april 21/RUNHIKE

2 mile run/.5 mile hike
mississippi river gorge above and below, north/south
72 degrees

Ran a mile with Scott to the Lake Street bridge then hiked below to the river for 1/2 mile, climbed up some stone steps by the greenway, then ran 1 mile back. Beautiful. Everything was brown–almost looked like fall but felt like summer. I’d like to do more run/hikes like this. This side of the gorge is similar to the east side, except the east side has paved paths, an abandoned parking lot and benches/picnic tables. Scott and I encountered some dirt mounds, halfway up the gorge, and wondered if they were burial mounds.

Spent some time looking through the archives of Boaat and found this cool poem: DRIFTING/aya satoh

april 20/RUN

3 miles
stone arch/pink bridge/river road/stone arch
62! degrees

Ran with Scott while FWA was in his clarinet lesson. Warm. Sunny. Windy. Crowded. Instead of our regular room through Boom Island, we decided to take the service road to the U and run across the pink bridge. That loop is only 2.2 miles so we added one more trip across Stone Arch bridge.

This week in my poetry class we talked about the caesura (a stop of pause in the metrical line). Here’s a great poem, by a wonderful person, about the caesura. Love it!

WEIGHT
by Carolina Ebeid

(hush listen)

Is a caesura a quiet hallway

in a church? Is it a silence

with commandments to hush,

listen? Was it composed for

two voices? Is that silence

like the time you said stop it

wait to the boys, how you

should have said stop, but

you said nothing behind

la carnicería that sold live

chickens? When a boy picked

up the brick throwing it at

the hen—wait— from a near

distance? Is the caesura that

near distance a brick travels

from hand to head? Is white

space like piano keys playing

softer & softer until zero

decibels? Is it the cleared

sweep after a missile falls

no more green? Does it share

the pull of gravity? Is it the living

body of Ana Mendieta? Dropped

—stop—out of a window?

Is she in a kind of white now?

Is it composed of no & no?

Wouldn’t you say the white

is like the space of an envelope?

Where the postage must go?

Dear person who won’t write

back, Most esteemed ghost

matter, My darling inventory

of nature? The white lie

white whisper hearsay flickering

all reaching the moment of

a candle blown out? Is the white

break like a hospital door

swinging open & there your father

delivered back to you? Linen

white muzzle across the face?

Does the break assemble into

a waiting room? One woman asks

for the housekeeper’s name

while her friend replies:

aren’t they all named Maria?

Is the white space clean

with the smell of ammonia?

Is there dizzying laughter? Say

stop it, wait. Is it like a hurricane

with the same name? Has it become

marble-quite like a wall

for interning ashes? Is it the sound

of rubble? Isn’t the empty white

more like moons growing brightest

from right to left? Right to left

like a message in the Arab

side of town, spray-painted

on a curfew night? Won’t you say

it’s composed for more than two

voices? Like a chorus that speaks

in unison there? Aren’t they all

named Maria? Do they make

the sound of rubble? The nothing

you say, is it dressed in white

like the guy in your group punching

the girl from the rival group who

talks trash at us & he hits her

because a woman is liberated just

like a man? Liberation?

Is it blurred & blank with flight?

Wasn’t it composed for a pyro-

technic finale? Whites of eyes

like the white of a room you walk into

& no one seems to be grieving?

Isn’t the white, the whites of human

teeth glossed with blood

on the concrete?

april 19/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin bridge loop
52 degrees!

Spring! Shorts, sun, Shadow, sparkling water, slight soft breeze. A wonderful run, even though it felt hard at times. Saw the Daily Walker but couldn’t greet him because we were running the same way. Encountered 2 separate groups of kids on bikes–one on the east side, one on the west. Heard some birds. Saw lots of brown. Noticed the white beach in the gorge, midway between the lake street bridge and the greenway. Watched my shadow for awhile. Mostly she was friendly but she irritated me on the franklin bridge right before I turned and she fell behind. Did a lot of counting: 1 2 3 45 1 2 345 then 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8…thought about how 7 is the only number with 2 syllables. Why is that? Convinced my self to not stop to walk until at least mile 4 and managed to do it. I think I saw the man in black in shorts and not all black! Looked for the eagle on the dead tree under the marshall side of the bridge.

Above all else, tried to stay focused on the river. Glad I could still see it–the leaves haven’t returned yet. At first it seemed still, not moving. But by the Franklin bridge I noticed its slow descent to the falls. I stopped on the lake street bridge to watch it more closely. Decided to talk into my smart phone. Maybe I can shape some of this into a poem? I’d like to try recording more of these moments this spring. A good way to force myself to slow down my runs.

looking at the mississippi/lake street bridge

transcript from recording:

standing here
on the lake street bridge
watching the river water
as it slowly moves
at certain spots it’s shimmering
at other spots
it almost looks like a pale ghost
ghostly ice just under the surface
or muddy swirls near the bottom
the dirt just being loosened
and brought up to the surface
the river is mostly brown and then blue
and everything’s brown
and the water just slowly moves
earlier it seemed
almost dead lifeless so still
and now I can see it’s just slowly
moving closer to the falls

With practice, I’m hoping to get better at these brief recordings. It was hard to capture with words the strange beauty of the river’s slow movement in many different forms. Part of the surface was sparkling, shimmering, undulating. Some was smooth, flat. A few vees were visible–was something in the water disrupting it? And then, the ghostly swirls. Speaking of vees, right after I finished recording, a skein of geese flew overhead, not too far above the bridge.

Here’s a poem I just found about the river (and Heraclitus!):

SAME SUN, SAME MOON, SAME RIVER
BY NEIL CARPATHIOS

It is easy to imagine Heraclitus
walking stone streets witnessing
life in Athens with no permanence,
stopping strangers to explain about the river,
being laughed at as they moved
from point A to point B fearing Apollo
and Hades then at dusk drinking wine,
waiting for the happy obliteration alcohol brings,
not realizing how lucky they were
to be stupid and so deep
in their bodies even the sun
and moon trading places over and over
meant nothing.

april 17/BIKERUNBIKE

18 min bike/.75 mile run/4 min bike
basement

It’s raining outside. Glad it’s warm enough not to snow. Decided to warm up on the bike and then record myself running to check out my form. Pretty good. I think my right hip is slightly lower. Just looked it up and this “hip drop” is caused by a weakness in the opposite leg, which makes sense because it is my left leg/hip/back giving me problems right now. Back when I started running, I never thought about my body. It worked fine, so why pay attention to it? Now, I have aches and pains and injuries. These are frustrating and painful and scary but I do appreciate the new, more informed, relationship I’m having with my knees and hips and back and the rest of my body. It’s difficult growing older and having to try harder to not hurt but, at the same time, I’m enjoying learning more and having the chance to pay attention to my body. So helpful and interesting!

a fuzzy screenshot from my recording

Since, I’m thinking about hips, here’s one of the best hips poem ever:

homage to my hips
BY LUCILLE CLIFTON

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Also, when I was biking, I watched the first episode of Shrill and I’m excited to watch the rest of the season. Hooray for unruly, excessive bodies making trouble!


april 16/RUN

3.5 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
51 degrees

What a day! Sunny. Light breeze. Warm. So long snow. Passed a woman early on, breathing heavily. Her loud gasps, almost echoing above the gorge, followed me for a few minutes. Celebrated with my shadow, both of us so happy to be outside this morning. Wondered what the workers in yellow vests were waiting for near the lake street bridge. Heard that same barking dog–the one I heard a couple of times a few months ago–pass by me in that same white truck. Weird. Stopped at the railroad trestle and took the steps down, below the trestle, still above the river. Hiked for a few minutes, climbing a few small hills–more like mounds. Heard a few woodpeckers. Turned around and had a wonderful view of the underbelly of the railroad bridge. Then started running again. When I was almost done, a squirrel decided to race me, not darting out in front of me but running beside me through the dead leaves. Was able to say good morning to the Daily Walker.

Here’s one other poem that I marked to remember from The Collected Works of James Laughlin:

THE LONGEST YEAR/james laughlin

Began with snowstorms, one after another.
In March a frantic night of wind took down
The huge sugar maple that showed a hundred
Rings when it was cut up for firewood.
Spring was dubious and too short, a hot
Summer too long. A child drowned in Tobey
Pond, it was horrible. Only in October
Were there a few perfect days with the leaves
Ablaze. Again before its time, baleful winter
Set in. Cars skidded on the icy roads.
At Christmas a false thaw deceived us
For a week before a deadly ice storm had
The branches of the trees cracking like
Rifle shots as they broke off all night.
It was a battlefield in the woodlot
Next morning. I didn’t count the days
Of that malevolent year, I only wished
Never to see such another. . . until,
Blessed miracles, it was true spring,
the lilacs blooming, the daffodils
Nodding, and you, Persephone, came up
From the world below to seek me out.

april 15/RUN

2.15 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
52 degrees

Watched the Boston Marathon this morning. Last year, when I was watching it, we were getting 17 inches of snow. This year, sun and above freezing temperatures. Did a short run with Scott this afternoon. Windy and overcast but warmer with a clear path. Felt pretty easy, like I was bouncing on the path.

Found a draft of a poem that I wrote a few years ago. It’s inspired by what I’d recently read on how different writers remember their thoughts when they’re walking or running.

How do you keep

an idea from running away? Grab a stick
and etch it in your arm? Pin a piece
of paper to your clothes? Jot it down
in a pocket-sized notebook? Speak it
into your smart phone? Why
not let it run away
instead of immobilizing it with words.
You might be able to follow it
into the woods or
over the creek or
down by the river or
under the bridge.
Words may not be fast enough to follow
but you might
with your flying feet.

And here’s a poem I read (and heard) this morning on the Poetry Foundation site. What a poem! I love the title and so many of the images–especially describing the field after harvest as a man’s unruly face. Even better than describing it as stubble (which I’ve often thought and read before).

Thinking of Frost
Major Jackson, 1968

I thought by now my reverence would have waned,
matured to the tempered silence of the bookish or revealed
how blasé I’ve grown with age, but the unrestrained
joy I feel when a black skein of geese voyages like a dropped
string from God, slowly shifting and soaring, when the decayed
apples of an orchard amass beneath its trees like Eve’s
first party, when driving and the road Vanna-Whites its crops
of corn whose stalks will soon give way to a harvester’s blade
and turn the land to a man’s unruly face, makes me believe
I will never soothe the pagan in me, nor exhibit the propriety
of the polite. After a few moons, I’m loud this time of year,
unseemly as a chevron of honking. I’m fire in the leaves,
obstreperous as a New England farmer. I see fear
in the eyes of his children. They walk home from school,
as evening falls like an advancing trickle of bats, the sky
pungent as bounty in chimney smoke. I read the scowl
below the smiles of parents at my son’s soccer game, their agitation,
the figure of wind yellow leaves make of quaking aspens.

april 14/RUN

4.75 miles
to top of franklin bridge and back
32 degrees
5% snow-covered

The snow is melting. The birds are chirping. The path is almost all clear. So quiet and calm today. Mostly cloudy, making the river look gray. The floodplain forest was all white. Occasionally the sun sat on the surface of the river leaving a bright circle of shimmering light. Saw a few squirrels. Heard some geese. Any crows? I don’t think so. A few voices below–a family hiking through the snow on the gorge. I wonder when the rowers will return?

Yesterday morning I started reading through The Collected Poems of James Laughlin. What a big book! 1214 pages. I’m reading through them quickly, marking the ones I especially like. In general, I like his simple, clear style. Brief lines. A quirky voice. Here are a few that I marked:

THE POET TO THE READER/james laughlin

These poems are not I
hope what anyone ex-

pets and yet reader
I hope that when you

read them you will say
I’ve felt that too but

it was such a natural
think it was too plain

to see until you saw
it for me in your poem.

IN THE SNOW/james laughlin

The track of the ermine
the track of the mouse

tracks of a deer in the
snow and my track that

wanders and hesitates
doubling and crossing

itself stops to burrow
and circles trees this

track I made twists like
the veins in a leaf of a

crack in a mirror and it
cries seems to cry cries

to the sun cries sun sun
touch and burn cries sun

touch and save cries to
the snow–and then snow

falls covering everything
new snow covers my track

covers the track of the
ermine mouse and deer.

LITTLE BITS OF PAPER: AN ARS POETIC/james laughlin

Most of them began with a few words
read in some book or a phrase over-

heard scratched on a bit of paper
these chits go into the side pocket

of my jacket usually they stay there
until the coat is so spotted it must

be sent to the cleaners when I empty
the pocket most of the slips go into

the wastebasket but a few are pasted
with Scotch tape on the bathroom mir-

ro where I see them when I’m shaving
some stay there a long time but with

some there is an urgency they come
into my head when I wake to pee in

the middle of the night more words
come with them almost faster than I

can scribble on the yellow pad on the
bedtable the words beget other words

(it’s like spilled milk spreading on
the kitchen floor) words making other

words I don’t make them they make
themselves into the poem but some-

times in the morning I can’t read
what I’ve written (because I wrote

in the dark) so that’s the end of
that one it’s had its say and it

won’t come back I write in darkness.

I picked this last one because it made me think of Susan Howe and her story about Jonathan Edwards and how he would pin ideas he had on scraps of paper to his clothes as he was riding around on his horse. A couple of years ago, I was thinking a lot about how runners hold onto the ideas that they have as their running–scribble it on pieces of paper, carry a small notebook, scratch it in their arm with a stick, talk into their smart phone. Maybe I should experiment with this some more? As I was trying to recall who Howe had been talking about (I had forgotten), I discovered that she wrote a book about Emily Dickinson, My Emily Dickinson. I might have to check it out of the library. Apparently, Dickinson wrote many of her poems on scraps of paper.

april 12/RUN

2 miles
basement, treadmill

Snowing again today. Wet, sloppy paths. But soon the snow will melt and it will turn green. Too green. Time to take up my project of collecting poetry about green and thinking about the Mississippi River Gorge in the spring.

Just found a wonderfully named essay, Green I Love You Green and this fabulous poem:

Inside Out/Bill Yake

trees are our lungs turned inside out
& inhale our visible chilled breath.

our lungs are trees turned inside out
& inhale their clear exhalations.

Love these ideas of trees and breathing and inside/outside!

april 11/RUN

2.8 miles
basement, treadmill

Winter storm warning outside. High winds, heavy snow, falling branches, covered path. School cancelled. So glad we have a treadmill. Although, if it weren’t so windy, I might have enjoyed running outside and hearing the satisfying squeaks and crunches of the heavy, water-logged snow. I’m not happy about this snow, but I also don’t really care. It will melt within a few days.

Ballad in A
BY CATHY PARK HONG

A Kansan plays cards, calls Marshall
a crawdad, that barb lands that rascal a slap;  
that Kansan jackass scats,
camps back at caballada ranch.

Hangs kack, ax, and camp hat.
Kansan’s nag mad and rants can’t bask,
can’t bacchanal and garland a lass,
can’t at last brag can crack Law’s balls,

Kansan’s cantata rang at that ramada ranch,
Mañana, Kansan snarls, I’ll have an armada
and thwart Law’s brawn,
slam Law a damn mass war path.

Marshall’s a marksman, maps Kansan’s track,
calm as a shaman, sharp as a hawk,
Says: That dastard Kansan’s had
and gnaws lamb fatback.

At dawn, Marshall stalks that ranch,
packs a gat and blasts Kansan’s ass
and Kansan gasps, blasts back.
A flag flaps at half-mast.

What a poem! I love writing under constraint, although limiting all vowels to A seems extra hard. (here’s a guide to the poem.) This technique of eliminating all vowels but A is a OuLiPo technique. Here are some others I found on Wikipedia–I’ll have to try them out.

S+7, sometimes called N+7
Replace every noun in a text with the seventh noun after it in a dictionary. For example, “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago…” becomes “Call me islander. Some yeggs ago…”. Results will vary depending upon the dictionary used. This technique can also be performed on other lexical classes, such as verbs.

Snowball
A poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer.

Lipogram
Writing that excludes one or more letters. The previous sentence is a lipogram in B, F, J, K, Q, V, Y, and Z (it does not contain any of those letters).

april 10/BIKE

28 minutes, bike stand
basement

After running four days in a row, decided to bike in the basement. Watched another Father Brown episode and had fun pedaling faster as Father Brown chased the murderer on a train. Before biking, took the dog for a walk on the Winchell trail. Before we got there, I looked up in the sky and saw a huge bird soaring high in the sky. After studying the Birds of the Mississippi River Gorge, I’m pretty sure it was a turkey vulture. Close-up this bird would probably not enchant me, but I loved seeing it’s wing span way above me. I stopped walking, looked up and stared until my neck hurt. Of course I briefly wondered what others might think of me, looking up so intently into the sky.

It is snowing right now. All the sun’s hard work, melting the snow for weeks, undone. No one is quite sure how much we will get. 3 inches? 5? A foot? Will it stay snow or turn into rain?

I’ve been working on a series of eye chart poems. Today I had a revelation. Sometimes images don’t make sense to me. They’re unformed. But how to explain what this feels like? Then it hit me. Sometimes images are only a cluster of dots, like standing too close to an impressionist painting–a Monet or Renoir. This sort of thing usually happens when I’m trying to make sense of a billboard image.

I love this poem by Jane Yeh. The overzealous/Cockatoo of her impatience/Flap flap. So great!

Bel Canto
BY JANE YEH

The opera
In her head

Runs with no interval,
A lot of people singing tunelessly

About the same things.
An overheard

Comment like
A rotting peach.

The overzealous
Cockatoo of her impatience,

Flap flap. The slab
Of blue behind her

Is a sea of
Her doubts. The squirrel

In her stomach
Trying to get out—

They say you have to be
Twice as good. They say

There are pills
For everything now. Enamel

Eyes to see all
The better with, my

Dear. Fur coat
For your tongue—

And, since it’s snowing in April, I decided to find a “snow in April” poem. There are many. Here’s one from 1941 that I like:

Snow in April/Leonora Speyer

I watched the blind attack,
The white invade the green,
I saw the green strike back,
A bough shake off the foe,
While on the ground below
The sharp young blades of grass,
A million strong,
Surged up and through . . .

The battle was not long:
I seemed to hear a shout,
And all the flags were out!

april 9/RUN

3.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
52 degrees

Decided to run again this morning because tomorrow winter returns: ice, snow, blizzard conditions. Hopefully it will melt quickly but if not, at least I was able to run just above the gorge today. It’s sunny and windy. My legs felt sore–not injured sore, just sore sore–and it was hard to just be in the run, not thinking. I tried chanting a little and that helped. Strawberry blueberry raspberry. Haven’t seen the Daily Walker in a while. Enjoyed listening to the grit scratch scratch scratch. Noticed a few stray patches of snow down below the lake street bridge. Marveled at the beauty of the floodplain forest, bare and brown. Didn’t really look at the river. Encountered a few dogs and their owners.

The daily poem over at poems.org is amazing:

Holdfast
Robin Beth Schaer

The dead are for morticians & butchers
to touch. Only a gloved hand. Even my son
will leave a grounded wren or bat alone
like a hot stove. When he spots a monarch
in the driveway he stares. It’s dead,
I say, you can touch it. The opposite rule:
butterflies are too fragile to hold
alive, just the brush of skin could rip
a wing. He skims the orange & black whorls
with only two fingers, the way he learned
to feel the backs of starfish & horseshoe crabs
at the zoo, the way he thinks we touch
all strangers. I was sad to be born, he tells me,
because it means I will die. I once loved someone
I never touched. We played records & drank
coffee from chipped bowls, but didn’t speak
of the days pierced by radiation. A friend
said: Let her pretend. She needs one person
who doesn’t know. If I held her, I would
have left bruises, if I undressed her, I would
have seen scars, so we never touched
& she never had to say she was dying.
We should hold each other more
while we are still alive, even if it hurts.
People really die of loneliness, skin hunger
the doctors call it. In a study on love,
baby monkeys were given a choice
between a wire mother with milk
& a wool mother with none. Like them,
I would choose to starve & hold the soft body.

I think I was that one friend to my mom. We would sit in the two matching chairs in her bedroom, watching bad tv–mostly The Real Housewives of New York–and good tv–the barefoot contessa–and laugh and talk, forgetting about how she was dying from stage four pancreatic cancer.

april 8/RUN

4.6 miles
to downtown
69 degrees
wind: 6 mph, gusts up to 30 mph

Not sure how much wind there was but I was running into all of it the whole way. It made it much harder. I stopped to walk several times but I still made it to downtown. Do I remember anything other than feeling sore and tired? The river was beautiful. I was able to make a satisfying shshshsh sound on the grit at the edge of the path. My back felt fine. I saw my shadow, running beside me. What a fabulous late afternoon. It is hard to believe that we are supposed to get over a foot of snow on Thursday.

Sitting by the open window writing this, I hear birds chirping and cooing and trilling. So I decided to look for a poem about birds and this is what I found:

Words are Birds
BY FRANCISCO X. ALARCÓN

words
are birds
that arrive
with books
and spring

they
love
clouds
the wind
and trees

some words
are messengers
that come
from far away
from distant lands

for them
there are
no borders
only stars
moon and sun

some words
are familiar
like canaries
others are exotic
like the quetzal bird

some can stand
the cold
others migrate
with the sun
to the south

some words
die
caged—
they’re difficult
to translate

and others
build nests
have chicks
warm them
feed them

teach them
how to fly
and one day
they go away
in flocks

the letters
on this page
are the prints
they leave
by the sea

april 7/RUN

3.25 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
53 degrees/84% humidity
shorts again! too warm!

A beautiful morning. Sunny. Warm. Not too windy. Ran towards the falls instead of downtown. Tried to hang onto some thoughts about my vision diagnosis from 2016. What did I feel when the doctor told me I was losing my central vision? Relief, mostly. Finally I knew what was wrong with me. It wasn’t something I was making up and it wasn’t neurological (my big fear). Now that I knew I could deal with it. This relief lasted for a few months and then the doubt crept in as I wondered if my vision was really as bad as the doctor said it was or if my easy acceptance of the diagnosis was too easy. Then, I discovered that what I had been diagnosed with (Best’s disease) was not actually what I had. Instead, I had a rarer, more vague form of cone dystrophy–pinpointing the exact disease might not be possible, wouldn’t change anything and would involve annoying, costly test. I had a great thought about this just as I was starting my run, but then forgot it. I should have stopped to speak it into my phone. Something about knowing and not knowing, embracing the uncertainty of never really knowing and accepting that knowing exactly what my vision problem is won’t make a difference in my treatment (there is none) or the speed at which my central vision deteriorates. And, in fact, knowing is not possible. This not knowing is not ignorance–more like never knowing enough, having perpetually incomplete knowledge, the impossibility of KNOWING.

As I was trying to think about what word to use for this phenomenon, I remembered “bewilderment”–first read in Fanny Howe’s great essay of the same name. Here are a few other sources that I bookmarked way back in August about bewilderment (confusion, uncertain, unknowing, wonder):

And here’s a source I found today: Unknowing Lyric

While looking through my old journal, I found this beautiful poem:

april 6/RUNBIKE

1.75 miles
basement, treadmill

30 minutes
basement, bike stand

Wanted to run outside this morning but it kept raining. Of course, now that I’m done, it has stopped. Still gloomy and wet. But my back doesn’t hurt and I feel good and I found a new show that I love watching–Father Brown–and I’m in the midst of an exciting writing project and open water swimming is only 2 months away, so I’m fine.

I love my poetry class. Amazingly, I feel totally fine about not being very good at analyzing poems or giving other people feedback about their poems. There is so much I don’t know or I can’t quite get (yet) about line breaks and rhythm and ending lines on strong words or soft words. The trick for me is to study these techniques without having them take over my writing.

Introduction to Poetry
BY BILLY COLLINS

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

april 4/BIKE

basement, bike stand
30 minutes

I wanted to run today but decided to rest my back and bike in the basement. I suppose I could have biked outside but its only 42 and windy and I’m not ready to take my bike off of its stand yet. I was planning to write about how I’m struggling today, worrying about my back and what might be wrong with it, but then I remembered: Taking a walk with Delia, I heard a wedge of geese (more on wedge in a moment) flying above me. Dozens or more. So high in the overcast sky. Then I heard another, smaller, group. So cool to watch. So exciting to see because they signal warmer weather.

About wedge: I was wondering what to call the group of geese so I googled it and found this wonderful answer:

If you come upon geese on land, you would refer to them as a gaggle. Gaggle, as we learned last time, was also recorded by Juliana Berners in the Book of Saint Albans to describe a group of swans. This is much the same as we would use ‘herd’ for a group of cows or deer. We can also refer to a group of geese on the ground as a herd and a corps.

If the geese are on water, they are a plump.

If in flight, geese are referred to as a skein. The online resource Dictionary.com defines skein as: a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.

A skein of geese would be a random in pattern in the sky – perhaps small clusters. If geese are in flight, and flying in a V formation, you would refer to them as a wedge, probably inspired by the shape.

Collective Nouns for Birds Near and Far

This small moment of beauty/joy/distraction/wonder reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

Dust of Snow
BY ROBERT FROST

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

And, this idea of small delights, reminds me of Ross Gay’s new book of essays (which I just requested from the library): The Book of Delights. Thinking about of all of this has made me feel so much better–less anxious, energized–and I have decided that finding ways to avoid darker thoughts by marking and meditating on the joys is what works for me. Maybe I should buy the Ross Gay book so I don’t have to wait a month or two for it to be returned? While I try to decide, I’ll read his essay in the The Paris Review, Loitering is Delightful.

april 3/RUN

3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
49 degrees
bare legs!

Took a few days off of running. Partly because my back was sore, partly because we took a mini trip to Duluth. All the snow is melted, all the paths are clear. Listened to my playlist and didn’t think about much. Looked down and noticed the white sand beach way below the path, between the lake street bridge and the greenway. I will have to explore it this spring. Wore shorts and wasn’t too cold. No gloves. No buff. Next Monday the high is supposed to be 71!

Encountered this poem a few weeks ago and wanted to remember it. Love the repetition and the exploration of metaphors and similes.

Neighbor Sweeping His Porch
Keith Leonard

He sweeps, and gray plumes of pollen
cloud waist-high behind him.
My neighbor sweeps the porch as slowly
as a gondolier rows at sunset.
His tie is loose at the neck
but still fastened to his shirt by a clip.
At the edge of the porch, he sweeps
in quick spurts like a telemarketer
before the customer quits.
He sweeps possibly without thinking.
He wears the crown of forgetting.
His kingdom is the name
of that actress in that movie.
He has swept so long
he is last September’s sunlight.
His broom replaces the wet leaves
with order, a second thing like snow.

march 29/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
43 degrees

Turned right instead of left and ran in the afternoon instead of the morning today. Felt harder. Hotter. A few more people out on the trail. Stopped at the halfway point to take off my sweatshirt then spent the second half of the run fiddling with the sleeves tied around my waist. Listened to headphones so I didn’t hear my shuffling feet or trickling water or barking dogs, chirping birds, whirring wheels or anything else.


march 28/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
41 degrees

Today I tried to listen. Some sounds I heard: the scratching of a metal rake on the bare pavement; a buzzing plane up above; birds chirping and cooing–any cawing? I can’t remember; the crunch crunch crunch of my striking feet on the gritty path; another plane roaring; dead leaves shuffling in the wind; car wheels whooshing. Then I forgot to listen and marveled at the earthy brown gorge. Why do I find this color so appealing? Looked through the floodplain forest all the way to the sliver of river. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks. Noticed a number of branches gone–must have been what the Minneapolis parks crew was doing in January with their chainsaws. Said good morning to the Daily Walker towards the end of my run. Chanted triplets. Wanted to stop and take a break at the 2 mile mark but didn’t. Decided that 40 degrees and slightly overcast are some of my favorite conditions for running.

I’m reading Craig Morgan Teicher’s lovely book, We Begin In Gladness: How Poetry Progresses and I just found this line:

It’s my puzzle to work out, and yours, and Szybist’s too, and where those bubbles overlap, where one interior meets another, and where inner meets outer, is poetry (29).

Again, the inner and outer. Where inner meets outer. Inside outside. Inner weather outer weather.

Lately I’ve been briefly waking up at 5:30 and then going back to sleep until 6:15 when the alarm goes off. This up too early then back to sleep again produces some vivid dreams. This morning, I dreamed about my mom, before she was sick. She was healthy and happy and wearing just the right shade of bright orange pants and red lipstick. We looked at each other and smiled. I woke up happy, thinking about how wonderful it was to see her again, especially in bright orange pants.

Are you sewing, Mom?
Angeline Schellenberg

my mother asks as
Grandma twines
her fingers through hospital sheets.
I’m planting marigolds,
she answers with a childish
grin. And tomorrow
you and I will bake
meat buns for Christmas.

I love this little poem that I discovered the other day.

march 26/RUN

5.1 miles
franklin loop
39 degrees
clear path!

Finally, after more than 2 months I was able to run the franklin loop! I checked and the last time I ran it was on January 7th. A wonderful morning for a run. It felt much warmer than 39 degrees. Sunny. I watched my shadow in front of me. Checked out the floodplain forest below me. Listened to the satisfying sounds of gritty sand crunching under my feet and the cars slowly approaching on the road from behind. Noticed several squirrels, too busy to dart out in front of me. Recited a few triplet melodies (raspberry/strawberry/chocolate) and a line or two from “Sick” by Shel Silverstein (I cannot go to school today/said little Peggy Ann McKay). Crossed the Franklin bridge and ran on a sidewalk stained white from salt. Glanced down at the East River Flats and a giant rock, almost taller than me, lodged in the grass between the walking and biking path. Made note of the terrible condition of the road between the Franklin bridge and the railroad trestle. So many potholes! Wondered if the eagle that used to perch on a branch near the marshall/lake street bridge was back (they weren’t). Decided to walk up the steps instead of running up the hill and crossing the road at the spot where a runner was hit by a car and killed two years ago.

Since it’s Robert Frost’s 145th birthday, I thought I’d post my favorite Frost poem. I read it in high school and I think it was one of the first poems I ever memorized. It helped me through my injury two summers ago.

Out, Out–
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them “Supper.” At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. “Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!”
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

march 25/RUN

4.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
99% clear walking path

Colder, causing an occasional slippery spot. Still felt like spring. Again, bright sun. Bare, brown ground. Open paths. Was able to mostly run on the walking path for the first time in months. I enjoyed the run but was always worried about my back. It didn’t hurt while I was running, but it’s been sore off and on for a few months. I don’t remember hearing the grit on the path or any rustling leaves. Too cold for dripping water. I think the most memorable thing about my run was the river. Dozens of ice floes slowly moving down the river. Beautiful and calming. At the halfway point, I stopped to watch their graceful progression towards Minnehaha Falls. As I ran back I wondered about our relative speeds–mine and the ice.

Layers: too many! 2 shirts, a vest, gloves, a buff, running tights, visor. The gloves came off after mile 1. My orange shirt, after mile 2. Pretty soon, I’ll be wearing shorts.

Shedding Skin
Harryette Mullen, 1953

Pulling out of the old scarred skin
(old rough thing I don’t need now
I strip off
slip out of
leave behind)

I slough off deadscales
flick skinflakes to the ground

Shedding toughness
peeling layers down
to vulnerable stuff

And I’m blinking off old eyelids
for a new way of seeing

By the rock I rub against
I’m going to be tender again