july 31/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill and back again
69 degrees

Since they’re opening up the road next week, I decided I better run on it all the way down the franklin hill before it’s too late. Another beautiful day, with less humidity! I ran for 3 miles then walked for 1/2 mile up the steep hill before running again.

At Annie Young Meadows, at the bottom of the hill, noticed a dozen tents set up–another encampment for people without homes. So awful. I hope Minneapolis figures out better housing for them before winter hits. Everyone should have a home and enough food–what a fucked up country this is.

Down at the bottom of the hill, in the bright sun, the river looked flat and hot and a dull brown.

To end the month and my series of memorized poems about vision, I decided to recite each of the 4 poems for a mile and then spend the last mile reflecting on common themes. What a nerd I am. Mile One: Before I got my eye put out; Mile Two: Natural Forces; Mile Three: I Look Up From My Book at the World Through Reading Glasses; and Mile Four: Halos. At the start of mile four, as I walked up the hill, I recited Halos into my phone and then, after I finished, I recited I Look Up.

Halos, July 31
I Look Up, July 31

During mile five, I thought about the soul and how it’s mentioned in both Dickinson (safer — guess — for just my soul/opon the window pane) and Lee (to believe the soul is/ ubiquitous like water/in our voices, our cells). Could the soul be the water within us? Not some ethereal spirit distinctive from the body but water, the very substance that makes up more than half of us (kids: 78%, men: 60%, women: 55%)? I like thinking about the soul as the most physical, substantial part of us. Of course, now as I write this, I’m thinking about Walt Whitman and “The Body Electric“:

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul, 
O I say now these are the soul!

july 30/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
68 degrees

Walking down to the end of the block before starting my run, I marveled at the slightly cool breeze and the soft sun. What a morning to be outside! Perfect for walking, slightly too warm for running. Ran south on the river road. Heard the birds–which birds? Not sure. Glanced at the river for the brief moment I was able to run on the trail. Saw my shadow. Tried to stay calm and block out the relentless worry, simmering under the surface, about pandemics and tyrants and upcoming elections. Was mostly successful.

Running past the steps at 38th street that lead to the lower trail, closer to the river, I longed for last summer when I regularly ran the 2 trails route. O, to be closer to the river, below the road on the undulating trail!

Recited the rest of Halos this morning. The rhythm of this poem doesn’t work well with running and I found it hard to keep reciting the lines in a steady flow. Lots of stopping and starting. Was this also because of the heat or the effort or my still shaky grasp of the words?

I like, whenever I wish, strolling past
the myopic me
in a window or a mirror or whatever

reflects back to believe the soul is
ubiquitous like water
in our voices, our cells.

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:
to the dead, we’re the ghosts?

I am not sure what he means here or what to do with souls as ubiquitous as water or the idea that we’re the ghosts to the dead. What does it mean to be a ghost?

Ghost (noun), definition (OED)

  1. The soul or spirit, as the principle of life (to give up the ghost)
  2. Philosophy.  the ghost in the machine: (Gilbert Ryle’s name for) the mind viewed as separate from the body 
  3. The soul of a deceased person, spoken of as appearing in a visible form, or otherwise manifesting its presence, to the living. (Now the prevailing sense.)
  4. A shadowy outline or semblance, an unsubstantial image (of something); hence, a slight trace or vestige, esp. in phrase  (not) the ghost of a chance.

Ghost (verb), definition (OED)

  1. to expire
  2. to haunt
  3. to scare with pretended apparitions
  4. To flit about, prowl as a ghost. Also  to ghost it.  to ghost away: to steal away like a ghost.

Ghost (Colloquial), definition (Wikipedia)

Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communicate made by said partner, friend, or individual.

I would like to use the phrase, “to ghost it” somewhere. Also, having stared at the word “ghost” for too long, the letters seem strange, especially the g and h right beside each other.

Thinking about being “ubiquitous like water” I was reminded of Bruce Lee and his great poem? speech? about being like water. Then I was reminded of the poem by Ed Bok Lee that I discovered yesterday and just listened to right now, “Ode to Bruce Lee” from his collection Whorled. In the poem, he says:

Boxer and cha cha champion
style of no style
teacher, waiter, philosopher, dragon

Style of no style is also in Halos. I want to think some more about what this phrase means–to him, what it might mean to me. Fluid, not trapped any identity or label or “box”, flowing like water?

Here’s a recording of me reciting Lee’s “Halos” after I returned from my run. I still have a few extra/wrong words to fix:

Halos, July 30

july 29/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
68 degrees
humidity: 79%/ dew point: 63

Another sunny, beautiful day. I’d like it about 15-20 degrees cooler but I’ll still take today. Ran up 43rd avenue until reaching 32nd street, then ran by the field at Cooper Elementary School (named after James Fenimore Cooper) that’s been closed for as long as I’ve lived nearby (almost 6 years). Noticed a man that I’ve seen there 4 or 5 times before exercising by flipping a heavy sand bag* across the field–at least I think that’s what he does. I can’t really see in a quick glance and I don’t want to stare–both because I don’t want to be rude and don’t want to invite a conversation.

*In trying to determine what he was doing, I looked up sand bag exercises. Wow, it’s a thing. You really have to be a badass to do some of the exercises.

Ran past the aspen eyes on my way to the river road, turned left towards lake street and ran north until I reached the barricade at 29th (I think). Encountered runners, walkers, bikers. No roller skiers. Saw my shadow. Don’t remember hearing any birds–when will I start hearing the geese? I do remember hearing traffic above me on lake street and a lawn mower on the boulevard, the gravel crunching underfoot, a kid calling out to his friend. No music blasting from bike speakers or talk radio from smartphones.

Recited more from Ed Bok Lee’s “Halos” as I ran. Difficult to keep going without interruptions or to think much about the words. I definitely want to spend more time with this poem and his description of seeing strangely. Here’s the part I added this morning:

That visual impairment improves hearing,
taste, smell, touch, is mostly myth.
With it, however, I can detect

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos around bikers’ helmets;
each street lamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.
I don’t mind opening a book

like a pewter Rorcshach test,
or waking up each morning
inside a fish tank of dream.

Is the idea of losing one sense enhances the others mostly a myth? For me, I’m not sure how much sharper my hearing is, but I’ve devoted a lot of time to building up my listening skills, paying attention aurally and not just visually. However, even though I’ve tried to work on my bird listening skills, I still can hardly identify any birdsongs.

I like how he moves away from good vision to interesting/ strange vision with his lines about fuzzy spirits and halos and street lamps as pink-orange dawns. I don’t see these things, but I do think I see bare branches more beautifully–their blurred edges softening the sky–than someone with “normal” sight. What else do I see strangely?

I recited the poem into my phone when I returned home:

Halos, July 29

july 23/RUN

3.1 miles
47th st loop
69 degrees

Ran almost two hours later because I wanted to work more in the morning and because the humidity was 100% at 8 am. Running at 10 was much better, I imagine. Sunny with lots of shade, calm. No turkeys but I did see my shadow briefly. Saw a biker and one graceful rollerblader moving so quickly and smoothly, swinging his arm like an Olympic speeed skater.

delight of the day

Nearing Edmund, past becketwood on the part near turkey hollow, I heard a truck approaching from behind with some squealing kids. As it passed me, driving very slowly, I noticed a few heads just poking out of the red truck’s bed. It turned up the next street. Nearing the end of my loop, almost back to becketwood, I encountered it again, parked in front of house, the kids yelling out delightedly, “We drove around the block in the back of the truck! We drove around the block in the back of the truck!” Such delight. Such cute, earnest, high-pitched voices! Oh, to be that free of cynicism and able to find joy in such a small but perfect moment!

Before heading out for the run, I memorized another poem, the third in my vision series:

I Look Up From My Book and Out on the World Through Reading Glasses/ Diane Seuss.

The world, italicized.

Douglas Fir blurs into archetype,
a black vertical with smeared green arms.
The load of pinecones at the top,
a brown smudge which could be anything: a wreath
of moths, a rabbit strung up
like a flag.

All trees are trees.
Death to modifiers.

A smear of blue, a smear of gold that could be a haystack,
a Cadillac, or a Medal of Honor without a neck to hang upon.

I know the dog killed something today, but it’s lost in fog.
A small red splotch in a band of monochromatic green.
And now, the mountain of bones, is only a mountain capped
with snow.

It’s a paradise of vagaries.
No heartache.
Just and eraser smudge,
smoke-gray.

All forms, the man wrote, tend toward blur.

I love this poem because it does a great job of capturing how I see the world sometimes–not through reading glasses, but through my diseased eyes. Sometimes the world looks italicized, slanted, not quite straight, off-kilter. And sometimes trees are nothing but the classic form of a tree — a brown trunk with leaves. Colors, when I can see them, are sometimes only smudges and smears and slashes. It’s all vague or just barely formed–the idea of the river instead of the actual view of an in-focus river. And it often feels like I’m in a haze or a daze or a fog. This is not upsetting to me; it’s more dreamy and calm and soft. Often the sharpness of the forms dependents on the quality of the light–gray days make everything look even fuzzier, bright sunny blue days make it all clearer, with more edges.

A few hours after returning home, I recorded myself reciting the poem. I just learned it this morning so I don’t know it by heart yet. Even as the pauses in this recording make me a little uncomfortable, I like how they demonstrate the moments of my forgetting and then remembering.

I Look Up From My Book, July 23

july 22/RUN

3.25 miles
under ford bridge turn around
61! degrees

Much cooler this morning! Was able to wear a short-sleeved shirt instead of a tank top and didn’t overheat. Ran south on the river road to under the ford bridge and then back. Managed a few quick glances at the river through the trees. Encountered some bikers, walkers, runners, a Minneapolis parks vehicle, a biker biking with a dog. Heard some “heavy metal” (but how heavy was it really?) music not quite blasting out of a bike’s radio. At first, I imagined that it was “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen, but it wasn’t. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t bother me. Much better than the patriotic country crap that some people blast. I am not opposed to all country music–the old school stuff, especially Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn is great. What a delight it would be if I could hear someone blasting “Fist City” one day!

No roller skiers today or Daily Walker. No big groups of runners or walkers. No overheard fragments of conversation to be curious about. No black capped chickadees or geese or turkeys or annoying squirrels or swarming, sex-crazed gnats. No welcoming oaks or vining sumac or the smell of burnt toast near the lake street bridge. No rowers or coxswains or the 4 rollerbladers, swinging their arms as they speed by, perfectly in sync. No lower trails or mulching asphalt or steep short hills or dirt paths or unobstructed views of the river or the gorge.

Recited “Natural Forces” again. Still felt the lines were awkward for reciting as I ran. I noticed how I was unable to keep the flow going between each line. Instead, I had to stop for a few foot strikes, which might be the point–to give some space between each set of glances?

I really like the lines: “Five glances/to relight the stars/blown out by the hurricane,” “Eight glances/to turn the sea/into sky,” and “Nine glances/to make the trees in the wood/dance.” When I’m running through the tunnel of trees, and everything is green in late spring through early fall, sometimes the green sky becomes water to me–a sea–of green air with no surface. And when I’m running above the trees of the floodplain forest, they sway and dance, never just standing there. Some of this is due to the motion of my running, some of it is because of my bad vision. It can be a bit disorienting but it looks really cool, like I’m running in a dream. My vision makes me feel like I’m in a dream a lot of the time.

Thinking about “Natural Forces” and vision some more: what’s the difference between a glance and a glimpse? I looked it up: a glance is a brief and hurried look, a (bright) flash, a glimpse is a faint, intermittent view/ing. So a glance is a quick, sharp flash, a glimpse is a faint, glittering glimmer. And, then, the opposite of to glance is to gaze or stare, to study, scrutinize. I have almost completely lost my ability to do a quick glance and recognize what I’m seeing. If I want it to make sense, I have to stop and stare. It’s very frustrating and (I think) often socially unacceptable to stop and stare at things. So I don’t stop and stare, which also means I end up never seeing it (whatever it is/was).

Recited the poem into my phone a few minutes after I came home:

Natural Forces, July 22

july 21/RUN

3.1 miles
47th st loop
70 degrees
humidity: 85%/ dew point: 66

Ran a little later in the morning because of the rain. A steady, soft rain. Everything green and gray. Nice to sit in the front room at my desk in between two windows and think about poetry and running while memorizing Vincente Huidobro’s “Natural Forces.”

Finally made it outside right before 11 am. A few people out by the gorge, but not too crowded. Ran down to turkey hollow and saw 6! turkeys–I counted carefully. Briefly delighted in how one of the turkey’s small head bobbed in quick, awkward jerks. Ran through some puddles and on some muddy grass. Ended by running on loose gravel on Edmund Boulevard; they’re re-sealing the streets in my neighborhood this week. I can’t remember if they ever clear off this gravel or just wait for it to be worn down by car wheels. Didn’t mind running on the gravel but I’m not interested in doing it for the next couple of weeks. I liked how noisy it was, announcing my foot strikes to anyone/anything nearby. Crush! Crush! Crush!

As I ran, I recited “Natural Forces” over and over again. Not hard to remember but not easy to match with my foot strikes. I found myself rushing through it and then, when I tried to pronounce–in my head– every word, the lines sounded so slow and clumsy. I should try recording myself reciting this as I’m running. What would it sound like?

I originally found and posted this poem at the end of January. Here’s what I wrote:

Such power with these glances! I read a little something about Huidobro and his belief in creacionismo and man as god/godlike and “a space where the poet could assume a role as the divine”. Wow, oftentimes because of my vision I feel the opposite with my glances: I’m unmaking the world. Oh–I want to think about this some more! Here’s some info about this poet from a google doodle on his 127th birthday

Copied the poem into my notebook and wrote: The power of the poet! The power of one who notices, who pays attention! Love this idea of paying attention as a way to imagine/create a world. Is it possible to disentangle this making of a world from hubris and pride and power over?

Natural Forces/ Vincente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

Two glances
to hold back the landscape
at the river’s edge

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

Four glances
to hold down the train
that falls into the abyss

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong
the life of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

Ten glances
to see the beauty that shows up
between a dream and a catastrophe

Not too bad. I forgot the poet’s name and messed up a few lines, but got most of it right. I do think I want to spend another day on it, paying attention to the rhythm of it while I run. I’m not sure I get the line about the aquatic child. Favorite lines: turn the sea into sky; to make the trees of the wood dance; to see the beauty that shows up between a dream and a catastrophe.

Natural Forces, July 21

Can my glances make worlds? I don’t like the arrogance of that claim but I like the idea of my vision creating new ways to see/observe things.

july 5/RUN

3 miles
47th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/38th st, west/edmund, north
76% degrees
humidity: 86%/ dew point: 69

Another hot, still, sunny morning. I was able to run right above the river for a small stretch. I saw a few streaks of blue and heard the rowers! Well, just the coxswain speaking into the bullhorn in a deep, creaking voice. Not too long after that, I heard the clickity-clacks of some roller skiers. Very exciting–it almost felt like summer. (Any other summer, I’d be at open swim right now on this perfect-for-swimming day, but I’m trying not to think about that. Too sad.)

Recited “Before I got my eye put out” for another day and thought about this stanza:

So, safer — guess — with just my soul,
Opon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes
Incautious of the Sun —

Sometimes I am very sensitive to bright light, but much less lately, it seems. Does that mean my vision is getting worse? It’s hard to tell because I adjust to things gradually and without much effort. Like, reading. Now I mostly listen to audiobooks, with the occasional ebook. I started the one physical book I am reading, Love in the Time of Cholera, way back in March. So far, I have read about 200 pages of it in 3 1/2 months. The good thing about this gradual shift is that I don’t feel like I’ve lost something. When I can no longer see the words–when and if that happens–I won’t be reading books anymore anyway. Ah, the wonder of the body/self and their ability to accommodate!

I have more to say about this stanza involving too-muchness, safety, the need for caution, the dangers of being too cautious, what it might mean to have your soul (and why just your soul) on the window pane, but I couldn’t put all the ideas into words yet.

Came across this wonderful little poem the other day:

Ars Poetica/ Aracelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.

Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record

of the foot’s silver prayer.
             I lived once.
             Thank you. 
             I was here.

I love this poem and its definition of poetry. The foot’s silver prayer — Wow! I’m thinking about Mary Oliver and her poems as little alleluia on the page, breathing and giving thanks.

july 4/RUN

3.25 miles
ford bridge and back
78 degrees
humidity: 80%/ dew point: 71

So hot! Humid! Thought I might have trouble breathing but it wasn’t too bad. Lots of shade and lots of people– running packs, bikers, walkers. Ran south on the river road towards the falls, turning around just past the ford bridge. Saw the river once or twice. Also saw a black nondescript bird flying high in the sky and 2 bikers in long pants–in this heat!? Recited “Before I got my eye put out” again. I was hoping to reflect on the meaning of some of the phrases but it was too hot for that.

Right after finishing my run, I did a recording:

Before I got my eye put out, July 4

My favorite stanza today:

The Meadows — mine —
The Mountains — mine —
The Forests — Stintless Stars —
And all of noon that I could take
Between my finite eyes

And my favorite parts about that stanza? The slant rhyme between Stars and eyes, the rhythm of “and all of noon that I could take” and the idea of taking in as much of noon as my eyes could allow–although I’m not sure I’d pick noon, too bright and severe, I’d take dawn instead. But, I like the sound of noon with its long os better than the shorter aw of dawn.

Last year I created a cento out of poems I memorized. I used most of this stanza in one of the sections:

I’m Not Asking for Much/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

xi.

I’m not asking for much
A white, indifferent morning sky
Unsentimental sleet
A lamentation of geese
Less hatred strutting the streets
To feel a little less, know a little more
Enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night
A way out, the one dappled way, back
Paradise, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold

The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take
Gorged, engorging, and gorgeous.

The theme of this series of poems on vision that I’m memorizing is: Loving Eye/Arrogant Eye. The idea of owning the meadows or mountains, forests, stintless stars seems arrogant to me–to possess/own/have something through a glance. I like the idea of the soul upon the window pane, feeling/experiencing/taking in the view instead (loving perception). The idea of the power of the glance to own/control/possess reminds me of another poem I picked in this series. I was planning to recite it later, but I think I should do it next.

Natural Forces/ Vicente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

Two glances
to hold back the landscape
at the river´s edge

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

Four glances
to hold down the train
that falls into the abyss

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong the life
of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

Ten glances
to see the beauty that shows up
between a dream and a catastrophe

july 3/RUN

2.5 miles
a different loop
76 degrees
humidity: 76%/ dew point: 70

More heat. More humidity. More sticky air. Still, I didn’t mind the run although I was glad to be done after 2.5 miles. Don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing the river. Saw a few big groups of runners, some roller skiers, lots of bikers, walkers, dogs. No woodpeckers or black-capped chickadees. Recited the new poem I memorized yesterday: Before I Got My Eye Put Out/Emily Dickinson

Before I got my eye put out
I liked as well to see
As other creatures that have eyes —
And know no other way —

But were it told to me, Today,
That I might have the Sky
For mine–I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me —

The Meadows — mine —
The Mountains — mine —
All Forests — Stintless Stars —
And as much of noon, as I could take —
Between my finite eyes —

The Motions of the dipping Birds —
The Morning’s Amber Road —
For mine — to look at when I liked,
The news would strike me dead —

So better — guess — with just my soul
Opon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes
Incautious of the Sun —

Reciting the poem I was struck by how rhythmic it is until the line “for size of me.” Almost as if to demonstrate the line just before, “my Heart would split.” The beat stops (or is split open) and it’s awkward and difficult to fit into the rhythm. I like Dickinson’s slant rhymes and her refusal to let the reader continue on in a happy flow. Reviewing the poem, double-checking capitalizations and punctuation, I just noticed how even though she capitalizes many things like, Heart, Today, Sky, she doesn’t capitalize soul or eye.

On my walk back, I recorded myself reciting. Needs more practice:

Before I Got My Eye Put Out, July 3