april 5/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.2 miles

Rain and wind. Short workout in the basement. Had to pump my bike tire up again. Definitely a leak. Took me only a minute to pump it up. I was reminded of how much I struggled to do it a few months ago when I hadn’t done it in a while. Thought how important habits/habitual practices are for me. Watched most of the 2018 Ironman television coverage while I biked. Listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation as I ran. Have no memory of what I thought about.

before the workout

Day 3 with dirt: loam. Thinking more about compost and soil and humus, I suddenly remembered loam. I discovered this word a few years ago and it has made it into at least one of my poems. Some definitions of loam use the word humus, others don’t.

 3. A soil of great fertility composed chiefly of clay and sand with an admixture of decomposed vegetable matter.

from Oxford English Dictionary online (via local library)

noun

a fertile soil of clay and sand containing humus.

from Oxford Languages (Google’s dictionary)

Doing a brief search on loam and humus, I also found discussions of the distinctions between sand, silt, and clay. According to an answer on Quora, the difference is about particle size. This answer also offers the following distinction between loam and humus:

Loam is a mixture of clay, sand and silt and benefits from the qualities of these 3 different textures, favoring water retention, air circulation, drainage and fertility.

Humus is a highly complex substance still not fully understood. It is a stable and uniformly dark, spongy and amorphous material which come from the mechanical degradation of organic matter. Humus is fertile and gather all properties suitable for optimal plant growth. It is formed by complex chemical compounds, of plant, animal and microbial origin

Searched “loam” on Poetry Foundation and found a few poems:

Loam/ Carl Sandburg

In the loam we sleep,
In the cool moist loam,
To the lull of years that pass
And the break of stars,

From the loam, then,
The soft warm loam,
We rise:
To shape of rose leaf,
Of face and shoulder.

We stand, then,
To a whiff of life,
Lifted to the silver of the sun
Over and out of the loam
A day.

Things to remember: the whiff of life, the silver of the sun

Speaking of loam as the whiff of life. Here’s another poem that I love:

Unveiling/ Gail Mazur

I say to the named granite stone, to the brown grass,
to the dead chrysanthemums, Mother, I still have a
body, what else could receive my mind’s transmissions,
its dots and dashes of pain
? I expect and get no answer,
no loamy scent of her coral geraniums. She who is now
immaterial, for better or worse, no longer needs to speak
for me to hear, as in a continuous loop, classic messages
of wisdom, love and fury. MAKE! DO! a note on our fridge
commanded. Here I am making, unmaking, doing, undoing.

MAKE! DO! I love the different ways to read this, as: making do, managing, getting by, finding a way with limited resources and make something! do something! create act.

Just one more poem with loam in it. Powerful. Loamy roamers rising.

The Theft Outright/ Heid E. Erdrich

after Frost

We were the land’s before we were.

Or the land was ours before you were a land.
Or this land was our land, it was not your land.

We were the land before we were people,
loamy roamers rising, so the stories go,
or formed of clay, spit into with breath reeking soul—

What’s America, but the legend of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Red rocks, blood clots bearing boys, blood sands
swimming being from women’s hands, we originate,
originally, spontaneous as hemorrhage.

Un-possessing of what we still are possessed by,
possessed by what we now no more possess.

We were the land before we were people,
dreamy sunbeams where sun don’t shine, so the stories go,
or pulled up a hole, clawing past ants and roots—

Dineh in documentaries scoff DNA evidence off.
They landed late, but canyons spoke them home.
Nomadic Turkish horse tribes they don’t know.

What’s America, but the legend of Stop ‘n’ Go?

Could be cousins, left on the land bridge,
contrary to popular belief, that was a two-way toll.
In any case we’d claim them, give them some place to stay.

Such as we were we gave most things outright
(the deed of the theft was many deeds and leases and claim stakes
and tenure disputes and moved plat markers stolen still today . . .)

We were the land before we were a people,
earthdivers, her darling mudpuppies, so the stories go,
or emerging, fully forming from flesh of earth—

The land, not the least vaguely, realizing in all four directions,
still storied, art-filled, fully enhanced.
Such as she is, such as she wills us to become.

note:

  • Dineh, “the people,” what the Navajo called themselves
  • for Frost = The Gift Outright / Robert Frost … discovered this was the poem he read at Kennedy’s inauguration, through this helpful analysis, Political Poeticizing (found when I searched, “Robert Frost settler colonialism”)

One more thing: Returning to the idea, in Sandburg’s and Mazur’s poem, I’m thinking about the smell of loam. Here’s something helpful I found:

We feel something deep in the smell of that fresh-soil, and it is one of those mysteries that takes us back to a place in time.  The smell of soil invokes something so deep that it never really can be described. Can you describe the smell of soil in a forest, freshly tilled field, or in a swamp?  Have you ever wondered if fresh tilled soil has always had the same sweet aroma? 

Actually it’s not the soil we smell but the bacteria that enters the soil through the geosmin.  It’s the bacteria that is producing the chemical that we smell.  The smell will be different depending on where the soil is found.  Healthy, productive soils should smell fresh, clean and pleasant or have little odor at all.  If the soil smells like ammonia or has a rotten odor that is a good indication there is poor drainage or lack of oxygen in the soil.

The unique smell is because soil is not just dirt.  Healthy soil is living and is a complex ecosystem with an abundance of bio-diversity.  “Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals”. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949.  Soil…..”the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil.”  Dr. Daniel Hillel

The Smell of Living Soil

One more link: What your soil is trying to tell you with sound, smell, and color

march 31/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minute warm-up
run: 3.25 miles
outside: wind + thin sheet of ice

Wanted to run outside today, but it snowed and sleeted yesterday and it hasn’t warmed enough to melt yet. I don’t want to fall and get an injury. Speaking of injuries, just watched a YouTube video with one of my favorite triathletes, Lucy Charles-Barclay. She has a small fracture on the inside of her femoral-something-or-other (I remember the femoral part, but forgot the rest). She doesn’t know yet how long it will take to heal or if she can do any exercise. She mentioned how she’s always used exercise as a way to cope with any stress/anxiety she is feeling. Now, she can’t and she’s unsure of how how to handle it. I remember feeling this way with my first “big” injury. It sucked, but then I started memorizing poems and I felt better. That injury was when I really discovered how much I love poetry.

I haven’t figured out what to watch now that I’m done with Dickinson, so I watched a random running race while I biked. Then I listened to an old playlist while I ran. Felt pretty good. Didn’t think about anything except how much time I had left. 30 minutes on the treadmill is a long time for me. Very tedious.

I guess I thought about at least one other thing: how much I was feeling the lyrics of Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls, which was on my playlist. I remember liking that song at the end of high school, then driving with a future roommate to see them perform at Luther College my freshman year of college. I always appreciated the lyrics, but they didn’t really mean anything to me, more like empty clichés or slogans or something someone else would do. Now I find myself living (or trying to live those) words in my work and my daily practices:

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine

I like the idea of more (possible) answers + crooked lines + not trying to KNOW or find the answers + the idea of getting closer (but never quite getting) to fine + fine (not success or achievement or even happiness) as the goal.

Found this poem on twitter this morning. Wow!

I Wonder If I Need the Rapture or If I Could Just
Swallow A Catastrophe and Call It Good / Kelli Russell Agodon

Find me at a party socializing with someone’s cat.
Pull a decade from my dress and find what’s left
of the bliss sewn in the hem.

In a perfect world, we would slow dance
with someone we love, we would hold childhood
in our palm and call it a foal.

What we love frolics with its mother, while we ache
for our sins. Walk through a field without disturbing
a spider’s web. Turn off the news

when a javelin is thrown through the screen
into our heart. Yes, you are worried–fear
has been our blanket for years.

Yes, you are home alone so your mind
is cashing in every anxiety chip. Bet on less.
Forget the radishes at the store and be joyful

that you did. There are too many false fangs
at the necks of the ones we love. Bite lighter.
Use your lips. Know the lightening

you believed would kill you didn’t. Not every wolf
harms, many just want to find their way
back into the forests we keep cutting down.

march 30/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes
basement
outside: rain/snow mix

Decided to skip the run today and only bike while I watched the final episode of Dickinson. Sad to see this series end, so glad I stuck with it after almost stopping watching it after an episode. I liked how the creator, Alena Smith, ended the series with lots of hope, a greater appreciation of Death as necessary part of the cycle of life, and an emphasis on ED’s famous white dress as central to her empowerment. I didn’t agree with all of it, especially the choice to use the song, “Gynmnopédie No. 1,” which I connect with the movie, My Dinner with Andre and the “Community” episode. I like the song, but not for the ending of this series. But, who cares? I decided early on in this show that I didn’t want to be too critical of the show — to judge it by what I might have done, or dismiss it as too modern. Instead, I took it as one possible way in which we could imagine ED’s world. I’m going to miss Emily’s mom. This show made me a big fan of Jane Krakowski. And, I’ll miss Lavinia too. Of course, Emily was great and it was fun to see how her poems were invoked.

I’m pretty sure I watched every episode while biking in the basement. Now I’ll have to find something new to watch.

One of the poems featured in this last episode is “I started Early — Took my Dog.” I thought I had posted it on this log already, but I can’t seem to find it. So, here it is:

I started Early — Took my Dog / Emily Dickinson

I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands –
Presuming Me to be a Mouse –
Aground – opon the Sands –

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe –
And past my Apron – and my Belt
And past my Boddice – too –

And made as He would eat me up –
As wholly as a Dew
Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve –
And then – I started – too –

And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt His Silver Heel
Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl –

Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know –
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –

Oh, how I would love to start early and take my dog to the sea! All of my reading of Alice Oswald and the sea is making me want to spend some time on a coast.

march 23/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 1 mile
basement
outside: rain, snow, wind, 32 degrees

Watched the second to last episode of Dickinson while I biked, then ran a mile while listening to Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” (which I heard on The Current yesterday and thought it would be fun to run to. Mostly, it was). The Dickinson episode was titled, “Grief is a Mouse,” and, among other things, was about Emily (mother) imaging that a mouse in her bedroom was her dead sister Lavinia. She tells a story about how Lavinia loved mice, keeping them as pets — feeding them cheese and naming them after her favorite fairy tale characters. Then she talks to the mouse-as-Lavinia and says goodbye to her. I liked this sweet explanation for why Emily (poet) might have written a poem titled, “Grief is a Mouse,” although I might also like not having an explanation for why she chose a mouse to describe grief. It reminds me of an essay I read about Emily Dickinson last year:

Whenever I introduce Dickinson’s poems into my classes, I always begin by doing a version of an exercise that I learned from one of my great mentors, Carolyn Williams, and that has long circulated through a community of people who work on 19th-century poetics. Over the years it has come to be called “Dickinson Mad-Libs.” The way it works is this: I choose a line, a stanza, or a whole poem, and I take out some of its words (usually nouns and adjectives, but sometimes verbs as well), and I simply leave blanks where those words were. Then I ask the students to fill in the blanks. I tend to switch up which poems I use, even though I know several that work particularly well. I’ll never forget the time I used “Grief is a ________.” 

Students go ahead and put in the blanks what is expected: Grief is a pain, Grief is a bitch. The ones who want to take imaginative leaps deliver up: Grief is a thunderstorm, Grief is a tidal wave. But I can pretty much guarantee that no matter how many budding poets you have in a class, nobody who hasn’t already read Dickinson’s poem would ever write the phrase the way she wrote it.

There are lots of fascinating conversations to have about what, exactly, Dickinson might have meant when she wrote “Grief is a mouse,” but the more interesting point, to me at least, is simply that Dickinson was a master of unexpected, yet absolutely perfect, word choice.

The Poets (We Think) We Know: Emily Dickinson

Before I went downstairs to exercise, I worked on my second read-through of Dart. I’m making note of all the voices that appear. It’s helpful as a way of tracing how these voices flow from one to the next, sometimes easily, more often as interruptions. In focusing on these voices, I’m starting to see the tensions over the language used to describe how the river works, especially in terms of order and control. I’ll have to write more later, when I have time.

Here is one of the poems read in Dickinson (season 3, ep 9):

These are the days when Birds come back— / Emily Dickinson

These are the days when Birds come back—
A very few—a Bird or two—
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies resume
The old—old sophistries of June—
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee—
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear—
And softly thro’ the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

Oh sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join.

Thy sacred emblems to partake—
Thy consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!

march 14/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 1.2 miles
basement
outside: 30 degrees / light snow

Partly because I wanted to watch more Dickinson, and mostly because of the thick, wet snow that has covered the huge puddles on the sidewalk making everything a mess, I decided to bike and run inside this late morning. Before I started biking — on my bike, on a stand — I pumped up my back tire. There’s a small leak, so I’ve been pumping up the tire all winter. Finally, I have gotten the hang of my complicated pump and the strange (to me) tire nozzle!

While I biked, I watched another Dickinson episode. I stayed on the bike longer to finish it. In this one, Emily realizes (again) her Dad is a sexist jerk and that her brother Austin was right. Then she meets up with Nobody and falls through an open grave to travel to the other side of false hope. This part of the episode was difficult for me to see, it was too dark, but it looked like she was in a bizarro version of her house (with weird lighting). She ends up on a Civil War battlefield, dressed in uniform, watching as Henry calls out something like, “victory is ours!” Then, Emily sees true hope: a bird in the tree. I checked and I have 2 episodes left.

While I ran, I listened to the first three songs on Taylor Swift’s Reputation. I didn’t think about much, just moved, which I always like to do.

Yesterday, I came up with a project (or experiment?) for the rest of March. I will closely read Alice Oswald’s 48 page poem about the River Dart. It’s called Dart, and I got it for Christmas this year — after years of having it on my wishlist. I’ve wanted to read it for some time (I first mentioned it here on June, 2019) because I love rivers and Oswald and I’m very curious about how she writes about a river. Plus, after working for some time on a series of poems, then a proposal for a class, I’d like to dive deep into someone else’s words for a while.

Today, some background and a few pages. First, here’s how Oswald describes her project at the beginning of the book:

This poem is made from the language or people who live and work on the Dart. Over the past two year I’ve been recording conversations with people who know the river. I’ve used these records as life-models from which to sketch out a series of characters — linking their voices into a sound-map of the river, a singing from the source to the sea. There are indications in the margin where one voice changes into another. These do not refer to real people or even fixed fictions. All voices should be read as the river’s muttering.

Dart / Alice Oswald

In an earlier description of her project for The Poetry Society, Oswald offers more details about this project, both before and during her work on it. All of it is interesting, but I was especially intrigued by her method for combining the recordings of others talking about the river and her imagination.

I decided to take along a tape-recorder. At the moment, my method is to tape a conversation with someone who works on the Dart, then go home and write it down from memory. I then work with these two kinds of record – one precise, one distorted by the mind – to generate the poem’s language. It’s experimental and very against my grain, this mixture of journalism and imagination, but the results are exciting. Above all, it preserves the idea of the poem’s voice being everyone’s, not just the poet’s.

source

I’d like to try doing this with the documenting of my runs: experimenting with combining recordings with my memory/imagination of what happened.

This poem begins at the start of the east River Dart at Cranmore Pool with an old man (Old Man River? or is that an American expression?) who walks the river. Here are a few lines I especially like:

listen to the horrible keep-time of a man walking,
rustling and jingling his keys
at the centre of his own noise,
clomping the silence in pieces and I

I don’t know, all I know is walking.

What I love is one foot in front of another. South-south-west and
down the contours. I go slipping between Black Ridge and White
Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out

Speaking of the bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out, I found a BBC tour of the Dart. The opening lines seem to speak about that echo-trapping moor. Also, the line, “What I love is one foot in front of another,” is wonderful. I could imagine that as a poem title.

Here’s another bit that I especially like:

one step-width water
of linked stones
trills in the stones
glides in the trills
eels in the glides
in each eel a fingerwidth of sea

Here are some links to more information:

march 9/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 1.55 miles
basement
outdoor temp: 17 degrees / feels like 5

It wasn’t the cold that kept me inside today, but the water from yesterday that turned to ice overnight. So many slick spots on the sidewalk and the road! I read my entry from last year on this day, and it was 54 degrees outside. And I wore shorts. Shorts?! As much as I like winter running, I’m ready for spring. Less layers, open walking paths. I’m tried off dodging big ice chunks and running on the bike trail.

Biking and running inside wasn’t so bad. Finished watching the Dickinson episode I started on Feb 23. In this one, Emily and Lavinia take a wild ride on a gazebo and end up in the 1950s where they meet Sylvia Plath. Emily’s parents find some hemp growing in Emily’s conservatory and decide to smoke it. I’m not sure how many episodes I have left, but it’s not many.

While I ran, I listened to an old playlist: Lizzo, Justin Timberlake, Ke$ha. Felt good. I don’t remember thinking about anything, or noticing anything. No strange smells or shadows or hairballs that look like spiders wanting to jump on me. Running on the treadmill is helpful for enabling me to move when I can’t outside, but it’s not very exciting or inspiring — especially when the treadmill is in the cold, unfinished basement of a 100+ year-old house.

Found this poem by Aracelis Girmay on twitter yesterday. Wonderful!

Second Estrangement/ Aracelis Girmay

Please raise your hand,
whomever else of you
has been a child,
lost, in a market
or a mall, without
knowing it at first, following
a stranger, accidentally
thinking he is yours,
your family or parent, even
grabbing for his hands,
even calling the word
you said then for “Father,”
only to see the face
look strangely down, utterly
freight, utterly not the one
who loves you, you
who are a bird suddenly
stunned by the glass partitions
of rooms.
How far
the world you knew, & tall,
& filled, finally, with strangers.

One of my favorite poetry people pointed out the line, “who loves you, you” and I’m so grateful. Maybe I would have noticed this hidden message/one line poem on my own, but not as soon. I love imagining this as the center/heart of this poem, as the poem within a poem. It makes me want to try to do this too, to put in a line that offers something extra.

I don’t remember accidentally taking a stranger’s hand in a crowded store when I was a kid, but I do still remember the absolute terror of realizing I was lost, and alone, in a store. I remember pacing around, trying to calm myself down as I looked for my mom. Such an awful feeling: flushed face, tingling scalp, queasy stomach.

feb 23/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.4 miles
basement
3 degrees / feels like -10
about 5 inches of snow

Brr. I thought about running outside (I almost always do), but the feels like temperature is -10 and the paths are covered in snow, which is probably hiding ice, so I went to the basement. Tomorrow it will be as cold as today, but I’ll go anyway.

Finished the rest of the Dickinson episode I was watching where Emily and her family take a “daycation” (Lavinia’s words) to an insane asylum. Emily’s dad does not commit her in order to become a trustee. Emily’s mom wants to stay, but isn’t allowed, so when they return home, she announces that she will be going upstairs to sleep. Confused and concerned, Lavinia asks, “For a short nap?” The elder Emily answers, “No. Wake me up when the war is over.” Meanwhile, Henry (a free Black man who used to work for the Dickinsons, abolitionist, married to Betty, who traveled South to fight for the Union) is teaching a group of free Black soldiers, or almost soldiers if the white men in charge would give them the rank and better uniforms and weapons and the pay they deserve, to read. Emily’s mentor, Higginson, is the main white man in charge and, although his intentions seem good, he patronizes and bullshits them. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: Higginson as both Emily’s mentor and a well-meaning but clueless white savior/liberal.

As the Dickinsons are leaving the asylum, Emily recites this poem (in her usual way on this show: voice-over, with the cursive words scrolling fleetingly across the screen):

A little Madness in the Spring (1356) / Emily Dickinson

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown – 
Who ponders this tremendous scene – 
This whole Experiment of Green – 
As if it were his own!

As I ran, I listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation again. I tried to avoid looking at my watch, so the time would pass faster, or without notice. It mostly worked; it is still much harder to run for more than 20 minutes on the treadmill. Much easier outside. I didn’t think about anything as I ran — did I? I don’t plan to run on the treadmill much beyond February. I should try to experiment with ways to find delight, or be curious, or to track how words move as I do before March happens.

And here’s another poem that isn’t really about anything else I’ve mentioned here yet, but I wanted to remember it, especially the lines about the bird:

The Husband’s Answers/ Rebecca Hazelton


The images don’t explain a story. They are a counterpoint. 

It’s understandable to mistake them for metaphor, but still, a mistake. 

The trouble comes from thinking. I could stop there. The trouble comes from thinking an image is a story. 

This is how painting began. Little glimpses into little worlds. Little glimpses into the faces of the divine. 

But we know that the gods don’t really look like us. 

Yes, all Western art. 

I can’t speak to that. 

Berger says the image, disconnected from a fixed location, proliferates, and changes through new context, strange juxtapositions, reframing. 

What they do to us, yes. The stories they tell us, and how we accept those stories. 

He is less interested in the stories we bring. 

If I show you an image of a bird flying, you might think freedom, or graceful, or wings. You might remember your mother pointing to the sky, naming the bird starlingheroncrow. But all of that is yours. 

The bird is just the bird, flying, following the magnetic fields of the earth home. 

I did not say the trouble was a bad thing. I only said that it was trouble. 

feb 22/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
6 degrees / feels like -9
snow (about 4 inches so far)

The snow and cold are here. And some wind too. Today, I’m inside. Started another Dickinson episode. In this one, the “girls” (the Emilys + Lavinia) accompany Edward to an insane asylum for women. The younger Emily is too curious and poetic for the warden; he deems her a lunatic and is trying to pressure Edward into committing her. Will he do it? I’ll have to find out in the next episode. The other Emily (mom), decides she wants to be committed so she can have some rest, while Lavinia starts crying uncontrollably with an inmate who is distraught over the death of her boyfriend/fiance in the war.

Listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation while I ran on the treadmill. This album isn’t very original, but the beats in it match my foot strikes well. It helped me to feel like I was flying or floating or slightly untethered for a few minutes.

Nothing interesting to notice in the basement today. No spiders or sara-shadows or unpleasant smells wafting down from the kitchen.

Found this poem while scrolling through a journal I’m submitting some poems to:

Hum/ Yvonne Zipter

For longer than memory, we thought giraffes
silent, their thirteen-foot windpipes too great
a climb for the air pushed from the bellows
of their lungs to quiver the cords of their voice boxes.

The truth is, they hum under cover of night,
and given the long tube of their tracheas,
I imagined they sound like didgeridoos,
and it seems that’s so—low and throbbing,

a lullaby for a gangly baby—though in fact
we don’t yet know why they hum. Perhaps
it’s merely for the pleasure of it, like my wife
who can barely breathe without also singing.

Did she always sing like this? I queried
my mother-in-law. Yes, she said. She hummed
constantly. It drove me crazy!
But I like the way
song waves move through her, use her,

as if she were the soundtrack to her own life,
a movie made for joy. Of course, it’s possible
giraffes simply convey giraffish data with their
rumbling vibrations. But I prefer to believe

they’re humming from a sense of safety,
knowing they can let their guard down,
that they’re among their own kind, humming
through the dark hours on a swell of happiness.

feb 18/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 2.2 miles
basement
28 degrees
light snow

As usual, I thought about running outside, but when I took Delia the dog for a walk, I noticed how much ice was on the sidewalk — smooth, flat, slick ice. It was on the road too. So, even though it wasn’t that cold, and the birds were chirping like it was spring, I decided being inside was safer. I suppose it helped that I knew I could watch more of the episode of Dickinson that I started yesterday while I biked. I checked and I have 5 more episodes after this one in the entire series. Bummer. I’d like to finish it this winter, before I start always running outside.

After I biked, I listened to a playlist titled, Summer 2014, while I ran. This title was not accurate; I’m pretty I hadn’t heard Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” in 2014 (it didn’t exist yet, right?), but it was on this playlist. I have a habit of deleting and adding songs whenever I want. I suppose my playlists are ships of Theseus. I wonder, do I have any playlists that don’t have any of the original songs on them? Possibly.

Totally unrelated to my run or bike, but I’d like to remember this: Last night, or early this morning, my mom appeared in my dream, and she was not sick but healthy and happy. Still now, 11.5 years after she died, if she appears in my dreams, it’s often the sick and dying version of her. What a gift to get this healthy version of her today!

Decided to look up ship of Theseus on poetry foundation to find my poem of the day:

The Ships of Theseus/ STEVE GEHRKE

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians    …    for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
— Plutarch, Vita Thesel

The answer of course is that the ship
doesn’t exist, that “ship”
is an abstraction, a conception,
an imaginary tarp thrown
across the garden of the real.
The answer is that the cheap
peasantry of things toils all day
in the kingdom of  language,
every ship like a casket
of words: bulkhead, transom,
mast steps
. The answer
is to wake again to the banality
of things, to wade toward
the light inside the plasma
of ideas. But each plank
is woven from your mother’s
hair. The blade of each oar
contains the shadow of
a horse. The answer
is that the self is the glue between
the boards, the cartilage
that holds a world together,
that self is the wax in
the stenographer’s ears,
that there is nothing the mind
won’t sacrifice, each item
another goat tossed into
the lava of our needs.
The answer is that this is just
another poem about divorce,
about untombing the mattress
from the sofa, your body
laid out on the bones of the
double-jointed frame, about
separation, rebuilding, about
your daughter’s missing
teeth. Each time you visit
now you find her partially
replaced, more sturdily
jointed, the weathered joists
of   her childhood being stripped 
away. New voice. New hair.
The answer is to stand there
redrawing the constellation
of   the word daughter in
your brain while she tries
to understand exactly who
you are, and breathes out
girl after girl into the entry-
way, a fog of   strangers that
almost evaporates when
you say each other’s
names. Almost, but not quite.
Let it be enough. Already,
a third ship moves
quietly toward you in the night.

I love this line: “and breathes out/girl after girl into the entry-/
way, a fog of strangers that/almost evaporates when/you say each other’s/names.”

feb 17/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 3.1 miles
basement
2 degrees / feels like -10

Very cold and icy outside. It looks warm, with the bright sun, but it’s not. Finished another episode of Dickinson. On the advice of Higginson, Emily reads Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and has some wild fantasy about meeting him in New York City at a hospital, where he’s a nurse. Louisa May Alcott’s there too. As she pretends to be a dying soldier’s sister, and then gets drunk at a bar with Whitman, Emily reflects on the need for connecting with the world in order to write about it. These experiences are seductive but also excessive (and reckless?), suggesting that living life fully (feeling all its pain, all of its pleasure — Billy Eichner as Walt Whitman says) has its problems too. When I finished that episode, I started the next. So far, this one includes: Lavinia taking a vow of silence in solidarity with all the dead soldiers; the whole family, except for Austin, attending a local quilt show (with “Quilted” by Shiloh Rafe playing in the background), with Emily’s mom donating then demanding back her mother’s (or grandmother’s?) quilt; Emily receiving an affirming letter from Higginson reassuring her that her poetry was not dead, but alive; and the beginnings of a plan for celebrating Edward’s birthday: an old-fashioned family sing-a-long. I wonder what will happen next?

Listened to a playlist (Lizzo, Harry Styles, Ke$ha, Justin Timberlake) a I ran on the treadmill. I can’t remember exactly what I thought about, just that I was happy. About 10 or so minutes in, I glanced down to my right, and noticed something hanging off the bar of the treadmill. A spider? It looked like a spider to me but, with my vision, and the low light, and the fact that I was moving, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t stop to check. Instead, I tried keep an eye on it and stick closer to the other side of the treadmill. I had some irrational fear that it might jump on me. I tried to convince myself that this was a friendly spider that was joining me on my run. And I thought I should find a spider poem to post on here once I finished my run. When I stopped, I checked. No spider; a small bit of fuzz and a hairball dangling down from the bar. Of course.

When I thought about posting a spider poem, I thought about 2 things: first, a Virginia Woolf (very) short story I had read for a class a few years ago that I thought was about a spider — it wasn’t; it’s about a moth, The Death of the Moth. And, second, a poem by Robert Frost. I’m almost positive that this was the first poem I ever memorized and recited in an english class (actually, one of the only that I ever recited in a class). I can’t remember if it was in elementary or middle school.

Design/ Robert Frost

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

The line that made me certain that this was the poem I had memorized was the one with the heal-all in it. I remember the awkwardness of that word and not knowing what a heal-all was. Pretty sure I didn’t look it up. I did today: (from wikipedia) “Prunella vulgaris, the common self-healheal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earthcarpenter’s herbbrownwort or blue curls, is a herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae.” It’s invasive, and very hard to get out of your backyard once it takes root. Of course, “looking it up” back in 1986 or so wouldn’t have involved google or wikipedia but the library and a librarian.

I can’t imagine I understood this poem at all as I memorized and then recited it. I have a vague memory that I picked it because it was the shortest option. Did my teacher tell me anything about the poem? Now I can tell it’s a sonnet with a classic sonnet rhyme scheme in the first 8 lines (ABBAABBA), then a variation in the last 6 (ACAACC). Supposedly it’s in iambic pentameter — I say supposedly because I always struggle to hear meter. Here’s a recording of the poem.