franklin hill turn around
44 degrees / humidity: 99%
Strange outside this morning. Warm, humid, gray. White snow on the grass, white fog in the air. Everything wet, dripping. Too warm for ice or snow on the trail, just puddles. I overdressed and became overheated by the end of the first mile. I was distracted by a runner creeping up behind, (too) slowly passing me then, once she was ahead, going even slower. At least it seemed that way. I decided that whichever way she went when she reached the Franklin bridge, I’d go the other way. She turned to head up and over the bridge, so I went under it and down the hill straight into thick fog. Hard to see anything down in the flats but headlights. Very cool. The river was completely open and waving at me in the slight wind. Heading back up the hill, I ran 3/4 of it, only stopping to walk for the very last part. A warm, humid wind was hitting me in the face, tiring me out. Near the end of the run, I saw Dave the Daily Walker. He called out, “This fog is kind of cool” and I agreed.
Before I left the house, I was reviewing my notes and thinking about my latest haunts poem. This one focuses on rhythm, repetition, and beats (heart, striking feet, chiming clocks, dripping pipes/limestone). Last night, I came up with a few line to fit my 3/2 form:
I come to
to find that
one foot strikes
when I float
Not sure I’m satisfied with the ending of this — shimmer? shiver? something else? Anyway, I was thinking about that moment, the soft space between beats, as I ran. There’s a point in the biomechanics of running when both feet are off of the ground. It’s often referred to as the float phase. It happens so quickly that it’s very easy to ignore it. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I try to focus on it. Today, I imagined my run as happening in that space as I tuned out the beat/foot strikes, and focused on the freeing feeling of moving through the air, hovering above the trail. I thought about how this space, while brief, can be big, expansive, opening you up, allowing for possibility and other ways to relate to space and time. One trick: stop noticing the beats — get a steady rhythm going so that you can ignore them. The beats are still there, in fact they’re necessary for making the float happen, but they’re not centered as the most important (or only) thing about running/moving. Another thing I thought about: taken in isolation, each moment is small/brief, but what if you imagined that the moment was continuous, only quickly interrupted by the beat? How might that transform our understanding of time and how it moves/works? I thought about all of this, and will work to condense it into a line or two for this poem.
I’m imagining this poem about repetition, rhythm, chanting as a prayer (or at least including a prayer). For inspiration, I looked up “prayer” on the poetry foundation site. This one came up. I’d like to study these words and how the poet uses the metaphor of making/baking a cake:
In predawn dark, a rat falling from a rafter is a dollop,
wind a whir, and suddenly I’m remembering my mother
teaching me to bake her hot water sponge cake.
How we whipped the egg whites with the electric mixer
until stiff peaks formed. How she warned me not to allow
a single thread of yolk to taint the white, or the cake
would fail. To fold white into yolk-sugar-flour was slow,
patient. She let me carve a wedge with the rubber spatula,
drop it to the batter’s surface, then lift from the bowl’s bottom
up and over the dollop, turning it in. Warned me
never to beat or mix or even stir—the cake would fall.
Once, dinking around, I stuck a wooden spoon into
the still-whirring beaters, bent the metal, splintered
the spoon into the batter. Once I cut her grandmother’s precious
lace for a doll’s clothes, and she cried, the savaged pieces
draped across her wrists. So many times I tried to shove
my peasant feet into her dainty pumps, hand into her evening
gloves. One spoon at a time, that first thin layer drawn across
the airy white forming a little hill. Folding only
just enough. The batter growing lighter by increments.
It was mostly space we folded in, taming down
the cloy. It was never so good as then, licked off
the finer, the cake itself, to me, disappointing, layers
smeared with homemade jam, topped with a stiff merengue.
Never so good as then, her instructing, trying to domesticate
my impertinence, teach me a little grace, me resisting,
the sweet on my tongue dissolving so easily
in that state of matter. Never so good as straight from
the Pyrex bowl. Never so gentle as the slide of batter
into an angel food pan. The rest up to her, what she
created from the baked version, brown on top and bottom.
Here I am, decades later sitting under the halogen
of a full moon, and that moment, which was many
folded into one, is so pure and specific, the sugar sharp
on my tongue, the spatula pushing as if through
an undertow. My mother taught me to fold. Never so
sweet as now. We were incorporating lightness
into a deep bowl. As some bird—probably an owl
out hunting—chacks its was across the lawn,
sounding like a key chain, and now the garden sprinkler
comes on, so I know it’s 6:00 a.m. There’s the first hint
of dawn slow-dissolving one more night. This is a fifty-
year-old love. It’s heavy, so I fold in moonlight, the sound
of water spattered on leaves. Dim stars, bright moon—
our lives. The cake imperfect, but finished.