oct 26/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

The first time biking since last April. Left my bike on the stand all summer, didn’t bike outside at all, partly because of the pandemic, partly because of my vision. My tires were totally flat. Started watching Enola Holmes. Not sure yet if I like it.

run: 1.75 miles
treadmill, basement

It wasn’t too cold or icy or windy outside but I felt like staying inside so I ran downstairs. Listened to a time capsule playlist on Spotify: She Don’t Use Jelly; Sabotage; Kiss; Freedom. If I would have kept going I could have also heard Cake’s I will Survive and Deee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart. Oh well. Next time. I don’t remember thinking about much as I ran. My mind was shut off. I enjoyed the repetition and the movement and the absence of everything else.

For some reason, I’m feeling tired and unmotivated today. Maybe it’s because I’ve finished five mood ring poems and I’m not sure if I want to write anymore. I’m very happy with them. Sometime soon I’d like to write about the process of creating them.

may 17/BIKERUN

bike: 27 minutes, stand, basement
run: 1.75 miles, treadmill, basement
raining and windy all day

No break in the rain today so I biked and ran in the basement. Decided to try reciting the 2 green poems I learned this week while biking, and then again while running. A fun challenge. I messed up a few lines but did surprisingly well speaking the lines while my heart rate was up–about 120 BPMs while biking, 165 BPMs while running. I need to work on getting the phone closer to my mouth and speaking louder while running. It would probably be easier to record while running on the road where I can vary my pace, instead of on the treadmill where I had to keep my pace steady.

The Trees/Phillip Larkin

biking, 120 BPM
running, 165 BPM

Instructions on Not Giving Up/ Ada Limón

biking, 120 BPM
running, 165 BPM

Next week, I’ll start on my third green poem. After all this rain, it will be extra green! Speaking of green, I continue to work on a poem inspired by Rita Dove’s alliteration in “Ode to My Right Knee.” It’s about the excess of green and how it hides my beautiful view of the river and its other side every year, from May to October.

Here’s my latest version:

Ode to Green/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Greedy gorge gobbler grifting
vistas. Vanishing views.
Overruning overlooks. Orchestrating
take-overs–trees tressed,
scenes stolen, senses smothered. Stop.
Yield your yearly
domination. Dress demurely. Decide
against always
exuding excess.
O, overabundant obstruction,
we want windows, ways
out, openings, other
perspectives, possibilities. Please
share some space. Surely
room remains
for faithful friends?


april 28/BIKERUN

bike/bike stand: 30 minutes
run/treadmill: 1.5 miles
rain
Deaths from COVID-19: 301 (MN)/ 57,533 (US)

Rain all day. In a few days, everything green. Green green green. I like the green but it always comes too much too soon. Biked in the basement while watching more of the Agatha Christie movie. Enjoying it. Then, ran on the treadmill. Listened to a playlist, fell into a trance.

I didn’t recite my memorized poem today, but decided to recite and record it during my cool down, walking on the treadmill. Realized, before my workout, that I had not memorized the first stanza. Somehow I had left it off my log post. Oops. I’ll have to practice it a lot: “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly” “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly”

Dear One Absent This Long While, recorded 4/28

I stumbled over a few words, and it sounds like I said “pawny” instead of “pony” but I recited the whole thing. Nice. I don’t quite own these words yet, but I will soon.

use better words || use words better

Yesterday, while trying to figure out some succinct ways to describe the creative experiments I’m doing in my run project, I came up with this concept. I want to find and use better words–words that allow for new understandings, that more effectively communicate my experiences, that make me/others feel things, that foster curiosity. And, I want to use words better–to be more deliberate and precise and thoughtful in my choices so that my words generate movement and encourage others to think and be curious.

the Subway/Eat Fresh birds

A few days ago, inspired by 2 birds chatting, I imagined what they might be saying–including: bird 1: Subway/ bird 2: Eat Fresh. Scott was inspired by another similar bird conversation this morning. He recorded them, figured out what notes they were singing and then played around on his keyboard with them. Very cool.

birds singing in the rain, april 28
Birdsong in the rain, Room 34

I’m hoping we can collaborate on a sound/poetry project about these birds–probably one that doesn’t involve referring to the birds as Subway and Eat Fresh, but who knows? Anyway, as a starting point, I wrote down a list of 2 syllable calls and responses:

Be here
Not here
Beside
Be Safe
Deep Down
Lost Ones
Release
Slow down
Rethink
Listen
Sink in
Undo
Nothing
Delight
Been there
Terror
Old ways
New ways
Broke down
How to

Not there
Not there
Beyond
Steer clear
We knew
Stay gone
Forget
Down size
Reprise
Loosen
Retreat
Rebuild
To do
Sorrow
Done that
Wonder
Destroyed
Unfurl
Remade
Be now?

april 16/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes, bike stand
run: 1.45 miles, treadmill
Deaths from COVID-19: 94 (MN)/ 31,628 (US)

It’s not too cold or windy outside today but I decided to workout in the basement anyway. Watched more of the Agatha Christie movie on Netflix. I’m really enjoying it so far. Then ran for about 10 minutes on the treadmill while I listened to a playlist.

Right now I’m working on a poem tentatively titled, “How to Sink.” It’s inspired by all the sinking and keeping and dripping I’ve noticed running beside the gorge and by the current need to retreat/withdraw/go deep inside.

How to Sink/ Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft 1)

Think
of that time
when your young son
was so mad all he
could do was turn to goo

and
slowly ooze
down the couch in
surrender to the
floor. Not giving in
but giving up control,

a
puddle of
body parts pooled
at your feet. Go to the

gorge.
Let your bones
dissolve, your legs
liquefy, submit
to gravity sliding

down
reaching ground
seeping deeper
through layers of loam,
sandstone, limestone, shale.

Drop
lower and
lower burrow
through cracks and fissures
carve out a way in

and
follow it
further inside
so far that outside is
another idea.

note: “follow it further inside so far that outside is another idea” is taken from a Paul Tran poem, The Cave.

Read it to Scott and he mentioned that “goo” stood out too much. I’m having trouble thinking of another word that fits the idea and the syllable count of the line so I’m keeping it in for now.

april 12/BIKERUNSHOVEL

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.6 miles
treadmill, basement
shovel: 15 minutes
deck, back yard
Deaths from COVID-19: 70 (MN)/ 21,692 (US)

Woke up to snow. Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog in it. At first, walking south, it was great. No wind. Snow gently coming down. I thought about running outside. But, then we turned the corner. Wind, snow blowing in our faces. No running outside for me. So I worked out in the basement instead. Started watching “Agatha and the Truth of Murder” on Netflix while I biked. Listened to a playlist while I ran. Coming out of the basement, glancing outside, I was overwhelmed by white. 5 or 6 inches, I think. Hopefully it will stop soon. Decided to quickly shovel the deck. Such heavy, wet snow.

April Snow

Snow in April is not surprising. Last year on the 11th and 12th of April it snowed. On April 16th, 2018, we got over 20 inches! No snow in 2017 but I found a video I did from April 11th, 2013 when it snowed. It snowed a lot in April 2013.

april 9/BIKERUN

bike: 28 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.8 miles
treadmill, basement
Deaths from COVID-19: 50 (MN), 15,774 (US)

11 deaths in MN reported for today. Up from 39 yesterday. A big jump. The peak here is supposed to hit at the end of April. We’re expected to have almost 600 deaths.

Very windy today. Decided to bike and run in the basement. Before heading down there, I sat at my desk upstairs, looked out at the small pellets of snow coming down–looking like little styrofoam balls–and memorized the beautiful poem, And Swept All Visible Signs Away/ Carl Phillips. I was drawn to it back in September because of Phillip’s discussion of seeing the face and connection and the line about wanting less for company than for compassion.

What’s a face, to a willow?

Thinking about my difficulty in seeing faces, I wondered (and still do): What’s a face, to me? Is a face–having it, recognizing it, expressing with it–necessary for connection?

If a willow had a face, it would be a song. I think.

I like the idea of the willow’s face (does face = Oliver Sack’s definition in his essay about face blindness: that which “bears the stamp of our experiences, our character”?) being a song, this song: “I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I am a wind-stirred thing.” What is my song? What might the songs of those I love–Scott, my kids–be? Fun to think about.

For the first 5 minutes of my bike ride, I recited the poem out loud. I can’t remember if I recited it when I started my run.

Speaking of not seeing faces, this morning my daughter was talking to me. I was sitting at my desk, she was on the couch, in the shadows. Looking at her for several minutes as she told me about her homework, I couldn’t see her facial features at all. Her head was a shadowy blob with hair. I could, however, see her hand gestures. Her small, graceful hands waved and pointed and flexed and reached out as she discussed her assignment. I did not need to see her face or her eyes to understand her.

april 4/WALKBIKERUN

walk 1: 2 miles
Edmund Bvld
30 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 24 (MN)/ 8,407 (US)

Walked with Scott, Delia the Dog, and my daughter this morning. Nice, crisp air. Sunny. Hardly any wind. A perfect morning for a run, but I decided to only walk. Trying not to push it too much with the running. They’ve turned the river parkway into a one-way and created a lane for walkers. Will this help enable people to get more distance from each other? Not sure. I’ll check it out tomorrow when I run. Felt great to be outside and moving. Heard at least one cardinal, several crows, a woodpecker. Anything else? There were traces of the snow from yesterday still settled around the trees in the grass by Edmund. Walked by the Cyclops Baby on the garage door again. Enjoyed walking with my daughter–only her second time outside in almost a month.

bike: 27 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.1 miles
treadmill, basement

Gave myself another easy day in the basement today. Watched some of a Joan Didion documentary–The Center Will Not Hold–and listened to Harry Styles as I ran. Don’t remember thinking about much. Happy to be able to move and breathe and not always be worrying.

Poem/ Charles Bernstein – 1950-

here. Forget.
There are simply tones
cloudy, breezy
birds & so on.
Sit down with it.
It’s time now.
There is no more natural sight.
Anyway transform everything
silence, trees
commitment, hope
this thing inside you
flow, this movement of eyes
set of words
all turns, all grains.
At night, shift
comets, “twirling planets,
suns, bits of illuminated pumice”
pointing out, in harsh tones
cancers & careers.
“Newer Limoges please.”
Pick some value
mood, idea, type or smell of paper
iridescent, lackluster
&, “borne in peach vessels,”
just think
“flutter & cling”
with even heavier sweep
unassuaged
which are the things
of a form, etc
that inhere.
Fair adjustment
becomes space between
crusts of people
strange, rending:
as sound of some importance
diffuses
“as dark red circles”
digress, reverberate
connect, unhook.
Your clothes, for example
face, style
radiate mediocrity
coyly, slipping
& in how many minutes
body & consciousness
deflect, “flame on flare”
missed purpose.
Your eyes
glaze
thought stumbles, blinded
speck upon speck
ruffling edges.
“But do not be delighted yet.”
The distance positively entrances.
Take out pad & pen
crystal cups, velvet ashtray
with the gentility of easy movement
evasive, unaccountable
& puffing signs
detach, unhinge
beyond weeds, chill
with enthusiastic smile
& new shoes
“by a crude rotation”
hang
a bulk of person
“ascending,” “embodied.”

I want to spend some time with this poem, thinking about it. Check out the erasure I did of it on April 6th.

april 3/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement
Deaths from COVID-19: 22 (MN)/ 6,605 (US)

Biking in the basement this afternoon. When I went down there, everything was brown. When I came back up, most of it was white. A dusting of snow. Classic April in Minnesota. Finished the documentary about Merrily We Roll Along while I biked. Lots of great reflections on what we do/fail to do with our lives.

Decided not to run today. Time to give my legs a break. It’s difficult not running. It really helps with stress over rising body counts and expected surges in cases. But it would be worse to run and get injured so I didn’t run.

Found out last night that they have cancelled all summer parks activities. No open swim this year. No open beaches at all. So sad, but necessary. I can’t imagine swimming this summer. It will be hard to wait another year–will all of my central vision be gone by then? Will I even be able to see the buoys to swim?

BREATH/ Lee Potts

We can only carry so much breath with us
and I learned then that it may not be enough.
 

Every summer morning, we rushed
to be the first body to break
the pool surface, still
and cold as a bare marble altar
long stripped of cloth and candle.

Diving from the deep end’s edge
I followed my open, empty hands
into what was once
mist or cloud or untidy ocean
before being bleached
and boxed in for us.

Down toward the drain,
a starless night sky
just beyond its iron grate.

A thin current pulled past.
Ghost tide needing no moon,
that never turned, that kept
whatever it washed away.

Love this line: “what was once/ mist or cloud or untidy ocean/ before being bleached/ and boxed in for us.” Also the idea of a starless night sky by the drain and a thin current.

april 1/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 3.5 miles
edmund bvld, south/north
45 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 17 (MN)/ 4.749 (US)

bike: 26 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk this morning. We discovered that there is a trail that connects Edmund at 42nd with Edmund farther south. Hooray! I’m excited to try it out tomorrow. I should be able to run over 4 miles that way. As we walked near Becketwood, across from the double bridge, I noticed 2 big birds soaring above us. Bald eagles, we both decided. One was close, the other much higher in the sky, both circling. Riding a thermal? So cool.

In the afternoon, I biked in the basement to get my exercise minutes (a 72 minutes, 3.5 mile walked didn’t earn me a single minute of exercise on my apple watch). Watched more of the S Soundheim/Hal Prince documentary about the failed 1981 musical, Merrily We Roll Along. Finished by running 1.2 miles on the treadmill.

Starting off national poetry month with one of my favorite poets, Maggie Smith.

Rain, New Year’s Eve/ Maggie Smith (from Good Bones)

The rain is a broken piano,
playing the same note over and over.

My five-year-old said that.
Already she knows loving the world

means loving the wobbles
you can’t shim, the creaks you can’t

oil silent–the jerry-rigged parts,
MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum.

Let me love the cold rain’s plinking.
Let me love the world the way I love

my your son, not only when
he cups my face in his sticky hands,

but when, roughhousing,
he accidentally splits my lip.

Let me love the world like a mother.
Let me be tender when it lets me down.

Let me listen to the rain’s one note
and hear a beginner’s song.

march 28/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 1.5 miles
longfellow neighborhood
bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.3 miles
treadmill, basement
441 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Started the day with a walk around the neighborhood with Scott and Delia the dog. Lots of birds, hardly any people. We meandered, often turning when we saw people approaching. Ended up walking by one of my favorite garages–so awesomely weird.

We also walked by the creepy, completely shrouded in towering trees, house across from Sanford Middle School. Scott noticed a few windows on one side but they were concealed with thick awnings. Even the side entrance is fenced over, with the railing poking through fence boards. What happened here? I can’t believe my kids haven’t passed on any ghost stories from other Sanford kids about this place.

Later, after it began raining, I decided to workout in the basement. Started watching a documentary on Netflix about a failed Stephen Sondheim/Hal Prince musical, Merrily We Roll Along: The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened. So far, I’m enjoying it. I love musicals. Another version of me, in a different universe, would have loved to be in musicals. In this universe, I’ll just have to appreciate my niece Isabel and her amazing talent as an actor.

Finished off my workout with a short run. I’m growing to like these quick, fast-feeling treadmill runs. No 6 feet of distance needed! As much as I enjoy them occasionally, I hope we don’t get to a point where we can’t go outside and this is the only way I can run.


Right now, I’m working on creating an unabridged list of writing experiments (tried or to be tried), inspired by my runs beside the gorge. I’ve thought of turning some of them into an autobiographical poem. This poem is very different from what I imagine writing, but it’s helpful as an example–and so powerful.

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)/ Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home. 
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle, 
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.  

march 1/WALKBIKE

walk: 3 miles
longfellow + normandale lake district
bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

Walked Delia the dog twice today, both times with Scott. Feels like spring. Lots of melting and dripping and sunshine. Love the sunshine, dislike the mess this warmer weather makes. Spring in Minnesota is always complicated. Saw a funny meme the other day called “The Many Seasons of Minnesota”:

  • Winter
  • Sucker’s Spring
  • Second Winter
  • Fake Spring
  • Third Winter
  • Actual Spring
  • Summer
  • Fool’s Fall
  • Summer Again
  • Real Fall
  • Winter is Coming

As one of my friend’s posted on facebook, today (and the upcoming week) is sucker’s spring.

Finished up The Ring this afternoon while biking. Creepy. Looked it up and there is The Ring Two, but it’s not available on Netflix or Hulu. Bummer. I’ll have to find something else to watch.

feb 28/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Wanted to watch more of The Ring and to not run too much so I worked out in the basement today. The Ring was still creepy–and fun to watch. Only a few scenes were too dark to see and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read the words that were probably important; I’ve already seen this movie. Listened to my playlist while I ran. Got into a rhythm and felt like I was barely touching the belt. I’m getting used to running on the treadmill.

I was okay running inside because I had already gone for a walk earlier with Delia the dog. Brr. It felt cold outside. Walked around the neighborhood and finished the podcast I started yesterday with Victoria Chang. I’m looking forward to reading her book Obit. As I listened to her and the host Rachel Zucker discuss their grief over the loss of their mothers, my mind started wandering and I started thinking about my current project. I decided to record my thoughts:

So I’m thinking as I was walking–I’m thinking about how I’d like this workbook to kind of be some of the exercises I’ve already done and practiced (or am practicing) but also the ideas that I’ve put in that I’d like to try. Just make a list of all of those things and not worry so much about whether or not it can be done but whether I’d like to try it. The other thing I was thinking about was with listening to Victoria Chang about Obit and grief and thinking about how my mom’s death has changed me and how this project really comes out of that. Or does it come out of that? Where does it come from? Does it have a clear origin? Wanting to discuss what it’s origins are.

Speaking of Obit, here’s one of Chang’s poems from it. The book is a series of obituaries for all the things that died after her mom died. Such a powerful idea!

OBIT [Memory]/ Victoria Chang

Memory—died August 3, 2015.  The
death was not sudden but slowly over a
decade.  I wonder if, when people die,
they  hear  a  bell.   Or  if  they  taste
something sweet, or if they feel a knife
cutting them in half, dragging through
the flesh like sheet cake.  The caretaker
who witnessed my mother’s death quit. 
She holds the memory and images and
now they are gone.  For the rest of her
life, the memories are hers.  She said
my mother couldn’t breathe, then took
her last breath 20 seconds later.  The
way I have imagined a kiss with many
men I have never kissed.  My memory
of  my  mother’s  death  can’t  be  a
memory but is an imagination, each
time the wind blows, leaves unfurl
a little differently.

I woke up this morning thinking of the line about the knife dragging through flesh like sheet cake. Intense.

feb 26/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to bike and run in the basement today even though it wasn’t too cold (20 degrees) and the path was clear. Always trying to make sure I’m not running too much. Watched The Ring while I was biking. I think this movie, which is about 17 years old, holds up. Creepy. Extra creepy when you watch it on an iPad with headphones in a dark unfinished basement. Listened to my new (Sara 2020) playlist while I ran: Nur-d, Beck, Prince. Nice combination! At one point, felt like I was in a trance, my feet barely touching the moving floor.

Right now I’m reading Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen about macular degeneration and being blind and the over privileging of vision. She has 3 chapters on the phenomenology of blindness, which she describes as “attempts to capture in words the visual experience of someone with severely impaired sight.” So helpful! I don’t have the exact same thing that she does (and not as severe…yet), but it is very similar: damaged macula, loss of central vision, still intact peripheral vision. In the chapter, “the mind’s eye,” she writes about the blind spot her damaged macula creates in the center of her visual field. She describes how she can, with effort, see it when she stares at a blank wall.

I decided to try finding my blind spot. I stood about a foot away from a bare white door and stared into the center of it. After a few minutes, a darkish (dark gray?) circle–or was it an oval?–appeared in front of me. In its center was another circle which was white. This inner circle was a little less than a quarter the size of the darker circle. This darker circle is my blind spot; the much smaller inner circle is what is left of my combined (left and right eyes) central vision. Pretty wild.

Found this great PBS video with Kleege.

feb 18/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Snowed 2 super slippery inches last night. That, combined with my slightly sore ankle, meant I needed to bike in the basement today. No sun. No gorge. No birds chirping, although I can hear them outside of my window. Also, no wind. No frozen fingers. No falling on slick ice. Finished the last 20 minutes of the final episode of Cheer. Time to find another show.

Notes on Un-Apology/ Erin Slaughter

once I owned a wooden door
& a field of ice & I was big-hearted, gentle, prefaced
my friends’ names with sweet & kissed them
on the cheeks. once a man called me brilliant & all I wanted
was to be his little wife. for him to trap me
in a wooden home, to zip me up pretty, kiss
me in the kitchen while mushrooms screamed & withered
on the stove. I am beginning to think of the color green
as a last chance that has already passed & I’m sorry
to be so full of raining. but if I could carve a notch
into the lampposts of this city for every person who said home
like it was a promise. we are fools & monsters, all of us, cobweb-headed
& waiting for rupture. once I met a man & his words
unearthed a softness that only comes from loam, from tilling
gently at a gravesite. sometimes we talk about weather
& sometimes we talk about feelings. sometimes
I worry I’m not looking for love, that I’m looking
for a religion to have sex with. in my mouth lives a bitterness
that could draw blood, & I’m sorry but two years I searched
for the river & when I finally found it, it was dead with its palms up.
I dipped my hands in its broken jaw & called it sister. I haven’t spoken
to my sister in two years, a nurse in Texas
with a daughter & a cruelty that jingles
like silver on a charm bracelet. I want to tell you starfish, I want
to tell you dark orchids climbing the windowpane.
the moon would drown trying to drink up
all the things I want. I’m sorry you never learned
the recipe to my mornings. I still think of you when the sky shudders
& floorboards hush themselves to listen.

Wow. I remember reading this poem a year ago and really liking the last line: “& floorboards hush themselves to listen.” Why didn’t I post it? Reading it again a year later, I love it even more. “sometimes we talk about weather & sometimes we talk about feelings.” I think I want to make that a title for a poem. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about inner and outer weather and the dis/connections between the weather I’m running in and my mood.

feb 14/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Slightly warmer. Only felt like -26, not -29. But the wind was blowing. So blustery! Tomorrow it should be much warmer. In the 20s, I think. Decided to workout in the basement again. Watched almost all of the final episode of Cheer. I can’t believe I made it to the end without the ending being spoiled. I can’t imagine competing under such pressure. I have never enjoyed the intensity of performing when it counts or the high you might get from putting yourself under such pressure and then achieving greatness. Is this a bad thing? Do I fail to push myself enough? Are there other ways to understand how we might push and stretch and challenge ourselves outside of this model of performed greatness? Do these questions make any sense?

I listened to my playlist again as I ran. At one point, I stared at the reflection of a big round lightbulb in a dark window. Last month I mentioned that it looked like the moon on lake superior. Today I noticed something at the top of the reflected globe of light that looked like clouds. Then I thought about how I usually imagine or see clouds at the bottom of the moon, not the top. Is that accurate? Suddenly, I imagined that the moon was upside down, or the world in the window was right side up and the world in the basement, on the treadmill, was upside down. Strange. Even stranger while running in place on a treadmill matching my foot strikes to the beat of the music.

What Kindergarten and Partial Hospitalization Have in Common/ IZZY CASEY

Assigned: seats, affirmations, adults with anorexia nervosa.

Breakfast, supervised.

Crying all day long because small things feel like big things.

Drumming drums in a circle, droning, “don’t be so hard on yourself,” disappearing the ability to desire.

Every body’s invited, every “cloud” has a silver “lining.”

Flushing a chocolate chip cookie down the toilet and taking a huge dump on it, fear of growing.

Growing

Hairs in weird places.

“I’m telling on you.”

“Just let someone know if you go to the bathroom. Don’t go alone.”

Knowing there’s a chance you’ll need to come back and do it all over.

Lunch, supervised.

Mental math, milk monitors, mindfulness of breath.

Nurse Eye Patch haunts your wake.

Ordering onion rings at the Olive Garden Field Trip, since the overseers claim opera cake isn’t in budget.

Perishing into fits over whether you get your second cookie, third, or fourth.

“Quit running, quit shouting ‘where are the fucking cups,’ question your definition of ‘friend.’”

Refusing to get up off the floor and participate in Dance Circle with the other girls and boy.

Singing “Let It Be” with the boy during music hour, then all together.

Taking turns: with the triangle, talking with your mouth full.

Unaccompanied dinner.

Validation that you are one of the biggest losers.

Withholding from weeping in public on the long walk home.

Xeroxed handouts of Dr. Phil’s “On Choosing Forgiveness” equals confetti.

“You’re the child not the parent.”

Zookeeper’s Nightmare.

I love Abecedarians and this is a great one. Powerful in this form. Abecedarians are fun to write. My only problem: the dreaded x. There are only so many x words to use. Maybe I should make a list or find a list. Just searched, “good x words for abecedarian poems” and this was the first entry: What About X? Writing the Abecedarian. Yes!

feb 13/BIKERUN

bike: 30 min
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Hello Arctic Hellscape! This morning it is 12 below, feels like 29 below. Not quite as cold as the end of January last year (-49), but still cold enough to stay inside. I was tempted momentarily to go to the gorge, just to see if I could tough it out or so I could say that I ran when it was almost 30 below, but I didn’t. Instead I worked out in the basement, watching Cheer while I biked, listening to Nur-D and others on my running playlist while I ran. I have one episode of Cheer left to watch. What am I going to watch while I bike when it is over? Back to race replays?

I did take a brief (15 or 20 minutes) walk at 11 this morning. It didn’t feel that cold. Sunny. Bright. Not too much wind. Then I turned a corner and felt the full force of the arctic chill on my face and got a brain freeze. The kind you get when you eat ice cream too fast. In college in Southern Minnesota in the 90s, out on the tundra, I would usually get one of these cold weather induced brain freezes every winter. Fun. It’s strange to have a familiar sensation (the brain freeze) but out of context (not from eating ice cream). Is there a name for that phenomenon? The other example that I often think about is the few times I’ve been in earthquakes, when it feels like turbulence but you’re not on a plane. It feels familiar even when it isn’t. I tried searching for this. No luck. I tried “a familiar sensation felt strangely” and got a lot of hits for deja vu. For the first time ever, I tweeted at Merriam Webster and asked them: “Is there a word for feeling familiar sensation but out of normal context, like feeling brain freeze but from cold wind, not eating ice cream too fast? You know the feeling but experience it strangely.”

What a nice surprise to randomly find this little poem:

Five Flights Up/ Elizabeth Bishop

Still dark.
The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.
The little dog next door barks in his sleep
inquiringly, just once.
Perhaps in his sleep, too, the bird inquires
once or twice, quavering.
Questions—if that is what they are—
answered directly, simply,
by day itself.

Enormous morning, ponderous, meticulous;
gray light streaking each bare branch,
each single twig, along one side,
making another tree, of glassy veins . . .
The bird still sits there. Now he seems to yawn.

The little black dog runs in his yard.
His owner’s voice arises, stern,
“You ought to be ashamed!”
What has he done?
He bounces cheerfully up and down;
he rushes in circles in the fallen leaves.

Obviously, he has no sense of shame.
He and the bird know everything is answered,
all taken care of,
no need to ask again.
—Yesterday brought to today so lightly!
(A yesterday I find almost impossible to lift.)

The dog barking in its sleep–only once; questions being answered simply by day itself; the enormous, ponderous, meticulous morning; the dog and bird feeling no sense of shame; “yesterday brought to today so lightly!”. Such lovely lines.

feb 8/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to do a workout in the basement today. Partly because of the dusting of snow we got last night, partly because I wanted to watch more Cheer, which I did while I biked. Then, while I ran, I listened to Jad Abumrad’s podcast about Dolly Parton called Dolly Parton’s America. So good. Right now, I’m listening to episode 4–or is it 5? I have loved Dolly Parton ever since she yelled at her boss in 9 to 5, calling him “evil to the core.” I loved that movie when I was kid. I even taught it in the spring of 2007 in my Pop Culture Women course.

A Study in Eventuality/ Cristina Correa

Funny, isn’t it, how hard to describe
a good man? In the shower, I let
the water run hot as my blood filtering
a mirror of loss. The messenger arrived
flustered as feathers falling to the place
where feathers go to find each other. Who
is the man who makes you remark, “I have
been lucky”? How does the faucet instruct
forgiveness? Our voices spiral to meet
with too much space between. My cuticles
shine like chrome under the moment’s remains.
A demand for nakedness pools somewhere
down the drain. For what we’ve been able to
let go, and know it happens to us all.

I was struggling to understand this poem until I read her description, which really helped (find it on the poets.org link). “How does the faucet instruct forgiveness?” What a line!

jan 24/WALKBIKE

walk: 3 miles
Winchell Trail
29 degrees
snow-packed

Walked with my wonderful sister this morning by the gorge. Checked out the Oak Savanna and the mesa at above the river. The water was gray with the feeling of warm blue. It looked still and heavy until you got closer and noticed it was moving fast. Trudging on the trail, we noticed ski tracks and snow shoe tracks. Any animal tracks? I don’t think so. We talked about fences and eroding asphalt and the gorge reclaiming the trails and illness and vision and kids and careers and aging bodies and the cost of college.

bike: 30 minutes
basement, bike stand

Finished another episode of Cheer while I biked. This one was about “making mat” and Jerry (I think that’s his name?) and his loving spirit and how his mom died from lung cancer. A moving story–not sad, just powerful and beautiful. Of course, it made me cry which is an amazing thing to do while you’re working out. So many emotions and endorphins. A great release.

Thinking about blue in winter and why I wrote about it as warm. What is it about blue? The blue hued views in early morning and twilight? Blue snow? The blue gray river? I’ve skimmed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets–maybe I should check it out again? Didn’t Anne Carson write something about blue? I looked it up and found this amazing book: The Blue of Distance.

Blue/ ROBERT L. JONES

I have seen enough blue-green 
for one day. My eyes are tired 
of peering at the busy speckled lines 
the lasered surface throws back. 
Outside, the light falls 
in jagged needles through raveled air. 
The world is gray. 

From up there, it’s blue, 
the tiny water world, where life 
climbed into the air and turned green, 
maybe from envy that it’s not 
somewhere else. It’s not easy, being 
this way. It’s impossible to rest 
with that great light going on 
and off always in the same place, 
knowing that it’s necessary, 
unless you want to turn 
white, in icy quiet, 
against the black still motion 
of the tattered specks of stars. 
It’s enough to send you running 
ragged, back to the sea. 

Down there it’s blue, too, 
the color of deep water 
when at eighty feet there’s no bottom 
and no sides to choose. Suspended, 
up-ended, you have no sense 
of proportion, lose perspective. 
There’s only drifting with the flow, 
until your bubbles rip a seam 
upward showing you where 
you have to go—back to the green, 
and then the yellow and the red, 
measured out in time for you 
to find, until you reach 
white, and you’ve got it all. 

All is too much to see. 
We must have shades. 
The separation of the light 
exists somewhere in particles, 
torn into fragmentary bits to play, 
scattered like the fall leaves, 
but moving in waves—hello, goodbye— 
on a collision course with white, 
and black, and gray. 

The green of life requires blue, 
not too deep or too intense, 
just a line of blue-green held in mind, 
to knit tatters of shrouded days, 
tint the darkness, 
and relieve the time of glare. 

Once in a while 
you know where it belongs, 
in the order of the sharp-edged 
double bow I saw this morning, 
cutting its way into gray memory 
to even up the edges 
of the ragged clouds. 

jan 18/SHOVELBIKE

Shovel: 30 minutes
Bike: 25 minutes

Winter cross training often involves shoveling. No big storm this time. Maybe 5 or 6 inches? Tried to use my legs a lot instead of arms and back. Heavy snow with a icy crust. I’m hoping that they’ve already cleared the path by the river. Usually they do. I’ll see tomorrow morning if it isn’t too cold. Just heard the weather forecast as I was writing this: a high of 5 tomorrow. Watched part of the second episode of Cheer in the basement while I biked. The time went by really fast. Don’t remember much except for how much better I felt after I exercised.

What a poem! I want to spend some time with it to decipher all the uses of pine. So cool. This might be a good form for another running route Unigrid brochure? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Pine
Susan Stewart – 1952-

a homely word:
a plosive, a long cry, a quiet stop, a silent letter
like a storm and the end of a storm,
the kind brewing
at the top of a pine,
(torn hair, bowed spirits, and,
later, straightened shoulders)
who’s who of the stirred and stirred up:
musicians, revolutionaries, pines.

A coniferous tree with needle-shaped leaves.
Suffering or trouble; there’s a pin inside.

The aphoristic seamstress was putting up a hem, a shelf of pins at her
pursed mouth.
“needles and pins / needles and pins / when a man marries / his trouble begins.”
A red pincushion with a twisted string, and a little pinecone tassel, at the
ready.

That particular smell, bracing,
exact as a sharpened point.

The Christmas tree, nude and fragrant,
propped as pure potential in
the corner with no nostalgia for
ornament or angels.

“Pine-Sol,” nauseating, earnest, imitation—
one means of knowing the real thing is the fake you find in school.
Pent up inside on a winter day, the steaming closeness from the radiators.

At the bell, running down the hillside. You wore a pinafore.
The air had a nip: pine
was traveling in the opposite direction.

Sunlight streaming through a stand of pines,
dancing backward through the A’s and T’s.

Is it fern or willow that’s the opposite of pine?

An alphabet made of trees.

In the clearing vanished hunters
left their arrowheads
and deep cuts in the boulder wall:
petroglyphs, repeating triangles.

Grandmothers wearing pinnies trimmed in rickrack.
One family branch lived in a square of oak forest, the other in a circle of
pines;
the oak line: solid, reliable, comic; the piney one capable of pain
and surprise.

W-H-I-T-E: the white pine’s five-frond sets spell its name. (Orthography of
other pines I don’t yet know.)

The weight of snow on boughs, lethargic, then rocked by the thump of a
settling crow.

Pinecones at the Villa Borghese: Fibonacci increments,
heart-shaped veins, shadowing the inner
edges of the petals.
Like variations at the margins of a bird feather.
Graffiti tattooing the broken
water clock, a handful
of pine nuts, pried out, for lunch.

Pining away like Respighi with your pencil.

For a coffin, you’d pick a plain
pine box suspended in a weedy sea.

No undergrowth, though, in a pine forest.

Unlike the noisy wash
of dry deciduous leaves,
the needles blanket the earth

pliant beneath a bare foot,
stealthy,
floating,
a walk through the pines.

Silence in the forest comes from books.

jan 16/RUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand, basement

run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Didn’t want to run too much today, so decided to go down to the basement. Of course, the -10/ feels like -25 also influenced my decision. But if I hadn’t already run twice yesterday, I might have tried going outside because I’m crazy that way. Finished the first episode of Cheer! that I started last week. From the teacher who was very committed to her right to bear arms, “hell yeah! I’m packing right now!”, to the 2 concussions suffered in one pyramid rehearsal–those sounds of loud smacks on the floor as the girls fell!–to the male cheerleader who was kneed in the face and had to put a tampon up his nose to stop the bleeding, this was an intense 20 minutes. Wow.

TEN YEARS LATER MY HUSBAND WALKS OUT OF THE WOODS/ Emily Pérez

after “Hans My Hedgehog”

In one version you remove your coat
of quills at dusk, drape it by the hearthside.

My father’s bravest men then burst
into our room and net the carapace, fling

it in the waiting blaze, burn the thorns
that stippled you. The hollow spires

in the fire sing like copper smelted,
the slag amassing on the flagstones

cooling to a twisted fist of all that had you
hinged. Unmasked at last you stand

before me, born anew: not a monster, not
a man, but a fledgling flayed. Oh husband,

what soulbrave bargain have you made
that leaves you so tender, and how

am I to salvage you?— just wife, not
witch, not doctor.

Author’s Note

I’ve been obsessed with the Grimm’s fairy tale “Hans My Hedgehog” for years. In addition to featuring a hedgehog who plays bagpipes and rides a rooster, it provides some crazy inroads for thinking about parenting and marriage. As in many fairy tales, a father promises his daughter to the hero, who, in this case is a hedgehog. Later, the hedgehog decides to permanently take on human form for his wife’s sake, which involves shedding his coat of quills and having it burned by his wife’s father’s men. The rebirth chars him. In the years that I tinkered with this story as a source for poems, my husband made a major life change that felt both morally brave and (perhaps) personally foolish. As his partner, I felt compelled to be supportive but also inadequate to the task. This poem gets at my ambivalence.

I loved reading the explanation of this poem and then reading the poem again. Powerful. I also like the idea of taking a favorite fairytale and re-imaging it.

jan 10/ BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

The weather isn’t too cold (at least for me) this morning or too blustery, but I decided to stay inside and do more biking, less running to rest my sore legs. Now as I write this I feel a little regret. Winter runs in the cold are the best. Why didn’t I run outside?

While biking, I watched part of the first episode of the netflix doc series: Cheer. It’s fascinating and freaking me out. They take so many risks with their bodies. I wonder what the long term effects of these risks and the injuries they get are? Will the series address this at some point?

When I was younger, I never thought about my body. But after I had 2 kids, my mom died too young, and I started running and open water swimming, I became more aware of its fragility and developed a need to protect it and be careful with it.

Living in the Body/ Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

I’m mostly okay with my body. Together we’ve done some great things. I guess sometimes I wish my kneecaps would stay in their grooves and not temporarily displace or my central vision wasn’t almost completely destroyed or my legs didn’t get unbearably restless when I wake up in the middle of the night, which happens a lot. But I think I feel less like Joyce Sutphen and her body as (treasured) burden, and more like Linda Hogan in Rapture: “Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.”

jan 7/BIKE

35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Having run everyday since Dec 12th, I thought I’d better take a break and just bike today. Watched a few races on my iPad and forgot about everything but how hot it was in Tokyo and how Flora Duffy was doing in her comeback race and whether or not Katie Zaferes’s crash was season-ending.

Although I didn’t run, I did take Delia the dog on a walk. We almost made it to the river but stopped a block short and walked along Edmund Boulevard. Colder today with a few icy patches on the sidewalk. Looked over at the gorge–it was gray and inviting. I wanted to run but had to remind myself to take a break.

Passed several houses with memorable dogs:

  • the house with the huge dog who was so excited to see Delia walk by one time that they almost broke through the big picture window in the front room
  • the extremely neat house with the meticulously maintained yard and patio and the big white dog that mimics the movements of his owner who has, over the last few years, slowed down a lot–at first, he only shuffled, now he uses a walker
  • the house with the fenced in backyard and the little dog that spazzes out and tries to chase Delia every time we walk by–she’s not always out but Delia always remembers the yard and anticipates the encounter
  • the big fancy house that almost looks like it’s abandoned because the yard is never raked, the sidewalk never shoveled, but has a big dog that has a 2 part bark–first low then high: ruff ruff arr arr
  • the even bigger and fancier house with the white picket fence and the snobby sign on the boulevard about not peeing in the mulch that has a pack of vicious sounding dogs that we (me and Delia) can’t ever see over the fence but sound like they’re saying–“go away! you’re not fancy enough to be walking on the sidewalk beside our house!”

jan 5/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2 miles
treadmill, basement
outside: wind advisory, icy paths

The combination of too many days running on uneven paths and a wind advisory meant I ran and biked in the basement today. I’m fine with it. I still don’t like the treadmill for long distances, but it’s okay for a mile or two. Watched a super league triathlon race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. The coolest thing I remember: running, staring straight ahead and just above the blank tv screen, I noticed the reflection of the single lightbulb in the dark window. A small bright circular light. I imagined it was the moon, hovering above Lake Superior, which I remember seeing a few years ago when I was at a resort on the North Shore. Very cool. I was so mesmerized by the image that I almost ran into the front of the treadmill. Who knew the basement could be so beautiful and inspiring?

Yesterday, wandering around the internet, I discovered Steve Healey’s 10 Mississippi–a book of poetry about the Mississippi River. He’s based in Minneapolis, which is really cool. I need to buy this collection from 2010.

2 Mississippi/ Steve Healey

Standing next to the river, I recorded the sound
of the river in an attempt to represent that sound
more accurately than my earlier description of it,
which compared the river sound to someone
saying “shhhh.” I rewound the tape and played it back,
and the recording also sounded like someone saying
“shhhh,” but then I remembered that I was listening
to both the recording of the river and the river itself,
and I could not with absolute certainty distinguish
one from the other. It sounded like the two sounds
synchronized into one “shhhh,” but at times they
seemed to separate, as if telling each other to be quiet,
like accomplices committing a crime. Or they may
have both been telling me to be quiet, despite the fact
that I was producing no sound, or so I thought.
Retreating swiftly and quietly to the privacy
of my own home, a safe distance from the river itself,
I listened again to the recording of the river sound.
This time it sounded like a perfectly preserved memory
of the river, a solitary “shhhh” moving inexorably
toward the Gulf of Mexico, and just as I felt liberated
from the burden of having to remember the river
through my own mental activity, the recording stopped,
precisely at the moment when I had turned off
the tape recorder. Then I remembered that the river
itself was elsewhere, continuing its perfect sound
forever, and that I would never be able to represent
that continuousness accurately. I remembered,
however, that I could take a length of magnetic tape
on which that river was recorded and splice the ends
together to form a loop which I could then play
continuously. The sound could keep going “shhhh”
all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, telling all the cars
and condos to be quiet. It’s worth remembering,
however, that a river is not a person, and that a person
saying “shhhh” eventually needs to stop making
that sound, either to inhale or die. There would be no
other choice, unless of course I recorded myself
saying “shhhh” and played a loop of that recording
continuously, in which case I’d no longer need
to remember myself. I’d be immortal
in the privacy of my own sound.

jan 1/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
basement, bike stand
run: 1.25 miles
basement, treadmill

Decided to take it easy today, the first day of 2020. Yesterday my muscles took a beating on the rough path. Working out in the basement is never as inspiring or interesting as being outside but it does make me less restless and helped me fill my 3 rings for the 218th day.

Before and after my workout, continued working on my poetry line project. Managed to pick out lines from the 12 months of poems I gathered in 2019. Cut the list way down from 38 pages! to 14. Took out all the line breaks and cut it down even further to 6 pages. Then started crafting a cento from the lines. So much fun–even if this has been a very time consuming process. Rereading all the poems and picking out lines, then trying to arrange them in a new form has taken a few weeks at least. Here’s a first draft:

Listen/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

I.

The world is filled with music, and in between the music,
silence and varying the silence
all sorts of sounds coming into tune.

Knuckles of the rain on the roof,
chuckles into the drain-pipe,
spatters on the leaves that litter the grass,

gnats, frogs, dandelion pollen,
the pebbles & leaves & the whole
world of us, our names whispered
through an intercom in the evergreens,
our calls like an echo of lake, or what makes lake lake.

II.

I can hear a hum inside me,
an appliance left running.
I’ve started calling the hum the soul.
The soul sings at the top of her lungs,
laughs at her little jokes,
begins to kick up her heels,
jazz out her hands,
thrust out her hipbones,
and bellow forth—
like the thrashing of a lemon in the garbage disposal,
a clatter of jackhammers, an earful of leaf  blowers,
the hissing of trees so loud the air is stunned—
the chant, I’m great! I’m great!

III.

I’m not asking for much.
A white, indifferent morning sky.
Unsentimental sleet
A lamentation of geese
less hatred strutting the streets
to feel a little less, know a little more
enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night
a way out, the one dappled way, back
Paradise, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold
The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take
gorged, engorging, and gorgeous

IV.

When sorrows come—fast, without warning—
whipping their wings down the sky,
stop seeking before or after life.
If anyone asks say
some of us don’t need hell to be good.

V.

Empty your mind
drift for a minute or an hour
blinking off old eyelids for a new way of seeing.
Remember this is not your land
You don’t get to be the grass
Grow wise with such teachings—
Bees in the lilac tree have something
to say and say it
without giving away the ending
the day knows exactly what it’s doing

VI.

What I love is one foot in front of another
Poets and walkers look up more
often than other people.
Go forth to the forests
Raise your heads, pals, look high,
see more than you ever thought possible
trees tossed like coins against the sky.
Stunned gold and bronze,
oaks, maples stand in twos and threes

dec 19/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
basement, bike stand
run: 1.2 miles
basement, treadmill

Mostly biked today. Giving my legs a rest from running hard last night on the us bank stadium concrete. Watched a Superleague Triathlon race on the bike, listened to a playlist on the treadmill. Wore a pair of ridiculously patterned leggings that I bought for my daughter a few years ago that she has never worn. Wow–blue and white tie-dyed with bright blue patches on the back of the knees.

We Are Monica (Acrostic)/ Victoria Chang

What if it were true? That in the
End, no matter what dress we look for,
All we have in our closets are blue ones?
Remember the surface area of the body?
Each one inch square can be bruised blue.
Maybe we know how to betray cloth, its
Old downy fibers are really our skin,
Nightmare after nightmare, it grows back,
It desires to be touched, and nerved, and
Caught. Maybe it is meant to be put on
And taken off, then put on and taken off.

*

What happened to the blue girl who
Entered into the meadow, the one we
Accused, then asked how it felt,
Rubbing our ears against her mouth for
Everything she would give, for what didn’t
Matter—did his hand touch you there
Or there, did he control or tendril?
Nothing, she was to us, but how
I would still look if she rose one night,
Covet the night, listen for their lies,
And take joy in hearing her cries.

*

Who are we to say who belongs on
Earth? We hate the cold mornings
And the warm mornings. What we
Require we never get. We have the hots for
Everything. We aspire to be aspirers.
Maybe we were meant to fancy everything,
Or at least think each vowel in a word
Needs to exist. How many ways can we
Inch forward? We can walk towards, even
Crawl towards with no legs. But even then, we
Are still dependent on dirt and its filth.

*

Why did we spend our lives looking
Everywhere for what we have now, if
All we want is travel? The red leaves,
Regioning off our yards, not the responsible
Envelopes that stay on the trees, but
Maple leaves, the ones that giddily
Opt to follow rain, those opportunists,
Never accepting stasis. Maybe we all
Itch for twice, life. Watch a new
Checker who opens a line at a store,
And how fast we leave each other to get there.

*

We are done for then, or are we just
Erratic, like a tack, constantly moved
Around from paper to paper. A tack never
Reflects, a tack doesn’t die for truth,
Expressing crisis at every new job.
Maybe we are all like tacks, one side sharp,
One side dark. And maybe we are all
Narrow, only truly visible in the night,
In the line of a troubled light.
Could our fingerprints exist because
We know we can’t be trusted?

*

What if, in the end, the want for
Everything, a drink of water, a mother,
A new face, is not a waste, or even
Rare, but what keeps us alive?
East me then, I say to the wind, song me,
Move me where you will, to edge, to roots.
O compass in my mouth, take me to
Noon, the summer, and send the warmth
Into my veins. I will follow it, let it
Carry me through the squares in the screen,
And let me not get stuck.

*

When we are done looking for the
Ex-wife, the ex-lover, the ex-girlfriend,
And finished looking through telescopes, we
Remember how we used to look into
Each round hole for something larger,
Meant to test our vision, not turn it
Onto our hearts and mine its every
Nook, see the heart’s shape as love,
Its arteries as desire. Call me half-hearted,
Cull me from the cold, turn me back to
August, those nights I studied the celestial.

*

Why is writing about her odd?
Evening comes constantly and poets
Ask too much of the moon, too much of
Reeds that always seem to sway.
Everything I know is in a house,
Measured by hands of men that nailed
Over the reeds and tried to roof me from
Night and its eye. This is what
I know but will never understand, this
Capsule, body, this thing that loves others
And lies to us, that doesn’t last.

I love acrostic poems with (not so) hidden messages. I’d like to spend some more time with this poem to read it closely.

nov 29/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
stand, basement

run: 1 mile
treadmill, basement

Icy sidewalks and waiting too long to decide to workout means I’m in the basement again today. Supposed to do a 10K tomorrow but we’re also supposed to get more snow and ice and lots of wind. Even if they don’t cancel it, Scott and I most likely won’t be doing it. Bummer.

nov 6/BIKERUN

bike: 18 minutes
stand, basement

run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Biked then ran in the basement this morning. Partly to cross train, partly to avoid the snow outside. Only a dusting but cold and windy. Didn’t mind it, but I’m glad I don’t run in the basement very often.

God on the Treadmill
BY BENJAMIN S. GROSSBERG

Sometimes it takes miles to give up resistance,
though the mirror shows a body unresisting, shows
perhaps something to admire. Others may.
A body without difficulty loosening, breaking
its own willfulness, cracking itself
like a rusted bolt that finally begins to turn.
A body that turns. Toward openness, fantasy,
those desires of and not of the body. Sometimes
I notice a powerful man engaged steadily
repeating difficult action: folding himself, his tight
skin, over and over, lifting a declined torso
or pulling up a suspended trunk, and think,
how neat, how controlled to be inside that body.
I struggle not to stare, grip myself not to lose myself
inside the thought of being inside that body.
I can never get there I know because it is
the image I want, the veneer of muscle
having taken primacy from mind, now first
among equals: bicep, abdominal, quadricep,
the launch after launch of a perpetual run.
I want the image even when I am it, or nearly it—
because even then, I am also that other thing,
self-conscious, burdened, struggling for movement.

If there is a link between God and animals—
the way He identifies with the so much
that isn’t us, as He had to have, to have made them—
it must be in the body enacting will immediate
through movement, as if with a word
creating a world (enacting creation immediate
through speech). Which is to say, this is my time
of prayer, my only time: miles in, as long
as it takes for the body to relinquish resistance.
Bright, public, surrounded by others who move
toward better movement. And all the while seeing
in a wall of mirrors that image of myself, deer,
horse, running close kin to breathing, motion
necessary to survival, perfect image of a man
that I’m merely a self-conscious copy of.
I pray for things, of course, for myself
and for those whose pain touches me, selfish
and unselfish prayers for intimates and strangers.
I pray for the runner in the mirror, too, sleek, easy
animal, unselfconscious and present, and absent
as a god, the man who could almost be me,
who I do my best to rush toward. I pray that
one day, by His grace, we may meet.

oct 24/BIKE

30 minutes
bike stand, basement

I have a little bit of stiffness and pain in my right knee so I’m taking a few days off from running. So difficult! It’s beautiful outside, just past peak leaf peepin’ and I’d love to be out by the gorge but my knee doesn’t want to. Biked in the basement instead which was fine but not nearly as fun or inspirational.

Prayer to be Still and Know
Nickole Brown

Lord, let my ears go secret agent, each
a microphone so hot it picks up things
silent, reverbing even the hum of stone
close to its eager, silver grill. Let my ears forget
years trained to human chatter
wired into every room, even those empty
except of me, each broadcast and jingle
tricking me into being less
lonely than I am. Let my ears forget
the clack and rumble, our tambourining and fireworking
distractions, our roar of applause. Let my hands quit
their clapping and rest in a new kind of prayer, one
that doesn’t ask but listens, palms up in my lap.
Like an owl, let me triangulate icy shuffling under snow as
vole, let me not just name the name
when I spot a soundtrack of birdsong
but understand the notes through each syrinx
as a singular missive—begging, flirting, fussing, each
companion call and alarm as sharp with desire and fear
as my own. Prick my ears, Lord. Make them hungry
satellites, have your way with their tiny bones,
teach the drum within that dark to drum
again. Because within the hammering of woodpecker
is a long tongue unwinding like a tape measure from inside
his pileated head, darting dinner from the pine’s soft bark.
And somewhere I know is a spider who births
a filament of silk and flies it to the next branch; somewhere,
a fiddlehead unstrings its violin into the miracle of
fern. And somewhere, a mink not made into a coat
cracks open a mussel’s shell, and with her mouth full
of that gray meat, yawns. Those are your sounds, are they not?
Do not deny it, Lord, do not deny
me. I do not know those songs. Nor do I know the hush
a dandelion’s face makes when it closes, surrenders, then goes
to seed. No, I only know the sound my own breath makes
as I wish and blow that perfect globe away;
I only know the small, satisfactory
popping of roots when I call it weed and yank it
from the yard. There is a language of all
you’ve created. Hear me, please. I just want to be
still enough to hear. Right here, Lord:
I want to be.

I want to spend some more time with this beautiful poem!

oct 22/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 17 minutes
stand in basement

Windy and rainy and cold outside so I decided to bike in the basement while watching more of the Super League Triathlon. Such a bummer that all of the beautiful leaves will be ripped from the trees by this wind instead of getting to fall gently to the ground.

run: 1.2 miles
treadmill in basement

Decided to run for 10 minutes in-between bike rides. Listened to music and stared ahead at the lightbulb reflecting in the darkened window. Not very inspiring but still felt good to move.

bike: 16 minutes
stand in basement

Not much to add with this bike ride except that I biked for a minute less yet burned 15 more calories. I guess the run in-between helped?

My Invisible Horse and the Speed of Human Decency
Matthew Olzmann

People always tell me, “Don’t put the cart
before the horse,” which is curious
because I don’t have a horse.
Is this some new advancement in public shaming—
repeatedly drawing one’s attention
to that which one is currently not, and never
has been, in possession of?
If ever, I happen to obtain a Clydesdale,
then I’ll align, absolutely, it to its proper position
in relation to the cart, but I can’t
do that because all I have is the cart.
One solitary cart—a little grief wagon that goes
precisely nowhere—along with, apparently, one
invisible horse, which does not pull,
does not haul, does not in any fashion
budge, impel or tow my disaster buggy
up the hill or down the road.
I’m not asking for much. A more tender world
with less hatred strutting the streets.
Perhaps a downtick in state-sanctioned violence
against civilians. Wind through the trees.
Water under the bridge. Kindness.
LOL, says the world. These things take time, says
the Office of Disappointment. Change cannot
be rushed
, says the roundtable of my smartest friends.
Then, together, they say, The cart!
They say, The horse!
They say, Haven’t we told you already?
So my invisible horse remains
standing where it previously stood:
between hotdog stands and hallelujahs,
between the Nasdaq and the moon’s adumbral visage,
between the status quo and The Great Filter,
and I can see that it’s not his fault—being
invisible and not existing—
how he’s the product of both my imagination
and society’s failure of imagination.
Watch how I press my hand against his translucent flank.
How I hold two sugar cubes to his hypothetical mouth.
How I say I want to believe in him,
speaking softly into his missing ear.

I’m very glad I gave this poem a chance and kept reading. At first, I wasn’t sure, but when the narrator starts imagining his invisible horse, I was intrigued. And when he offers up the fabulous line: “with less hatred strutting the streets” I was all in.