april 30/RUN

5.15 miles
bottom of franklin hill
54 degrees
wind: 3 mph

The sun is back! And so are shorts without tights. And rowers and roller skiers and laughing woodpeckers! A beautiful morning for a run. I remember looking down at the river: smooth and still. Heard a creaking noise under the trestle, almost like an old swing. Did someone hang up a swing down there? Smelled urine just above the flats — yuck! Encountered other runners and walkers and dogs and e-bikes — one was powering up the Franklin hill playing a classic rock song . . . I think it was AC/DC.

Running back through the tunnel of trees, almost done, I saw a dark shape up ahead. I assumed it was a dog. Nope, it was that big turkey again and this time he gobbled at me. The trail was narrow with no choice but to run right past him unless I turned around. Since I’m a wimp and he was staring menacingly at me, I turned around and ran until I reached the end of the fence. Then I climbed up to the bike trail. I’m fine with being a wimp.

Listened to the rowers as I ran north. After turning around and running up most of the hill, I put in Beyoncé’s new album, Cowboy Carter. Earlier today I was posting things about bees on a new resource page, Bees, so I have bees on the brain. Listening to Beyoncé, I heard a line with the word honey in it and thought, Queen Bee! Yes, more bees. I’ll have to add Beyonc´e to my bee page!

Before the run, I read this poem by James Schuyler that I’ve wanted to post ever since I discovered it a few weeks ago. I wanted to wait until it was green. Today it is, so I’m posting it:

A Gray Thought/ James Schuyler (1972)

In the sky a gray thought
ponders on three kinds of green:
Brassy tarnished leaves of lilacs
holding on half-heartedly and long
after most turned and fell to make
a scatter rug, warmly, brightly brown.
Odd, that the tattered heart-shapes 
on a Persian shrub should stay
as long as the northern needles 
of the larch.  Near, behind the lilac,
on a trunk, pale Paris green, green
as moonlight, growing on another time scale
a slowness becoming vast as though
all the universe were an atom
of a filterable virus in a head
that turns an eye to smile
or frown or stare into other
eyes: and not of gods, but creatures
whose size begins beyond the sense of size:
lichens, softly-coloured, hard in durance,
a permanence like rock on a transient tree.
And another green, a dark thick green
to face the winter, laid in layers on
the spruce and balsam or in foxtail
bursts on pine in springy shapes
that weave and pierce
the leafless and unpatterned woods.

I know this is a poem about 3 different greens in the fall, nearing winter. I’m posting it because I love his descriptions of green and wanted to use it to think more about different greens today. That was my plan, at least, as I ran. All I managed to do was chant a few 3-beat greens:

emerald green
army green
jungle green
pear green —
lime green —

Mid-chant I noticed the dandelions on the edge of the trail and condensed the 4-syllable word, dan de li on into 3-syllables: dan dy lines

Dandy lines? Love it. Maybe the title of a poem — a cento with flower lines, or is that too much?

The green I remember most was possibly not even green, depending on who you ask. A biker biked by, wearing the brightest yellow-green (or maybe just yellow?) shirt I’ve been able to see in a long time. Usually yellow or yellow-green is muted for me. Not this shirt. Wow! So bright it almost made my eyes hurt. My vision is so strange. How was I able to see the bright color this time, when I usually can’t see it?

added a few hours later: I almost forgot to mention the little wren that I saw as I was walking back to my house. First, a flash — or flutter or flurry or small explosion* — of movement on the street. Something, I could not tell what, ascending. Then a scan, all around until the source was found: a tiny brown bird on the top of the fence. They stayed long enough for even me to see their little face. Such a tiny bird! What miracle today allowed me to see them?

After lunch, while doing the dishes, I listened to the New Yorker Poetry podcast and heard David Baker read his wonderful poem, Six Notes (notes refers to taking notes for a poem, six sections, and the notes of different birds). The beginning of his poem reminds me of my bird sighting, even though my little wren didn’t make a sound and was rising, not falling:

from Six Notes / David Baker

Come down to us. Come down with your song,
little wren. The world is in pieces.

We must not say so. In the dark hours,
in the nearest branches, I hear you thrum—

Come up to us. Come up with your song,
little wren. The world is in pieces.

We must not say so. In the dark hours,
on the nearest fence post, I see you thrum–

*Having suddenly added explosion of movement as one of my word options, I feel compelled to add the source of that inspiration. It’s from a Chen Chen interview I read yesterday and had been planning to post sometime soon. Here’s what he said:

Poems are the opposite of habits. They are explosions. Sometimes they are small explosions. But loud. Or huge, quiet explosions.

Chen Chen Interview

So, was this little wren’s small explosion up and off the street a poem? Yes!

march 24/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
run; 1 mile
basement
outside: snowing

A big storm, just starting, but not quite. Now, light snow. We’re expecting 5-9 inches. I wasn’t sure how icy the sidewalks were or how ready my calf was to run, so I decided to work out in the basement.

calf update, for future Sara (and maybe her physical therapist?): during the race yesterday, my calf felt a little strange a few times — a slight tightening? no pain — but was otherwise fine. After the race: some soreness and tightness. today during the bike: a few more flares, an occasional twinge with a little pain. during the run: started feeling sore about 8 minutes, then a little strange. It’s so hard to know what the right thing to do is — stop running? ignore it as nothing, or as a calf that cramped and is now recovering? schedule a pt appointment? If I can get an appointment, I’d like to see a pt. Even if the calf is nothing, it would great to be checked out before serious marathon training begins.

Watched the women’s road race (cycling) from Tokyo while I biked. When the silver medalist, Annemiek Van Vleuten, crossed the line, she thought she had won gold; she didn’t realize that someone in the breakaway had stayed away. background: A. Van Vleuten had been about to win the gold in Rio but had a horrific crash into a cement barricade. She put off retiring for another 5 years just to try and win the gold in Tokyo. Wow. How do you recover from that disappointment? I’m always amazed at the resilience of athletes.

While I ran, I listened to a winter playlist. Other than my calf, I felt good.

Earlier today, I found an article about James Schuyler and this wonderful poem, which I may have read before, but was delighted by today:

The Bluet/ James Schuyler

And is it stamina
that unseasonably freaks
forth a bluet, a
Quaker lady, by
the lake? So small,
a drop of sky that
splashed and held,
four-petaled, creamy
in its throat. The woods
around were brown,
the air crisp as a
Carr’s table water
biscuit and smelt of
cider. There were frost
apples on the trees in
the field below the house.
The pond was still, then
broke into a ripple.
The hills, the leaves that
have not yet fallen
are deep and oriental
rug colors. Brown leaves
in the woods set off
gray trunks of trees.
But that bluet was
the focus of it all: last
spring, next spring, what
does it matter? Unexpected
as a tear when someone
reads a poem you wrote
for him: “It’s this line
here.” That bluet breaks
me up, tiny spring flower
late, late in dour October.

The analysis in this essay is all helpful to me, but I was particularly struck by this bit:

. . . Schuyler’s description of the flower transforms it into art, and that this kind of transformation is his signature poetic activity; it happens again and again in his poems: he describes what he sees before him as if it were a painting so that observation of the natural world becomes ekphrasis. That’s why—to skip down a little—the leaves are likened to a rug, crossing outside and inside, nature and culture, and those leaves “set off” the gray the way a painter or sharp dresser uses one color to set off or complement another, why the air is like a made thing, too, if one you eat, and why the bluet is called “the focus,” the way art critics say something is “the focus of the composition.” Schuyler’s words are paintbrushes, what he describes becomes a painting (though he treats it as already painted)—paint, a medium that splashes and then holds. There are examples of this everywhere in his books. In “Evenings in Vermont,” for instance, a rug again mediates between inside and outside, art and nature: “I study / the pattern in a red rug, arabesques / and squares, and one red streak / lies in the west, over the ridge.” In “Scarlet Tanager,” the bird in the tree provides “the red touch green / cries out for.” In “A Gray Thought,” “a dark thick green” is “laid in layers on / the spruce …” And so on. Touches, layerings: color as paint, natural phenomena perceived as art.  

It’s This Line / Here” : Happy Belated to Birthday James Schuyler

This idea of natural phenomena as art and of Schuyler as describing flowers with painting terms and of him doing ekphrastic poems might be a way into my “How I See” ekphrasis project!

march 20/RUN

4 miles
trestle+ turn around
22 degrees
wind: 21 mph gusts

Straight into the wind running north. Not fun, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. Felt stronger, faster for parts of it. Running up the hill just south of the lake street bridge my calf tightened up a little. I stopped, walked, then started again, more cautious this time. Thought about Thomas Gardner and Poverty Creek Journal and his brief descriptions of sore calves after a tough session of hill repeats. After lots of anxiety for weeks, calf pain is now just a normal/regular part of my running. I’m glad — not for the off and on pain, but for the everydayness of it.

Some shadows — soft, crooked, in motion: birds, gnarled tree branches, broken fence rails. Other shadows — dark, on trees, looking like someone standing there. Don’t remember seeing the river but I do remember the floodplain forest — open, bare, beautiful. No chain across the top of the old stone steps. Wondered what will happen in a few days; big snow predicted, well, possible.

Listened to birds and cars and grit on the trail running north, my winter playlist running south.

before the run

Encountered these lines on twitter this morning, from Charles Wright:

When what you write about is what you see, what do you write about when it’s dark?

Charles Wright

I like thinking/reading/writing about the dark. Imagining it otherwise, not as the absence of light, where light = life and happiness and safety, but as where more things are possible, outside the scrutiny of those watching and judging and classifying. The dark, soft. The dark, no need for sharp vision or eye contact. The Dark, where Emily Dickinson’s little men hurry home to their house unperceived and robins in a trundle bed try and fail to hide their wings under their nightgowns. Where Carl Phillip’s willow wants more for compassion than for company. The dark: the moon, the stars, louder silence. The dark, where reds and greens and blues and yellows are no longer necessary —

A strange thing I’ve realized about my color vision. I can still see colors — the light green placemat my computer sits on, the purplish-reddish-blueish of my computer desktop, my bright blue hydroflask. And I can still see when things are in color. But, when something lacks color, like a movie in black and white or the middle of the night in my bedroom, I can’t tell that there isn’t any color. It looks and feels the same.

4 moments when I noticed this:

one and two: from a log entry on 13 nov 2022

1 Yesterday afternoon, in the chapel at Gustavus, which was not dim but not bright either, I started to notice that looking one direction, toward the far window on the other side, the only color I could see was an occasional red square embedded in the walls (I double-checked with Scott; there were also a bunch of blue squares too). The hymnals 15-20 feet away, which I know are red, looked dark but colorless. Staring out at the crowd of people, everyone looked like they were dressed in dark or light — not quite black or white, just dark clothes or light clothes. No variation, no purples or blues or oranges or anything but dark and light. It was strange, partly because it didn’t feel strange. It wasn’t like I thought, where is all the color?

2 It felt more like when I wake up in the dark and, after my eyes adjust, I see the room and it looks like the room, but just darker, dimmer and without color. And, usually I don’t think there’s no color — sometimes I might even think I see color because I know my robe is purple or the pillow is yellow, or I don’t see yellow, but I recognize the pillow on the couch as that yellow pillow because I already know it’s yellow.

three: from a log entry on 12 jan 2024

The other day, Scott, FWA, and I were discussing the scenes in Better Call Saul that are set in the present day and are in black and white. Scott and FWA both agreed that those were harder to watch — they had to pay more careful attention — because they lacked color, which is harder because visual stories often rely heavily on color to communicate ideas/details. I said I didn’t realize that they were in black and white; they didn’t look any different to me than the other scenes, which are in vivid color (at least that’s what they tell me). I realized something: it’s not that I don’t see color, it just doesn’t communicate anything to me, or if it communicates it’s so quiet that I don’t notice what it’s saying.

four: this week

A few days ago, we decided to finally watch Maestro. Wow! We haven’t finished it yet, but Scott and I are really enjoying it. The first scene is in color, which is intended to represent the present, at least the present as it exists in the movie. The second scene is in black and white and represents Bernstein just before his big break. After watching it for a minute or two Scott said, you see that this in black and white, right? And I said, oh, is it? I didn’t notice. I was focused on the contrast — the dark, closed-curtain window and the outline of brightness around it.

Color exists, it just doesn’t speak to me in the same ways (as it used to, or as it does to other people). It’s not a foreign language, it is just turned down, whispering. Yes, it does make it harder to understand visual stories that rely on color to tell part of the story — a favorite: present times = color; the past = black and white — but it doesn’t bother me that much. Instead, I find it fascinating, the opportunity to notice the constructs of color and to see the world (and color) differently.

Okay, that was a long ramble about color and black and white, but I think I’d like to write another color poem about it.

Now back to the quote from Charles Wright on twitter. As is often the case, there was no mention of where it came from, other than it was from Charles Wright. I always find this frustrating. But, I found it easily enough: Littlefoot, 32 in The New Yorker, 2007. Such a wonderful poem!

Back yard, my old station, the dusk invisible in the trees,
But there in its stylish tint,
Everything etched and precise before the acid bath
—Hemlocks and hedgerows—
Of just about half an hour from now,
Night in its soak and dissolve.
Pipistrello, and gun of motorcycles downhill,
A flirt and a gritty punctuation to the day’s demise
And one-starred exhalation,

V of geese going south,
My mind in their backwash, going north.

my old station: love this way of describing a usual spot to sit
the stylish tint: oh, the softness of near-night!
everything etched and precise: I love walking at night in the winter and noticing the contrast between the sky and the bare branches, which I can see more clearly than at any other time. During the day, those branches are a fuzzy blur, but at night they are etched!
Hemlocks and Hedgerows: sounds like a musical act or a comedy duo Scott adds: proto Prog rock/psychedelic band, Margaret’s Electric Forest or Garden, first album: Hemlocks & Hedgerows
a pipistrello is Italian for bat, or “small mouse-like animal that flies”
sounds of day’s demise: a flirt of a bat, the gritting punctuation of a motorcycle’s gun downhill
one-starred exhalation: me, almost every night — o, look at the stars!
I love hearing, then seeing, a V of geese in the evening. The choice of backwash instead of wake is interesting — and flying south/mind going north is a wonderful way to suggest being out of sync

Wow, that is one packed first stanza! I’ll skip the next one to get to the quoted lines:

When what you write about is what you see,
what do you write about when it’s dark?
Paradise, Pound said, was real to Dante because he saw it.
Nothing invented.
One loves a story like that, whether it’s true or not.
Whenever I open my eyes at night, outside,
flames edge at the edge
Of everything, like the sides of a nineteenth-century negative.
If time is a black dog, and it is,
Why do I always see its breath,
its orange, rectangular breath
In the dark?
It’s what I see, you might say, it’s got to be what my eyes see.

I’ll have to think about these lines some more. Right now I wonder, when your peripheral vision is fraying, do you see strange things, like flames, at the edges? What do edges look like to me in the dark? I’ll try to remember to notice when I wake up in the middle of the night tonight, like every night. In the light, they are fuzzy and dance a soft shimmy.

It’s real because we see it? Different ways to respond to this. I’m thinking about how so much of what our eyes see is illusion or guessing based on habits and repeated practice and context and other brain tricks. Even so, most people believe that what they are seeing is real. If they believe, and act as if what they are seeing is real, why can’t I believe and act as if what I’m seeing is real too? All those soft, generous things; those strange headless and legless torsos walking towards me; that river burning with a white heat that sets the trees on fire?

Okay, it’s almost 11 am. I need to go out for my run before I finish this!

during the run

Did I think about this poem at all while I was running? I can’t remember.

after the run

During the run, I noticed bird shadows crossing my feet, both of us flying, the birds in the air, be just above the trail. I decided to add it into a fun poem I’m writing called “Birding.” It’s a series of small verses in my 3/2 form in which I describe how I see birds with my cone-dead eyes.

Not sure if this works:

vi.

a shadow
travels

over feet
running

downhill — flight
4 ways:

the moving
shadow

the descending
runner

a belief
shadows

signal some

thing and

the small form
gliding

closer to

the sun.

shadows

1

And just like that, my plan to return to Wright’s poem will have to wait. Instead, I’m thinking about shadows, which is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I realized, earlier this month, that shadows see more real to me (as in, having more substance, easier to see as solid) than the object from which they’re cast — is that the most awkward way to say that? Here’s what I wrote on march 9, 2024:

As I was admiring the fence railing shadows I thought about how clear and real they seemed to me. Much more there than the actual fence railing, which was staticky and vague.

log / 9 march 2024
2

So, in the draft of my poem, I wrote: a belief/shadows/signal some/thing. In a different version, I wrote: a belief/shadows/have substance. Do I like that better? I can’t decide. I think it was inspired by a passage I read in Becoming Animal (which was a recommendation from my super smart niece):

One of the marks of our obliviousness, one of the countless signs that our thinking minds have grown estranged from the intelligence of our sensing bodies, is that today a great many people seem to believe that shadows are flat. If I am strolling along a street on a cloudless afternoon and I notice a shapeshifting patch of darkness accompanying me as I walk, splayed out on the road perpendicular to my upright self, its appendages stretching and shrinking with the swinging of my limbs, I instantly identify this horizontal swath as my shadow. As thought a shadow was merely this flatness, this kinetic pancake, this creature of two dimensions whom one might peel of the street and drape over the nearest telephone wire.

Becoming Animal / David Abram

I haven’t finished the chapter yet, but I was able to access it through the reading sample on amazon — so I’ll return to finish later.

3

The line about draping the shadow over a telephone wire enabled me to remember a delight poem I read by Paige Lewis a few years ago:

When I Tell My Husband I Miss the Sun, He Knows/ Paige Lewis

what I really mean. He paints my name

across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners
to my ankles. Then he paints another

for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game,
saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your

shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels
of your shopping cart.
It’s all very polite.

Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take
them to the Laundromat—the one with

the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine—
and watch our shadows warm

against each other. We bring the shadow game home
and (this is my favorite part) when we

stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled
my husband grips his own wrist,

certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.


jan 16

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
0 degrees / feels like -20

Brr. I really bundled up for this one, even busted out the big guns: toe and finger warmers. They worked!

layers: 2 pairs of black running tights, a green base layer shirt, pink jacket with hood, purple jacket zipped up to my chin, black fleece cap with ear flaps, pink and orange buff covering my mouth, 2 pairs of socks — gray, white — with toe warmers in between them, 1 pair of black gloves, 1 pair of pink/red/green mittens, hand warmers, sunglasses

My forehead felt a little cold at the beginning, but mostly I felt warm enough. My legs started to get sore near the end, which I think was because of the cold: not enough blood to my calf/thigh because it was going to my vital organs — I read that somewhere a few years ago.

10+ Things

  1. a regular! the runner, Santa Claus
  2. the river, frozen — light brown mixed with white, flat
  3. the feebee call of the black-capped chickadee
  4. a few squirrels, scampering
  5. running straight into the sun: my sharp shadow, so sharp I could see the shadow of my breath
  6. one biker — brrr
  7. brittle leaves, scratching on the pavement
  8. a sharp squeak, almost like a little bunny crying out: trees creaking in the wind
  9. the falls, near the ledge: half frozen, sounding like the spray hose on a kitchen sink
  10. the falls, by the overlook: gushing, rushing past the ice, flushing out the bottom
  11. beep beep beep of a truck backing up, sounding flat and smaller than usual
  12. the light rail across Hiawatha rushing by — I wondered how cold the commuters were
  13. almost forgot this one: the wind moving fast through dead leaves on some trees sounded like sizzling heat. I heard it just as the wind was blowing in my face and I felt particularly cold. I imagined it was so cold that it was hot

before my run

I’m in the slow process of reviewing my entries from 2023, a month at a time. Right now, April. On April 18th, I wrote about some ideas from writers/poets that were inspiring my thoughts about an eighth colorblind plate poem on the glitter effect. Paige Lewis and A.R. Ammons and flares and flames and rust. And now I’m thinking about writing one more colorblind plate poem that describes how my own color system works using texture and movement and contrast. It replaces ROYGBIV. Maybe I’ll try and think about it more as I run — when I’m not thinking about how cold I am!

a process note: Rereading all of my entries for the year and summarizing them takes a long time, but it’s worth it. Not only does it offer useful summaries, but going back and reencountering words/ideas/experiences offers new inspiration or old, half-finished projects (like the colorblind plates). And the laborious process of doing this structured task sometimes opens me up to wandering and remembering and imagining that can lead to new words and new ways in.

task: on my run, try to think about motion and texture

during my run

As predicted, I focused mostly on noticing the cold and the wind — such a cold wind in my face! I do remember thinking that the river was flat and stuck, with no sparkle or motion. I thought about contrast with the shadows. Leaves shaking in the wind. Oh — and I thought about how the small things I notice — the little flashes of movement, sound, texture — accumulate into something bigger. This is part of the conversation I started yesterday about flares versus slow burns and whether or not to dazzle. None of the things I notice Dazzle! in a quick burst, but together they add up to something special. After thinking of this idea, I remember Hannah Emerson’s poem, “Peripheral” and the lines:

Direct looking just is too
much killing of the moment.

Looking oblique littles
the moment into many

helpful moments.
Moment moment moment

moment keep in the moment.

after the run

And now, remembering all of these ideas, I’m suddenly thinking of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant –”

The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Yes, dazzle means to be temporarily blinded by light, or overpowered with light. What does this have to do with what I’m working on right now? Not sure.

And now, back to windows. Here’s a small poem I found the other day that I like. It’s part of a larger series of poems titled, Still Life:

Window/ Phillip Murray

Through the dark
Glassly
It is light
Falling

oct 25/RUN

3.3 miles
2 trails
51 degrees
humidity: 91%

Yesterday it rained all day. Today it was wet and gray and leaf-littered. For the first mile, I heard a squeak squeak each time I stepped on the wet leaves. Saw and good morninged a regular: Mr. Walker Sitter. Heard kids yelling at the school playground. Smelled the sewer gas. Avoided city workers and roofers and bikers almost over the white line. Admired the “edge of the world,” now open and looking even more edge-y. Worried about slipping on the wet leaves and falling down the steep slope. Dripped sweat in the humid air. Counted drops falling from the sewer pipe in the ravine. Wondered if the distance/pace was not working properly on my watch. Forgot about everything else.

The color of the day is YELLOW.

  1. tunnels of yellow leaves above me
  2. piles of yellowed leaves under me
  3. yellow cross walk signs glowing in the gloom
  4. a runner’s bright yellow running shirt
  5. (writing this entry): a neighbor’s yellow tree outside my window,
  6. yellow leaves on the hydrangea bush
  7. a stretch of yellow trees, just past their peak, beside me near Folwell
  8. a yellow entrance to the Winchell Trail

The yellow I see is mostly bright. Not gold, but with hints of orange and green.

Before I ran I memorized A Rhyme for Halloween. Then I recited lines from it as I moved. Never all at once, but every so often.

As I was searching for another poem to post I thought about how many poems I’ve already posted and why I keep posting more when I hardly have time to read the ones I’ve already posted. So today, I decided to revisit a poem that I posted on October 25th, 2020: Beginning/ JAMES WRIGHT. Beautiful. Reading it right now, I love the opening:

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.   
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
Now.

I love the idea of the moon dropping feathers and the dark wheat listening. And now, as I read the third line, Be still. I’m thinking of it less as a command to not move (to be still), and more as an invitation or a plea to continue to exist (be, still). And then I’m connecting that idea to the last 2 lines of the poem:

The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.

Perhaps my darkness involves an impossible wish, that my mom and Scott’s parents were still alive.

oct 23/RUN

3.65 miles
turkey hollow
52 degrees

It felt good and necessary to run this morning. Yesterday I spent a lot of time on the couch reading and watching (or, more like listening to) my son play Earthbound, an old video game that Scott used to play when he was kid. Also watched a few episodes of FWA’s new (to him, but around for years) favorite anime, One Piece. I wish I could see it better with my bad eyes, because I was enjoying it. Anyway, I spent so much time sitting that my resting heart rate was at 45. I needed some exercise this morning.

added a minute later: Reading back through this entry and thinking about my need to run, I feel compelled to add that haunting this run (and also making it necessary) are what I read over coffee early this morning: horrifying headlines about the atrocities being committed against Palestinians in Gaza and the failure of the US government in not only refusing to condemn them but condoning them in their uncritical support of the Israel government. Heartbreaking.

For most of the run, I was rerouted by obstacles: city workers trimming trees — turn right, here! — trucks sweeping the streets — now left — a parks’ vehicle clearing off leaves on the path — better stay in the grass! — a few more parks’ trucks patching the path — time to cross back over to the road! — a young kid with an adult — no narrow Winchell Trail for me today. A meandering run.

I could make a list of things I noticed — shrieking squirrels, squeaking leaves, wet and sloppy mud, yellow and red and orange leaves, beeping trucks — but the thing I’d like to remember most is the circle of bright, burning light through the gap in the trees as I ran down the small hill just past the double bridge: the sun reflecting off the rough surface of the river. Wow! No color, just pure shine, burning bright through the trees.

Rust

Before I went out for a run, I began to gather words about rust and planned to think about rust as I moved. Maybe it was the distraction of all of the detours or my sore legs or the joy of being outside, but I forgot. Here are the words I gathered:

1 – from Leaves/ Lloyd Schwartz

You’ll be driving along depressed when suddenly
a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through
and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably
won’t last. But for a moment the whole world
comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives—
red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermilion,
gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations
of burning.

2 — from 8 august 2023

Listening to the line in Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood”: 

Did you have to do this?
I was thinking that you could be trusted
Did you have to ruin what was shiny?
Now it’s all rusted

and thinking about shiny vs. rusted, and rust in the fall, then I noticed some rust on one of the big metal tubes all around the neighborhood that the city is using for their sewer work — Scott says these tubes get placed vertically in the ground and the workers stand in them as they do their work.

3 — from 18 april 2023

I’m very interested in rust as a color too. I last mentioned in on March 13, 2023 with Schuyler and ED’s “elemental Rust.” I’m thinking of it less as a color-as-noun (like brownish reddish orange), more as color-as-verb and in relation to erosion, decomposing, crumbling — this is where it connects with texture. Does this make any sense, even to me? Not sure, but it seems helpful to think of rust in relation to shiny. Are they in contrast to each other? Only if you imagine shiny and sparkling as new, which isn’t always the case.

4 — Crumbling is not an instant’s Act (1010)/ EMILY DICKINSON

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays —

‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust —

Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crashe’s law —

5 — from 11 march 2023

The sky
Colors itself rosily behind gray-black and the rain falls through
The basketball hoop on a garage, streaking its backboard with further
Trails of rust, a lovely color to set with periwinkle violet-blue.

A rosy sky behind gray-black clouds? Not pure reddish-pink or pinkish-red but the hint of it behind something darker. The rust — did I see rust anywhere on my run? I don’t think so.

6 — from 8 march 2023

Before heading out for my run, I had started revising my “How to Sink” poem. Thought I might get some inspiration by the gorge. Later, as I ran, I realized that I should wait to finish this poem when it’s spring, or at least warmer, when everything is dripping and oozing and flowing down to the river. I thought of this as the sharp flurried stabbed my face. Was thinking that I should do a “How to” poem related to water through the seasons. 

Summer = How to Float

Spring = How to Sink

Winter = How to Settle? — something about snow that’s packed, layer, staying (not melting), compacting — How to be compact? or, How to Shrink?

Fall = I need to think about this one some more. What does water do in the fall? Maybe something related to decomposing — leaves falling, drying up, becoming brittle? water leaving — freezing — frost? fog? or, How to Rust?

7 — from 20 january 2023

Noticed all of the rusty orange leaves still on the trees near the tunnel of trees. 

8 — from 13 november 2022

rusty brownish red stain on the lake st bridge

9 — from Perennials/ Maggie Smith

You can hear 
the sound of wind, which isn’t
wind at all, but leaves touching. 
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another
to chime against, knock around.
Again & again the wind finds its tongue,
but its tongue lives outside
of its rusted mouth.

9 — from 22 october 2021

As I was running through minnehaha regional park, I thought about the things that have stayed the same, the things that have changed, and what seems to still be present as living and vital, and what only remains in decay, or in the faintest traces of what it had been. I was thinking about this as I ran by the playground, which was redone five or so years ago, but still has some old equipment, like the creaky, rusty swings. Something about that reminded me of a few lines from Poe’s “The Bells,” especially the bit about the rust.

Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.

10 — from 28 october 2021

Reading through Poe’s “The Bells” again, I’m thinking about how the bells in this verse are not clock bells, tracking the precise, steady passing of time (which reminds me of the lines about the blind, dumb clocks and no time for the martyr). These bells toll, groan, moan, roll, throb, sob, knell. The sound of the bells floats from rusty throats, is muffled, melancholy. When it is mentioned that they keep time, it is not the time of life, but of death.

oct 19/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
51 degrees / light rain

Ran to the falls. Everything yellow, red, orange. Wow! Encountered some walkers as I got closer to the falls, one or two runners. Chanted triple berries — strawberry/ raspberry/ blueberry. Also recited Mary Oliver’s “Can You Imagine.” I remember starting it, but I don’t think I finished it, and I can’t remember where I stopped. The Minneapolis park workers were out again, patching up cracks in the asphalt with stinky, steaming tar. The falls were gushing. As I ran by them, 3 teenage boys sprinted past me, on their way to the steps. The mother in me hoped they didn’t fall down the slippery stairs. I stopped at my favorite spot on the other side of the park, near where Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” is etched into the limestone wall, to admire the falls. Today, before starting to run again, I decided to take some video of my view:

The view from my favorite spot of Minnehaha Falls

notes about what I saw: As I was taking this video I saw a flash of movement below: it was one of the teenage boys running over the bridge that crosses the creek after it’s fallen. I tried to pan down to capture him on video, but I can’t see him. Can you? Also, to the left of this frame, there was a person with an easel set up, painting this view from a different angle. When I had approached the spot, I knew there was something/someone else there but I couldn’t tell what/who it was and I didn’t want to stare. It was only after I started walking away and saw the person through my peripheral vision that I figured out what was there.

The rain came in the last mile of my run, right after I finished filming myself running up the edge of the world. (Oops. I screwed up the camera by not starting it when I thought I did. I’ll have to try filming this view some other day). Good timing! I didn’t mind getting wet — I already was, from sweat.

I listened to water dripping, kids yelling from across the road, a dog yipping, the falls rushing, leaves squeaking on the way to the falls. I put in Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” on the way back, but took it out and listened to more water and wheels and my own breathing while running on the Winchell Trail.

We’re getting closer to the end of October and the cold is coming. Looking back through old entries, it had already snowed by this day in past years. Here’s a poem I found in the New Yorker that gets me in the mood for that cold — and it features the color blue!

Childhood/ David Baker

I miss the cold, but not the cold breaking,
not the small limbs sheared, nor the icepick cold
white wind working its whole way through you
no matter your coat and gloves, and no matter
the blue scarf someone tied and tucked tight.

The same cold blue all day in the sky. Frozen
blue through limbs of the two standing elms.
Brilliant each blue. Blue the color of new
snow like wafers on the fields. Come in cold then,
and the dark comes with you, kick off your boots

and someone is rubbing your feet so they
sting, then stop stinging. Now the bruised-apple-
red bottle at the foot of your bed, steaming,
and come morning woodsmoke in the kitchen.
I miss the cold then, so cold there is singing.

oct 9/RUN

3.1 miles
2 trails
44 degrees

44 degrees is a wonderful temperature for running. Today I wore my black shorts, a dark blue short-sleeved shirt, an orange sweatshirt, and it was great. Not too cold, not too hot.

I heard the clicks and clacks of a roller skier poles.
I smelled chemicals from a treated lawn.
I felt the hard, bumpy dirt and the sharp shallow asphalt cracks under my feet.
Did I taste anything?
I saw the shimmering surface of the river.

I greeted Dave, the Daily Walker and several other walkers. A few mornings but mostly with a smile or a wave of my hand. So many kind, friendly people out there today!

I thought about the the ancient Greeks and how they use glitter as another way to understand, describe, organize color.

Glitter effect and material — scattering and textural effects resulting from the type of surface being observed.

How to make sense of ancient Greek colours

Today (and yesterday in my backyard), I saw a lot of the glitter effect. Glittery leaves, fluttering in the wind — both on the trees and falling to the ground. Glittering water from sun and wind. Glittering shadows on the pavement: light through leaves moved by wind.

My favorite glitter moment was when I stopped to take my sweatshirt off at the bottom of the 38th street steps. Fairly high above the water, looking down through the leaves, I could see glittering, sparkling movement. Flash Flash Flash Flash — almost silver, but not quite. Bright. Maybe to someone with normal vision the river was blue, but to me it was glitter or shimmer or sparkle. I took a short video, and I think I can see the sparkling water, but it is much less bling-y than when I experienced it in person.

A view from the 38th street steps

oct 4/RUN

4.4 miles
longfellow gardens and back
64 degrees / 78% humidity

A little cooler, but still humid. More shorts and tank top. Decided to run past the falls to Longfellow Garden to check out the flowers. Oranges, reds, pinks, purples, yellows. Did the gray sky make the colors seem even more vibrant to me?

The falls were gushing, so was the creek. The sound of dripping water from the sewer mixed with the wind. Chainsaws echoed below me in the gorge as Minneapolis Parks workers removed dead branches and leaning trees.

Running on the part of the trail that dips below the road, between locks and dam no. 1 and the 44th street parking lot, I could smell the rotting leaves — the too sweet, stale smell of last night’s beer. Yuck! Did I smell anything else? Yes! The strong scent of burnt toast or burnt coffee beans or burnt something somewhere in the neighborhood. The soft, pleasing scent of the tall, fuzzy grass that Scott says smells like cilantro.

I listened to kids being dropped off for school as I ran south. At my favorite spot at the falls, I put in an old playlist. I took my headphones out again when I reached the Winchell Trail. Then I put them back in after I was done and walking home. I listened to a chapter about the benefits of being small in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss.

Since I’m prepping for a week about fall color for my class, I tried to notice color on my run.

10 Things I Noticed: Color

  1. there is still so much green. Everywhere, green. Not dark winter green, but light summer green
  2. a few slashes of red on the edge of the trail, the bright red hair of a walker
  3. orange cones, orange vests, orange signs, a past-its-prime orange tree, orange school bus, orange flowers sticking out above the other flowers
  4. hot pink petals, still intact
  5. flowers glowing such a light, almost white, purple that I imagined them to be ghost flowers
  6. yellow safety vests on a long line of bikers crossing at the roundabout, backing up traffic
  7. dry and dead brown leaves on the edge of the trail, covering the path
  8. the dark blueish gray of crumbling asphalt
  9. dark brown mud
  10. white foam from the raging falls

While walking around the garden, I took a few pictures:

Fall flowers at Longfellow Gardens. In person, these flowers seemed more vibrant and in reds, purples, pinks, oranges. Now looking at the photo, it is mostly various shades of green or gray or brown. If I put the screen right up to my nose or stare at the photo out of the corner of my eye, I can see some color, almost like the idea of color or a flash of color. Nothing steady or solid.
Longfellow Gardens, fall flowers in bright colors that I mostly cannot see

Pale purple flowers at Longfellow Gardens. In person, these flowers were so pale and so bright, almost white, that I imagined them to be ghost flowers.
ghost flowers at Longfellow Gardens

I love this description of what poetry is/could or should be:

Ars Poetica/ José Oliverez

Migration is derived from the word “migrate,” which is a verb defined by Merriam-Webster as “to move from one country, place, or locality to another.” Plot twist: migration never ends. My parents moved from Jalisco, México to Chicago in 1987. They were dislocated from México by capitalism, and they arrived in Chicago just in time to be dislocated by capitalism. Question: is migration possible if there is no “other” land to arrive in. My work: to imagine. My family started migrating in 1987 and they never stopped. I was born mid-migration. I’ve made my home in that motion. Let me try again: I tried to become American, but America is toxic. I tried to become Mexican, but México is toxic. My work: to do more than reproduce the toxic stories I inherited and learned. In other words: just because it is art doesn’t mean it is inherently nonviolent. My work: to write poems that make my people feel safe, seen, or otherwise loved. My work: to make my enemies feel afraid, angry, or otherwise ignored. My people: my people. My enemies: capitalism. Susan Sontag: “victims are interested in the representation of their own sufferings.” Remix: survivors are interested in the representation of their own survival. My work: survival. Question: Why poems? Answer:

the work of a poet: to imagine; to do more than reproduce toxic stories; to make your people feel safe, seen, loved; survival

august 10/RUNSWIM

3.35
2 trails
71 degrees

Another late morning run, just before 11. Warm, bright sun. I felt good during my run, not great, but good, especially considering this is my 4th day in a row running. Listened to Taylor Swift’s Lover as I ran south on edmund boulevard and raced a runner on the trail — I’m not sure they knew we were racing, and we weren’t really, it just seemed like it sometimes. When I reached the winchell trail, I took out my headphones and listened to my breathing, my feet striking the debris on the trail — pebbles, acorn shells, mushy mulch, and a few scattered voices from above.

10 Things

  1. the trickle of water out of the sewer pipe at 42nd
  2. a kid calling out above the oak savanna
  3. more trickling near the ravine
  4. thump thump thump — acorns dropping on the pavement
  5. a darting squirrel who noticed me approaching and quickly retreated into the trees
  6. the tree that fell in the ravine in may or june, still there draped across the path
  7. a man peering over the fence on the winchell trail — was he studying the sewer pipe and the water dripping out of it?
  8. a biker speeding down the hill above the tunnel of trees — did he just call out, wheeeee!!
  9. someone in the driveway at the house that posts poems on their front windows
  10. my shadow — I remember that she was dark and sharp, but was she ahead of me or off to the side?

Doxorubicin: Infusion/ Lauren Paul Watson

The eye sees only three colors—cardinal in the garden, green bough, blue sky.
This morning, a wreck of brightness, not light,
but the memory of light. Not red but the memory of flying.
Here, a tenderness too bright to look on.
White breeze of a blanket settling on a chair.
A sequined purse turned disco and shattering
the room’s blue air. Someone is moving her lips
as someone else speaks opposite.
Someone is sleeping in a pickle of light.
Above me, outside, the cardinal, walking along the gutter,
stops high above my shoulder
like a fact that can’t be held.
Here, the body undoes itself.
The lung, its flutter. The sacrum’s
sacred shield. Every red cell.
The clouds come and go as themselves.
Who says when the body is better?
Why should I believe them?
Why, this morning, is the eye lidded down,
salt-smudged, confusion, watercolor and linen?
Can I not be the day’s exception?
Do I close my eyes or open them?

I like how she uses color here. Doxorubicin is used in chemo for treating cancers like breast cancer.

swim: 3 loops
lake nokomis main swim
78 degrees

A beautiful evening for a swim! I felt fast and strong and buoyant today. No buoy tethered to my torso leaking air and weighing me down. As usual, I saw most of the orange and green buoys (and barely) only just before I reached them. The buoy I could see the best was the first orange one as I swam from the green buoy towards it. Ran into one person — I think it was their fault, but it could have been mine. I don’t remember seeing any minnows or silver flashes or ducks or seagulls or planes. Saw one very menacing sailboat, 2 swans, and a canoe. I mostly breathed every 5 strokes. My nose plug only needed to be adjusted once. My goggle didn’t leak. Hooray!

The water was opaque — light brown? — and not too cold. Not too many swells, no waves washing over me as I tried to breathe.

Remember hearing the sloshing and slapping of water from other swimmers’ hands entering the water when I stopped mid-lake to adjust my nose plug.

Colors: dark green trees, light green buoys and swim caps, pink and yellow safety buoys, orange buoys, red kayaks, white swans, white sails, a white boat’s bottom, a silver roof top, blue sky, brown water, black wetsuits

No reciting poems or interesting thoughts or moments of wonder. Just non-stop effort and a chance to lose track of time.

may 30/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill turn around
65 degrees
humidity: 76%

When I woke up this morning, I could smell the rain. Waited until it stopped, around 8 am, to go out for my run. Already hotting up, humid, bright sun. But a cool breeze that felt like air conditioning when it hit my sweaty skin. Ran north through the Welcoming Oaks, past the ancient boulder — no stacked stones, instead a woman standing nearby dressed in the same color combo as me, black on bottom and orange on top. I remember running above the old stone steps, but have absolutely no memory of running on the double bridge. I spent a minute trying to remember anything but couldn’t. I do remember running below the lake street bridge and noticing someone sleeping behind a post. Caught a brief glance of the river, almost sparkling, between the trees but forgot to look at it when I had a clearer and closer view at the bottom of the hill. Heard a drumming woodpecker, saw the brightest, glowiest outfit I’ve seen in a while: pink pants and a red jacket. As I ran by, I could feel the pink yelling excitedly at me, PINK!!!!

Listened to the cars whooshing by as I ran north, then put in “Dear Evan Hansen” as I ran back south.

No bugs, no roller skiers, no chill beats booming out of a scooter’s stereo (heard that yesterday on my walk with Scott and Delia). I did see a scooter zoom by. I think they were on the road, pretending to be a car. No eagles, no squirrels, no big groups of walkers or runners. No rowers, no honking geese. And, hardly any yellow.

Before my run, I found a poem, “Butter,” that made me want to focus on yellow as I ran. I kept returning to the task — look for yellow — but all I could see was blue, green, gray. The only yellow I remember was: the dotted lines on the bike path and the neon crosswalk sign. No yellow shirts or yellow bikes or yellow shorts or yellow cars. No yellow thoughts or yellow voices or yellow light or yellow smells.

The butter poem is the poem of the day on Poetry Foundation. As I read it, I thought about my past love of butter and the story, often told about me, that I liked to melt butter in the microwave and eat it like soup. How many times did I actually do that? It also makes me think of my quote from Audre Lorde about the yellow pellet put in the white butter that spreads, adding the Yes! to our no lives. And it makes me think about Mary Ruefle and her yellow happiness.

Thinking about butter, here are a few images that immediately pop into my head from my childhood:

How uncomfortably scratchy and ticklish my throat felt after drinking the butter soup. Even now 40 years later when I eat butter, I sometimes feel a phantom scratch. Yuck!

Our old popcorn machine had a small metal tray that you put butter in then shoved in a slot so it could melt while the corn popped. I remember pouring the liquid butter over the popcorn, always drenching a few kernels until they were soggy. Even more than using it to melt butter, I remember using the little metal tray to try and catch snowflakes with my sister Marji on a rare snow day in North Carolina.

another butter story about me which I have the thinnest. vaguest memory of: at some restaurants, they would put scoops/balls of butter in a dish on the table. Apparently I ate it like ice cream, either because I thought it was ice cream, or because I liked butter that much.

Butter/ Elizabeth Alexander

My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite
historical revision, despite
our parent’s efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

Had to look up “tiger Mumbo Jumbo” to find the reference: the story of Little Black Sambo. When we lived in North Carolina, we would often eat at Sambos for breakfast.

may 27/RUN

4.5 miles
marshall loop (cleveland)
69 degrees

Another wonderful morning! Maybe a little too warm and sunny for me. I started my run late — almost 10:00 am. Ran through the neighborhood to the lake street bridge. Rowers! 2 or 3 shells with 8 rowers each. I don’t remember what color the water was — probably blue? — but I noticed a few little waves. I hit the lights right and ran all the way up the Marshall hill to Cleveland without stopping. Didn’t stop until I reached the river road a mile later. Walked for a minute and recorded some thoughts about black and darkness into my phone.

Mostly felt strong, but my legs were sore and tired for the last mile. I think I should get my iron levels checked again. Anything else? Didn’t hear the bells at St. Thomas, but heard the roar of a bunch of motorcycles. Encountered 2 kids in a little motorized car on the sidewalk; they were good drivers, giving me lots of space to pass them. I don’t remember hearing birds — I must have? — or seeing roller skiers. Noticed my shadow, sharp and strong next to me at one point.

For the first 3 miles I listened to my breathing or my feet hitting the asphalt or motorcycles. For the last mile and a half, a playlist: “Back in Black,” “Upside Down,” and “I’ll Be There.”

Mary Ruefle and Black Sadness

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Black sadness is the ashling, its remains are scattered over
several provinces, it is the sadness of takes and hypen-
ated names, of clouds who think they are grapes, it is the
sadness of brooches, which may be worn on the breast or
at the neck but how sad none see the sadness of detail
there, the woman playing a guitar without strings, the
hare leaping from the fox in vain, it is sadness torn and
sadness rent, it is the hold in sadness from which no words
escape and no soul can spring, it is the calorific sadness
of bombs. Many of us used to own a black velvet skirt. It
is like Angie Moss on her way to the fair, it is there she
will have first adventure.

before the run

Today I will do the Marshall loop which goes by Black, the coffee and waffle place, and I will think about black and the dark and things that don’t echo but absorb, swallow, consume. I’d like to think about the comfort of black/the dark — the shade — in face of too much white/light.

during the run

I did it! I ran past Black and thought about black and darkness a lot. Some of the thoughts are gone, but some managed to stay.

10 Black/Dark Thoughts or Ideas or Images

  1. no Black smells — that is, I don’t recall smelling coffee or the wonderful smells-better-than-it-tastes waffle smell from the coffee and waffle bar
  2. today, with the bright, warm sun, I wanted the cooling darkness of shadows. My run was always felt better out of the bright light. Half the run was in shadows, half in bright light
  3. so many pleasing shadows! Mine, sprawling trees, lamp posts, buildings
  4. I didn’t hear the St. Thomas bells and, as I was nearing campus, I wondered if it was because something — the wind? — was absorbing their sound. Black bells ringing with a black, echo-less sound?
  5. the dark/black mystery of deep trails down into the gorge
  6. I saw a few waves on the river, but no sparkles. Thought about Homer’s wine dark and the idea of water as deep and dark and endless
  7. my running shorts are at least 10 years old and were, at one time, black. Now, faded by the sun, they’re still black but barely, almost a very dark gray
  8. running down the summit hill to the river road trail, thought about light as knowledge, liberated from Plato’s dark cave of shadows, then the dark womb and women’s ways of knowing and how light (and scrutiny and classifying — dissecting) are masculine, patriarchal and privileged over other ways of knowing, which are often read as feminine and less than, or to be overcome
  9. if light = certainty (but does it?) and knowing for sure, what happens when we are finally certain? What ends when the darkness is over?
  10. thought about the idea of black hearts and then what a literal black heart might look like or why someone might have it and then wondered if a literal white heart might not be just as disturbing*

*looking up black heart, I found this interesting discussion of its recent usage:

In the late 20th century, many black scholars, writers, artists, activists, and everyday people began variously using black heart to express pride in and love of their black identity and experience, reclaiming the long, historical racism against blackness. On social media, they may use the black heart emoji, released in 2016, for emphasis.

black heart Meaning & Origin

Much of my thinking about black and darkness during the run was from the perspective of understanding black and dark as good, or not the bad/evil to white’s/light’s good. When I stopped to walk 2.5 miles in, I recorded some of my thoughts:

Thinking about black and dark and how important that (dark) is to poets and to mystery. There’s a difference between pure black that absorbs everything and a dark gray so I’m kind of conflating those, but it’s the idea of dark as essential and how light can be too bright. The idea of certainty, where you can see everything in its sharp lines and finally know it, is a conclusion, an ending to the mystery. To life. So, that’s not to say that light and certainty aren’t important but they are not the good to dark’s bad.

I think these ideas made more sense in my head. I should say that much of my thinking about black and dark was particularly inspired by a quote I encountered yesterday about hope being a language that dark voices cannot understand — it was the title of a student’s musical composition at FWA’s concert. When I first heard the quote, I was bothered by the idea of dark voices, which could (and has — I’ve taken entire grad classes on it) be connected to actual dark voices, that is, the voices of Black people, so it literally means we don’t need the dark voices of Black people. I also thought about how light gets connected with seeing, which then becomes the dominant way to access truth. So, if you can’t see well — you’re blind, or going blind like me — it’s understood that there’s something wrong with you.

note: I feel like I have too much to say about all of this, which is causing me to struggle to say anything coherent. Maybe I’m not ready to express it yet?

Anyway, all of that was happening in my head as I ran. None if it stayed too long, only flaring then flying away. One of the last thoughts I remember having was, dark voices absolutely understand the language of hope and they are my primary resources for finding and holding onto it! This thought is true for me literally and figuratively. In both my master’s thesis and dissertation, I studied the deeply rich and messy and complicated tragic hope of critical race theorists (especially Cornell West) and black feminists and womanists (Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker). And now, ever since 2016, I’ve been looking to poetry and poets, for their safeguarding of bewilderment and mystery and their understandings of hope that come from a sharing of joy that is both grief and delight.

after the run

At the end of the run, and now almost 2 hours after it, I’ve arrived here, thinking that not only is the belief that darkness is bad or that there’s no room for dark voices in the light of hope is problematic, it is ridiculous. How can you have hope without grappling with the dark thoughts of mystery, uncertainty, unknowingness? And how can you have a hope that’s strong enough to help us build better futures for everyone if dark voices aren’t at the center of it?

Wow, this topic really got me going! In the past, I might have taken all of this out, but I’ll keep it for future Sara.

One more random note about black. Ruefle’s idea of black sadness as the hold from which no words can spring, no soul can escape,” reminded me of a favorite line from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Black Cat“:

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

may 26/WALK

45 minutes
with Delia the dog
neighborhood + 7 Oaks
78 degrees

Took a walk in the afternoon with Delia the dog through the neighborhood, almost to the river trail, then to 7 Oaks. Felt like summer. RJP told me the other day that the buoys are up at the lake. Next week — maybe on Tuesday? — I’ll test out the water!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a black capped chickadee
  2. the neighbor on the next block who almost always sits on his front steps smoking was sitting on his front steps smoking
  3. someone at cooper field was dribbling a soccer ball then shooting it into a net set up in the batting area — not sure how old he was, but his bike looked like it was for someone around 12
  4. someone “mocking” in a blue hammock in the grassy area between edmund and the river road. When I walked by, I could hear soft music — not sure what it was
  5. angled solar panels on the roof of a tall and big house — maybe a duplex?
  6. a recently dug up dirt patch in one corner of an otherwise pristine yard — I wondered how upset the woman/gardener who lives there is about this blemish
  7. crossing the street, taking a few steps through someone’s grass to reach the sideway — wow, such thick, soft grass. What did they have to do to have such lush grass?
  8. Delia decided to poop on the edge of another yard in the thickest part of the grass. From a distance, this grass looked like it might be soft too. Nope. Spiky, stiff, sharp
  9. lots of little wrens or sparrows — not sure I can tell the difference
  10. no birdsong coming from the sink hole at 7 Oaks — all the birds were in neighborhood trees

Mary Ruefle and Yellow Sadness

Yellow sadness is the surprise sadness. It is the sadness of
naps and eggs, swan’s down, sachet powder and moist tow-
elettes. It is the citrus of sadness, and all things round and
whole and dying like the sun possess this sadness, which
is the sadness of the first place; it is the sadness of explo-
sion and expansion, a blast furnace in Duluth that rises
over the night skyline to fall reflected in the waters of
Lake Superior, it is a superior joy and a superior sadness,
that of revolving doors and turnstiles, it is the confusing
sadness of the never-ending and the evanescent, it is the
sadness of the jester in every pack of cards, the sadness of
a poet pointing to a flower and saying what is that when
what that it is a violet; yellow sadness is the ceiling fresco
painted by Andrea Mantegna in the Castello di San Gio-
gio in Mantove, Italy, in the fifteenth century, wherein we
look up to see we’re being looked down upon, looked
down upon in laughter and mirth, it is the sadness of that.

The citrus of sadness. I like that. I can also see yellow as the sadness of naps or of expansion and explosion. In “Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power,” Audre Lorde writes about yellow:

During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it. I find the erotc such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experiences.

“Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” / Audre Lorde

I remember reading this essay in grad school and liking it this image of the spreading joy that colors everything. Energy, intensity, strength. A warm yellow.

As I walked I looked for yellow — a very bright yellow shirt on a biker, dandelions dotting the grass at 7 oaks. I thought about the sun as leaving smears of yellow and yellow as piercing the eye. I also thought about the strange level at the Guthrie Theater where everything looks yellow. And now, writing this, I’m remembering how I discovered some research about Van Gogh and yellow. He only say yellow, or something like that. An image of mustard came into my head — ballpark mustard, not grainy or spicy mustard. Not sure why not spicy mustard — I like its color and taste much more than “regular” mustard.

may 25/RUN

3.5 miles
2 trails (long)
63 degrees

Breezy and sunny. Felt a little tired during the run; maybe I should have had a snack right before I left? Encountered an adult and a cute little kid on the trail, then another cute kid sitting on the rock that looks like a chair. She called out hello! I waved back. I remember looking at the river but not what it looked like. I remember hearing voices below me, seeing lots of leaning trees, feeling the uneven path below my feet.

Mary Ruefle and Orange Sadness

Orange sadness is the sadness of anxiety and worry, it is
the sadness of an orange balloon drifting over snow-
capped mountains, the sadness of wild goats, the sadness
of counting, as when one worries that another shipment
of thoughts is about to enter the house, that a soufflé or
Cessna will fall on the one day set aside to be unsad, it
is the orange haze of a fox in the distance, it speaks the
strange antlered language of phantoms and dead batter-
ies, it is the sadness of all things left overnight in the oven
and forgotten in the morning, and as such orange sadness
becomes lost among us altogether, like its motive.

before the run

Today I’d like to think (even) more about orange. What is orange to me? What sounds orange? Tastes orange? Feels orange? Smells orange?

during the run

I tried to think about orange, testing out whether I thought something I encountered felt orange or not. Would I call those loud voices below me orange voices? No. Ran down the hill to the south entrance of the winchell trail and smelled the vaguest whiff of the past — the sweet, fresh smell at my family’s farm in the UP. Is that an orange smell? Nope. I’d call it a red smell because when I think of the farm, I think of the bright red of the farmhouse. I noticed lots of little orange things on the ground — orange leaves, a piece of orange string, an orange flash. As I neared the gravel hill at the ravine, I started thinking about orange theory and its main principle of working out in the orange heart rate/effort zone for at least 12 minutes of a 60 minute workout. Running up the gravel on my toes, I thought about orange breaths and orange effort and decided that when I got home, I looked up the orange theory and think more about it.

after the run

Here’s how Orange Theory defines the different zones:

Gray Zone (50-60% Maximum Heart Rate) – This is the least strenuous, most comfortable zone, consisting of very light activity.

Blue Zone (61-70% Maximum Heart Rate) – This zone is specifically geared for warm-up and cool-down exercises. You are preparing your body and mind for high-intensity interval training, but you haven’t unleashed the burn just yet.

Green Zone (71-83% Maximum Heart Rate) – In this zone, you have reached a challenging but doable pace. This is what Orangetheory categorizes as “Base Pace,” a pace you can maintain for 20-30 total minutes. Your body starts to burn fat and carbohydrates evenly.

Orange Zone (84-91% Maximum Heart Rate) – This is where the magic happens and where you achieve “EPOC” (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) – what we call the “Orange Effect / Afterburn.” The goal is to accumulate 12 minutes or more in this zone within a 60-minute period to achieve the maximum caloric burn for up to 36 hours AFTER your workout is completed.

Red Zone (92-100% Maximum Heart Rate) – This zone happens organically and may be achieved during ‘All Out’ efforts when you’re emptying the tank and using every ounce of energy left in your body. You don’t need to set an All Out pace for more than 1 minute at a time to experience maximum results.

I haven’t really worked with heart rate zones when I run, partly because I can’t seem to not stay in the upper range on all of my runs no matter how slow I go, but it seems fun to me to think about orange in terms of effort and heart rate and how that could apply to things outside of (or alongside?) fitness. The orange zone involves a hard effort, where you are doing things that elevate your heart rate a lot, but it’s not all out, not something that makes your heart almost jump out of your chest or pound uncontrollably. That’s red, and a red (all out effort) breath might involve being shocked, experiencing such intense awe or surprise that you lose your breath for a minute. Orange breaths involve intense feeling that can be sustained longer, but are still uncomfortable. Orange breaths are anxious breaths. This morning, as I waited to leave for a doctor appointment, I was breathing with orange breaths and orange lungs — wound up, nervous, not totally sure why. Every time, before an open swim, I breathe orange breaths — nervous about whether or not I will be able to see how to swim across, excited about getting to swim in the lake.

may 24/RUN

4.5 miles
longfellow gardens and back
67 degrees

For today’s run, I decided to go past the falls to Longfellow Gardens. Since I was reading Mary Ruefle’s prose poem about purple sadness, my plan was to visit my favorite purple flowers. When I reached the gardens I discovered that they haven’t been planted yet. Thanks strange spring with your late snow storms and unending cold weather in April!

Another one of those wonderful spring days with sunshine and birdsong. A week ago I would have added “no bugs,” but they’ve arrived. All this week, mosquitoes have been feasting on my elbows, under my knees, my wrist. Today a gnat died on the side of my nose. I could see it through my peripheral vision. Another flew into my eye. Yuck!

My right big toe hurt again for a few minutes, then it was fine.

Heard the wind, water gushing out of the sewer pipes, the falls roaring, kids laughing at the playground, one little kid in a stroller that was over everything, a giant mower or weed whacker or some other noisy machine near the Longfellow House.

Smelled cigarette smoke as I passed a guy on the trail. Was he smoking or was it just his clothes?

surfaces: tightly packed dirt, half buried tree roots, grass, hay, asphalt, concrete, road, street, sidewalk, brick, dead leaves, crumbling asphalt — some mostly asphalt, some with big chunks of asphalt mixed with leaves and dirt, some rubble, limestone steps

Mary Ruefle, Immortal Cupboards, Windows, Offerings, and a Purple Wood

Today I’m reading Ruefle’s lecture, “My Emily Dickinson” and her purple sadness poem.

immortal cupboards

J. D. Salinger once remarked, “A writer, when he’s asked to discuss his craft, ought to get up and call out in a loud voice just the names of the writers he loves…”

My Emily Dickinson” / Mary Ruefle, page 150

That lovely little book. I’ve had nothing affect me quite so much since I discovered haiku. But then you come from Japan! You now inhabit a corner of my immortal cupboard with LZ (especially the short poems), Emily Dickinson, Thoreau, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius, John Muir, bits from Santayana, D.H. Lawrence, Dahlberg, William Carlos Williams, and haiku. These knew “when / to listen / what falls / glistens now / in the ear.”

Lorine Niedecker in a letter to Cid Corman

Emily Dickinson is also in my immortal cupboard, along with Mary Oliver, Lorine Niedecker, Marie Howe, possibly Alice Oswald, definitely Rita Dove.

windows

Emily Dickinson often looked out of her bedroom window, and many of her poems, if not her worldview, seem framed by this fact; so much has been made of this there is little I can add; to argue whether a window is the emblem of complete objectivity (removal and distance) or complete subjectivity (framing and viewpoint) is an argument without end, for every window has two sides, and they are subsumed in the window, the way yearning, a subsidiary of the window, is subsumed in both the object yearned for, and the subject of its own activity.

“My Emily Dickinson”/ Mary Ruefle, page 151

offerings

But she has a common grave, and I like to go there and leave things, and when I did, I see that many other people have done the same.

“My Emily Dickinson” / Mary Ruefle, page 182

list of offerings left (real or imagined) throughout Ruefle’s lecture:

  • a stone, a penny, a small bronze alien
  • two plastic champagne glasses, pink and purple larkspur, an ear
  • a lemon, a dime, a diamond ring, a parachute
  • a white rose, a fortune-telling passionate fish, ice cream for astronauts
  • a sheaf of flowers from the florist with a thank-you note attached, a plastic fly, a nickel, an egg
  • A stick of gum wrapped in foil. A shard of glass.
  • a plastic watch, a feather, some Kleenex
  • Nothing.
  • lilacs, a spool of thread, a book of matches, a mood ring
  • an envelope, addressed but otherwise empty, a piece of gum in silver paper, a packet of nasturtium seeds, and a button
  • a thimble, an acorn, a quarter, and many, many daffodils
  • yellow snapdragons. A robin made of tin. A child’s block with the letter E. A pen. A pinecone. A tiny hat. An Austrailian coin.
  • a paratrooper, a cork
  • s piece of coal, a candle stub, a chrysanthemum
  • a small gargoyle, a rubber heart, an old key, a guitar pick a sequin, a sprig of heather, and a piece of hair
  • A doorknob.

a purple wood

A lane of yellow led the eye
Unto a Purple Wood
Whose soft inhabitants to be
Surpasses solitude
(Emily Dickinson)

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Purple sadness is the sadness of classical music and eggplant, the stroke
of midnight, human organs, ports cut off for a part of every year, words
with too many meanings, incense, insomnia, and the crescent moon. It is
the sadness of play money, and icebergs seen from a canoe. It is possible
to dance to purple sadness, though slowly, as slowly as it takes to dig a pit
to hold a sleeping giant. Purple sadness is pervasive, and goes deeper into
the interior than the world’s greatest nickel deposits, or any other sadness
on earth. It is the sadness of depositories, and heels echoing down a long
corridor, it it the sound of your mother closing the door at night, leaving
you alone.

Just discovered how the ends of her lines create another poem:

Stroke
words
it is possible
to dig a pit
deeper into
sadness
a long
leaving

The last words, leaving you alone, reminds me of Ruefle’s discussion of Emily Bronté, and Emily Dickinson in My Emily Dickinson:

Emily Dickinson never lived alone for a single day in her life.
Emily Bronté never lived alone for a single day in her life.

before the run

Today on my run, I want to think about purple, and I plan to run the 2+ miles it takes to get to longfellow gardens where some of my favorite purple flowers dwell (or have dwelled in past springs). What are these flowers called? I have no idea.

other purples to think about: heels echoing, doors creaking closed, deep pits.

during the run

No flowers. well, I did find some flowers that were white, but looked like they could be or would be or should be turning purple. Also, a reddish-purple plant. I took some pictures:

2 trees in the background, a flowering bush with faint purple flowers in the foreground
tiny purple flowers (if you really believe)
a reddish purplish plant
a reddish, purplish plant

I can’t really see any purple in these, or much of anything, but maybe you can?

Other purple things I remember encountering: the gentle, queer curve of a branch towering over the trail — as I ran under it I thought, that’s very purple. Then the face of a child in the midst of bellowing frustration — I didn’t see their face, but I imagined it could be a deep purple. Purple whispers in the trees.

No purple cars or shirts or shoes or bikes or signs or birds or left behind objects in the grass. Mostly just green and blue.

after the run

Apparently the leaving of strange offerings at Emily Dickinson’s grave is a thing. In her play on Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson and Ruefle’s My Emily Dickinson, Meg Shevenock writes, in My My Emily Dickinson:

Then, there’s this: after visiting Emily’s house, my friends and I made a small parade to visit her grave, and the objects I knew would be there, were there. Best of all, a white plastic pen with white cap from a hotel. Or best of all, a blue pencil cracked and dried, that had weathered so much snow. We all want her to say more, write more, about who she was; or, we want to say, I get it, I’m a writer too, and we also know it’s impossible, so we leave an object from the world, from a day long beyond her breathing, to get as close to touching as stone.

My My Emily Dickinson/ Meg Shevenock

may 23/RUN

6 miles
annie young meadows
66 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Sun, birds, clear paths. The big toe on my right foot hurt for the first 5 minutes. Not sure what’s wrong with it, but it started hurting a few weeks ago. A similar thing happened when I was breaking in a new pair of running shoes 2 years ago. Is it because of the new running shoes I started wearing last month? The pain went away by the time I reached lake street and didn’t return.

Ran to franklin then down the hill to annie young meadows. Turned around and took the steps down to the path right next to the retaining wall and the river. The path was covered in soft sand because of the recent flood. Ran to the bottom of the franklin hill, then walked about 1/2 of it. Put in Taylor Swift’s Midnights for the rest of the run.

I encountered 2 roller skiers and one rollerblader! Don’t think I heard any clicking or clacking of ski poles. No rowers. A few bikers, at least one fat tire.

Mary Ruefle and Blue Sadness

before the run

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Blue sadness is sweetness cut into strips with scissors and then into little pieces by a knife, it is the sadness of reverie and nostalgia: it may be, for example, the memory of a happiness that is now only a memory, it has receded into a niche that cannot be dusted for it is beyond your reach; distinct and dusty, blue sadness lies in your inability to dust it, it is as unreachable as the sky, it is a fact reflecting the sadness of all facts. Blue sadness is that which you wish to forget, but cannot, as when on a bus one suddenly pictures with absolute clarity a ball of dust in a closet, such an odd, unshareable thought that one blushes, a deep rose spreading over the blue fact of sadness, creating a situation that can only be compared to a temple, which exists, but to visit in one would have to travel two thousand miles on snowshoes and by dogsled, five hundred by horseback and another five hundred by boat, with a thousand by rail.

during the run

I wanted to think about blue as I ran. At first flash, lots of things looked blue — cars, t-shirts, the trail. Most of them turned gray or black or anything but blue when I looked at them for longer. It’s funny how when I’m thinking about a color, that’s what my brain sees everywhere. I did see a few blue t-shirts, a bright blue bike parked by the trestle, blue signs, blue sky.

The sky was a pale blue, which made me think of the Ted Kooser line from his poem, “Turkey Vultures” — it is as if they were smoothing one of those tissue paper sewing patterns over the pale blue fabric of the air. I wondered why the sky was a pale blue and not a bright blue and whether it was my vision or something about how the light was (or wasn’t?) scattering.

At one point, I heard a creak somewhere and thought: a blue creak. I think that was the only blue sound I recall hearing.

after the run

Re-reading Ruefle’s blue sadness, I’m thinking about how blue light comes in short, choppy waves that scatter more than red or green waves and how Ruefle’s understanding of blue seems to invoke that: strips and pieces of sweetness, memory — nostalgia, reverie, dust, a temple, scattered and out of reach on a shelf, in a far off land.

I don’t think about blue that often and it doesn’t conjure up powerful images for me. My eyes rarely see blue lights on signs. I suppose I think of water, but the water I see/swim in is rarely blue. Perhaps my favorite blues are: the blue hour early on a winter morning, snow looking blue, cerulean, frozen blueberries (not fresh)

may 11/RUN

5.85 miles
ford loop
62 degrees
humidity: 77%

Too hot, too humid, tired. I tried running earlier today (9 am instead of 10:30), but it was still too late. Even so it was a good run that I’m glad I did. Ran the ford loop and spent the first 3.5 miles convincing myself to keep going, to not stop until I reached the overlook near the ford bridge. (I did it!) Then I put in “Dear Evan Hansen” and started running again, or should I say struggle running. Stopped a few times to walk, feeling wiped out, but kept running again. Whew.

At the start of my run, I heard the robin’s cheer up! cheer up! and a woodpecker’s knock. Later, I heard a pileated woodpecker’s laugh, not sounding exactly like Woody the woodpecker, but close enough.

Smelled wet cinnamon — dripping blossoms? — and thought about chewed-up Big Red.

Felt too hot, my face burning, probably bright red. The drip drip drip of sweat from my ponytail on my neck.

Greeted the Welcoming Oaks, noticed the floodplain forest was hidden in green.

Mary Ruefle, White, Brown

before the run

I’d like to do one color at a time, but I couldn’t decide between her white or brown color poems so I’m including both of them. I think I’ll let running Sara decide. Will she choose to focus on white things or brown things, both or neither?

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

White sadness is the sadness of teeth, bones, fingernails,
and stars, yes, but it is also the sadness of cereal, shower
caps, and literary foam, it is the sadness of Aunt Jenny’s
white hair covering her body like a sheet, down to her toes,
as she lay on the sickbed, terrifying the children who were
brought in one by one to say goodbye. It is the sadness of
radio waves traveling through space forever, it is the voice
of John Lennon being interviewed, his voice growing
weaker and weaker as the waves pass eternally through a
succession of galaxies, not quite there, but still . . .

*

Brown sadness is the simple sadness. It is the sadness of
huge, upright stones. That is all. It is simple. Huge, up-
right stones surround the other sadness, and protect
them. A circle of huge, upright stones–who would have
thought it?

Ruefle’s line about the stars and galaxies in her white sadness poem, makes me think of the new word I learned this morning from the title of a poem: sidereal

sidereal: (adj) of or with respect to the distant stars (i.e. the constellations or fixed stars, not the sun or planets).

pronounced: cy deer e ul

during the run

Running Sara tried to think about both white and brown and it worked, mostly, but green kept declaring, I’m here! Notice me! Green Green Green! So much green everywhere and all of a sudden. There I was, on the trail, running and noticing white sweatshirts tied around waists or brown leaves littering the ground, when green would hijack my thoughts. brown trunk GREEN leaves pale white sky GREEN air

5 Brown Moments and 5 White Ones

  1. river: brown with light brown foam
  2. same river from the other side: deep blue with white foam
  3. brown tree trunks
  4. a brown sound: the knocking of a woodpecker on a dead tree
  5. a flash of the white, almost silver, river through the trees
  6. a limestone wall, the part of it illuminated by sunlight was white
  7. white sands beach, viewed from the other side of the river
  8. the brown trail leading down to Shadow Falls
  9. a white sound: the vigorous tinkling of the falls falling
  10. the brown boulder with 4 small stones stacked on its top

I like listening to “Dear Evan Hansen” while I run. Together they — the emotional lyrics/music combined with how I soften as I exert myself — make me feel things: sad, tender, hopeful, a deep aching joy. I thought of how Ruefle’s color poems can be read as sadness or happiness, which then made me think of Ross Gay’s understanding of joy as both grief and delight.

Another thought I had about brown while running: Thinking about the brown sadness of Ruefle’s huge upright stones, I suddenly thought: the gorge. The gorge, with its huge limestone, sandstone walls is both brown sadness and brown happiness.

after the run

White happiness is the happiness of crisp sheets hang-
ing on the line just to the side of the farmhouse, of soft
shimmering salt pouring out of a cheap salt shaker, of a
button-down oxford reluctantly worn.

Here’s the poem about the white stars that I mentioned earlier in the post:

Sidereal/ Debra Albery

Consider this an elegy with silo and fever.
Call it barn and gravel and gone. Grasses’ obeisance

in the wake of a pick-up, sun searing the leaves
green to gold in the season’s time-elapse.

Where does it go, the Sunday angle of sunlight
once only yours, wide and open as a window?

Here’s what I remember: the flaking mural
on the brick wall of neighborhood grocery, saying

Food for the Revolution for twenty-five years.
Stacked landscapes in my rearview, blank as a calendar

until a bend in the road brought the Blue Ridge;
the pocked metronome of tennis balls outside

while I harnessed what I had lost and missed
in minor-key pentameter. So what, my mentor

talked back to his tercets in draft after draft:
so what so what so what. “This essay is accurate

but never ignited,” the Derridean scrawled
in red ink when I was writing about Bishop writing,

I can scarcely wait for the day of my imprisonment.
Her keen eye ever cast on the homely unheimlich.

Call this a road story about the slow burn of foliage,
about containment, what conspires against arrival.

Astonish us, Diaghilev said to Cocteau,
but all I ever wanted was to consider

its roots in the auguries of our shifting stars.

About This Poem

“‘Sidereal’ is, as the poem declares itself, a road story, a cross-country retrospective traversing decades. It is, as it also states, an elegy—in part honoring a past teacher, Larry Levis. The ‘so-what-so-what’ refrain is his, handwritten above a line on an early draft of his poem ‘Caravaggio: Swirl & Vortex.’ That self-interrogation set in motion a poem of motion that longs for dwelling—as did the swirl and vortex of etymology, sidereal and consider both deriving from sidereus, meaning ‘star,’ itself of uncertain origin.”
Debra Allbery

words I looked up, which I mostly knew, but wanted to be precise:

obeisance: deference
auguries: omens
unheimlich: uncanny

I like the line, barn and gravel and gone. Reading it again, and thinking about this poem about restlessness and belonging, I’m reminded of a time in my life when I tried to (still) belong to a farm that was barn and gravel and gone — a family home place, sold.

may 4/RUN

3.5
locks and dam #1 hill loopmiles
60 degrees

Another warm day. Hooray! Another chance to run in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Saw Mr. Morning! Heard some voices down below in the gorge. Ran down the hill then back up it at locks and dam #1. Noticed a big pile of something on the path — clumps of dirt, rock, is that a furry tail? Probably not, but I can’t tell. Often, I see dead squirrels that aren’t there. The river was blue and not quite as high as it was last week.

Mary Ruefle and pink

before the run

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Pink sadness is the sadness of white anchovies. It is the sad-
ness of deprivation, of going without, of having to swallow
when your throat is no bigger than an acupuncture pin;
it’s the sadness of mushrooms born with heads too big for
their bodies, the sadness of having the soles come off your
only pair of soes, or your favorite pair, it makes no differ-
ence, pink sadness cannot be measured by a gameshow
host, it is the sadness of shame when you have done noth-
ing wrong, pink sadness is not your fault, and though even
the littlest twinge may cause it, it is the vast bushy top on
the family tree of sadness, whose faraway roots resemble a
colossal squid with eyes the size of soccer balls.

Today, or this morning at least, I shall think of pink. Here’s another pink poem I bookmarked a few months ago:

Against Pink / DARA YEN ELERATH

Pink is an unhappy hue, not soothing like cerulean, nor calming like lavender or gray. It is the color of fingernails shorn away, blood dripping from the waxen quick. It is the color of a sunburned arm. The color of harm that lingers on cut shins for days. Pink is not the shade of buttercups or daisies. It is the color of poisonous brugmansia blooms, of poppies that bring on sleep. Pink saturates the face in anger. It is the cast left on a cutting board by a hunk of uncooked meat. Pink, too, is the bittersweet shade of passion subdued, passion that has slipped from burgundy to rose. It is only a tincture of desire and so carries the least conviction. It is the tint that drifts away unnoticed in the night. Be frightened of pink. Do not think it the innocent color of dresses or barrettes, the blush of areolas, strawberry snow cones, or grenadine martinis. Try, for once, to see it rightly. It is frightening. It is the hue of a person’s insides, the color of a womb. That room where life arises. That room where babies are made. Where arms, legs, and heads are created. Eyes, blood, and tiny teeth.

And some of my thoughts about pink:

Pink Thing. The pink of gray matter. Pink Think. Pinkaliscious. Preppy Pink and Green. Is it pink or yellow? P!nk. Undercooked meat. Pepto Bismol always pronounced Pepto Bismo. The worst milkshake flavor: strawberry. Pink washing. Peonies in the backyard, drooping dropping petals too soon. The only choice when buying cheap running shorts. My favorite running jacket. Raw. Fleshy. Swim caps.

during the run

Some of my pink thoughts as I ran:

Fuschia funnels. Almost invisible, usually seen as white or yellow or orange. A walker in a pink jacket — the color of salmon flesh.

Pink as tender and vulnerable. Split open, flesh exposed. That vulnerability is both a weakness or a threat but also an opportunity to transform. Open yourself up. Turn yourself inside out. What was out becomes in, and what was in becomes out.

Running, as I listened to a P!nk song — What About Us, I lifted out of my hips, opened my shoulders, and led with my chest. Open.

If all gray flesh is dead flesh (from Listen/ Didi Jackson), then is all pink flesh living flesh?

Gray matter (brain) looks pinkish because of the blood circulating through it.

Both of these facts are true: We live. We die. We are pink. We are gray.

after the run

Reading Facebook earlier today, a post from Henri Mancini popped up — why? James Galway is in New York with Lizzo to record a new version of the Pink Panther theme song. Excellent. Found an article about it with video here.

Came across this poem too — I encountered this poem a few weeks ago, but can’t remember where.

Gift/ Hilda Conkling

This is mint and here are three pinks 
I have brought you, Mother.  
They are wet with rain  
And shining with it.  
The pinks smell like more of them  
In a blue vase:  
The mint smells like summer  
In many gardens.

And one more thing, before I forget. Yesterday I happened upon this delightful line from a Ross Gay poem I gathered a few years ago for this blog: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude/ Ross Gay

the tiny bee’s shadow
perusing these words as I write them.

Later, sitting on the deck on a warm, sunny day — finally! — and under the service berry bush that’s big enough to be called a tree, I saw a shadow on my notebook as I jotted down a note: a bee! Then another shadow, crossing the page, over my words. Were they perusing them? Love it.

may 3/RUN

5.4 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
55 degrees

What a beautiful morning for a run! Back to shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Could it finally be spring? The floodplain forest seems to think so, green everywhere. Saw Dave the Daily Walker, lots of runners, walkers, bikers. Heard some black-capped chickadees and woodpeckers. Smelled some cigarette smoke. The trail is open again in the flats. The river is still high and moving fast but it’s not passing over the railing and onto the road. Ran to the bottom of the hill, stopped to check out the water, put in the soundtrack to “Dear Evan Hansen” (we’re playing it in the community band I’m in), ran up the hill, then, on the way back, ran down on the Winchell Trail. I had to step carefully because the path was slanted with a steep drop off.

During the run, I had several feel good/runner’s high moments. So nice!

Running north, somewhere above the white sands beach, I started thinking about something I was working on earlier today about how my changing vision is closing some doors, opening others. I’m particularly interested in thinking about how it opens doors without ignoring/denying the shut ones too. Anyway, I suddenly had a thought: it’s not just that it opens doors, but it makes it so those doors can’t shut. I waited until I reached the bottom of the hill and then spoke my idea into my phone. Here’s a transcript:

It’s not just that doors open, they won’t shut. I can’t close them to the understandings that I’m both forced to confront but also have the opportunity to explore. But the key thing is that the doors can’t be shut.

my notes recorded during a run on 3 may 2023

I came to this idea after thinking about how vision is strange and tenuous and a lot of guesswork for everyone. A big difference between me and a lot of other people is that I can’t ignore or deny that fact. It’s much easier for people with “normal” vision to imagine, with their sharp vision and their ability to focus fast, that they are seeing exactly what is there. They’re not. Even if I wanted to, I can’t pretend that that is true. I’m reminded all of the time of how tenuous converting electrical impulses into images is and what the brain does for us to make those images intelligible.

Mary Ruefle

Before the Run

I’m trying something different, or maybe it’s not different, just something I often do without recognizing it as an approach: I’m following a wandering path through Ruefle’s work that is not systematic, but seems to suddenly appear as I encounter ideas, words, lines from other poems. This morning, during my daily routine of reading the poem of the day on poets.org, then poetryfoundation.org, then poems.com, I found a wonderful poem that features the color red. Red I said, then thought, why not read Ruefle’s sadness poem about red for today? So I will. First, the poem that set my course:

A Tiny Little Equation/ Shuri Kido

Translated from the Japanese by Tomoyuki Endo & Forrest Gander

For whom is (the evening glow)
“red”?
To human eyes,
the red wavelength shimmering in the air
is reflected,
but to the eyes of birds
which recognize even ultraviolet rays,
the evening glow looks much paler.
And when all the lives on Earth are finally snuffed out,
and the human solstice has passed,
every color will cease to “exist.”
As clouds pile up densely above the sea,
kids get restless
feeling some sort of invitation.
On such occasions, when you’re unable to read a “book”
while splashing around in the sea or river
as though dancing with water gods,
you’ll notice beads of water on your skin
reflecting the world.
In such an optical play,
the summer vanishes;
some people have gone off
with the water gods
and have never come back.
Textbooks, left on a desk unopened,
hold on to their tiny equations.
When each and every living thing has lost its life
and there remains not a single being,
for whom is (the evening glow)
“red”?

This poem! For whom (is the evening glow) “red”? Okay, this will be the next poem I memorize. I want to own every word of it. Should I try to fit one of its lines in my colorblind plate cento? I’ll think about it.

Now, Ruefle’s red sadness:

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Red sadness is the secret one. Red sadness never appears
sad, it appears as Nijinsky bolting across the stage in mid-
air, it appears in flashes of passion, anger, fear, inspiration,
and courage, in dark unsellable visions; it is an upside-
down penny concealed beneath a tea cozy, the even-tem-
pered and steady-minded are not exempt from it, and a
curator once attached this tag to it: Because of the fragile
nature of the pouch no attempt has been made to extract
the note.

as an aside: In my initial typing up of this poem, I left out the is in the first sentence: Red sadness the secret one. I do that a lot, leave out words. I think it’s partly that my failing vision makes me sloppier, but I wonder if it’s not also because my way of reading/thinking has changed, become more abbreviated. I cut out the unnecessary words, worry less about full sentences, want more condensed, compact ideas. I’m tired of extra words — literally, it hurts my brain when I have to read so many words, but also figuratively, having spent so many years wasting all of my energy on finding the right words (right = smart enough, fancy enough, researched enough) to make an argument that finally maybe almost gets to the point. I also like using less words like a fun experiment — how many words do we actually need in order to understand something or to communicate an idea?

I need to think more about this poem and what it means or does. In the meantime, while searching for an online version of this poem (so I wouldn’t have to type it up myself), I found another red poem by Ruefle. I’ve read it before.

Red/ Mary Ruefle

I fucking depended on you and
you left the fucking wheelbarrow
out and it’s fucking raining
and now the white chickens
are fucking filthy

note: Future Sara, and anyone else reading this, I recommend listening to Ruefle read this poem on the poetry foundation site (link in title). The way she spits out fucking is the best.

another note, 9 oct 2023, from future (but now present) Sara: thanks past Sara! Reviewing this post for a class I’m teaching, I came across the note and listened to Ruefle read “Red.” So fucking great!

Ruefle’s poem is a response to William Carlos Williams iconic red wheel barrow poem. I know that tons of poetry people have studied/obsessed over this poem and have tons of great (and not so great) ideas about what it means. I have not, and am not entirely sure what Ruefle intends/means with her poem. I like it anyway. Maybe she’s sick of all of the attention it’s received?

Read WCW’s poem and Ruefle’s side by side on this twitter thread.

On that same thread, I also found these lines from Fiona Apple and her song, “Red Red Red”:

I don’t understand about complementary colors
And what they say
Side by side they both get bright
Together they both get gray

But he’s been pretty much yellow
And I’ve been kinda blue
But all I can see is
Red, red, red, red, red now
What am I to do

Now it’s time to go out for a run. I’ll try to find red.

During the Run

10 Red Thoughts, Ideas, Things Noticed

  1. the deep and sharp bark of a neighbor’s dog — a red bark, I thought
  2. a red stop sign
  3. a walker up ahead of me, rounding a corner and heading out of sight, a red sweatshirt around their waist
  4. a roller skier in bright red shorts — tomato red
  5. my raspberry red shoes striking the ground
  6. graffiti on a sewer pipe drip drip dripping water, letters in rusted red
  7. a biker in a red shirt zooming by
  8. my face under the bright shadeless sun, a ruddy red
  9. a moment of tenderness inspired by swelling music, a runner’s high, and last night’s haunting and strange dream about cradling my mom’s head not too long before she died: the soft glow of a warm red heart
  10. car, car, car, truck — all red (at least in my head)

A funny thing about looking for red: I found it everywhere. Today anything that registered as a color other than blue, green, brown, or gray was red. Red cars, red shirts, red leaves on the trees from last fall. No orange, hardly any yellow, all red. Red red red.

april 20/RUN

3.65 miles
locks and dam #1 hill loop
38 degrees

It’s supposed to rain all day, starting around 9 am, so I went out for a shorter run at 8. Made it back before it started. Dark and damp. Long line-ups of cars, commuters heading to work, I suppose. I liked watching their bright headlights cut through the gray air. At 42nd street a runner whose cadence sounded much faster than mine passed me. I enjoyed watching the steady, relaxed rhythm of her feet rising and falling, up down, up down. Such grace!

I remember looking at the river and wondering how high it was, but I don’t remember much else about it, except: at the bottom of the locks and dam hill, right by the closed gate, the water was foaming and contained some trash. Yuck.

Heard traffic rushing by, water gushing out of the sewer pipe at 42nd, and my feet shuffling on the grit as I ran south. After running up the hill I stopped to put in music — Kool and the Gang Essentials — and discovered that the soft rubber for my right ear bud was missing. Bummer. Decided just to put the left one in and listen to the gorge and Kool and the Gang as I ran back north.

Yesterday I finished a solid draft of my 8th Ishihara plate poem. Hooray! Very happy with it, especially how I was able to finally (after 2 years of trying) to find a place for a lovely image of the sparkle a swimmer makes as their hands enter the water and light bounces off the ripple they create. Here’s my description in the poem, which I’m tentatively titling, “The Glitter Effect”:

all around swimmers’ hands pierce the 
water, stroke after stroke. Each point of contact be
tween lake finger and light sparks in amber and bu
ilds a glittery bridge from body to body to body 
until we reach the other side.

Should it be sparks in amber or sparks amber? Maybe it should our hands instead of swimmers’ hands? And, what about until the other side is reached? (too passive?)

I also like the ending, although I think the poem might need to do a little more work to get to it:

This is not a 
poem mourning the loss of cone cells. 
This is not even a poem. Th 
is a compass.

Maybe it should be, This is not even a poem, but a compass or This is not even a poem. It is a compass?

Found this poem the other day. Birds!

How Far Away We Are/ Anushka Shah

After “How Far Away We Are,” by Ada Limòn

So we might understand each other better,
I’ve given up on trying to listen for birds
in the morning. But, I am never without them.
The internet is a pocket forest: a green parrot
named Tico who harmonizes in soaring vibrato
to classic rock songs, woolen baby emperor penguins
with prehistoric feet, potoo birds whose fluty songs
haunt even after their diamond mouths close,
a raven named Fable who inflates her blue-black head
feathers before she declares practiced “Mwahs!”
in the same tone as her keeper, and a cockatiel
who sings an Apple ringtone (you know the one)
when it’s upset. How incredible it is that they all
perch together. How to tell you: It’s been years since
I’ve wanted to die, but I still don’t understand why
sometimes it feels so difficult to brush my teeth,
start my day, end my day. Why I always miss you,
but sometimes I can’t even think of you. Why, when
we are separated, when my mind is difficult,
birds are easy. Today, after watching ten videos
of hummingbirds before noon, I feel light enough to push
off my comforter’s irresistible smother and flit around
the house. I want the whir of a sequined green body,
red-adoring eyes, and narrow tongue coiling into skull,
as much as I want the steady sleep-twitch of your
warm body pressed against me. I’m passing this idea
to you: One day, maybe we could plant zinnias
and cardinal flowers in a ruby cluster and wait
for hummingbirds to unfurl and flick their tongues
into an easy sweetness. We could fill two glasses
with cold water and put them on the nightstand.
We could watch together, even on a palm-sized screen—
floating swans, a white, crested pet pigeon waddling
herself to bed, sprinting ostriches, a parakeet father
insistently squawking, “iloveyoubabies gonnafeedthebabies.”

Lines I love and want to remember:
The internet is a pocket forest:
when my mind is difficult,/birds are easy.
I want the whir of a sequined green body,/red-adoring eyes, and narrow tongue coiling into skull,

follow-up, a few hours later: Scrolling through Instagram, I came across a wonderful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Around 5 or 6 years ago, when I lost enough cone cells that I could no longer ignore that something wasn’t right with my eyes, I would always pretend to see the bird that someone else was pointing out. Now, I’m more likely to admit I can’t see it. Perhaps when the novelty of knowing what’s wrong with me and not having to pretend to see what I can’t wears off, I’ll go back to saying Yes!

Lying While Birding/ Naomi Shihab Nye

Yes       Yes

        I see it

so they won’t keep telling you

           where it is

note: Nye’s reading of the poem on the site is wonderful.


april 18/RUN

5.3 miles
franklin hill turn around
44 degrees

Great weather for a run! Sunny, low wind, crisp air. Felt strong, relaxed, steady. Kept track of the river as I ran north. Decided I’d run as far on the river road trail as I could before it was closed for flooding. I made it to the bottom of the hill. Wow! How long before the river crests? I looked it up; not until Sunday. Wow! The river is rising because of how fast the snow melted last week.

Before heading back up the hill, I checked out the water and took a picture:

a walking and biking trail half flooded with river water

A few other people — some walkers, 2 dogs, a runner with a jogging stroller — were down here checking it out too.

As I ran north, I listened to the birds, the traffic, the silence. Heading back up franklin hill and running south, I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989.

Shadows!

First it was the shadow of a bird flying over my head. Then my sharp shadow just in front of me. Then sprawling tree shadows stretched across the trail. I started seeing shadows everywhere and thinking about how they help me to navigate the world — how, when I can’t see something, I might be able to see its shadow cast on the sidewalk. I feel like there was another distinctive shadow, but I can’t seem to remember what it was.

Rust

At the very end of the run, Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” came on and I heard these lines:

I was thinking that you could be trusted
Did you have to ruin
What was shiny? Now it’s all rusted

And I remembered, yes, I’m very interested in rust as a color too. I last mentioned in on March 13, 2023 with Schuyler and ED’s “elemental Rust.” I’m thinking of it less as a color-as-noun (like brownish reddish orange), more as color-as-verb and in relation to erosion, decomposing, crumbling — this is where it connects with texture. Does this make any sense, even to me? Not sure, but it seems helpful to think of rust in relation to shiny. Are they in contrast to each other? Only if you imagine shiny and sparkling as new, which isn’t always the case.

Currently, I’m in the weird, all-over-the-place space with my 8th Ishihara plate poem. Trying to consider different possibilities, not shut out ideas, letting my mind meander and take strange (wrong?) turns. This morning I had big ideas about creating a playlist of sparkling, shimmering, dazzling, glittering songs that could help me to find a way into the poem (this method worked with listening to frank ocean’s channel ORANGE as I wrote orange). Not sure it’s working, it’s harder to find “glitter” songs that aren’t by Mariah Carey. Plus, I do better when my inspirations are more slanted, less direct, less literal.

In the hopes of offering a little focus, here are some non-music inspirations and ideas I’m currently drawing from and that I’ve listed in my notes:

1

Eamon Grennan’s beautiful silver ribbon in “Lark-Luster”: when summer happens, you’d almost see the long silver ribbons of song the bird braids as if binding lit air to earth that is all shadows, to keep us (as we walk our grounded passages down here) alive to what is over our heads—song and silence—and the lot of us leaning up: mind-defeated again, just harking to it.

2

Tell me how do I steady my gaze when everything I want is motion? Saccadic Masking/ Paige Lewis

3

dazzle
razzle-dazzle
radiate
gleam (as in gleaming bronze)
glimmer
spangle
catch the light
twinkle
glint
reflect, echo, bounce

4

texture — unsteady rough, not smooth ridged, not flat, patterned — and its influence on light: bird feathers, wind on water/waves, crumbling pavement potholes asphalt pools (puddles), gray depressions — holes/pits in snow casting shadows that look gray

5

heat energy flame burn flicker flare: a. giving forth dazzling, unsteady light, b. sudden outburst, short-lived, intense, c. gradual widening, spreading out, display in expanded form

6

A. R. Ammons and another wordless language, not made up of reds and blues and yellows: mutual glistening in a breezy grove of spring aspen speech

There are more influences to come, but I’ve run out of time, so I’ll stop at 6.

april 14/RUN

3.1 miles
2 trails
67 degrees

The last summer-warm day for a while. I wore black shorts and a light green tank top and was too warm. Was able to run the winchell trail today! Got a closer look at the river. At first, heading down to the southern entrance of the trail, the river was blue with a streak of silver sparkles. Later, heading north, it gleamed bronze.

Lots of trees hanging ominously over the trail. Would one fall on me? When will the parks people come through and remove them. I think I counted at least five.

At least one of the trees on the edge of the trail in the tunnel of trees was sprouting green leaves.

Surfaces run on: grass, dirt, cracked asphalt, crumbling asphalt, smooth asphalt, dry leaves, road, sidewalk, roots.

Heard: a conversation between 2 women I can’t remember now, kids yelling at the playground, a man on a bench talking on his phone, the sizzle of my feet striking grit, a bike shifting gears, the trickle of water out of the sewer pipe at 44th, the gush of water out of sewer pipe at 42nd

A. R. Ammons’ garbage

section 12, the beginning:

a waste of words, a flattened-down, smoothed-
over mesa of styrofoam verbiage; since words were

introduced here things have gone poorly for the
planet: it’s been between words and rivers,

section 12, the middle:

we must have the biggest machine,

fifty miles round, find the smallest particles,
and the ditchwork of the deepest degradation

reflects waters brighter than common ground:
poetry to no purpose! all this garbage! all

these words:

section 12, the end:

imagine, though we think

ourselves purposeless, we may be the thinnest
cross-section of an upcoming announcement, and

though we cannot imagine what the purpose might
be, even now it may be extruding itself, tiny

threads of weak energy fields, right through
us: first an earth in peace; then, hundreds of

years looking for other wars: strife and peace,
love and grief, departure and return: gliding

we’ll kick the l out of world and cuddle
up with the avenues and byways of the word:

Again, this reminds me of Mary Oliver’s conflicted feelings about words and being a poet in The Leaf and the Cloud, minus all the garbage. I like the effect of Ammons’ excessive words — his garbage, even as I find it a lot to read.

Discovered a new poet this morning: Fay Dillof. Here’s one of her wonderful poems:

Little Infinities/ Fay Dillof

1.
Remember The Twilight Zone episode
in which a couple tries to escape town on a train
that loops them back to the same station?

Like that, there are tracks in my brain.

2.
Halted on the highway,
my friend Amy says We’re not in traffic,
we are traffic.

3.
I try not to look at the man in the park, doing pull-ups
on the limb of a tree. Sweaty,
bare-chested—he’s always there.

Not that it’s always the same guy.
Or the same poor tree.

4.
My father’s cousin, when he still could speak,
asked How big is your now?
but I was already looking back on the moment

from some sad future.

5.
The gratitude journal I keep by my bed is empty
because every night its the same:
trees.

6.
In the final reveal, the couple is trapped
in an endless game
being played by a giant child.

7.
Well, at least she never stopped
trying, my gravestone might read.

8.
When I say soul,
I mean like a photobooth photo—
quick this, this, this, oh, this.

a breakthrough!?

Before my run, I was thinking about my colorblind plates and the hidden message I might put behind the dots. What about having each plate hide 1-2 words that, when put together, create a sentence/another poem? Here’s the poem:

Can you see me? I cannot see you.

I’d break it up this way. 7 plate poems, words hidden in each plate:

  1. Can
  2. you see
  3. me?
  4. I
  5. can
  6. not see
  7. you.

Or, should it be:

I cannot see you. Can you not see me?

  1. I
  2. can
  3. not see
  4. you.
  5. Can you
  6. not see
  7. me?

Not sure, but I think I like the second version better. I’ll keep playing with it, but I really like this idea! I think it finally does something with this form that is more than just a gimmick. I imagine the you here as ambiguous. It could mean the hidden numbers or the reader of the poem/taker of the test. I also like the idea of breaking up cannot see into can not see, where “not seeing” is something I can do, I was relieved to do, because it enabled me to finally understand that something was strange about my vision/eyes. It’s so exciting to have figured this out! I’ve been working on it, letting it simmer, since September.

addendum, 26 april 2023: After thinking about it more, I wasn’t satisfied with this hidden poem. I came up with a much better one (no spoilers)!

april 13/RUN

2.5 miles
lake nokomis
62 degrees

After walking around Lake Nokomis yesterday afternoon and hearing the ice shattering and melting, then seeing some loons bobbing in the water, Scott and I decided to return this morning for a run. We started running before 8 am, which is early for me these days. It was windy and sunny and beautiful. The water was an intense blue and getting close to being iced out. Someone already had their canoe out. I wonder what the water temperature is? Open swim begins in 2 months!

When we finished the run, we walked up the hill to Nokomis Beach coffee. I used to get coffee here a lot when we lived closer to the lake, but it’s been years. When was the last time I was in here? Everything looked almost exactly the same. A strange feeling of time not passing.

On the way, we encountered a wonderful display of yard weirdness. Scott took a picture:

dozens of figurines displayed at the edge of a yard, including an owl, a gnome, several mushrooms, and the helm of a ship hanging from a tree.

A. R. Ammons’ garbage

1

at the end of section 10 (68):

oh, well: argument is like dining:
mess with a nice dinner long enough, it’s garbage.

2

in section 11 (70-71):

this is

we at our best, not killing, scheming, abusing,
running over, tearing down, burning up: why

did invention ever bother with all this, why
does the huge beech by the water come back every

year: oh, the sweet pleasures, the kiss, the letter from

someone, the word of sympathy or praise, or just
the shared settled look between us, that here

we are together, such as it is, cautious and
courageous, wily with genuine desire, policed

by how we behave, all out of eternity, into
eternity, but here now, where we make the most

of it:

3

at the end of section 11 (73):

I don’t
care whether anybody believes me or not: I

don’t know anything I want anybody to believe or
in: but if you will sit with me in the light

of speech, I will sit with you: I would rather
do this than eat your ice cream

colorblind plates

I continue to work on my colorblind poems. Inspired by some words in a section of garbage, I finished a solid draft of another one yesterday. Here’s a bit of it:

I look at the plate
and see nothing but a mass of
different size dots. No hidden numbers
or hand-painted hiragana. I stare harder and
the dots turn into loops able to map new routes
for making meaning out of electrical impulses.

april 9/RUN

2 miles
dogwood run
50 degrees

Spring! Ran with Scott this morning. Heard lots of different birds — woodpeckers, crows, bluejays, cardinals. Forgot to look down at the river. Talked about being colorblind and an article he sent me the other day, Designing for Colorblindness. Ran on more of the walking path. Greeted Mr. Morning! Anything else? I’m writing this at the end of the day (after driving to St. Peter to bring FWA back to school), so I can’t remember.

A. R. Ammons’ garbage

Yesterday afternoon, I kept reading and got through a few more sections (4 – most of 7). With Schuyler’s Hymn to Life, I focused on each section at a time. For Ammons, I think I’ll be jumping around more. Here’s something from section 3 I’d like to think about on my run:

note: after writing this sentence above, I asked Scott if he wanted to run together. He said yes and I forgot about Ammons as we ran and talked.

scientific and materialistic notion of the
spindle of energy: when energy is gross,

rocklike, it resembles the gross, and when
fine it mists away into mystical refinements,

sometimes passes right out of material
recognizability and becomes, what?, motion,

spirit, all forms translate into energy, as at
the bottom of Dante’s hell all motion is

translated into form: so, in value systems,
physical systems, artistic systems, always this

same disposition from the heavy to the light,
and then the returns form the light downward

to the staid gross: stone to wind, wind to
stone, there is no need for “outside,” hegemonic

derivations of value: nothing need be invented
or imposed: the aesthetic, scentific, moral

are organized like a muff along this spindle,
might as well relax: thus, the job done, the

mind having found its way through and marked
out the course, the intellect can be put by:

one can turn to tongue, crotch, boob, navel,
armpit, rock, slit, roseate rearend

I’m thinking about the relationship between mind, body, and spirit here, and then where I see motion fitting in. The idea of motion as spirit is interesting to me. Because I rely on peripheral vision, I’ve been thinking a lot about motion (which is detected in your peripheral). In terms of motion, I’m also thinking about my restlessness and my inability to sit still for too long, especially at night. Waking up every few hours to move around before going back to sleep. And I’m thinking about motion is relation to color, especially with my study of the ancient greeks and their ideas about color and the idea of “the glitter effect” (See The Sea Was Never Blue).

april 3/WALKYARD WORK

walk: 40 minutes
neighborhood with Scott and Delia
40 degrees

Feeling springier every day. Scott and I discussed how this last snow on Friday moved the twin cities up to the 3rd snowiest winter in history. Too much snow. It’s melting fast. Will everything be green by the end of next week, when we’re supposed to have a stretch of 50s and 60s? As we walked through the neighborhood, we looked at the colors of all of the houses; we’re getting our house repainted next month and trying to decide on which dark gray and whether to have a raspberry red, parakeet green, or copper harbor orange door. Mostly, I can’t really see the color on the door, but I’m fine with any of these three. It would seem fitting, though, to paint the door orange since I’m so obsessed with the color. And, copper harbor orange — where I was born in the UP!

Speaking of orange, I’m still working on my orange poem. Such a struggle. Not quite able to find the way in yet. For inspiration, I decided to search for orange songs, settled on Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE. Will it help or distract?

Also trying to take a different approach to this poem. In my notes and on this log a few days ago, I wrote I orbit the orange. In terms of open water swimming, this is literally true. I loop around the orange buoys all summer — or 5-6 times a week, more than 100 loops. It is also true as a metaphor: in trying to write about the color orange, I circle around it again and again, wanting to make sense of what orange means to me, searching for ways to be able to see it or to sense it or to find a way around or through it when seeing it is not possible. This orbiting also provides one definition for poetry, which I also wrote about last week:

One thing poetry is about is orbiting things that you can’t quite find the words to describe or pin down with meaning. Becoming obsessed with them. Writing around them again and again. 

log entry from march 31, 2023

Later, I wrote in my notes a possible title for an orange poem, Orange, an ars poetica. Orange as more than a color, but a method, the void that my words are trying to encircle. Not white space or blank space on a page, but orange space, orange breaths, an orange too full to rhyme or offer back an echo. A source, a center, the place where I practice learning to be without seeing or to see in new ways.

I want to channel the orange, conjure it into existence, inhabit its invisible space, learn to see it new ways.

Think citrus fruit leaves in late fall turmeric
Think cheese puffs Planters cheese balls extra sharp cheddar cheese
Think candied slices from the Sears candy counter sherbet Betty Crocker au gratin potatoes
Think surprise pumpkins growing in the back yard candy corn pumpkins before a swim meet
Think construction cones road closed signs for races spray paint around cracks in the asphalt
Think almost red 1974 VW bugs
Think buoys butterflies missing mountains
Think orange orange orange orange orange

yard work: 30 minutes
backyard
43 degrees

After all the discussion about yard work (Schuyler) and everyday chores (Ammons), I decided to document my yard work today. While Scott tried to figure out a way to straighten are tall trees (arborvitae) which are leaning too far to stage left (if you’re looking from inside the house and out the window), I was on poop patrol. In past winters, I’ve tried to stay on top of this relentless task, watching where Delia pooped and digging it out of the snow. Not this year. Did I ever pick it up? I don’t think so. As a result, the yard is filled with poop, and because everything is thawing now, it’s soggy, gooey poop. Gross, I guess. It doesn’t really bother me. I filled up entire Target plastic bag with poop, then decided I might wait until it all dries out a bit more. At one point, in awe of the amount of poop on the ground, I called out to Scott without thinking, Holy shit! Literally.

I looked through a few more A. R. Ammons poems this morning, but they were all so long. Garbage should be arriving in the mail today, so I’ll wait for that to study him more. Instead, here’s a great poem by Gary Snyder from is collection Riprap, which I’ve been thinking of buying for a few years now.

Thin Ice/ Gary Synder

Walking in February
A warm day after a long freeze
On an old logging road
Below Sumas Mountain
Cut a walking stick of alder,
Looked down through clouds
On wet fields of the Nooksack—
And stepped on the ice
Of a frozen pool across the road.
It creaked
The white air under
Sprang away, long cracks
Shot out in the black,
My cleated mountain boots
Slipped on the hard slick
—like thin ice—the sudden
Feel of an old phrase made real—
Instant of frozen leaf,
Icewater, and staff in hand.
“Like walking on thin ice—”
I yelled back to a friend,
It broke and I dropped
Eight inches in

march 31/WALKRUN

walk: 20 minutes
around the block with Delia
36 degrees
light rain with snow coming later

A chance for 6-10 inches of snow later tonight. Before that, rain and thunderstorms. Maybe the snow won’t come? Decided to take Delia out for a quick walk before the rain began falling more heavily. The boulevards are still buried in walls of gray, cratered snow, but the alley is finally clear and our backyard is as much mud as it is snow.

run: 3.15 miles
north/lake street bridge/south
37 degrees

A few hours after my walk. Wasn’t planning to run, but when it stopped raining, I decided this was my chance before the paths are covered in snow and ice again. As always, I’m glad I decided to go. Everything was wet and windy. Big puddles, little puddles, deep puddles. The river seemed to be preparing itself for more weather. Noticed a few runners and walkers, but not too many.

Saw orange everywhere. Orange signs, orange construction cones, dead orange leaves.

Heard the wind, my headphones case banging around in my zipped purple pocket, cars. Smelled smoke from a fireplace. Noticed another new house going up. Soon, the neighborhood will be overrun with the same stupid over-sized houses on every block. Boo.

Near the end of the run, I thought about orange and a phrase popped into my head: keep orbiting around the orange, which means: when you can’t, like me, see the orange, look for what’s happening around where it should be. Is there movement, people acting oddly, anything unusual near a spot where you think orange is? This orbiting works on a literal level, but it’s also more. One thing poetry is about is orbiting things that you can’t quite find the words to describe or pin down with meaning. Becoming obsessed with them. Writing around them again and again. This reminded me of the Frank O’Hara poem about orange, “Why I Am Not a Painter,” and the lines:

One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES.

A possible title for my poem: Orange, an ars poetica Excellent!

A. R. Ammons

Yesterday, i found, read, and posted a wonderful poem by Elizabeth Bishop, “The End of March,” which reminded me of some lines from an A. R. Ammons poem, “Corsons Inlet,” that I’ve admired for some time. So today I’ve started spending some more time with Ammons. I just ordered his 1993 long poem, Garbage, and re-read a New Yorker article that I first read when it came out in 2017. The title of the article, “The Great American Poet of Daily Chores,” makes me think of James Schuyler and all his talk of laundry and yard work and washing dishes in “Hymn to Life.”

A book of Ammons that I haven’t ordered yet, but I might, is The Really Short Poems of A. R. Ammons. Here’s a few poems from it that I especially like:

Weathering/ A. R. Ammons

A day without rain is like
a day without sunshine.

Mirrorment/ A. R. Ammons

Birds are flowers flying
and flowers perched birds.

Equilibrium/ A. R. Ammons

If you walk back
and forth

through a puddle pretty
soon

you wet the whole
driveway but of

course dry
the puddle up.

And here are two Ammons’ poems I found in the New Yorker article:

Project/ A. R. Ammons

My subject’s
still the wind still
difficult to
present
being invisible:
nevertheless should I
presume it not
I’d be compelled
to say
how the honeysuckle bushlimbs
wave themselves:
difficult
beyond presumption.

Love how the line breaks — still the wind still. Also, the strange idea of proving the invisible wind’s existence, which made me think of a poem I’m writing about orange and my faith in it, even though I rarely see it. This faith — an orange faith — is different than a belief in the wind. The wind is invisible to everyone, but most people can see orange, don’t need to believe in it the way I do. And the evidence I have for orange’s existence is less straightforward than evidence of the wind. These lines perhaps only make sense to me right now, but they’re a start of something interesting.

Poetics/ A. R. Ammons

I look for the way
things will turn
out spiraling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in

so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
wind-glittering
totally its apparent self:

I look for the forms
things want to come as

from what black wells of possibility,
how a thing will
unfold:

not the shape on paper — though
that, too — but the
uninterfering means on paper:

not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours.

Wind-glittering, possibility, being available to any shape summoning itself. Love these ideas!

march 30/WALKRUN

walk: 45 minues
neighborhood, with Delia the dog
30 degrees

Took Delia out for a walk around the neighborhood. North, then east past Cooper School and the giant mounds of snow plowed somewhere else then deposited on this field. Past the house that had been half-finished then abandoned a few years ago and is now finished and on the market for almost $900,000. Past the new Minnehaha Academy, which replaced the old one that blew up a few summers ago because of a gas leak — I heard it happen when I was out in my backyard mowing the lawn. Such a strange, loud BOOM!

Then south near the spot where some of the best fall color trees used to reside until they were marked for death with orange spray paint then chopped down — the brightest, most wonderful yellow every year. Under the huge, towering trio of cottonwood trees — the Cottonwood 3. Past the house with the oddly terraced lawn and the big windows, rarely covered with curtains or blinds in the evening so we were able to see, when returning by car in the evening from a baseball game or a clarinet recital, all the way to the back wall where letters hung on a shelf spelling out a word that none of us — not me or Scott, RJP or FWA — could ever decipher.

West, past the house with the wonderful butterfly garden on the boulevard, and the house that used to string bright lights around their giant — higher than the house — fir tree every winter. Was 2022/23 the first year they didn’t? Past the house with the bushes that, the first Christmas we lived in this neighborhood suddenly stopped their exuberant chatter when we walked by and Scott started talking. I noticed that those same bushes, birdless today, were a strange orangey, yellowy green. My guess is that they are dying, but maybe it’s just new growth that is confused by the return of the cold winter weather. Past the house that has one of the best gardens in the neighborhood and where I saw/heard someone giving a backyard cello lesson during the first year of the pandemic.

When we started the walk, the sky was blue and it was bright enough for sunglasses. Within a few blocks the sky was a grayish white. Still, quiet, no one around. Thought some more about color and how I still (mostly) see it, but that it doesn’t mean much anymore. It doesn’t mean nothing, just not much (this line is inspired by a line from the Bishop poem below that I read before my walk and run). Color doesn’t brighten or enhance what I see. Everything is soft and subdued. About halfway through the walk, I stopped to record some of my thoughts, including:

  • orange, which has been the most important color for me practically, doesn’t matter as much anymore
  • orange sounds (inspired by hearing some dead orange leaves rustling in the wind): sizzle, crackle
  • The only color that matters to me now is the silver flash of the bottom of the lifeguard’s boat on the other side of the lake; I use the silver flash for navigating during open swim

run: 3.1 miles
turkey hollow
33 degrees

While walking, I noticed at least 3 people running, which inspired me to go out there myself after I dropped Delia off at home. I felt a little stiff as I ran. My hip again? Otherwise, the run was fine. Ran turkey hollow but didn’t see any turkeys. Ran most of it without headphones. Put in a Taylor Swift playlist for the last mile. Was able to run on the walking path a lot of the time. Noticed more people heading below to the Winchell Trail. Sped up to pass a walker and a dog moving fast. Heard some sharp dog barks, saw some car headlights, their reflections flashing on a window.

(before the run)

This poem popped up on my twitter feed this morning. I was drawn to it because of its description of a walk — it’s a walk poem! Also: her use of color and of the phrase, “nothing much,” and how marvelously sets up the scene in the first stanza.

The End Of March/ Elizabeth Bishop (June 1974)

For John Malcolm Brinnin and Bill Read: Duxbury

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist.

The sky was darker than the water
–it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed
a track of big dog-prints (so big
they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on
lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,
looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,
over and over. Finally, they did end:
a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,
rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,
falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost…
A kite string?–But no kite.

I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,
my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
set up on pilings, shingled green,
a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
(boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),
protected from spring tides by a palisade
of–are they railroad ties?
(Many things about this place are dubious.)
I’d like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:
look through binoculars, read boring books,
old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,
talk to myself, and, foggy days,
watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.
At night, a grog a l’américaine.
I’d blaze it with a kitchen match
and lovely diaphanous blue flame
would waver, doubled in the window.
There must be a stove; there is a chimney,
askew, but braced with wires,
and electricity, possibly
–at least, at the back another wire
limply leashes the whole affair
to something off behind the dunes.
A light to read by–perfect! But–impossible.
And that day the wind was much too cold
even to get that far,
and of course the house was boarded up.

On the way back our faces froze on the other side.
The sun came out for just a minute.
For just a minute, set in their bezels of sand,
the drab, damp, scattered stones
were multi-colored,
and all those high enough threw out long shadows,
individual shadows, then pulled them in again.
They could have been teasing the lion sun,
except that now he was behind them
–a sun who’d walked the beach the last low tide,
making those big, majestic paw-prints,
who perhaps had batted a kite out of the sky to play with.

colors

  • The sky was darker than the water
    –it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
    Mutton-fat jade = white to pale yellow, so it must refer to the color of the water, not the sky.
  • wet, white string
  • my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
    set up on pilings, shingled green,
    a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
    (boiled with bicarbonate of soda?)
  • diaphanous blue flame
    would waver, doubled in the window
  • the drab, damp, scattered stones
    were multi-colored

a line I like

I’d like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much,

Thinking about the difference between nothing and nothing much. Nothing seems bigger and grander, more dramatic — too dramatic. Is it even possible to do nothing and still be alive? I like nothing much. There’s nothing grand or dramatic about it, yet it still undercuts the idea that we should be Doing Something! all the time. Nothing much is mundane, routine. You’ve done some things but nothing special or worth making a big deal out of.

I like this poem. Even so, the more I read it the darker and heavier it seems. The gross colors (mutton fat jade? boiled artichoke?), the icy wind, everything gone or almost beyond repair. And here’s something else I just realized: according to an essay I read about this poem, it was written after a visit in June. June! (And no random June, but June of 1974, the month and year I was born.)

In June of 1974 Elizabeth Bishop and her partner Alice Methfessel stayed at the Duxbury, Massachusetts beach house belonging to Bishop’s friends John Malcolm  Brinnin and Bill Read. Bishop reported that she initially wrote “The End of March” as a kind of thank-you note to her friends (Biele 55).

“The End of March”: Bishop and Stevens on the Sublime—Union or Relation?

If Duxbury, Massachusetts is anything like the UP (where I was born and visited a lot in the summer until the early 2000s), Bishop could be describing a summer’s day. Icy wind, too cold to walk for long, sunless? Yuck.

In the article I read skimmed, the author puts Bishops’ poem into conversation with Wallace Stevens, specifically his poem, “The Sun this March” but also other poems of his. I kept thinking about it in relation to A. R. Ammons’ “Corsons Inlet”, another walk poem by the sea. It’s long, so here’s just the opening:

I went for a walk over the dunes again this morning
to the sea,
then turned right along
the surf
rounded a naked headland
and returned

along the inlet shore:

it was muggy sunny, the wind from the sea steady and high,
crisp in the running sand,
some breakthroughs of sun
but after a bit

continuous overcast:

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

Both poems have wind and only a little bit of sun. Ammons seems warmer, at least at the beginning with its muggy sun and crisp wind. And both involve not doing much. Here’s how Ammons concludes the poem:

I see narrow orders, limited tightness, but will
not run to that easy victory:
still around the looser, wider forces work:
I will try
to fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder, widening
scope, but enjoying the freedom that
Scope eludes my grasp, that there is no finality of vision,
that I have perceived nothing completely,
that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk.

Their different perspectives on how a walk, and the world by the sea that they move through, inspire them and their writing is fascinating to me. Bishops is narrow and restraining and finished?, while Ammons is all over the place and almost too free, too formless. And, it’s alive, new, continuously renewed day after day.

I’ve wanted to study A.R. Ammons poetry for a few years now. I think finding the Bishop poem, then being reminded of Ammons, is the nudge I need to make this a mini-project! I’ll end March/begin April with Ammons!

march 29/RUN

5.3 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
18 degrees

Yes, 18 degrees. Brr. Yesterday the weather app predicted 20 inches of snow for next week. Thankfully today it’s predicting 2 inches of rain instead. Who knows what will actually fall (please, please, no snow!).

A nice run. Mostly relaxed, although my left hip/knee was a little tight. No headphones for the first 3 miles, then a playlist for the last 2.

Noticed the river — open and brown just off to the side as I ran down Franklin hill, a bright blue far off in front of me. Also noticed an orange sign announcing a road closure for a race this weekend at the bottom of the hill and to the left. I kept moving my eyes — straight ahead, then off to the right, off to the left — to see how that would change what I saw. Not much, although the orange did seem to disappear in my peripheral a few times. Strange.

Heard the knocking of a woodpecker on some dead wood in the gorge. Ran on more of the walking path. Shuffled on some grit. Felt a cold wind on my face.

Look!

Just restarting my run near the top of the hill, a woman stopped me and asked if I wanted to see a baby screech owl. It was 10 or 12 feet up in a small hollow in a tree. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see it, but I did! It looked like a little bat to me. I thanked the woman for stopping to show it to me, wished her a great morning, then began running again with a big smile on my face. I have wanted to stop and answer someone’s kind look! for some time now, but I’ve never managed to do it; I’ve just kept running, too intent on keeping moving. Today I stopped and it felt good.

Happy Birthday to my 2 wonderful kids, FWA (20) and RJP (17), born on the same day 3 years apart. I rarely mention their birthdays on my blogs — I just spent the last 5 minutes looking through Trouble, Story, and RUN! and found only 2 instances of it. It’s hard to believe that I started this log, and found poetry again, when FWA was 14 and RJP 11.

before the run

I’m still trying to work on a series of color poems. Right now: orange, later in May: green. It’s a lot of showing up, sitting in front of the page, trying to find a way into ideas about orange as the color that takes up the most space in my practical life. Orange, everywhere. Rarely bright orange — no pops of vermillion or citrus — but orange as usually (not always) the only color that registers as color, something other than gray or dark. In the midst of trying to figure this out, I returned to an essay I remembered reading last year (see: april 16, 2022) about poetry and the void. I thought of it because so much of seeing orange, especially when swimming across the lake in the summer, is about feeling its absence.

sometimes when I’m swimming across the lake I feel a presence that I can’t see — the idea of orange, a hulking shape…I look but nothing is there…yet, I feel its absence…something is there — the trees don’t look quite right

june 26, 2022: hardly ever saw the orange of the orange buoy, mostly just a hulking shape or a void surrounded by a “normal” view — there was no buoy, just an empty space that disrupted the expanse of sky and trees. 

from my notes for Orange

Elisa Gabbert offers this interesting line about poetry:

I think poetry leaves something out. All texts leave something out, of course — otherwise they’d be infinite — but most of the time, more is left out of a poem.

The Shape of the Void: Toward a Definition of Poetry/Elisa Gabbert

At this point, I was planning to write more, but it was already 10:45 and I wanted to go out for a run before it got much later, so I stopped. If I had kept writing, I would have included more from Gabbert, like this:

Verse, by forcing more white space on the page, is constantly reminding you of what’s not there. This absence of something, this hyper-present absence, is why prose poems take up less space than other prose forms; the longer they get, the less they feel like poems. It’s why fragments are automatically poetic: Erasure turns prose into poems. It’s why any text that’s alluringly cryptic or elusive — a road sign, assembly instructions — is described as poetic. The poetic is not merely beauty in language, but beauty in incoherence, in resistance to common sense. The missingness of poetry slows readers down, making them search for what can’t be found. 

The hyper-present absence of something (orange orange everywhere) as poetry. Its inability to reveal itself in “normal” and straightforward ways to me (as in: look with my eyes and see orange). Its missingness makes me notice/attend to it even more.

In the next line, Gabbert suggests that the frustration of incoherence, mystery, not being able to make sense of something is alluring, erotic. It’s why many of us are drawn to poetry — to slow down, notice, get the chance to dwell in the unknown. Before I left for my run, I was thinking about how my perspective is slightly different. I don’t need to be encouraged to slow down or given the chance to embrace incoherence, resist common sense. Because of failing vision and my overworked brain, I am already slow. Much of what I see is incoherent — or never quite coherent. Common sense ideas of how we see or how to be in the world have already been upended for me. I see poetry, and its way of navigating or negotiating or communicating/finding meaning not as desirable, but as necessary, practical, useful, a way to be that speaks to where I already am.

during the run

I started out thinking about the hyper-presence of an absence as I ran in terms of the open space of the gorge, but these thoughts didn’t last long. I became distracted by my effort. Did I ever return to them? If I did, I can’t remember.

after the run

After highlighting two delightful letters by poets Emily Dickinson and Rainer Marie Rilke, Gabbert writes:

In these letter-poems, poetry reveals itself as more a mode of writing, a mode of thinking, even a mode of being, than a genre. The poem is not the only unit of poetry; poetic lines in isolation are still poetry. The poem is a vessel; poetry is liquid.

Poetry as a mode of writing, thinking, being. Made of more than just poems. Yes! I do feel that often my way of navigating losing my vision, finding a way to be when I cannot see, is through the approach of poetry and embracing uncertainty and the unknown.

The architect Christopher Alexander thought big plate glass windows were a mistake, because “they alienate us from the view”: “The smaller the windows are, and the smaller the panes are, the more intensely windows help connect us with what is on the other side. This is an important paradox.” To state the Forsterian obvious again, adding breaks to a paragraph is not always going to make an interesting poem — but most poets don’t write that way. They write in the line, in the company of the void. That changes how you write — and more profoundly, how you think, and even how you are, your mode of being. When you write in the line, there is always an awareness of the mystery, of what is left out. This is why, I suppose, poems can be so confounding. Empty space on the page, that absence of language, provides no clues. But it doesn’t communicate nothing — rather, it communicates nothing. It speaks void, it telegraphs mystery.

To write, to think, to be in the company of the void — the absence that leaves a residue or that can’t be seen but is always felt.

This idea of communicating nothing (with nothing not as no thing but as something in and of itself) reminds me of something else I read earlier this year about “making nothing happen” but couldn’t remember where I had read it. It took me almost an hour to track it down yesterday. The “make nothing happen” is in W. H. Auden poem for Yeats:

from In Memory of W. B. Yeats/ W. H. Auden

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

And the reading about it comes from Ross Gay and one of his incitements in Inciting Joy, which I first read as an essay for the October 2022 issue of Poetry:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard conversations about W. H. Auden’s famous line from his poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”: “poetry makes nothing happen.”…At some point, probably I heard someone else say it,7 it occurred to me that all these poets, and all these conversations, were misreading Auden’s line, and that he was really talking about (inasmuch as a poem is him talking about something) what poetry makes, the sometimes product or effect or wake or artifact of poetry, of a poem. Granted the line feels emphatic, grand, provocative even—seriously, I can’t tell you how many tweed-jacketed refutations to Auden’s line I have endured; no one has ever explained to me the elbow patch—but what the line makes made is not nothing, but nothing happening. Or rather, nothing happening. The happening it makes is nothing. In other words, a poem, or poetry, can stop time, or so-called time at least. First of all, what a good reminder it is that a poem is an action, and as Auden has it, a powerful one, too. Secondly, and not for nothing, this is one of the suite of poems Auden wrote in the late thirties and early forties, a period when one might have wanted so-called time—the clock, the airplanes, the trains, the perfectly diabolical synchronous goosestep rhythm of time itself—to stop.

Out of Time (Time: The Fourth Incitement)/ Ross Gay

He adds:

you, too, might’ve been praying for a way to stop the march of so-called time, and poems, sometimes, might do that. Poems are made of lines, which are actually breaths, and so the poem’s rhythms, its time, is at the scale and pace and tempo of the body, the tempo of our bodies lit with our dying. And poems are communicated, ultimately, body to body, voice to ear, heart to heart.9 Even if those hearts are not next to one another, in space or time. It makes them so. All of which is to say a poem might bring time back to its bodily, its earthly proportions. Poetry might make nothing happen. Inside of which anything can happen, maybe most dangerously, our actual fealties, our actual devotions and obligations, which is to the most rambunctious, mongrel, inconceivable assemblage of each other we could imagine.

Perhaps I’m wandering too far away from the orange void here? Poetry as speaking the void, making Nothing happen, existing outside of the normal/rational/obvious/taken-for-granted. Gay’s explicit connection to time and against capitalism resonates deeply for me. Stop those clocks, those planes, that machinery we’re using to destroy the planet, the future.

The poem’s lines as breaths, as bodily rhythms. In a poem about the color gray I mentioned gray breaths. What are orange breaths? Orange time, orange rhythm?Orange devotions and obligations?

One last thing, and a return to Gabbert’s essay. Gabbert claims that the mystery of poetry is not simply metaphor or making things strange, but how we use or don’t use language to shape our relationship to the Void. And, she suggests it is the missing mountain in Shane McCrae’s “The Butterflies the Mountain and the Lake”:

the / Butterflies monarch butterflies huge swarms they
Migrate and as they migrate south as they
Cross Lake Superior instead of flying

South straight across they fly
South over the water then fly east
still over the water then fly south again / And now
biologists believe they turn to avoid a mountain
That disappeared millennia ago.

The missing mountain is still there. The no longer visible orange buoy is still there too.

added a few hours later: Trying to find a source for this cool butterfly fact, I discovered that it was written about in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

Monarchs are “tough and powerful, as butterflies go.” They fly over Lake Superior without resting; in fact, observers there have discovered a curious thing. Instead of flying directly south, the monarchs crossing high over the water take an inexplicable turn towards the east. Then when they reach an invisible point, they all veer south again. Each successive swarm repeats this mysterious dogleg movement, year after year. Entomologists actually think that the butterflies might be “remembering” the position of a long-gone, looming glacier. In another book I read that geologists think that Lake Superior marks the site of the highest mountain that ever existed on this continent. I don’t know. I’d like to see it. Or I’d like to be it, to feel when to turn.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, page 253-254 in the 1988 edition

Even as I’m disappointed that Dillard didn’t offer any sources for her facts here, I LOVE her last lines: I don’t know. I’d like to see it. Or I’d like to be it to feel when to turn. Not to see, but to be it, to feel it. Wow — this idea is going in my orange poem, for sure. Not to see orange, but to be it, or to feel when to turn around it. I do feel that, but can I ever put it into words?

march 22/WALK

30 minutes, with Delia
neighborhood, near the river
29 degrees

It rained last night, which helped melt some more snow. Everything wet and dripping today. Mud and muck on the edges, puddles in the middle. Walking by a neighbor’s house I heard a rhythmic drip drip drip. Also heard a pair of woodpeckers pecking, then laughing. Whispered Brooks’ “The Crazy Woman” and Oliver’s “Wild Geese” to myself as I walked.

James Schuyler, Hymn to Life, Page 10

Begin with As windows are set, end with What are the questions you ask?

As windows are set in walls in whited Washington. City, begone
From my thoughts: childhood was not all that gay. Nor all that gray,
For the matter of that.

Yesterday I looked it up and discovered that Schuyler grew up in Washington, which I would have figured out anyway after reading this line.

Gay and gray. My favorite use of this pair is in Gwendolyn Brooks’ wonderful poem:

The Crazy Woman by Gwendolyn Brooks

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I’ll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.

I’ll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I’ll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
“That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May.”

May leans in my window, offering hornets.

What a line! Speaking of hornets — or wasps? or yellow jackets? or something that stings like that? — we have a few nests in our eaves. Every winter I talk about removing them before it gets too late in the spring, and every year we forget. Will we remember this year?

The fresh mown lawn is a rug underneath
Which is swept the dirt, the living dirt out of which our nurture
Comes, to which we go, not knowing if we hasten or we tarry.

The daily tasks, like mowing the lawn, a way for us to try to keep the inevitable at bay, or to think we have some control over death, or to avoid confronting it.

May
Opens wide her bluest eyes and speaks in bird tongues and a
Chain saw.

I love this line and how he brings together these two sounds! I’m always thinking about, and writing about, hearing the birds mixed in with the buzz of chainsaws or leaf blowers or lawn mowers. I like imagining that all of these sounds are May speaking.

The blighted elms come down. Already maple saplings,
Where other elms once grew and whelmed, count as young trees.

whelmed = archaic; engulfed, buried, submerged.

Was wondering if there are elms in the Mississippi River Gorge. Found some info about the invasive species, Siberian Elm.

Also, just remembered a poem I posted back in 2019:

Elms/ LOUISE GLÜCK

All day I tried to distinguish
need from desire. Now, in the dark,
I feel only bitter sadness for us,
the builders, the planers of wood,
because I have been looking
steadily at these elms
and seen the process that creates
the writhing, stationary tree
is torment, and have understood
it will make no forms but twisted forms.

In
A dishpan the soap powder dissolves under a turned on faucet and
Makes foam, just like the waves that crash ashore at the foot
Of the street. A restless surface. Chewing, and spitting sand and
Small white pebbles, clam shells with a sheen or chalky white.
A horseshoe crab: primeval. And all this without thought, this
Churning energy. Energy!

Sometimes I can be dense, so here’s a potentially dumb question: is he talking literally about waves — I know the narrator of this poem lives near the ocean — or is this a metaphor for the waves of debris on post-winter streets, reemerging in spring? I imagine it could be both. I’ll take it as a metaphor and wonder about what crushed up crustaceans might be unearthed in asphalt eroded by winter salts. Here in Minneapolis, near the Mississippi River Gorge, we were once part of the Ordovician Sea, so I can imagine some of that might still be present in the crushed up rock used to pave our paths and roads.

The sun sucks up the dew; the day is
Clear; a bird shits on my window ledge. Rain will wash it off
Or a storm will chip it loose.

Ha ha. I love the word shit and what it does to this image — it doesn’t cheapen or tarnish it, but makes it more real, mundane, less precious. Oh — and it makes it a little gross, which I like.

Life, I do not understand. The
Days tick by, each so unique, each so alike: what is that chatter
In the grass?

Sometimes I’d like to understand, to have my questions answered, but more often I like not knowing, or not yet knowing what that chatter in the grass is. I like having the space to imagine all the different things it could be. Perhaps what it is is more magical than I could have imagined. Understanding is necessary, and so is imagination and possibility.

May is not a flowering month so much as shades
Of green, yellow-green, blue-green, or emerald or dusted like
The lilac leaves.

A few days ago, while doing some research on colorblindness for the series of color poems I’m currently writing I came across a video about “what it’s like to be colorblind.” In the video they included some side-by-side images of “normal” and “colorblind.” Both images looked almost the same to me, especially what was green. I could tell it was green, but it also could have been gray or brown (and maybe it was in the image that someone who is colorblind would see). The variations of green, the subtle differences between yellow-green or blue-green or emerald green are mostly lost on me. Instead, I see green or light green or dark green or gray green or brown. This May, I’ll have to pay close attention to green and what I see, then write about it.

The lilac trusses stand in bud. A cardinal
Passes like a flying tulip, alights and nails the green day
Down. One flame in a fire of sea-soaked, copper-fed wood:
A red that leaps from green and holds it there.

I have lost the ability to be shocked or startled by red, especially from a cardinal. There is a cardinal that summers in our yard — my daughter has named him Chauncy — but I never see his red coat. I only know him by the shape of his head, looking like an angry bird, and his birdsong. This month he has decided to help usher in spring by perching himself on the tree outside my kitchen window.

A lot is lost and missed when you can’t see the red flash — the flying cardinal, a small blinking light, a flare somewhere — that everyone else sees and instantly understands and assumes that you see too.

Reluctantly
The plane tree, always late, as though from age, opens up and
Hangs its seed balls out.

It’s not just me, right? You are picturing an old guy with his balls hanging out too?

Winter is suddenly so far away, behind, ahead.

Yes, like it never happened, or it happened to someone else. I call her Winter Sara.

From the train
A stand of coarse grass in fuzzy flower.

I love tall, ornamental grasses with fuzzy ends that look like feathers or flowers! Someday I will plant some in my yard.

I like it when the morning sun lights up my room
Like a yellow jelly bean, an inner glow.

I’m not a huge fan of jelly beans, but I appreciate that Schuyler’s line gave me the chance to think about them and to imagine that intense yellow in the center of a jelly bean, one that has a translucent shell, not an opaque one. As an adult, I’ve grown to love the color yellow. I wonder, would a yellow marble work for this too?

May mutters, “Why
Ask questions?” or, “What are the questions you wish to ask?”

I love this as the last line of the poem!

march 14/RUN

5.35 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
22 degrees
95% clear path

Sun! Blue skies! Clear path! Birds — chirps and trills and pecks and caws! Both of my knees are sore, and my hamstrings too, but it was a good run. Was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker at the beginning, in-between dodging patches of rough ice on the one stretch that wasn’t dry. Thought about why the sky, then later the river, looked blue. The sky, always blue. The river, blue then brown then gray, depending on how much sun it was getting. Also thought about something I just on some ways ancient Greeks classified color:

Glitter effect and material — scattering and textural effects resulting from the type of surface being observed — things like the shimmering of pigeon neck-feathers. 

How to make sense of ancient Greek colors

Studied the snow and thought about texture and what impact it makes on what color it is to us. Then later, when I was running back up the Franklin hill, I thought about texture and a line from Schuyler (below): Gray depression. A depression = a hollow. I noticed how most of the snow, in the bright sun, was white, or maybe a blueish white, but certain bits, where there was a depression in the snow that caused a shadow to be cast, were gray. Gray depression!

Listened to the birds, my feet on the gritting ground, and random voices as I ran north. After turning around and running more than halfway up, I stopped and put in a playlist.

Schuyler, Hymn to Life, page 5

Begins with It behind its ears, and ends with Not to quarrel? note: There’s a thread throughout this section between the cat, Schuyler’s lover, and the Sun that I’ve left out because it didn’t quite fit with what I’m currently moved by in this poem.

Meantime, those branches go
Ungathered up. I hate fussing with nature and would like the world to be
All weeds. I see it from the train, citybound, how the yuccas and chicory
Thrive.

I like weeds, mostly pulling them, so I’m not sure if I’d like to leave them alone. These lines make me think of my reading/research on the management of the gorge — so much regular effort needed to maintain these spaces: pulling up invasive species such as garlic mustard, trimming away dead branches, removing trees that have fallen over the path, mowing the patches of lawn. Often in the summer, in-between the Minneapolis Parks’ scheduled mows, I witness how quickly the land can revert to uncontrolled green. What is a weed, what a wildflower? Here’s some information about native and invasive species at the Mississippi River Gorge.

So much messing about, why not leave the world alone? Then
There would be no books, which is not to be borne. Willa Cather alone is worth
The price of admission to the horrors of civilization. Let’s make a list.
The greatest paintings. Preferred orchestral conductors. Nostalgia singers.
The best, the very best, roses.

These remind me of my love or delight lists, except for Schuyler’s seem to be judging and assessing which things are best, the greatest. Mine are meant to be without judgment.

After learning all their names—Rose
de Rescht, Cornelia, Pax—it is important to forget them. All these
Lists are so much dirty laundry. Sort it out fast and send to laundry
Or hurl into washing machine, add soap and let’er spin.

Make a list, then forget it. Does this mean the act of making the list is more important than the list itself?

I wish I could take an engine apart and reassemble it.
I also wish I sincerely wanted to. I don’t.

I feel these lines.

There’s a song for you. Another is in the silence
Of a windless day. Hear it? Motors, yes, and the scrabbling of the surf
But, too, the silence in which out of the muck arise violet leaves
(Leaves of violets, that is).

The silence as a song. Silence not as absence, but as something too.

The days slide by and we feel we must
Stamp an impression on them. It is quite other. They stamp us, both
Time and season so that looking back there are wide unpeopled avenues
Blue-gray with cars on them, parked either side, and a small bridge that
Crosses Rock Creek has four bison at its corners, out of scale
Yet so mysterious to childhood, friendly, ominous, pattable because
Of bronze.

These bronze bison monuments make me think of some interesting things I learned about color and the ancient Greeks: the sky was not blue, but bronze, because the ancient Greeks classified it in terms of brightness, not color. It might be even more complicated than that — need to read more before I can write about it.

Gray depression and purple shadows, the daffodils feigning sunlight
That came yesterday.

Gray depression — a lowering of physical or mental vitality; a hollow or a place than the surrounding area. Purple shadows — at twilight, ED’s purple woods. Yellow as daffodils with yesterday’s sun.

One day rain, one day sun, the weather is stuck
Like a record.

I don’t have time to write about this, but I’d like to remember it for later.