t ever imagine writing a love poem about a squirrel. I don’t like squirrels. As I was thinking about all of this, I suddenly remembered a poem I memorized earlier this summer that features some judge-y squirrels: What Would Root.

The poem begins:

Walking through a cathedral of oak trees
and bristlecone pines, scolded by squirrels
in priestly black, their white collars
wagging with the force of their scolding…

then later:

The squirrels,
I mentioned them already, etc, and lizards
ran down the spines of rocks like a bad feeling.

and even later:

Oh yes, I drank water from the ground; I
was wild, even then, though the squirrels scolded
me and tried to convince me I was not.

So much scolding! Doing a little more thinking, I remembered another poem I love that features squirrels–even better, squirrels being punished for their bad behavior! Forsythe Avenue by Aimee Nezhukumathil.

Tulip bulbs that a girl once planted and sprinkled with
pepper flakes have all been scratched up by brave squirrels
who strut the streets with tiny blistered mouths.

july 26/RUN

3 miles
47th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south
71 degrees
humidity: 95%/ dew point: 72

Rained last night and early this morning so everything was dripping when I went out for my run. I didn’t feel the water so much as hear it coming off the trees, trickling off the gutters, gushing through the sewer pipe above the ravine. Several puddles on the sidewalk in the usual spots. Because the rain had only recently stopped, there weren’t too many people out near the river. When I finally reached it, just past the aspen eyes, I was able to run right above it. I even saw it a few times through the thick green. Running up the hill from below the lake street bridge I kept running on the trail that veers away from the road and right above the rowing club. I haven’t run on this part of the path for months! Ended my run climbing the hill near the tunnel of trees. In other summers, when I can safely run on the trail, a mist gets trapped here after it rains in the mid-story canopy. On the road this morning, there was mist too, but not as thick. It felt strange and dreamy to run through it.

Yesterday I began reading a thesis about Lorine Niedecker and how her vision problems shaped some of her poetry. The author focuses on this poem in particular:

Wintergreen Ridge /Lorine Niedecker

Where the arrow
         of the road signs
                 lead us:

Life is natural
         in the evolution
                of matter

Nothing supra-rock
        about it
                simply

butterflies
        are quicker
                than rock

Man 
        lives hard
                on this stone perch

by sea
       imagines
               durable works

in creation here
        as in the center
               of the world

let’s say
        of art 
              We climb

the limestone cliffs
        my skirt dragging
               an inch below

the knee 
        the style before 
               the last

the last the least
         to see 
              Norway

or “half of Sussex
         and almost all
              of Surrey”

Crete perhaps
         and further:
             “Every creature

better alive
        than dead.
              men and moose

and pine trees”
       We are gawks
              lusting

after wild orchids
       Wait! What’s this? —
             sign:

Flowers
        loveliest
            where they grow

Love them enjoy them
        and leave them so
            Let’s go!

Evolution’s wild ones
        saved
            continuous life

through change
       from Time Began
            Northland’s
unpainted barns
       fish and boats
            now this —

flowering ridge
       the second one back
            from the lighthouse

Who saved it? —
       Women
            of good wild stock

Stood stolid
        before machines
           They stopped bulldozers

cold
        We want it for all time
           they said

and here it is —
        horsetails
          club mosses

stayed alive
        after dinosaurs
          died

Found:
       laurel in muskeg
          Linnaeus’s twinflower

Andromeda
       Cisandra of the bog
           pearl flowered

Lady’s tresses
       insect-eating
          pitcher plant

Bedeviled little Drosera
       of the sundews
          deadly

in sphagnum moss
       sticks out its sticky
          (Darwin tested)

tentacled leaf
       towards a fly
           half an inch away

engulfs it
       Just the touch
          of a gnat on a filament

stimulates leaf-plasma
       secretes a sticky
          clear liquid

the better to eat you
       my dear
          digest cartilage

and tooth enamel
        (DHL spoke of blood
          in a green growing thing

in Italy was it?)
       They do it with glue
          these plants

Lady’ Slipper’s glue
       and electric threads
          smack the sweets-seeker

on the head
      with pollinia
          The bee

befuddled
     the door behind him
          closed he must

go out the rear
     the load on him 
         for the next

flower
     Women saved
        a pretty thing: Truth:

“a good to the heart” 
     It all comes down
        to the family

“We have a lovely
     finite parentage
        mineral

vegetable
     animal”
        Nearby dark wood —

I suddenly heard
     the cry
        my mother’s

where the light
     pissed past
        the pistillate cone

how she loved
     closed gentians
        she herself

so closed
     and in this to us peace
        the stabbing

pen
     friend did it
        close to the heart

pierced the woods
     red
        (autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
     to grieve
        or dump

the leaves most brilliant
     as do trees
        when they’ve no need

of an overload
     of cellulose
        for a cool while

Nobody, nothing
     ever gave me
        greater thing

than time
     unless light
        and silence

which if intense
     makes sound
        Unaffected

by man
     thin to nothing lichens
        grind with their acid

granite to sand
     These may survive
        the grand blow-up

the bomb
     When visited
        by the poet

From Newcastle on Tyne
     I neglected to ask
        what wild plants

have you there
     how dark
        how inconsiderate

of me
     Well I see at this point
        no pelting of police

with flowers
     no uprooted gaywings
        bishop’s cup

white bunchberry
     under aspens
        pipsissewa

(wintergreen)
     grass of parnassus
        See beyond —

ferns
     algae
        water lilies

Scent
     the simple
        the perfect

order
     of that flower
        water lily

I see no space-rocket
     launched here
        no mind-changing

acids eaten
     one sort manufactured
        as easily as gin

in a bathtub
     Do feel however
        in liver and head

as we drive
     towards cities
        the change

in church architecture —
     now it’s either a hood
        for a roof

pulled down to the ground
     and below
        or a factory-long body

crawled out from a rise
     of black dinosaur-necked
        blower-beaked

smokestack-
     steeple
        Murder in the Cathedral’s

proportions
     Do we go to church
        No use

discussing heaven 
     HJ’s father long ago
        pronounced human affairs

gone to hell
     Great God —
         what men desire! —

the scientist: a full set
     of fishes
        the desire to know

Another: to talk beat
     act cool
        release    la’go

So far out of flowers
     human parts found
        wrapped in newspaper

left at the church
     near College Avenue
        More news: the war

which “cannot be stopped”
     ragweed pollen
        sneezeweed

whose other name
     Ambrosia
        goes for a community

Ahead — home town
     second shift steamfitter
        ran arms out

as tho to fly
     dived to concrete
        from loading dock

lost his head
     Pigeons
        (I miss the gulls)

mourn the loss
     of people
        no wild bird does

It rained
     mud squash
        willow leaves

in the eaves
     Old sunflower
        you bowed

to no one
     but Great Storm
        of Equinox

july 25/RUN

2.35 miles
47th ave, north/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
82 degrees
dew point: 73

So hot and thick outside this morning. And it’s only 8:30. Decided to end the run with a sprint up the final hill–the same hill I was sprinting up at the end of my runs in the winter except this time I was on the road and not the trail. Felt pretty good at the end. I should try a workout where I warm up for a few miles and then do some sprints.

Encountered mostly walkers and bikers, a few runners, some roller skiers. Saw some people heading up the hill from the rowing club. Had they just been rowing? I’d like to try that sometime. Heard some music coming out of a bike speaker but it was too quiet and distorted from the doppler effect for me to identify what the song or genre was, just tinny noise. Don’t remember hearing or seeing any birds or dogs or squirrels. No river. Quietly called “Watch out!” at a clueless pedestrian slowly walking across the road right in front of me, not looking at all (except at her phone). Don’t think she heard me. Ran on the gravel several times. Mostly level but in mounds at the edges. Scott says they will come through and clear it all off when they’ve done all the roads. I hope they do it before they open the river road back up to cars next week. I’ll miss the crunchy sound but not the uneven ground.

Birds!

While I don’t remember hearing any birds this morning, I did come across a tweet about birdsong mnemonics that inspired me to think about birds and how they sound. Here are a few links I want to revisit:

And, here are 2 bird poems, one just about birds, one about birdsong, both my Emily Dickinson:

A Bird, came down the Walk – (359)/ EMILY DICKINSON

A Bird, came down the Walk – 
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves 
And ate the fellow, raw, 

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall 
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. – 

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers, 
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon, 
Leap, plashless as they swim. 

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —/ Emily Dickinson

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —
Their period for Dawn —
A Music numerous as space —
But neighboring as Noon —

I could not count their Force —
Their Voices did expend
As Brook by Brook bestows itself
To multiply the Pond.

The Listener – was not —
Except occasional man —
In homely industry arrayed —
To overtake the Morn —

Nor was it for applause —
That I could ascertain —
But independent Ecstasy
Of Universe, and Men –  

By Six, the Flood had done —
No Tumult there had been
Of Dressing, or Departure —
And yet the Band – was gone —

The Sun engrossed the East —
The Day Resumed the World —  controlled
The Miracle that introduced
Forgotten, as fulfilled.

july 24/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
72 degrees
humidity: 78%/ dew point: 67

Hot again this morning. So crowded on the river road! So many runners going so fast that I wondered if there was some event going on. Listened to a playlist and didn’t think about any poetry or pay attention to much around me except all the runners and bikers I needed to avoid. Ran faster than I wanted on the second mile because a runner who I was passing decided to speed up just as I approached. Finished the run by listening to Demi Lovato’s “Sorry, Not Sorry” as I ran up the hill near the Welcoming Oaks. Running back through the neighborhood, the next song that came on Spotify was Hailee Steinfeld’s “Hell nos and Headphones.” Wow.

Finished watching the 1981 “Clash of the Titans” with Scott. I remember seeing it in a theater in North Carolina when it first came out. I was 7. The special effects are very bad, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie this time–loved seeing Maggie Smith as a vengeful Thetis. I started thinking about Medusa and how her gaze turns anyone/thing that looks into her eyes to stone. And then I started thinking about how my gaze does that to people too–because my central vision is almost gone and I have an increasingly bigger blind spot in the middle of my field of vision, when I look at people’s faces or into their eyes they often look like unmoving objects–I can’t see facial gestures–no smiles or frowns or eyebrows raised, and I can’t make eye contact. In a way, they turn to stone. I’d like to explore the Medusa myth some more and see if I can do something with it.

Thinking about vision and eyes a lot this week. Here’s a poem from 1925 I first encountered on twitter, then found online at Poetry Foundation:

Eyes/ Laura Riding Jackson

Imagine two clouds shot together by the sunset,
One river-blue,
One like a white cloth passed through a purple wine,
Dripping and faintly dyed,
Whirling centrifugally away toward the night
And later halved and rounded by the moon;
Rolled like blue butter-balls
In the palms of the moon’s hands
And rimmed elliptically with almost-white moon-stuff,
The moon’s particular godmother gift.
Some nearly impossible vision like this
Is necessary for the mood of my eyes.

Formally announced by my eyebrows,
Sad squires of my eyes,
Preciously fitted into two fine skin purses—
Two rose petals might fashion them—
So firmly, gently guarded,
Yet so free to roll a little
In each socket,
In each pocket,
Attended by the drawn regiments of my lashes,
These my head’s hair’s farthest fallen,
Wayward strayed for the love of my eyes,
With only a runaway’s last inheritance of curl
Lifting the final rite of this ceremony of presentation:
Sight is there soul of charity.
when the feet are tired,
When joy is caught in the full throat,
Sight is the good Samaritan,
Wandering to the last horizon
Or staying at home to laugh in joy’s place.
Though the trouble be none of its won,
When grief comes like a beggar to my eyelids,
Sight throws it pennies,
Sight throws it tears,
Though for the minute it rob itself,
Though for the minute it blind itself.

Exegetes of the tongue—
Love’s best inquirers
And courteous heads of hate,
Yet meanwhile not deposing
The immediate service of seeing
Or the darling self-denial of sleep—
My eyes, my eyes,
Patrons of light and dark!

Busy, ever busy,
If I have no other errands for it,
Yet sight keeps turning the looking-machine,
Always sitting quietly aside—-
The self-appointed and voluntary philosophy of me,
My ironic interpreter of things,
Smiling behind the bodily ruse
Of my amused, amused eyes.
Or, if the eyes fail,
If the optical bodies of sight die,
Sight still lives while I live,
Sight is immortal in me,
Free of the bond of outward vision—-
The inner sense of life,
The living-looking.
Death is the only blindness.

july 23/RUN

3.1 miles
47th st loop
69 degrees

Ran almost two hours later because I wanted to work more in the morning and because the humidity was 100% at 8 am. Running at 10 was much better, I imagine. Sunny with lots of shade, calm. No turkeys but I did see my shadow briefly. Saw a biker and one graceful rollerblader moving so quickly and smoothly, swinging his arm like an Olympic speeed skater.

delight of the day

Nearing Edmund, past becketwood on the part near turkey hollow, I heard a truck approaching from behind with some squealing kids. As it passed me, driving very slowly, I noticed a few heads just poking out of the red truck’s bed. It turned up the next street. Nearing the end of my loop, almost back to becketwood, I encountered it again, parked in front of house, the kids yelling out delightedly, “We drove around the block in the back of the truck! We drove around the block in the back of the truck!” Such delight. Such cute, earnest, high-pitched voices! Oh, to be that free of cynicism and able to find joy in such a small but perfect moment!

Before heading out for the run, I memorized another poem, the third in my vision series:

I Look Up From My Book and Out on the World Through Reading Glasses/ Diane Seuss.

The world, italicized.

Douglas Fir blurs into archetype,
a black vertical with smeared green arms.
The load of pinecones at the top,
a brown smudge which could be anything: a wreath
of moths, a rabbit strung up
like a flag.

All trees are trees.
Death to modifiers.

A smear of blue, a smear of gold that could be a haystack,
a Cadillac, or a Medal of Honor without a neck to hang upon.

I know the dog killed something today, but it’s lost in fog.
A small red splotch in a band of monochromatic green.
And now, the mountain of bones, is only a mountain capped
with snow.

It’s a paradise of vagaries.
No heartache.
Just and eraser smudge,
smoke-gray.

All forms, the man wrote, tend toward blur.

I love this poem because it does a great job of capturing how I see the world sometimes–not through reading glasses, but through my diseased eyes. Sometimes the world looks italicized, slanted, not quite straight, off-kilter. And sometimes trees are nothing but the classic form of a tree — a brown trunk with leaves. Colors, when I can see them, are sometimes only smudges and smears and slashes. It’s all vague or just barely formed–the idea of the river instead of the actual view of an in-focus river. And it often feels like I’m in a haze or a daze or a fog. This is not upsetting to me; it’s more dreamy and calm and soft. Often the sharpness of the forms dependents on the quality of the light–gray days make everything look even fuzzier, bright sunny blue days make it all clearer, with more edges.

A few hours after returning home, I recorded myself reciting the poem. I just learned it this morning so I don’t know it by heart yet. Even as the pauses in this recording make me a little uncomfortable, I like how they demonstrate the moments of my forgetting and then remembering.

I Look Up From My Book, July 23

july 22/RUN

3.25 miles
under ford bridge turn around
61! degrees

Much cooler this morning! Was able to wear a short-sleeved shirt instead of a tank top and didn’t overheat. Ran south on the river road to under the ford bridge and then back. Managed a few quick glances at the river through the trees. Encountered some bikers, walkers, runners, a Minneapolis parks vehicle, a biker biking with a dog. Heard some “heavy metal” (but how heavy was it really?) music not quite blasting out of a bike’s radio. At first, I imagined that it was “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen, but it wasn’t. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t bother me. Much better than the patriotic country crap that some people blast. I am not opposed to all country music–the old school stuff, especially Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn is great. What a delight it would be if I could hear someone blasting “Fist City” one day!

No roller skiers today or Daily Walker. No big groups of runners or walkers. No overheard fragments of conversation to be curious about. No black capped chickadees or geese or turkeys or annoying squirrels or swarming, sex-crazed gnats. No welcoming oaks or vining sumac or the smell of burnt toast near the lake street bridge. No rowers or coxswains or the 4 rollerbladers, swinging their arms as they speed by, perfectly in sync. No lower trails or mulching asphalt or steep short hills or dirt paths or unobstructed views of the river or the gorge.

Recited “Natural Forces” again. Still felt the lines were awkward for reciting as I ran. I noticed how I was unable to keep the flow going between each line. Instead, I had to stop for a few foot strikes, which might be the point–to give some space between each set of glances?

I really like the lines: “Five glances/to relight the stars/blown out by the hurricane,” “Eight glances/to turn the sea/into sky,” and “Nine glances/to make the trees in the wood/dance.” When I’m running through the tunnel of trees, and everything is green in late spring through early fall, sometimes the green sky becomes water to me–a sea–of green air with no surface. And when I’m running above the trees of the floodplain forest, they sway and dance, never just standing there. Some of this is due to the motion of my running, some of it is because of my bad vision. It can be a bit disorienting but it looks really cool, like I’m running in a dream. My vision makes me feel like I’m in a dream a lot of the time.

Thinking about “Natural Forces” and vision some more: what’s the difference between a glance and a glimpse? I looked it up: a glance is a brief and hurried look, a (bright) flash, a glimpse is a faint, intermittent view/ing. So a glance is a quick, sharp flash, a glimpse is a faint, glittering glimmer. And, then, the opposite of to glance is to gaze or stare, to study, scrutinize. I have almost completely lost my ability to do a quick glance and recognize what I’m seeing. If I want it to make sense, I have to stop and stare. It’s very frustrating and (I think) often socially unacceptable to stop and stare at things. So I don’t stop and stare, which also means I end up never seeing it (whatever it is/was).

Recited the poem into my phone a few minutes after I came home:

Natural Forces, July 22

july 21/RUN

3.1 miles
47th st loop
70 degrees
humidity: 85%/ dew point: 66

Ran a little later in the morning because of the rain. A steady, soft rain. Everything green and gray. Nice to sit in the front room at my desk in between two windows and think about poetry and running while memorizing Vincente Huidobro’s “Natural Forces.”

Finally made it outside right before 11 am. A few people out by the gorge, but not too crowded. Ran down to turkey hollow and saw 6! turkeys–I counted carefully. Briefly delighted in how one of the turkey’s small head bobbed in quick, awkward jerks. Ran through some puddles and on some muddy grass. Ended by running on loose gravel on Edmund Boulevard; they’re re-sealing the streets in my neighborhood this week. I can’t remember if they ever clear off this gravel or just wait for it to be worn down by car wheels. Didn’t mind running on the gravel but I’m not interested in doing it for the next couple of weeks. I liked how noisy it was, announcing my foot strikes to anyone/anything nearby. Crush! Crush! Crush!

As I ran, I recited “Natural Forces” over and over again. Not hard to remember but not easy to match with my foot strikes. I found myself rushing through it and then, when I tried to pronounce–in my head– every word, the lines sounded so slow and clumsy. I should try recording myself reciting this as I’m running. What would it sound like?

I originally found and posted this poem at the end of January. Here’s what I wrote:

Such power with these glances! I read a little something about Huidobro and his belief in creacionismo and man as god/godlike and “a space where the poet could assume a role as the divine”. Wow, oftentimes because of my vision I feel the opposite with my glances: I’m unmaking the world. Oh–I want to think about this some more! Here’s some info about this poet from a google doodle on his 127th birthday

Copied the poem into my notebook and wrote: The power of the poet! The power of one who notices, who pays attention! Love this idea of paying attention as a way to imagine/create a world. Is it possible to disentangle this making of a world from hubris and pride and power over?

Natural Forces/ Vincente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

Two glances
to hold back the landscape
at the river’s edge

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

Four glances
to hold down the train
that falls into the abyss

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong
the life of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

Ten glances
to see the beauty that shows up
between a dream and a catastrophe

Not too bad. I forgot the poet’s name and messed up a few lines, but got most of it right. I do think I want to spend another day on it, paying attention to the rhythm of it while I run. I’m not sure I get the line about the aquatic child. Favorite lines: turn the sea into sky; to make the trees of the wood dance; to see the beauty that shows up between a dream and a catastrophe.

Natural Forces, July 21

Can my glances make worlds? I don’t like the arrogance of that claim but I like the idea of my vision creating new ways to see/observe things.

july 20/RUN

3.1 miles
big loop*
68 degrees

*44th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, west/edmund, south

Another good run. Cooler and very calm, still, quiet. Don’t remember hearing (m)any birds, no conversations, no rowers. At least 3 separate times, I thought I was hearing the clickity-clack of roller skiers, but was actually hearing a bike with noisy wheels or messed up gears or something. Strange that it happened 3 times when I don’t remember ever making that mistake before. Was it the quality of air? Hardly any wind this morning. Sunny, but not bright. Did I see my shadow? Can’t remember.

Recited “The Gate” one more day and thought about gates and openings and doorways and thresholds and windows and spaces where movement and breathing and new stories/ways of being are possible. I think this is my new theme for the month and/or for a series of poems/essays.

Recorded myself reciting it just after finishing my run–my heart rate was probably around 140 or so as I spoke. I got it mostly right but messed up the second to last “this.” The order she writes the three thises–“This is what you’ve been waiting for, ” “And he’d say, This,” and “This, he’d say” is important. It doesn’t have as much impact the way I recited it.

The Gate, July 20

Yesterday, reading Ted Looser’s Delights and Shadows, I found these two poems that I really liked:

Grasshopper/ Ted Kooser

This year they are exactly the size
of the the pencil stub my grandfather kept
to mark off the days since rain,

and precisely the color of dust, of the roads
leading back accross the dying fields
into the ’30s. Walking the cracked lane

past the empty barn, the empty silo,
you hear them tinkering with irony,
slapping the grass like drops of rain.

The Early Bird/ Ted Kooser

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-bully notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy
bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.

july 19/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/north
71 degrees

Ahhh!! A beautiful morning. Even though it was 71, it didn’t feel too hot. Just after reaching the river road — about .3 miles in — I encountered a woman listening to music without headphones as she ran. I’m pretty sure the song playing was “I Wanna Sex You Up” by the 90s boy band, Color Me Badd — the part at the beginning where they sing “ooo ooo ooo ooo” and just before “tick tock you don’t stop.” Wow. I will choose to believe that that was the song she was listening to and remain impressed that she was willing to listen to such a cringe-worthy song without headphones in a public place. Nice.

For the rest of my run, I recited “The Gate” by Marie Howe in my head. There were a few lines that I couldn’t remember exactly–was it “the gate I would step through” or “walk through”, “the world” or “this world”, “holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich” or just “holding my cheese and mustard sandwich”? I thought about the differences in meaning and rhythm that these word choices might make. Then I started thinking about the line, “having folded every sheet, rinsed every glass he would ever rinse.” At first, I couldn’t remember what he had folded–was it a towel, a shirt, a sheet? Then, when I remembered sheet and I thought about the subtle differences in meaning between folding a sheet — evoking the intimate space of a bedroom — versus a shirt or a towel. Did Howe immediately think of sheet, or did she deliberate over different choices before settling on it? It was fun to spend some time reflecting on word choice as I ran. I love how packed and precise poetry is, and often in ways that aren’t readily visible but that you can feel as you read it–even when you don’t realize you’re feeling it.

After 30 seconds after I stopped running, I recorded myself reciting the poem: several errors with word choice. I better practice it some more! The most egregious error (at least to me), instead of saying, “This, he’d say, sort of looking around” for the last line, I said, “And he’d say, This.” Starting with “this” is so much stronger.

The Meadow, July 19

july 18/RUN

2.5 miles
43rd ave, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
74 degrees
humidity: 87%/ dew point: 71

Hot this morning! Very crowded too. Started out running with Scott but after avoiding too many people together, we decided to split up. Some clueless walkers, but mostly just lots of people. Encountered several cars on Edmund too. Don’t remember any roller skiers or runners. No rowers or river views. Any birds? Not that I heard. Finished by running around the block. Discovered it was .5 miles. Good to know.

Discovered Copper Canyons wonderful collection of poems about connection during COVID yesterday via twitter. So good! Scrolling through them, I found two that connect with the poems I’m reading/thinking about right now:

joy and suffering beside each other (Ross Gay, Book of Delights)

What Issa Heard/ David Budbill

Two hundred years ago Issa heard the morning birds
singing sutras to this suffering world.

I heard them too, this morning, which must mean,

since we will always have a suffering world,
we must also always have a song.

“This is what you’ve been waiting for” (Marie Howe/ “The Gate”)

Goshen/ Ruth Stone

For fifteen years I have lived in a house
without running water or furnace.
In and out the front door
with my buckets and armloads of wood.
This is the mountain.
This is the fortress of ice.
This is the stray cat skulking in the barn.
This is the barn with vacant windows
that lifts like a thin balsa kite
in the northeasters.
These are the winter birds
that wait in the bushes.
This is my measuring rod.
This is why I get up in the morning.
This is how I know where I am going.

july 17/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
75 degrees
humidity: 77%

Warmer this morning. Sunny. Decided to listen to a playlist this morning–Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”. A relaxed first mile, a much faster second mile mostly because I was behind a roller skier at the start of the second mile that was going about the same pace that I was. I imagined staying in her COVID slipstream for the rest of the run–no thanks! So I sped up a lot to pass her and then kept the pace so she wouldn’t pass me again. First mile: 9:26; Second mile: 8:11.

Because I was listening to music, I didn’t recite the poem I memorized yesterday afternoon, Marie Howe’s “The Gate.” I’ve decided to memorize 5 different poems by her:

  • The Meadow from The Good Thief (1988)
  • The Gate from What the Living Do (1999)
  • What the Living Do from What the Living Do (1999)
  • Magdalene: Seven Devils from Magdalene: Poems (2017)
  • Singularity (2019)

The Gate/ Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man,

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you’ve been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This, holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?

This, he’d say, sort of looking around.

The first line of this poem, about the space her brother’s body made as the gate she would step through to finally enter this world, was confusing to me at first but it has something to do with grief and how his death helped her to remember and value living — but I think there’s more to it than that. I love the way she describes that he’s dead, “done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet, rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold and running water.” And I love the use of “This” here — the this, encompassing everything and not one thing in particular.

Spending a little more time googling Howe and thinking about her work, I found a very helpful essay from 2008 on oprah.com: Not to Look Away. In it, she talks about her friend Jason who’s funeral she was attending and the gate:

I’m looking for the gate, Jason used to say when he was in pain. I can’t find the gate, but I’m looking. What was this gate my friend Jason was looking for? Maybe he wanted to find the door in the room of suffering, so that he might walk through it into another story. 

and here’s how she describes what story can do:

Is this what a story can do? Emerge from the most painful event and transform it into something else, too? So sad. So funny. Both. And life is there, for a moment, almost adequately represented. 

the story as window?

The days and nights of my life walk by, arm in arm with time, and the gate to the new story stands just outside the circle of my attention. Sometimes I lie here, Jason said, and walk through the old house of my childhood, through all the rooms, and look out all the windows. 

This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.

To be present, not to look away, and to transform suffering into something else also–still suffering but more too. Wow, this makes me think so much about Ross Gay and his idea of joy and suffering in the Book of Delights (I checked it out of the library a year ago, and just ordered my own copy arriving today)!

july 16/RUN

3 miles
1 big loop + 2 smaller loops*
64 degrees
humidity: 79%

*big loop = 36th st to 42nd ave / little loop 1 = 36th st, down hill to 34th st, up hill to 36th st / little loop 2 = 36th st to 38th st to 36th st

Another beautiful morning. Checked out my form in my shadow as she ran beside me. Listened to the cardinals. They were loud enough that I couldn’t hear any other birds–was it all just cardinals? Tried to recite “Love Song For The Square Root of Negative One” but had trouble getting past, “I am the hand that lifts the rock, I am the mind that strings the worm.” Overheard a woman, pushing a stroller, talking loudly on the phone, “I mean…I have a job and some savings…”–not sounding upset but judgmental. What was she talking about and why SO LOUDLY for everyone to hear? Encountered a few roller skiers, bikers, walkers, runners, dogs, cars (when I turned off the river road and went on Edmund). No squirrels or crows or woodpeckers. No rowers or Daily Walker or little old ladies with straw hats or the tall man in black or anyone I remembered ever seeing before. No intense colors or strange running gaits. No views of the river or the ravines. Only an abundance of calming green.

During the last 1/2 mile or so I recited “The Meadow” again which helped the last bit go faster. Then, a minute after I stopped, as I walked home, I recited it into my phone. I have a few pauses because I got distracted by someone walking nearby or when a woman stopped to tell a neighbor how much she loved their garden–I love that garden too. (If you listen closely, you can almost hear it on the recording).

The Meadow, July 16

july 15/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
66 degrees
humidity: 83%

Ah! Such nice weather this morning. Still humid, but cooler. Almost sunny. A thin layer of clouds covered most of the sky. So thin that the sun was still casting shadows on the road. A strange sight. Is there a word for that? I tried looking it up just now and I couldn’t find anything.

I was able to run above the river for a few minutes and saw some blue through the green. Heard several roller skiers, a few bikers, runners, walkers. No music coming out of bike radios or snippets of conversation that made me curious. No rushing water, hardly any birds. I’m sure I heard traffic but I don’t remember that either—actually, thinking about it for a few minutes, I do remember some traffic. As I ran down the hill and under the lake street bridge, I heard cars and trucks on the bridge and kept thinking they were on the river road, just behind me. Noticed many cars in the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy–are they planning to open the campus this fall? I hope not. Also saw soccer practice on the field. Ran past the railroad trestle almost to Franklin. Felt relaxed and strong.

As I ran, I tried thinking about the idea of the dream-like state and Howe’s line, “this might be all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you can forget what you are.” What is this small time? Is forgetting what we are a type of getting lost in a (day) dream (Emily Dickinson’s revery*?) or practicing pure attention (another line from Howe: “speaking for the sound alone”?). And, what is it that we are, that we must forget? Yesterday I suggested that we are creatures who struggle against their solitude, suffering, and the inevitability of death. Here’s another answer from Marilyn Nelson in “Crows”:

What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against the emptiness
for a moment of an eternity—
images collected in consciousness,
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet.

*To make a prairie/Emily Dickinson

To make a prairie it takes a clover, one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.