jan 21/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 2.1 miles
basement

I guess I’m turning into a wimp this winter because the sidewalks looked uneven and icy and the wind was howling, so I decided to stay inside and work out in the basement. Actually, I think it has less to do with being a wimp, and more to do with it being harder to run in the road and the sidewalks than on the river road trail and harder to avoid people and harder to stay motivated to run outside when I can’t see the river or the gorge. That’s okay. I don’t mind running inside a bit more this month–hopefully just this month.

Watched some races while I biked, and listened to an audiobook, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, for the first half of my run. For the second half, I listened to a playlist and recorded video of my running. With my right knee prone to subluxations and my left hip and lower back often sore, it’s helpful to study my form. I think I need to do a better job of setting up the camera–either that or I really hunch over with my shoulders. Maybe I should try checking my form from the side too? It’s fascinating to me how, over almost my 10 years of running, I’m slowly learning how to accept and take care of my aging body. Oftentimes it sucks to have to worry about all of these aches and pains, but it is also very helpful and satisfying to learn how to work with my body instead of being afraid of its failures.

a moment of sound

I recorded today’s moment of sound on my driveway, back near the alley, in a spot sheltered from the wind. It was very windy. The loud whooshing sounds are not traffic but the wind rushing through the trees. If you listen carefully, you can hear wind chimes (my favorite) and water dripping off of the eaves on my garage (not my favorite). At one point, there’s a pop or a creak or a crack–some siding or wood fence contracting.

Jan 21, 2021

THINGS TO DO/ James Schuyler

Balance checkbook.
Rid lawn of onion grass.
“this patented device”
“this herbicide”
“Sir, We find none of these
killers truly satisfactory.  Hand weed
for onion grass.”  Give
old clothes away, “such as you
yourself would willingly wear.”
Impasse.  Walk three miles
a day beginning tomorrow.
Alphabetize.
Purchase nose-hair shears.
Answer letters.
Elicit others.
Write Maxine.
Move to Maine.
Give up NoCal.
See more movies.
Practice long-distance dialing.
Ditto gymnastics:
The Beast with Two Backs
And, The Fan.
Complain to laundry
any laundry.  Ask for borrowed books back.
Return
junk mail to sender
marked, Return to Sender.
Condole.  Congratulate.
” . . . this sudden shock . . . “
” . . . this swift surprise . . . “
Send. Keep.  Give.  Destroy.
Brush rub polish burn
mend scratch foil evert
emulate surpass.  Remember
“to write three-act play”
and lead “a full and active life.”

-from Collected Poems

I love lists. Making them, reading them, turning them into poetry. I think I’d like to write another series of lists.

nov 24/RUN

2.5 miles
around the neighborhood + tunnel of trees
34 degrees
97% humidity

Dark, damp, deserted. Not desolate because I didn’t find it gloomy or bleak, just empty. Ran through the tunnel of trees, encountering only oneperson. I’m noticing that everyone is more careful lately; giving lots of space to others. On the way to the tunnel, noticed the old stone steps were blocked off for the winter. Even so, someone was running up them as I went by. Did they run back down them? It seemed like they might. Running west on 38th, I suddenly heard loud music off to my side–now I can’t remember what the song was even though I know it–which freaked me out: a person singing along with a radio, about to leave their house and turn onto the sidewalk. Glad they didn’t run into me–that scenario is a Covid nightmare for me.

Let the transition begin! So happy and relieved to hear the news last night that Biden can finally move forward.

oct 30/RUN

3.25 miles
turkey hollow
31 degrees

I love this weather for running! Right around freezing. Not much wind. Clear paths. No rain or snow or ice. Ran south on the river road trail, listening to an audio book. Near 42nd, I heard a wedge of geese honking as they flew south to my right, and a playground of kids, yelling and laughing to my left. Which was louder? Not sure. Ran by those same kids again later as I ran north. So loud–there’s no way they were wearing masks and I doubt they were keeping distance from each other. Is that safe?

Ran past turkey hollow looking for the turkeys. All of sudden, there they were. 7 or 8 of them bunched together in someone’s yard. So close to me. They gobbled and started running a little as I passed by. Nice!

Admired the river again. A wide open view.

The Friday before the election. Woke up this morning and made the mistake of scrolling through twitter and finding some tweets about how violent it might get if Trump loses. How worried should I be about this?

Thankfully twitter isn’t all bad. I only go on it because of the poetry people and all their posts about poems. Here’s one I found just now. I love the first stanza:

Black Cat/ Rainer Maria Rilke – 1875-1926

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

A ghost, though invisible, is still like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear

oct 29/RUN

3.2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road trail, south/edmund, north
33 degrees

A nice run on a windy, gray morning. Still a few patches of snow on the grass. Most of the leaves off the trees. Everything brown and golden and rusty red and burnt orange. I love this time of year. Late fall. Everything almost bare but not yet covered in snow. Clear views of the river. Noticed my favorite late fall view, just past the oak savanna. Beautiful. I don’t remember seeing any bikers, just walkers and runners and one roller skier getting ready to start skiing up the hill on Edmund. No dogs or squirrels or coyotes.

Running past a modern house on Edmund–the house that was built last year on the extra lot next to a huge traditional 1980s-style house that was on the market for over a year but didn’t sell because it was too big and outdated and expensive (asking over a million)–I noticed some loud noises and white powder or smoke or something coming from the garage. Then I ran by a truck with the words “concrete specialists” on it and I guessed they were doing something with concrete. Maybe a poured concrete countertop? I hope so. I’d like one of those.

Listened to an audio book–The Alchemist’s Daughter–so I didn’t think about much or hear hardly anything except the narrator. Briefly I thought about how dreamy everything looks, all fuzzy and out of focus as I run. Partly because of the light, partly the motion, but mostly my vision. I want to write about this as a mood–dreamy? fuzzy? blurry? I was thinking I’d like to incorporate the line from a Diane Seuss poem, “the world italicized.”

Only a few days until Halloween and then election. Can it please be over? Can we please start trusting science and doctors and thinking again?

oct 8/RUN

2.15 miles
a few loops by the river
46 degrees

A shorter run this morning. I took Edmund to the river road and then did a few loops. I listened to an audiobook, Circe by Madeline Miller. Encountered at least one roller skier, several strollers, some dogs and their owners. A nice morning but so bright that I couldn’t see much–not because the sun was in my eyes but because of my failing vision. Felt like I was in a daze. I don’t remember noticing the river or any squirrels. No brightly shirted runners or speeding bikes blasting music. No yellow-vested workers digging holes for high-speed internet. No energetic, bare-footed boys racing me as I run up the hill.

Today’s October Surprises

Today’s first surprise is from last night’s walk with Scott. We saw an albino squirrel running across the road, looking like a rat or a mouse instead of a squirrel. Part of the surprise was that it was an albino squirrel, such a bright white!, and part of it was that I could see it at all, moving so fast, not giving me much time to focus my remaining cones. I’m always in awe of my ability to still see things.

The second surprise was also from yesterday: a northern cardinal drinking from Delia’s water dish on the deck while RJP and I sat in the yard, enjoying the sun. For at least a minute it drank and chirped, as we tried not to move or breathe too loudly so we could watch it.

excerpts from Corsons Inlet/ A. R. Ammons

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,   
from the perpendiculars,
      straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends   
               of sight:

There’s a lot I love about this poem but it was too long to post the whole thing. I picked this bit because I love how he describes his walk as a release from rigid forms. As the poem continues, he suggests that there are forms (formless forms) but that they are not closed or fixed:

I have reached no conclusions, have erected no boundaries,   
shutting out and shutting in, separating inside
          from outside: I have
          drawn no lines:

But the lack of conclusion and clear boundaries doesn’t mean there is no order:

in nature there are few sharp lines: there are areas of   
primrose
       more or less dispersed;
disorderly orders of bayberry; between the rows
of dunes,

The order that you encounter during a walk near the sea (or by the gorge) takes a different form that can’t be fully grasped by our logic:

by transitions the land falls from grassy dunes to creek   
to undercreek: but there are no lines, though
       change in that transition is clear
       as any sharpness: but “sharpness” spread out,   
allowed to occur over a wider range
than mental lines can keep:

march 10/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
33 degrees

According to my weather app, the wind was 1 mph. Nice! Turned right when I reached the river and was able to run on the walking path the whole way even when it separated from the biking path. I’m trying to finish an audio book (Pachinko) before the loan ends later today, so I listened to that instead of the gorge. Noticed the river. Open and beautiful. Can’t remember if it was sparkling. The falls were gushing. Not too many people on the path. Below me, the Winchell trail looked mostly clear. The oak savanna looked bare and open–they’ve trimmed back and removed a lot of the trees down there. I remember hearing the chainsaws this past fall. Anything else? Feel like I have a slight cold so it was a little more difficult to run.

Feeling slightly stressed out about the corona virus, unsure whether I’m worrying too much or not enough. I’m appreciating Lynda Barry’s instagram posts about it, like this one:

View this post on Instagram

March 9, 2020

A post shared by Lynda Barry (@thenearsightedmonkey) on

And this one:

dec 10/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
4 degrees/feels like -12
100% snow-covered

Yes, -12 feels cold but today felt even colder than that. Tried out some hand warmers in my gloves. I guess they worked. It snowed so little yesterday that they didn’t bother to plow–at least an inch of snow covering the path, one narrow-ish strip of it packed down. The wind was in my face heading north, which wasn’t fun, but then at my back heading south, which was. Only the crazy-for-winter fools were out here today. I encountered one fat tire and one other runner besides me. We had the path to ourselves–one of the big advantages of winter running. Noticed that the river is icing over. The path was snow-covered but not icy or slippery. I could hear it crunchy delightfully over the noise of my audio book.

Layers: I was almost too warm at one point. Felt bulky in my 2 pairs of gloves + 2 shirts + vest + jacket + 2 pairs of tights + 2 pairs of socks + buff + hat + sunglasses.

Happy Birthday Emily Dickinson!

It’s all I have to bring today (26)
Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

Today I brought my heart, and my legs, and my lungs, and the crunching snow, and the river, and the bright white solitude of an almost empty path.

dec 4/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge and back again
34 degrees
15% snow-covered

Ran to the river and turned right instead of left today, heading towards the falls. So much sun. Encountered several walkers, a few runners. Any bikers? The river was sparkling, much prettier today. The bike path was mostly clear of snow, the walking path was not. Encountered a group of walkers taking up the entire path and refusing to move at all. I actually had to stop moving as they approached me. Finally the guy realized I was there and moved over a little. After I turned around, catching up to them again, I had to call out “excuse me” 2 or 3 times before they moved. Surprisingly, I was not mad at all. I wish I could be this chill about path hoggers all the time.

I just discovered a wonderful book (and project) from Georges Perec, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place. A wonderful inspiration for my running beside the gorge. In his brief introduction he writes:

My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest instead: that which is generally not taken not of, that which is not noticed, that which which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.

what happens when nothing other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds?

Cherry blossoms
Toi Derricotte – 1941-

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;
a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:
ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.
A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
heaven.
All around us
the blossoms
flurry down
whispering,

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

Be patient,
you have an ancient beauty.

No cheery blossoms for a long time, but I couldn’t resist posting this beautiful poem and its description of a place and a relationship. Oh Cherry Blossom, why can’t my poems be as beautiful? I love the answer: be patient.

nov 19/RUN

6.1 miles
flats turn around
39 degrees

Gloomy and humid. Greeted the Daily Walker. Encountered some squirrels. Admired the tree tunnel and the forest floor. Noticed the seeping water on the limestone cliffs near the U in the flats. All frozen. Ice patches everywhere. Almost looked like raindrops were falling on the river but I didn’t feel them on my skin. Saw some geese hanging out in the park. Ended near the tall boulder. Whatever was on top of it was still there–I think it’s a hat, not a dead animal. It’s always interesting what I see through my cone dystrophy eyes.

Happiness
BY JANE KENYON

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

nov 14/RUN

6.5 miles
river road, south/falls/minnehaha creek/lake nokomis
30 degrees
30-40% snow-covered

Ran over to Lake Nokomis for the first time in a while. Ran straight into the wind for most of it. The path was slick in spots. Will this small bit of snow ever go away or it will just keep melting during the day, then re-freezing at night? Some annoying squirrels almost got in my way. Pretty sure I spotted an albino squirrel on the creek path between the duck bridge and the echo bridge. No ice on the creek but the lake was covered with snow. When I reached the lake, I met Scott and ran around it with him. He pointed out how the snow illuminated a narrow crack in the ice that spanned the entire lake. Strange looking out at the water as we ran, so many trees have been cut down–the view here too clear, too exposed. For most of the day it was sunny, but during my run it was gray. Felt like January.

Hardly a month left in this decade and I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done in the past ten years. So much of it is documented on my many virtual spaces and in my notebooks. Might be fun to read through it all.

I love Maggie Smith’s poetry. So many beautiful ideas and images. The hum as an appliance inside of us, then as the soul. So cool.

The Hum/maggie smith

It’s not a question
without the mark: How do we live
with trust in a world that will continue

to betray us. Hear my voice
not lift at the end. How do we trust
when we continue to be betrayed.

For the first time I doubt
we’ll find our way back. But how
can we not. See how the terminal

mark allows a question
to dress as statement and vice versa.
Sometimes if I am quiet and still,

I can hear a small hum inside me,
an appliance left running.
Years ago I thought it was coming

from my bones. The hum
kept me company, and I thought
thank god for bones, for the fidelity

of bones—they’ll be there
until the end and then some.
Now what. How to continue.

I’ve started calling the hum the soul.
Today I have to hold
my breath to hear it. What question

does it keep not asking
and not asking, never changing
its pitch. How do I answer.

nov 13/RUN

4.9 miles
franklin bridge turn around
24 degrees/light snow

Warmer today. Paths completely snow covered. Not slippery yet, just crunchy. Hooray for crunching, compacting snow. Such a delightful sound! Falling from the sky, the snow shimmered–or did it sizzle? scratch? lightly tap? Whatever it did, it generated a lovely sound. The snow illuminated the paths in the woods. The mystery of where and when the Winchell trail begins or ends near the Franklin bridge is solved! Finally, I can see how the trail enters the wood below the bluff and hugs the rim. Also saw the path that winds through the forest beneath the tree tunnel. Noticed snow on the tall, slender boulder, partly covering the cairn on top. Felt the snow pelting my eyelashes. Stopped at the overlook and admired how wintery and cold and desolate the river looked today. Smelled the sewer. Avoided the frantic squirrels. Greeted the Daily Walker. Today is one of my favorite kinds of winter runs!

This poem!!

Usage
BY HAYAN CHARARA

An assumption, a pejorative, an honest language,
an honorable death. In grade school, I refused to accept
the mayor’s handshake; he smiled at everyone except
people with names like mine. I was born here.
I didn’t have to adopt America, but I adapted to it.
You understand: a man must be averse to opinions
that have adverse impacts on whether he lives
or dies. “Before taking any advice, know the language
of those who seek to advise you.” Certain words
affected me. Sand nigger, I was called. Camel jockey.
What was the effect? While I already muttered
under my breath, I did so even more. I am not
altogether sure we can all together come. Everything
was not all right. Everything is not all right.
Imagine poetry without allusions to Shakespeare,
Greek mythology, the Bible; or allusions without
the adjectives “fanatical,” “extremist,” “Islamic,”
“right,” “left,” “Christian,” “conservative,” “liberal.”
Language written or translated into a single tongue
gives the illusion of tradition. A lot of people murder
language—a lot fully aware. Among all the dead,
choose between “us” and “them.” Among all the names
for the dead—mother, father, brother, sister,
husband, wife, child, friend, colleague, neighbor,
teacher, student, stranger—choose between
“citizen” and “terrorist.” And poet? Immoral,
yes, but never amoral? Large amounts, the number
between 75 and 90 percent of the estimated
150 million to 1 billion—civilians—killed during wars,
over all of recorded human history. Anxious is “worried”
or “apprehensive.” American poetry, Americans.
Young, I learned anyone born here could become
President. Older, I can point to any one of a hundred
reasons why this is a lie. Anyway, I don’t want to be
President, not of a country, or club, not here or there,
not anywhere. He said, “I turned the car around because
it began raining bombs.” There’s no chance of ambiguity—
an as here could mean “because” or “when”; it makes
no difference—he saw the sky, felt the ground,
knew what would come next; it matters little
when the heart rate in less than a second jumps from
70 to 200 beats per minute. What they did
to my grandfather was awful—its wretchedness,
awe-inspiring; its cruelty, terrible; it was awfully
hard to forget. Just after 8:46 AM, I wondered awhile
what would happen next. At 9:03 AM, I knew
there was going to be trouble for a while to come.
When in her grief the woman said, “We’re going
to hurt them bad,” she meant to say, “We’re going
to hurt them badly.” For seventeen days, during
air strikes, my grandfather slept on a cot beside
a kerosene lamp in the basement of his house. Besides
a few days worth of pills, and a gallon of water,
he had nothing else to eat or drink. Given these conditions,
none of us were surprised that on the eighteenth day,
he died. Besides, he was eighty-two years old.
I can write what I please. I don’t need to ask, May I?
Like a song: men with capital meet in the Capitol
in the nation’s capital. Any disagreements, censored;
those making them—poets, dissenters, activists—
censured. The aftermath, approximately 655,000
people killed. “The Human Cost of War in Iraq:
A Mortality Study, 2002-2006,” Bloomsburg School
of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore,
Maryland); School of Medicine, Al Mustansiriya University
(Baghdad, Iraq); in cooperation with the Center
for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts).
The figure just cited—655,000 dead—resulted from
a household survey conducted at actual sites, in Iraq,
not the Pentagon, or White House, or a newsroom,
or someone’s imagination. Of course, language has been
corrupted. Look, the President, who speaks coarsely,
says, “We must stay the course.” The problem with
“Let your conscience be your guide” is you must first
be aware, conscious, of the fact that a moral principle
is a subjective thing. I wonder: when one “smokes ’em
out of a hole,” if the person doing the smoking
is conscious of his conscience at work. Am I fully conscious
of how I arrived at this? The continual dissemination
of similar images and ideas. The continual aired footage
of planes striking the towers, the towers crumbling
to the streets, dust, screams, a continuous reel of destruction,
fear, as if the attacks were happening twenty-four hours
a day, every day, any time. For a while, I couldn’t care less
about war. Then I saw corpses, of boys, who looked
just like me. This was 1982, at age ten. Ever since,
I couldn’t care less why anyone would want it.
In 1982, any one of those boys could have been me.
Now, it’s any one of those dead men could be me.
The Secretary of State offered such counsel
to the ambassadors of the world that the United Nations
Security Council nodded in favor of war. Criterion
easily becomes criteria. Even easier: to no longer
require either. The data turned out false. The doctrine
of preemption ultimately negated its need. While we
both speak English, our languages are so different from
each other, yours might as well be Greek to me.
When the black man in the park asked, “Are you
Mexican, Puerto Rican, or are you Pakistani?”
and I said, “I’m Arab,” and he replied, “Damn.
Someone don’t like you very much,” I understood
perfectly what he meant. The President alluded
to the Crusades because of (not due to) a lack
of knowledge. Later, he retracted the statement,
worried it might offend the Middle East;
it never occurred to him the offense taken was due to
the bombs shredding them to bits and pieces. “You are
either with us or with the terrorists” (September 20, 2001).
“You’re either with us or against us” (November 6, 2001).
The day after, the disc jockey advocated, on air,
a thirty-three cent solution (the cost of a bullet)
to the problem of terrorists in our midst—he meant
in New York; also, by terrorists, I wonder did he know
he meant cab drivers, hot dog vendors, students, bankers,
neighbors, passersby, New Yorkers, Americans;
did he know he also meant Sikhs, Hindus, Iranians,
Africans, Asians; did he know, too, he meant Christians,
Jews, Buddhists, Atheists; did he realize he was eliciting
a violent response, on the radio, in the afternoon?
Among those who did not find the remark at all illicit:
the owners of the radio station, the FCC, the mayor,
the governor, members of the House, the Senate,
the President of the United States. Emigrate is better
than immigrate. Proof: no such thing as illegal emigration.
Further proof: emigration is never an election issue.
I heard enthusiastic speeches. They hate our freedoms,
our way of life, our this, that, and the other, and so on
(not etc). Not everyone agreed every one not “with us”
was “against us.” Detroit was farther from home
than my father ever imagined. He convinced himself
soon after arriving here he had ventured further
than he should have. Fewer people live in his hometown
than when he left, in 1966. The number, even less,
following thirty-four straight days of aerial bombardment.
First (not firstly) my father spoke Arabic; second
(not secondly) he spoke broken English; third (not thirdly)
he spoke Arabic at home and English at work;
fourth (not fourthly) he refused to speak English
anymore. Not every poem is good. Not every poem
does well. Not every poem is well, either. Nor does
every poem do good. “To grow the economy”
is more than jargon. Can a democracy grow
without violence? Ours didn’t. They still plan to grow
tomatoes this year, despite what was done.
Several men, civilian workers, identified as enemies,
were hanged on a bridge, bodies torched, corpses
swaying in the breeze. Photographs of the dead
were hung with care. I can hardly describe what is
going on. Day after day, he told himself, “I am
an American. I eat apple pie. I watch baseball.
I speak American English. I read American poetry.
I was born in Detroit, a city as American as it gets.
I vote. I work. I pay taxes, too many taxes. I own a car.
I make mortgage payments. I am not hungry. I worry
less than the rest of the world. I could stand to lose
a few pounds. I eat several types of cuisine
on a regular basis. I flush toilets. I let the faucet drip.
I have central air conditioning. I will never starve
to death or experience famine. I will never die
of malaria. I can say whatever the fuck I please.”
Even words succumbed; hopefully turned into
a kind of joke; hopeful, a slur. However, I use the words,
but less, with more care. The President implied
compassion; but inferred otherwise. This is not
meant to be ingenious. Nor is it ingenuous.
The more he got into it, the more he saw poetry,
like language, was in a constant state of becoming.
Regardless, or because of this, he welcomed the misuse
of language. Language is its own worst enemy—
it’s the snake devouring its own tail. They thought
of us not kind of or sort of but as somewhat American.
Lie: “To recline or rest on a surface?” No. “To put
or place something?” No. Depleted uranium, heavy
like lead; its use—uranium shells—led to birth defects.
When in his anger the man said, “We’re going
to teach them a lesson,” I wonder what he thought
they would learn. In a war, a soldier is less likely
to die than a civilian. He looks like he hates our freedoms.
You don’t know them like I do. He looks as if he hates
our freedoms. You don’t know them as I do.
When in his sorrow my father said, “Everybody
loose in war,” I knew exactly what he meant. It may be
poets should fight wars. Maybe then, metaphors—
not bodies, not hillsides, not hospitals, not schools—
will explode. I might have watched the popular sitcom
if not for my family—they were under attack,
they might have died. Others may have been laughing
at jokes while bodies were being torn apart.
I could not risk that kind of laughter. Of all the media
covering war, which medium best abolishes the truth?
I deceive myself. I will deceive you myself. In the Bronx,
I passed as Puerto Rican. I passed as Greek in Queens,
also Brazilian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, even a famous,
good-looking American movie actor. As Iranian
in Manhattan. At the mall in New Jersey,
the sales clerk guessed Italian. Where Henry Ford
was born, my hometown, I always pass as Arab.
I may look like the men in the great paintings
of the Near East but their lives, their ways, I assure you,
are in the past. Plus, except in those paintings,
or at the movies, I never saw Arabs with multiple wives,
or who rode camels, lived in silk tents, drank from
desert wells; moreover, it’s time to move past that.
Did language precede violence? Can violence proceed
without language? It broke my father’s heart
to talk about the principle of equal justice.
The news aired several quotations from the airline
passengers, one of whom was a middle-aged man
with children, who said, “I didn’t feel safe with them
on board.” He used the word “them” though only one,
an Arab, was on the plane. Being from Detroit,
I couldn’t help but think of Rosa Parks.
Then I got angry. I said to the TV, to no one
in particular, “If you don’t feel safe, then you
get off the goddamn plane.” You can quote me
on that. I was really angry—not real angry,
but really angry. The reason? A poet asked me
why I didn’t write poems about Muslim and Arab
violence against others, and I said I did. And then
he said he meant violence against Americans and Israelis,
respectively, and I said I did, and before I could
go on he interrupted to ask why I didn’t write
poems about mothers who sent their sons and daughters
on suicide missions. As if, as if, as if. I respectfully
decline to answer any more questions. Write your own
goddamn poem! Does this poem gratify the physical senses?
Does it use sensuous language? It certainly does not
attempt to gratify those senses associated with
sexual pleasure. In this way, it may not be a sensual poem.
However, men have been known to experience
sexual gratification in situations involving power,
especially over women, other men, life, and language.
My father said, “No matter how angry they make you,
invite the agents in the house, offer them coffee,
be polite. If they stay long, ask them to sit. Otherwise,
they will try to set you straight.” When in his
frustration he said, “Should of, could of, would of,”
he meant, “Stop, leave me alone, I refuse to examine
the problem further.” Because (not since) the terrorists
attacked us, we became more like the rest of the world
than ever before. This is supposed to be a poem;
it is supposed to be in a conversation with you.
Be sure to participate. “No language is more violent
than another,” he said. Then he laughed, and said,
“Except the one you use.” Do conflicts of interest
exist when governments award wartime contracts
to companies that have close ties to government officials?
From 1995 to 2000, Dick Cheney, Vice President
of the United States, was CEO of Halliburton,
which is headquartered in Houston, Texas,
near Bush International Airport. Would they benefit
themselves by declaring war? Please send those men
back home. My grandfather lay there unconscious.
For days, there was no water, no medicine, nothing
to eat. The soldiers left their footprints at the doorstep.
His sons and daughters, they’re now grieving him.
“Try not to make too much of it” was the advice given
after two Homeland Security agents visited my house,
not once, not twice, but three times. I’m waiting for
my right mind. The language is a long ways from here.
After the bombs fell, I called every night to find out
whether my father was alive or dead. He always asked,
“How’s the weather there?” Soon enough, he assured me,
things would return to normal, that (not where)
a ceasefire was on the way. Although (not while)
I spoke English with my father, he replied in Arabic.
Then I wondered, who’s to decide whose language it is
anyway—you, me? your mother, father, books,
perspective, sky, earth, ground, dirt, dearly departed,
customs, energy, sadness, fear, spirit, poetry, God,
dog, cat, sister, brother, daughter, family, you, poems,
nights, thoughts, secrets, habits, lines, grievances,
breaks, memories, nightmares, mornings, faith, desire,
sex, funerals, metaphors, histories, names, tongues,
syntax, coffee, smoke, eyes, addiction, witness, paper,
fingers, skin, you, your, you’re here, there, the sky,
the rain, the past, sleep, rest, live, stop, go, breathe

nov 12/RUN

4 miles
west river parkway, north/south
12 degrees/feels like 0

Day two of the early cold snap. Brr. Liked the fresh & cold air but not how it made my feet feel, like heavy inert blocks of concrete. Saw a squirrel dart across the path in front of me, a biker, a few dogs and their humans, some walkers, bundled up. Thought I heard the clickity-clack of a roller skier but it was just a nail gun across the boulevard–a house getting a new roof. Very windy on the way back south. Felt tired and wanted to stop but convinced myself to keep going. Like most of the time, it got easier. My face burned from the cold. Again, too many layers. Next time I should lose a shirt. My favorite part of the trail–in the tunnel of trees, just above the forest that leads to the river, was bare & beautiful, all the leaves turning into mulch on the ground. Listened to an audiobook and ran in a daze. Couldn’t remember running over parts of the path that I had just crossed a few minutes before–at least 5 minutes where I was able to leave my Self. Cool.

Thinking about form a lot again. Found a YouTube video made in 2014 by a woman with cone dystrophy. She mentioned how her cones are almost all destroyed (just like me) and she relies on her rods. Cones enable us to see fine details, rods outlines of shapes and forms. Yes! I love the forms and shapes at the gorge–I don’t need to see them sharply to appreciate their beauty or to recognize what they are. Had an idea: what if I try to represent those forms/shapes in a poem? It could be concrete poetry or something similar. I really like the book cover for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (I also loved reading the book).

Thinking about simple forms combined with strong, compact language–possibly verbs? Ways in or Finding a Way In or The Way In? Took some pictures of the gorge at my favorite spot for inspiration.

a final thought:

“Matter has potential that is made actual by form” (jane alison).

oct 12/RUN

2 miles
river road, north/south
34 degrees
Snow!

Of course I had to get out and run in the snow. A bit blustery but not too bad. The snow is not sticking to the path or the road but it is staying on the trees. Down below the road, the snow makes some of the trees glow white. Greeted the Daily Walker. Today he’s wearing 2 shirts and gloves, still no jacket. Ran above the lake street bridge and then turned around. Lots of walkers, a few runners. At the end of the run, stopped and looked down at the ravine. Lots of leaves gone, the wrought iron fence below almost visible. No view of the river here.

sept 29/RUN

5 miles
river road, north/south
51 degrees, drizzle

Ran through a light drizzle, which I loved. Wasn’t sure how much I would run when I started, but ended up feeling good and running 5 miles. Listened to an Agatha Christie audio book and didn’t think about much. Perhaps if I had remembered before heading out, I would have tried to conjure my mother to run with me. She died 10 years ago today. 10 years. I had imagined that this day would be a bigger deal, that I’d do something important to mark it. But I’m not. Why not? How has it already been 10 years?

sept 23/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill
60 degrees

Cooler. Is Fall finally here? Sunny. Calm. Some beautiful light purple wildflowers lining the path. Do they come every year? I’ve never noticed them before. Saw the Daily Walker and a roller skier who called out, “you’re going race pace!” Encountered a few annoying strollers taking over the entire path. Did a lot of counting to 4. 1 2 3 4/ 1 2 3 4/ 1 2 3 4. Reached the bottom of the Franklin hill and immediately turned around without noticing the river. Saw more slashes of orange and red in the trees. Thought more about my writing project and how narrow to make the focus.

A Blank White Page
BY FRANCISCO X. ALARCÓN

is a meadow
after a snowfall
that a poem
hopes to cross

What a beautiful way of describing a blank white page. Speaking of blank white pages, this morning I finished writing in my 4th running/training notebook and started the 5th one. Very satisfying to completely fill so many notebooks.

sept 21/RUN

1.5 miles
river road, north/south
76 degrees

I’m writing this log entry the next day so I’m not sure what I remember. Ran a little later in the heat and humidity. Listened to an audio book. Noticed that stones were stacked on both of the boulders just past the welcoming oaks and before the tunnel of trees. More leaves on the ground–a lot of orange this year, which I love.

sept 15/RUN

2.1 miles
2 trails
62 degrees/humidity: 94%!

An organized run took over the path–marathon training. Trots of runners forcing me to aggressively claim my own space on the upper path. Sunny. Humid. Happy to turn down at the 44th street parking lot and take the lower trail. Hardly any traffic. Saw the shining river. Heard the water trickling out of the sewer pipe. Felt my legs getting stronger. Noticed how the leaning tree near the 38th street steps is still leaning. Forgot to check if the yarn is still dangling from it.

Searching for “leaning tree poetry” on google, I found this fabulous poem on the third page of results. This poem! I want to spend some time with it, thinking about knowing and writing and language and experience and how words do and don’t matter.

Learning the Trees
BY HOWARD NEMEROV

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees. That’s done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves—
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform—
And their venation—palmate and parallel—
And tips—acute, truncate, auriculate.

Sufficiently provided, you may now
Go forth to the forests and the shady streets
To see how the chaos of experience
Answers to catalogue and category.

Confusedly. The leaves of a single tree
May differ among themselves more than they do
From other species, so you have to find,
All blandly says the book, “an average leaf.”

Example, the catalpa in the book
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three
Around the stem; the one in front of you
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost;

Maybe it’s not catalpa? Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids,
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world

Not always at the joints, competing with
Experience while cooperating with
Experience, and keeping an obstinate
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

And think also how funny knowledge is:
You may succeed in learning many trees
And calling off their names as you go by,
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

sept 13/RUN

4 miles
almost to franklin turn around
59 degrees

Such weird weather. Windy. Sunny then cloudy then misting then sunny again. Cool then warm then cool. Listened to my audio book (Once Upon a River) and avoided slow squirrels sauntering on the path. Felt strong and relaxed. Greeted the Daily Walker. Faintly heard some rowers in the gorge. Stepped on and over acorns and piles of fallen leaves littering the path. Occasionally glanced down at the river. Hard to see through all the green. Even when it was overcast and the sun was hidden, I glowed in my neon yellow 2018 10 mile race t-shirt.

Returning to my haibun route project. Started reading Lorine Niedecker’s Lake Superior for inspiration. Here’s an excerpt:

The journey of the rock is never ended. In every tiny part of any living thing are materials that once were rock that turned to soil. These minerals are drawn out of the soil by plant roots and the plant used them to build leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. Plants are eaten by animals. In our blood is iron from plants that draw it out of the soil. Your teeth and bones were once coral. The water you drink has been in clouds over the mountains of Asia and in waterfalls of Africa. The air you breathe has swirled thru places of the earth that no one has ever seen. Every bit of you is a bit of the earth and has been on many strange and wonderful journeys over countless millions of years.

page 7

sept 10/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
70 degrees
humidity: 84%

Weird (almost) fall weather. Yesterday I had to wear so many more layers, today summer had returned. Humid and hot. Greeted the Daily Walker. Encountered other runners and walkers and bikers. No roller skiers on the path but I did see one on the street later when I took the dog for a walk. Listened to an audio book (Once Upon a River) and noticed the river and a spot in the tunnel of trees that opens up into an amphitheater of air–this spot is different than the one I tried to write about earlier in the summer. So spacious and airy and light–and still quite green. What color will it turn in the next month? Don’t remember noticing any non-green leaves. Today, with the sun so bright and warm, it’s hard to get excited about fall or winter. It feels like summer will never leave.

Reminded by someone on twitter of these great lines from Mary Oliver:

Sometimes/Mary Oliver (in Red Bird):

Instructions for living a life:
Pay Attention.
Be Astonished.
Tell about it.

Mannequin of the Day:

There’s something about this mannequin’s face that makes me think she really doesn’t give a fuck. She doesn’t even care that a ribbon is covering her cheek. It’s the eyes, right?

sept 9/RUN

1.5 miles
river road, north/south
60 degrees

Did a short run today in-between rain drops. It’s starting to look like fall. A few trees are losing leaves or turning red and yellow. Will there be bright orange this fall too? I hope so. In my 20s and 30s, I didn’t appreciate orange. Too bright or earthy or… orange. Green–darker, more muted–was my favorite. I still love green but I love orange now too. Is it because it was my mom’s favorite color? Maybe. I love bright oranges that glow unnaturally. And earthy, rusty oranges. It’s funny that I like orange now, when I can’t always see it because of my cone dystrophy. I’m thinking of getting some orange sneakers to wear this fall–not to run in, but just to wear and admire.

Right now I’m reading Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights and listening to podcast interviews with him and thinking about his ethics/politics/pedagogy of delight. So wonderful! Here’s one of his poems from a few years back:

Sorrow Is Not My Name
BY ROSS GAY

—after Gwendolyn Brooks
No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.
—for Walter Aikens

“there are, on this planet alone, something like two/million naturally occurring sweet things,/some with names so generous as to kick/the steel from my knees…”

sept 8/RUN

4 miles
almost to franklin bridge turn around
54 degrees
light rain

Ran in the rain. Just a light drizzle that I could barely feel. Nice. Listened to an audio book. Forgot to check if there were any stones stacked on the boulder. Looked for, but couldn’t find, the forest floor. Still too many leaves. Noticed a few changing colors, turning yellow. Thought I heard some cheering from the gorge. A rowing competition? Passed the Daily Walker, good morning-ed him on the way back. Worked on lifting my head, straightening my back. Saw a few squirrels, a dog, a roller skier, bikers, runners, walkers–lots of people out in the rain. Didn’t really see the river, only an occasional flash of white through the trees. I loved my run this morning.

Found this poem this morning while searching for the subject “september” on poets.org. Thinking about my mom and the 10th anniversary of her death at the end of this month. I deeply feel this profit and loss in my own grief and also the idea of not trying to assess it or to reconcile the feeling of loss with the unexpected joys it has brought–like a deeper appreciation of the woods or a football game or, in my case, the leaves in the gorge. The more I read this poem, the more I love it. Such a beautiful way to express the process of learning to live with grief.

Mannequin of the day:

Is the white in the middle of the pupil just because the paint is wearing off, or is it an artistic effort to indicate life/a spark/a soul within?

I find delight (reading Ross Gay’s wonderful, The Book of Delights, I’m trying to be better about claiming my own quirky delights) in this mannequin and her continued (and improbable) presence at the State Fair in a space barely touched by progress where the amateur is celebrated and beauty is never slicked up. Every year, walking into the creative activities building and seeing these cracked, faded, weathered mannequins still adorned in handmade hats and coats and scarves and sweaters, looking creepy and odd, I am delighted–and not in an ironic, hipster way. Here, the ugly and old and outdated have a space. I think I’m almost able to articulate this delight, but not quite. I’ll keep working at it. Something about how these mannequins represent resistance to the relentless need (by capitalism) to constantly change things to make them better! and newer! and prettier! and, in doing so, erase/remove/destroy those things which don’t fit their vision of better/newer/prettier. I love things that are ugly and overlooked and unsettling.

september 2/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
64 degrees
humidity: 85%

Back home. Last day before school starts for the kids. Heard the rowers on the river, geese traveling south above my head. Spotted a fat tire, a roller skier, several runners. No Daily Walker or man in black. Made sure to look at the river, but forgot to check out the floodplain forest. Noticed that there were no stones stacked on top of the ancient boulder. Smelled an over-filled porta potty. Whacked my elbow on a tree, running too close to it. As my vision declines, I have started to run into more things. Chanted in 3s: raspberry, blueberry, strawberry. Tried to think of other 3 syllable words as I ran: mystery, ambitious, remember, September, decadent, difficult. Tried to unsuccessfully remember the words to “try to remember”:

Try to remember the kind of September,
When life was slow and oh so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September,
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September,
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow (follow) follow (follow) follow

My godfather sang this at my mom’s funeral almost 10 years ago. Will this month–her death month–be difficult this year?

Also attempted to recite Silverstein’s “Sick.” All I could remember was: “I cannot go to school today/said little Peggy Ann McKay/I have the measles and the mumps/a gash, a rash and purple bumps…”

Here’s some lines from a poem that I love:

from “Poplar Street“/Chen Chen

Sometimes, parents & children

become the most common strangers. Eventually,
a street appears where they can meet again.

august 30/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
55 degrees

In the 50s. Yes! Love the cooler weather. Listened to my audio book–Agatha Christie’s Sad Cypress–and enjoyed feeling cooler and relaxed. I don’t remember much from the run. Didn’t see the Daily Walker or the river. Didn’t hear the clickity-clack of ski poles or the whirring of bike wheels. Lots of traffic backed up when someone was turning left and at the 4 way stop by the greenway. So nice to not be in one of those cars! Finishing the run I felt good. Not sore or tired just strong and excited about more fall and winter running.

august 27/RUN

2.5 miles
two trails
59 degrees

Woke up too tired this morning. Running helped a lot. Windy and cooler. Starting at 8:15, there are lots of cars. Such a crowded parkway! A few runners, some bikers, at least 2 roller skiers. Listened to an audio book up above, the water coming out of the sewer below. At the first pipe, it was a quiet, steady stream. At the second, a little louder and faster. Thought about my breathing and locking it into a rhythm that would keep me steady. 1 2 3/45 up hill and 5 4 3/21 down hill then 1234/5678 Slowly, I’ve been working on poems that mimic my breathing while swimming and running.

This morning I read an essay by Jericho Brown in which he describes his invention of the duplex form. He writes:

I decided to call the form a duplex because something about its repetition and its couplets made me feel like it was a house with two addresses. It is, indeed, a mutt of a form as so many of us in this nation are only now empowered to live fully in all of our identities. I wanted to highlight the trouble of a wall between us who live within a single structure. What happens when that wall is up and what happens when we tear it down? How will we live together? Will we kill each other? Can we be more careful?

At the end of the essay, he lists the rules of the form:

Write a ghazal that is also a sonnet that is also a blues poem of 14 lines, giving each line 9 to 11 syllables.

The first line is echoed in the last line.

The second line of the poem should change our impression of the first line in an unexpected way.

The second line is echoed and becomes the third line.

The fourth line of the poem should change our impression of the third line in an unexpected way.

This continues until the penultimate line becomes the first line of the couplet that leads to the final (and first) line.

For the variations of repeated lines, it is useful to think of the a a’ b scheme of the blues form.

And here’s an example from his latest book, The Tradition:

JERICHO BROWN
DUPLEX (I BEGIN WITH LOVE)

I begin with love, hoping to end there.
I don’t want to leave a messy corpse.

   I don’t want to leave a messy corpse
   Full of medicines that turn in the sun.

Some of my medicines turn in the sun.
Some of us don’t need hell to be good.

   Those who need least, need hell to be good.
   What are the symptoms of your sickness?

Here is one symptom of my sickness:
Men who love me are men who miss me.

   Men who leave me are men who miss me
   In the dream where I am an island.

In the dream where I am an island,
I grow green with hope. I’d like to end there.

august 26/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
65 degrees

Cooler. Breezier. Overcast. Too many cars rushing past me on the road. Listened to my audio book for a while then took out my headphones. Played chicken with a woman running up by the lake street bridge. I was running to the right, furthest from zooming bikes that might be coming up the hill behind me, she was to the left, also hugging the rail. She wouldn’t move, probably because she was oblivious. I wouldn’t move either because I’m stubborn and need rules, like always stay to the right, because my eyes don’t always work and I can’t see if someone is coming. I was prepared to run into her if she didn’t move, which I recognize is somewhat ridiculous but I get really angry when people don’t pay attention in these simple ways. As someone who can’t always see, other people’s refusal to care can be dangerous. The good news: just a minute or two after that, I completely forgot about it and enjoyed the rest of my run. Didn’t stop to walk at all and looked at the river at least once, but forgot to check if there were any stacked stones on the big old boulder.

I love this poem. I love Maggie Smith. Her mix of joy and grief is so great. So much I love about this poem. Here’s a list:

  • the focus on lists and their connection to and
  • lists of not quite grievances, lists of things loved
  • describing a fear of death as not wanting to be in the dirt
  • the desire for two parts bees humming to one part bee sting
  • idea of repetitions and a workout
  • rhyming hum with tongue
  • the flow of the couplets

Let’s Not Begin/Maggie Smith

Let’s not begin the poem with and,
though it begins that way

in spirit: one in a long list of—
let’s not call them grievances.

I’m trying to love the world,
I am, but is it too much

to ask for two parts bees
vibrating their cups of pollen,

humming a perfect A note,
to one part sting?

Worry and console, worry
and console: it’s how I stay

in shape. See, I’m sweating.
Some nights my daughter cries,

I don’t want to be in the dirt,
and this is what I call a workout.

My heart’s galloping hell
and gone from the paddock—

I don’t want to be in the dirt
because I’ll miss you

and there’s no stopping me.
But let’s not end

with the heart as horse,
fear-lathered, spooked deaf.

I’m trying, I am, for her.
If I list everything I love

about the world, and if the list
is long and heavy enough,

I can lift it over and over—
repetitions, they’re called, reps

to keep my heart on, to keep
the dirt off. Let’s begin

with bees, and the hum,
and the honey singing

on my tongue, and the child
sleeping at last, and, and, and

august 25/RUN

3 miles
two trails

What do I remember from my run today? Noticed the water came out of the sewer pipe in quick bursts. No gurgling or gushing just spurting. Watched the river through the trees–beautiful. The leaning trunk was still there. Lots of bikers and runners. No roller skiers on the trail but one on the road, after I was finished. No rowers–why not? No huge groups of runners–the most I saw together was three.

Three Songs at the End of Summer
Jane Kenyon – 1947-1995

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket….
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

This poem! I’ve read it before but I don’t think I’ve posted it here. I would love to write an homage (poem or lyric essay) to this. Maybe tomorrow? Love so much about this poem. Right now: Across the lake the campers have learned/ to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t.

august 20/RUNSWIM

3 miles
two trails

Another good run. Down below, on the way back north on the lower trail, I noticed how the first sewer drain I ran by vigorously trickled while the second one sporadically gushed. Heard a bird making the classic bird call through the trees, deep in the gorge, that I imagine when I think of a bird chirping in a forest. So bird. Didn’t take the steps at 38th street again and planned to continue on to the gravel hill just past the social justice keys but took a wrong turn at the fork in the trail and ended up climbing sooner, conveniently right by the water fountain at the 36th street parking lot.

Yesterday I posted a poem with a wonderful use of the word O. (O, to take what we love inside/to carry within us an orchard, to eat/not only the skin, but the shade,/not only the sugar, but the days, to hold/the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into/the round jubilance of peach.) So when I saw a poem that takes on the O even more, I wanted to post it. I love the unbridled enthusiasm of an O! (and of the exclamation mark!!)

O, She Says
BY HAILEY LEITHAUSER

O, she says (because she loves to say O),
O to this cloud-break that ravels the night,
O to this moon, its mouthful of sorrow,
O shallow grass and the nettle burr’s bite,

O to heart’s flare, its wobbly satellite,
O step after step in stumbling tempo,
O owl in oak, O rout of black bat flight,
(O moaned in Attic and Esperanto)

O covetous tongue, O fat fandango,
O gnat tango in the hot, ochered light,
O wind whirred leaves in subtle inferno,
O flexing of sea, O stars bolted tight,

O ludicrous swoon, O blind hindsight,
O torching of bridges and blood boiled white,
O sparrow and arrow and hell below,
O, she says, because she loves to say O.

swim: 1.3 miles
cedar lake

Another great swim! I am really enjoying how much smaller cedar lake is. I heard someone say a loop is 600 yards. It’s easier to swim longer and farther and faster. The water was choppy again, which is great. I love battling the waves. I had no problem swimming straight today and had fun passing people.

august 19/RUNSWIM

3 miles
two trails +
59 degrees
humidity: 85%

Ran up above listening to another audio book, down below listening to a bird, my breathing and water gurgling out of the sewer–not gushing or rushing, falling? When I got to the leaning tree trunk and the 38th street steps I didn’t go up but stayed on the lower trail. No mud, only dirt, an occasional stone and wildflowers. Not too overgrown. Think I could see my breath as it hit the sunlight streaking through the trees–was this because of steamy humidity? Ran past the railing where the keys with social justice messages painted on them used to hang and up the gravel hill to the paved path, near the overlook, the welcoming oaks and the two old boulders. No stacked stones on the taller one. Saw the dark-haired woman I usually pass and the old lady in the straw hat. She wasn’t listening to any TED talks today.

From Blossoms
BY LI-YOUNG LEE

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

O, what a poem! I want to spend some time memorizing these lines so I can remember them when I need them. I want to carry within me an orchard and live from joy to joy to joy!

swim: 1 miles
cedar lake

A great evening for a swim. The water was choppy, which I liked. The sun was blinding, which I didn’t. Again, couldn’t see anything on the way back to the start except for an opening in the trees which I determined was where the beach was. So I swam straight towards it and was right. When I was done, I swam through the swimming area. Suddenly it got much darker below me–is it deeper? The attitude at the lake is more laid back than at Nokomis. Kayaks in the swimming area, a dog swimming out to greet the swimmers as they made their way to the first buoy, lifeguards sitting in camp chairs. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me. Next year I will try to make it to more of these cedar lake swims. Almost forgot: too many scratchy, pesky vines floating in the water, getting tangled on my shoulders, in my fingers as they entered the water.

august 15/RUN

3 miles
two trails
63 degrees

A nice and easy run. Cooler. Not too much sun. Not that crowded. Didn’t see the little old lady shuffling by that I’ve been writing about but I did encounter a woman I’ve seen at least 2 or 3 times before who walks the opposite way I run. While I start by running south on the upper trail, north on the lower trail, she starts north on the upper trail and south on the lower. I get to greet her twice. Don’t remember much about the upper path run, but I remember noticing how bright and glowing the river was below me on the lower trail. Heard some roller ski poles clicking-clacking. A car horn aggressively honking–at least 5 or 6 times. Some bikers talking. The leaning tree trunk is still leaning near the 38th street steps. After taking them up and running north, I noticed 3 rocks stacked on the ancient boulder near the tunnel of trees.

On the Dirt Path Near Folwell Avenue Haibun
Sara Puotinen

Even if you try to time it just right when you climb the steep, short hill up to the dirt packed path, you cannot avoid the swarming swath of sex-crazed gnats or the little old lady slowly shuffling by, swinging her hiking poles, a voice TED-talking out of her phone’s speaker reminding you that this is why we are all here. Do not bother the bench resting on the rim of the gorge to ask what this is. If looking through the thickly thatched oak leaves to gather glimpses of the silvery river sparkling in the morning sun doesn’t already answer everything, the bench certainly won’t be able to help.

Bugs and old ladies
wake up early in June but
so does the river.