june 17/RUN

3 miles
36th to 42nd to 36th
74 degrees
dew point: 57

It’s going to be another hot one today. Already before 8 it’s 70 degrees. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me that much. A nice run near the river road. Green and shady. Was able to glance over at my shadow a few times. She was running beside me today. Don’t remember hearing any birds just a few random people and hovering helicopters to the south. I wonder what’s happening? Briefly thought about running on the tunnel of trees trail but then decided I didn’t want to risk getting that close to another runner or walker. Not sure if I’ll ever get down there this year.

Right now, I have two poems I recently memorized that I want to think about while I run: Carl Sandburg’s “Doors” and Mary Oliver’s “Praying.” Decided to recite “Doors” for the first half of the run, “Praying” for the second half.

Doors

I noticed the rhythm more. I like how the line, “Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors”–partly because the rhyme of go through with the previous line’s “who are you” and partly because he begins with shadows (shadows and ghosts) instead of ghosts (ghosts and shadows). It sounds much better this way to me. Also thought about the use of shut instead of closed for the doors that aren’t open. Shut is a much firmer, sharper, stronger sound than closed.

Praying

As I recited Praying I thought about how simple and beautiful it is as a statement about paying attention. In her book Long Life Oliver talks about her poems as little alleluias. In one of my chapbooks, I turned her explanation into a tanka:

an alleluia
on the page that’s what these poems are
not trying to
explain anything just here
breathing and offering thanks


Oliver’s poem is a little alleluia. Nothing elaborate, intended to be mined for hidden meaning, but an offering of thanks. A prayer to be repeated and lived and remembered. This fits with her own language in the poem–“this is not a contest”. Yes! I love the idea of writing for these reasons and not about being elaborate or clever or deep. I think I’d like to recite a series of poem on the idea of joy, delight, and thanks. (I have too many ideas and not enough little gray cells to devote to them!)

I also love her image of the doorway here–a doorway into thanks. I’ve been thinking about doors as possibility in general terms, but haven’t thought specifically and concretely about them-what doorways does moving and paying attention and reading/writing/breathing poetry give me and where do those doorways lead–into what?

After finishing my run, as I was walking back, I recited both poems into my phone. There were a few minor errors in the Oliver that I need to work on:

Doors and Praying, june 17

june 16/RUN

2 miles
36th to 42nd to 36th
70 degrees

Ran the short loop with Scott this morning. We talked about the fall, whether or not schools would open, how complicated and messy and difficult it is, and how much the federal government has failed us. It’s warmer today and we could feel it, especially in the shade-less stretches. Still nice to be outside and start the morning running near the river.

After the run, walking through the neighborhood with Delia the dog, I recited the poem I memorized yesterday to Scott: Praying/ Mary Oliver. Another door poem.

Praying/ Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t 
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

I love this idea of a doorway into thanks and how paying attention to the world can lead us through it. Also like the idea of silence and other voices speaking and how paying attention can help us to listen.

june 15/RUN

3 miles
36th to 32nd to 42nd to 36th
65 degrees

Another windy day. Not too warm, some sun, some clouds. Was able to briefly glimpse the river through the trees. It was glowing white. Heard many cardinals. Lately–or has it been happening for a long time?–I’m having more trouble seeing people approaching me. Today, I ran up on the grass, planning to head down a hill to where the river road opens up again, and suddenly I noticed a runner there. They weren’t too close and I was able to move far out of the way when I finally saw them. Still, I had looked and should have been able to notice them. I wonder how bad my vision is these days? It’s easier not to notice because I am not driving or going into strange buildings with signs I can’t immediately read or trying to recognize people or make eye contact with them. Some morning, when it’s not too crowded, I should try biking somewhere, just to see if it’s possible. That would be a good test of my vision.

Memorized Carl Sandburg’s doors yesterday. Recited it a few times in my head as I ran. Didn’t really think about the rhythm as I ran. Is that because summer runs are always more difficult for me and I can’t think about anything else but how I’m hot or tired? Right before leaving for my run I read someone’s brief analysis of the poem; they believed Sandburg’s doors symbolize opportunity–opportunities taken or squandered. In my own thinking about doors, I’ve imagined them as symbols of possibility and freedom, but never opportunity. Opportunity seems like a business/career/success/progress symbol which narrows its scope too much for me.

Doors/ Carl Sandburg

An open door says, “Come in.” 
A shut door says, “Who are you?” 
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors. 
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
why open it? 
If a door is open and you want it open,
why shut it? 
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
doors forget.

I like the line about shadows and ghosts going through shut doors. Speaking of shadows and ghosts, I saw my shadow today but in the cloud-covered light it was so faint it almost looked like a ghost of a shadow, or a trace of where a shadow had once been. Very cool effect. At first, I thought I saw it there, but when I paid closer attention it was gone. Then, in the next minute, it was back–a vague outline of me.

Right after finishing my run, I recorded myself reciting the poem. Just a few errors.

doors, june 15

june 13/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
58 degrees

Cool and sunny and wonderful. Repeated my run from yesterday. Encountered a few roller skiers near the trestle. Was passed by a mini peloton. Noticed some dogs with their owners. Heard some guy walking and talking very loudly into his cellphone. Also heard lots of noise coming from the gorge or the tunnel of trees trail. Could it have been some rowers–or people watching the rowers? Didn’t see the Daily Walker or hear any music. Did hear a woodpecker and the crunch of feet striking some piled up sand near lake street.

Recited the new poem I memorized yesterday, Anne Sexton’s “I Remember.”

I Remember/ Anne Sexton

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began to
snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color — no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of june and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

Became easily distracted with my running or the road or avoiding people on the road, so I couldn’t recited it straight through in my head without stopping. Still managed to think about and enjoy many of the lines in the poem–the invisible beetles snoring, wearing bare feet bare, taking gin warm and neat from old jelly glasses, the sun blowing out of sight. Thought about how much I liked her choices of “taking gin” and “from old jelly glasses” instead of drinking gin out of jelly glasses, although I would have liked “old jelly jars” instead of jelly glasses.

Perhaps the line that stumped me the most was “like a red picture hat.” Googled “what is a picture hat?” (tried red picture hat first but that search returned a lot of pointless pinterest posts) and found this useful post on a site called the Dreamstress: “Terminology: What is a picture hat?” I’m very glad I looked this up. Fun and fascinating. Here’s the Dreamstress’s basic definition: “A picture hat is a large, broad-brimmed hat, usually rather elaborately trimmed.” They were popular from the 1890s until the 1910s and were extreme and ostentatious and very irritating to theater goers sitting behind the hat wearer. I have often thought it would be fun to wear a big hat like this; it would probably help with my vision too, blocking out extra visual noise.

Now I’m thinking about Sexton’s referencing a vintage, out-of-fashion hat and her mention of winding up (as opposed to setting) an alarm clock and tying her hair back, looking almost like a Puritan lady. All of this makes her memories seem old, out of reach, way in the past.

After I finished my run, walking back home, I recorded myself reciting the poem. A few mistakes, some extra words:

I remember, june 13

june 12/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
65 degrees

What a beautiful morning! Sunny, not too warm, not too windy. Managed to run mostly in the shade. Thought about running through the welcoming oaks on the trails but decided it might be too crowded. Greeted them silently from afar. Didn’t see my shadow or the river. Didn’t hear any rowers or roller skiers. No birds circling the sky. No cottonwood sticking to the sweat on my face. No annoying gnats or squirrels. Don’t remember thinking about anything. Ran near a sprinkler–the one that has been watering the grass, the sidewalk, the street, every morning this week. On Wednesday I was able to get a quick shower on my shins from the sprinkler. Not today.

Decided to stop at the bottom of edmund to recite the Emily Dickinson poem before running up the hill. I talked with more confidence into the phone, not carrying if any of the runners or walkers nearby heard me. I’m getting better.

I dwell, june 12

And here’s another alphabet poem. I love playing around with the alphabet!

O/ Claire Wahmanholm

Once there was an opening, an operation: out of which oared the ocean, then oyster and oystercatcher, opal and opal-crowned tanager. From ornateness came the ornate flycatcher and ornate fruit dove. From oil, the oilbird. O is for opus, the Orphean warbler’s octaves, the oratorio of orioles. O for the osprey’s ostentation, the owl and its collection of ossicles. In October’s ochre, the orchard is overgrown with orange and olive, oleander and oxlip. Ovals of dew on the oatgrass. O for obsidian, onyx, ore, for boreholes like inverted obelisks. O for the onion’s concentric O’s, observable only when cut, for the opium oozing from the poppy’s globe only when scored. O for our organs, for the os of the cervix, the double O’s of the ovaries plotted on the body’s plane to mark the origin. O is the orbit that cradles the eye. The oculus opens an O to the sky, where the starry outlines of men float like air bubbles between us and oblivion. Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen. O for the mussels opening in the ocean’s oven. O for the rising ozone, the dropping oxygen, for algae overblooming like an omen or an oracle. O Earth, out-gunned and out-manned. O who holds the void inside itself. O who has made orphans of our hands.

My love of alphabets reminds me of the collection of kids ABC books I inherited from my mom when she died. I should look at them, be inspired by them. Should I do an ABC book about the gorge (or the gorge in a pandemic, or running by the gorge, or running by the gorge in a pandemic?).

june 10/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
60 degrees
humidity: 77%/ dew point: 52

Felt much cooler today. Windy. Overcast. Ran all the way to the falls for the first time in several months. Managed to see the river. Noticed how one of my favorite views during the winter–the spot just past the oak savanna, where the mesa dips down to meet the river–was completely hidden behind a wall of green. The falls were gushing. Someone was setting up the bike surreys as I reached it. Minnehaha creek was rushing. Heard at least one woodpecker; don’t remember any other birds. Encountered some bikes, walkers, runners. Heard but didn’t see the clickity-clack of at least one roller skier. Anything else? Happily ran over some grit and listened to it crunch. Almost tripped on a pothole on the other side of turkey hollow.

While I ran, I recited “I dwell in Possibility” several times. Thought about pulling out my phone and reciting it as I ran but didn’t. One day, I’ll finally do it. Love the rhythm of: “And for an everlasting Roof/The Gambrels of the Sky–” About a minute after I finished running, I recorded myself reciting it into my phone. How could I mess up the last line?

I dwell in Possibility, june 10

I really appreciate the prowling Bee’s analysis of the poem:

What is possible is, again by definition, more vast and varied than the Prose world of observation and logic. It is the world of imagination and of poetry. Little wonder Dickinson finds her imaginative world – her true dwelling – “fairer” than the cramped quarters of the prosaic, that is to say, her actual, physical house and home. Possibility has more doors and windows – the better to let in light and to look out of!

Yet there is a wonderful privacy, too. Those “superior” doors have a dual purpose. And despite the numerous windows, there are private “Chambers” as “Impregnable” to the eye as a cedar tree. The poet can be as reclusive as she wishes in this marvelous house.

I love the idea of the freedom the doors and windows bring and the privacy they allow. They’re both an entry into a bigger, fairer world and an escape/protection from an restrictive, oppressive one.

Found a poem on twitter this morning from Donika Kelly who wrote Bestiary–which I just checked out of the library and that has a poem about a door. Here’s the one I found and the door one:

Perhaps you tire of birds/ Donika Kelly

But the yellow-beaked night bird–

in the moonlight,
in the clover,
in the deep deep grass—

could hold me,
always, in the swell
of her little eye.

O, my scouring eye
that scrubs clean

the sky and blossomed tree.
O, my heart that breaks

like a bone. O my bones,
full and flying.

Self-Portrait as a Door/ Donika Kelly

All the birds die of blunt force trauma—
of barn of wire of YIELD or SLOW
CHILDREN AT PLAY. You are a sign
are a plank are a raft are a felled oak.
You are a handle are a turn are a bit
of brass lovingly polished.
What birds what bugs what soft
hand come knocking. What echo
what empty what room in need
of a picture a mirror a bit of paint
on the wall. There is a hooked rug
There is a hand hard as you are hard
pounding the door. There is the doormat
owl eye patched by a boot by a body
with a tree for a hand. What roosts
what burrows what scrambles
at the pound. There is a you
on the other side, cold and white
as the room, in need of a window
or an eye. There is your hand
on the door which is now the door
pretending to be a thing that opens.

Wow! I’m looking forward to reading Bestiary today. What a wonderful poet!

june 9/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
humidity: 56%/ dew point: 59

Warm, but low humidity. Sunny, green, calm, relaxed. Encountered many bikers and walkers but was able to keep a good distance from all of them. Couldn’t get close enough to the river to see it but did hear the coxswain calmly directing the rowers, her voice amplified by a bullhorn. I wish I could have seen the rowers and the sparkling water. How many rowers were in the shell? Can you properly social distance in those things?

note: was planning to write about how sad it is that open swim is starting today and I won’t be doing it and how frustrated and confused I am by how so many other people seem to think we don’t need to social distance or be careful anymore, but I decided to leave it out. Still, I wanted to make note of it and how it casts a shadow over this time and my log entry today.

Didn’t recite “voiceover” as I ran today…it’s probably time to move onto another poem. Because of the heat and humidity and how difficult that makes it to think about anything but how hot and humid it is, I’m wondering if I should adjust my poem list and memorize some that are short and rhythmic. Yes. I think I’ll memorize some more Emily Dickinson. When I didn’t feel motivated to recite “voiceover” today, I recited “It’s all I have to bring today” instead. I love Emily Dickinson. And I love this poem about possibility, especially after reading the prowling Bee’s analysis!

I dwell in Possibility – (466)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

This poem fits with my theme of inner and outer–it, along with Smith’s “Threshold” and Dove’s “Voiceover” feature doors.

Smith: “passing through doorway after doorway after doorway” and “but any open space may be a threshold, an arch, of entering and leaving.”
Dove: “We walk back and forth without a twitch…with only the occasional stubbed toe…The keyhole sees nothing”

Door as a way in, way out, to pass through, to close, to open, to protect, to retreat, to keep private, a barrier, a limit.

june 8/RUN

2 miles
36th st to 32nd st to 38th st to 36th st
75 degrees
humidity: 76%/ dew point: 67!

It’s going to be a hot one today. 96? 97? Already now, before 9, it’s over 80 degrees. Decided to do a short run this morning before I have to retreat to the air conditioning this afternoon. Not too bad, considering the dew point is 67. That’s way up there on the misery index. Heard lots of birds, a sprinkler, some bike wheels. No geese or Daily Walkers or roller skiers or music or chainsaws cutting down trees. No sirens or rushing car wheels. No rowers on the river or voices rising up from the gorge. Lately I’ve been noticing cotton from the cottonwood trees flying around. Is the floodplain forest white with it yet? Will I be able to get down there to see?

At the end of my run, about 2 minutes after I stopped, I recorded myself reciting “Voiceover.” Thought about the title and how voiceover can refer to the voice of an unseen narrator speaking and the voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts. So it can be a voice outside oneself narrating the scene, or a voice inside oneself revealing inner thoughts.

voiceover/rita dove (june 8)

Feeling frustration over how everything is opening back up–even the beaches at the lake–and disappointment that so many people seem to have given up on trying to be prevent the spread of COVID-19. I’m seeing too many pictures of people getting together without social distancing. I don’t understand. Maybe most people are being careful and I’m only seeing/hearing about the ones who aren’t? Whatever the case, I’m not letting up on keeping my distance from people.

Minneapolis City Council voted to dismantle the Minneapolis Police yesterday (with a veto-proof 9 votes)! Very exciting. Here’s a few things I read/watched that are related to what’s happening:

1

2

It’s not just that police are ineffective: in many communities, they’re actively harmful. The history of policing is a history of violence against the marginalized– American police departments were originally created to dominate and criminalize communities of color and poor white workers, a job they continue doing to this day. The list has grown even longer: LGBTQ folks, disabled people, activists– so many of us are attacked by cops on a daily basis.

And it’s bigger than just police brutality; it’s about how the prison industrial complex, the drug war, immigration law, and the web of policy, law, and culture that forms our criminal justice system has destroyed millions of lives, and torn apart families. Cops don’t prevent crime; they cause it, through the ongoing, violent disruption of our communities.

It’s also worth noting that most social service agencies and organizations that could serve as alternatives to the police are underfunded, scrambling for grant money to stay alive while being forced to interact with officers who often make their jobs even harder. In 2016, the Minneapolis Police Department received $165 million in city funding alone. Imagine what that kind of money could do to keep our communities safe if it was reinvested.

from MPD150 Frequently Asked Questions

3

Daniel Bergin, documentary filmmaker for Twin Cities PBS: This paradox goes to the very founding of the state: the colonization and the displacement of Dakota and Ojibwe, which is its own complex and deep and insidious story. But in terms of the African-American experience, even after the territorial period, there was this tension around abolitionist culture from the New Englanders who had largely made up Minneapolis at the time, and the businessmen who were seated in St. Paul.

from Revealing the Divisive History of Minneapolis

june 7/RUN

3.75 miles
river road, north/river road, south
65 degrees
humidity: 72%

Started the run by myself but at the halfway point I encountered Scott and decided to run with him the rest of the way. Sunny. Windy, feeling warmer than 65. Remember hearing at least one woodpecker, a lone goose up high honking, “wait for me!” or “where is everybody?” Caught a quick glance of the river before having to move to the road to avoid an approaching walker. Forgot to look at the trestle–no trains above. More than once I thought the fast, whirring wheels of a bike were an approaching car.

reciting while running

Before meeting up with Scott, I recited Rita Dove’s poem a few times. Almost memorized it enough to dig into the meaning of the words. Today I liked the line “If you think about it,/everything’s inside something else;/everything’s an envelope/inside a package/in a case—/and pain knows its way into every crevice.” Need to think some more about what that means. Also liked, “There are spaces for living/and spaces for forgetting.”

A few minutes after returning home, recited the poem into my phone. I need to work on the line about standing outside of your skin–I said body.

voiceover/rita dove (june 7)

A few hours later, sitting in red lounge chair in the shade of the crabapple tree, I thought some more about Dove’s poem and the lines about everything being inside something else. Wrote in my plague notebook #3: There is no ultimate outside of everything. No pure objectivity, free of pain or perspective. No access to the Big, complete picture.

june 6/RUN

3.5 miles
47th st loop, short
67 degrees
clouds: cumulus (I think?)

What a beautiful morning for a run! Some sun, some clouds. Coolish air, a breeze. Soft, calm green everywhere. Lots of birds. Not too many runners or bikers. After the frightening, end-of-the-world feelings last week, it’s nice to have a few relaxed, almost normal moments. Ran down past turkey hollow but forgot to look for any turkeys. Didn’t get close enough to the river to see whether it was blue or gray or silver or brown. On the stretch somewhere between 38th and 42nd, heard a dog’s chain clanging below on the Winchell trail. I’ve heard a chain clanging like this on all 3 of my most recent runs–is it at the same spot? is it the same dog? am I just imagining it?

reciting while running

Last week, I memorized Maggie Smith’s “Threshold.” This week I discovered Rita Dove’s “Voiceover” and decided I should postpone memorizing water poems and do a series on inside and outside and traveling in-between them with “Voiceover” as the second poem. So far, I’ve memorized the first half. I recited it in my head a few times as I ran. It’s harder to hang onto the words and think about them during my run as it gets warmer and more humid outside. Haven’t noticed the rhythm in the poem yet. Here are some things I’m noting about the poem today:

  • vast is a great word
  • love the image of smoke coming off the ice on a thawing lake
  • like this idea of being inside a house and still feeling the rooms you’re not in and how feeling them is not the same as observing/seeing them–I want to think more about the limits of vision (as opposed to other senses) in enabling us to be both inside and outside at once
  • I’ve never heard the phrase, “popping a beer.” I get what it means–popping the tab of a beer can–but I’ve never heard it used this way
  • the keyhole sees nothing + stubbing your toe as you move back and forth–a connection to Smith’s threshold!

About 30 minutes after I returned from my run, I recorded the first part of the poem into my phone. I mostly have it memorized, with a few mistakes. I can’t believe I forgot the second sentence, “try it.”

Voiceover/rita dove, pt 1 (june 6)

abolishing the police

It is a unsettling, sad, exciting, and hopeful time in Minneapolis (and around the country) as people who have never–or maybe just barely–questioned the validity of the current police state are thinking deeply about what it might mean to get rid of the police and reimagine how communities/cities might look out for/care and keep each other safe. Intellectuals and activists have been doing this thinking, theorizing, planning work for decades, so there are tons of resources, like this reading list: Reading Towards Abolition: A Reading List on Policing, Rebellion, and the Criminalization of Blackness

may 27/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/river road, north/edmund north/edmund, south
64 degrees
humidity: 94%/ dew point: 61

Another sticky morning. Rained all last night. About a mile from my house, people protested the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to think of what to write after that last sentence. I have no words, or too many words about structural racism and white supremacy and the urgent need to confront it and how to hold a deep love for a place beside a recognition of how racist and unjust it has been and continues to be.

Encountered an entire troop of roller skiers this morning on the river road. Usually I consider roller skiers to be a good omen for my run but not when there are at least a dozen of them not social distancing and taking over half of the road. The rest of the runners and walkers were alone or with only one other person.

I don’t remember too much for the run. Saw 2 construction trucks moving the barricade so they could enter the road, heading to their work site just above the tunnel of trees. Didn’t see the river. Heard some birds, I think, but can’t remember which ones. I’m sure there were some cardinals and black capped chickadees. Also heard water rushing loudly through the drain, making its way to the sewer pipes dumping into the gorge. Don’t remember hearing any fragments of conversation or music but I do remember hearing some sirens–police? ambulance? Not sure.

It was sticky and hot and thick but not too bad. Lots of sweating and dripping. Wore my black twins baseball cap with the velcro in the back–the one I got for free at a game 2 or 3 years ago, handed out at the entrance to the stadium by Dairy Queen. I have at least 2 of these free twins hats. Missing baseball this summer.

reciting while running

Memorized a non-green poem yesterday: Threshold/ Maggie Smith. Thinking about how the west river parkway (aka, the river road), edmund boulevard, and the grassy patch in-between are all part of the threshold between neighborhood and the river gorge. In a management plan from 2002, they describe one purpose of the west river parkway:

To function as an effective transitional zone, the boulevard should retain the natural character of the Gorge but also be visually acceptable to local residents and those using the boulevard and its pedestrian trails.

Thinking about Maggie Smith’s opening lines:

You want a door you can be
       on both sides of at once,

              You want to be
       on both sides of here

and there, now and then,

A door you can be on both sides of: park and neighborhood, civilization and wilderness, houses and river, asphalt and dirt, inside and outside, dreaming and awake. A transition as an easing away from and into (Smith’s line, “passing from and into”).

As I recited this poem, it was hard to think about it too much with all of the humidity, but when I did think about it I wasn’t aware of the rhythm too much. I did notice these pleasing rhymes: “now and then, together and” and “passing from and into/passing through.”