march 4/SWIM

1.75 miles
ywca pool

Went swimming with my daughter this morning at the y. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but she needed to for her gym class. So glad I went! Swimming is magic. Felt strong and relaxed. Lost track of time. Forgot about everything but counting my strokes between breaths — 123 or 1234 or 12345 or 123456.

Swam 122 laps. Had an idea for a possible goal this month: 200 laps

Admired the beautiful bodies underwater. The swimmer next to me had something on his feet — not fins, but? — and was alternating between running in place and sliding his feet out in a half split. When he ran he lifted his knees high up in the water. When he slid his feet, I wonder how that felt on his legs.

Kept noticing a brown thing on the pool bottom one lane over. It stayed where it was until someone — the swimmer I mentioned in the last paragraph — started swimming in that lane. Slowly, it drifted over. First on the edge of my lane, then just below me, then over to the next lane. Had to ask my daughter what it was: a bandaid. Hello gross friend. As I swam above it, I had an idea for a poem/series of poems about my pool friends — the strange white thing stuck on the edge of the slanted floor, the brown speck, the fuzzy clump of hair, this bandaid. All of us together in the water.

I tried to pay attention to the shadows on the pool floor, but they were difficult to see. Was it because I was so far away from the windows?

Found this poem in Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room. Wanted to think about it as I swam, but got distracted by my effort or my counting or the brown bandaid.

I Try to Plagiarize Moonlight/ Kelli Agodon Russell

If you could sign your name to the moonlight,
that is the thing!
-Mark Tobey

Sometimes waves scribble their initials
over a path of moonlight. This is the closest
to a signature I’ve ever seen. Maybe,
or maybe it’s the clouds with their C-curves
crossing in front of the O—mouth open,
head thrown back and singing.
I cannot steal words if they’re kept
unspoken, but who wants to live that quietly?
Instead, I want to swim in the dark
sea across paper, climb the barges
and docks that float there. Moonlight invites itself
to my desk and I try to nail its beam
to my paper. I’ve been swimming here
for years, trying to steal what hasn’t been
written, diving to the bottom of an unread sea.

I’m thinking about my brown bandaid again as something at the bottom of the pool. What stories does it have to tell? Who, but me, would want to read them?

I want to swim in the dark sea/across paper. I like the idea of imaging the blank page as a pool. Maybe not an empty pool, but a pool with a wide, clear lane just for me. This image reminds me of Linda Pastan’s poem for William Stafford, “At My Desk,” and her lines,

I think of you
miles west
floating on the tide of language
so easily, giving only
a scissor kick now and then,
coming to shore
some unexpected
but hospitable place.

In a different direction, I like Russell’s line:

Moonlight invites itself
to my desk and I try to nail its beam
to my paper.

I like the bit, I try to nail its beam/to my paper — the image it conjures for me. I also like the idea of the moonlight inviting itself on her desk. When I sit at my desk, which has a piece of glass on top, recycled from an old IKEA coffee table, shadows and reflections often invite themselves to my desk. Reflections of tree branches from the neighbor’s tree, the form of a bird flying across the glass. I love watching the birds fly on my desk — usually a graceful soar, sometimes the quick, awkward flutter of wings in early flight. There’s a poem there…

march 1/WALKSWIM

walk: 35 minutes
neighborhood with Delia
36 degrees / wintry mix

Took Delia on a walk on a gray, wet day. Puddles everywhere. No ice, just water. Dripping, pooling, seeping. With my boots on, I didn’t mind it, but Delia did. I could tell by the end of the walk, she was over it. Instead of wagging vigorously when I called her name, her tail was stiff and bent at the end.

I’m working on a series of cento poems using Linda Pastan’s poetry. Before I went out, I was playing with a line from “The Ordinary:” “it is the ordinary that comes to save you.” I was thinking about the ordinary as I walked — the sharp, staccato drips of the water through one gutter, the gurgling of some other drops as the missed a different gutter. Someone’s shuffling footsteps. The feel of the cold, but not too cold, air in my nose. The reflection of trees, then the flutter of wings, in a puddle on the sidewalk. The singing birds.

Inspired by the beauty of the ordinary all around me, I stopped to record some sound and a thought:

ordinary birdsong / 1 march

it is the ordinary things that save us
the reprieve of birdsong
the flip side of sadness

A little later in the walk, I encountered yet another lone black glove. I walked by, then double-checked to make sure it was, in fact, black. Yes. It’s always black. This made me wonder which is more satisfying exciting desired:

seeing a lone black glove and having my view of the world — that it will always be a black glove — affirmed/confirmed, or

seeing a glove of another color and having my view of the world interrupted disrupted changed?

I want to say, a glove of another color, and I think it is, but not every time. Sometimes I want it to always be black.

swim: 1.8 miles
ywca pool

Finally, another swim! My last swim was on February 19th. It felt good to be back in the water, and a little strange. After watching a video last week on flip turns, I tried to focus on them more. Maybe it was a bad idea, or maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but my knees started to feel sore about a mile into the swim.

The coolest thing about the swim was watching the shadows from the trees outside the window shift and shimmer on the pool floor. I was in the lane closest to the windows, which made the shadows more vivid. Swimming in the shallow end, I wondered if I’d still see them as vividly when I reached the deep end. I did! Very cool.

Not so cool: I noticed a little brown speck (very small) of something floating in the water near my face. What was it? No idea, and I didn’t see it again. I hope I didn’t accidentally swallow it. Gross.

I know February is over which means my month with Linda Pastan is over, but last night I read more of her poems while I listened the South High Community Jazz band rehearse, and I feel compelled to post this delightful one. Besides, it mentions Emily Dickinson who is my topic for March.

Q and A/Linda Pastan

I thought I couldn’t be surprised:
“Do you write on a computer?” someone
asks, and “Who are your favorite poets?”
and “How much do you revise?”

But when the very young woman
in the fourth row lifted her hand
and without irony inquired:
“Did you write

your Emily Dickinson poem
because you like her work,
or did you know her personally?”
I entered another territory.

“Do I really look that old?”
I wanted to reply, or “Don’t
they teach you anything?”
or “What did you just say?

The laughter that engulfed
the room was partly nervous,
partly simple hilarity.
I won’t forget

that little school, tucked
in a lovely pocket of the South,
or that girl whose face
was slowly reddening.

Surprise, like love, can catch
our better selves unawares.
“I’ve visited her house,” I said.
“I may have met her in my dreams.”


shovel: 4 inches
14 degrees

The aftermath of the second round of the epic snowstorm: 4 inches of mostly soft snow. Cold, but not too cold, outside. Listened to the audiobook, Moonflower Murders as I shoveled. The coldest part of my body: my fingers. Even with gloves on, they were getting numb. More snow than I expected. I think I remembered hearing some other shovels scraping, at least one snowblower droning. Already we have big piles of snow on the edges of the driveway, near the garbage/recycling/organic bins on the side of the garage, and on the front sidewalk. If we get more snow tonight, where will it all go?

walk: 15 minues
me, Delia, and Scott
18 degrees

Brrrr. The temperature had increased by 4 degrees but it felt colder because of the wind. About half of the sidewalks we walked on were shoveled. The un-shoveled ones didn’t seem like they had 4 inches of snow on them. Did they? The most enjoyable, warmest feeling direction to walk was east. Heading south, west, or north, we felt the cold wind in our faces. I could sense a brain freeze induced headache about to happen. Delia didn’t care. She sniffed the edges of every block, her tail wagging as she gave attention to the yellow missives from the other animals who had walked these same sidewalks.

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.5 miles

Because of the wind and the snow, I decided to move in the basement today. Watched the first 20 minutes of the Netflix documentary, Break Point, while I biked. Listened to more of my audiobook while I ran. Wore my new running shoes: Saucony Ride 14s, color: Jackalope (white with orange accents, a red tongue, blue laces). Not my first choice, but they were in my size and $40 less than any other color. Now that I have them, I think I especially like the blue laces.

Before heading downstairs, I started memorizing a poem by Heather Christle that I especially like, “What Big Eyes You Have.” I worked on the first 2 sentences:

Only today did I notice the abyss
in abysmal, and only because my mind
was generating rhymes for dismal,
and it made of the two a pair,
to which much later it joined baptismal,
as — I think — a joke.
I decided to do nothing with
the rhymes, treating them as one does
the unfortunately frequent appearance
of the “crafts”adults require children
to fashion from pipecleaners
and plastic beads.

Wow, it is fun to memorize poems. And, it really helps me to do a deep reading of the words and ideas and rhythms and rhymes. I wish I had time to memorize all of the poems I love!

Here is a Pastan poem that seems fitting to read after encountering so many of her dark ideas about death and its inevitability and wondering why her poems were almost always so dark.

Why Are Your Poems so Dark?/ Linda Pastan

Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn’t the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.

Instead he invented
ebony and crows

and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”

Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.

feb 21/RUN

3.5 miles
under ford bridge turn around
8 degrees / feels like 8
100% snow-covered (path)
0% snow-covered (sidewalks)

Wore the Yaktrax today. Not sure if it was a good idea. The trail was covered, but the sidewalks were dry. Bad for the coils, and probably my feet/legs. Not too bad, I think. Colder than yesterday. More layers.

I remember looking down at the river. Open, brown, a thin layer of ice in the center, shining a little. Beautiful.

I remember seeing a bird’s shadow pass fast and low just above my head, then thinking how I like sensing these shadows.

I remember seeing someone with ski poles descending the hill that leads to the ford bridge, then passing them later on the climb to the double bridge. They weren’t using the poles, but holding them off to the side while they did a strange shuffle run.

I remember seeing my shadow running in front of me.

I remember slipping a few times but never falling. Passing a few other walkers and runners, but no bikers. Breathing in the cold air. Seeing the dead clump of leaves that was on the trail months ago and that, when the wind pushed it a little, made me flinch.

I remember hearing a kid’s voice in the oak savanna, children on the playground. Staring far ahead at the snowy view in front of me. Feeling the warm sun on my face.


  • my dead mother-in-law’s purple jacket
  • 2 pairs of black tights
  • a bright yellow TC 10 mile shirt
  • a pink jacket with hood
  • 1 pair of black gloves
  • 1 pair of orange/pink/red mittens
  • 1 pair of socks
  • pink and orange striped buff
  • black fleece-lined cap

I started all zipped up, buff over my ears and covering my mouth, pink hood up, mittens on and up past my wrists. Before the end of mile 1, the hood was down. Before mile 2, pulled the buff off of my ears. After mile 2, I put the mittens in my pocket. At mile 3, I unzipped my jacket slightly. My gloves always stayed on, so did the ear flaps of my cap.

This morning, I discovered a winter line in a Jack Gilbert poem (Meanwhile):

Winter lingers on in the woods,
but already it looks discarded as the birds return
and sing carelessly; as though there never was the power
or size of December. 

With an epic winter storm approaching this afternoon (2 feet of snow possible + strong winds), it’s hard to imagine a time when winter will be discarded. But that time will come and it will always be the birds who will be there first, singing their careless spring songs.

Today’s Pastan poem is about windows. Pastan writes a lot about standing and looking out her window.

At My Window/ Linda Pastan (December, 1979)

I have thought much
about snow,
the mute pilgrimage
of all those flakes,
and about the dark wanderings
of leaves.

I have stalked
all four seasons
and seen how they beat
the same path
through the same woods
again and again.

I used to take a multitude
of trains, trusting
the strategy of tracks,
of distance,
I sailed on ships
trusting the arbitrary north.

Now I stand still
at my window
watching the snow
which knows only one direction,
falling in silence
towards the silence.

feb 20/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
25 degrees / light snow
100% snow-covered, slick ice

This morning it snowed. An inch in an hour. Then it stopped. By the time I got out to the river, it was snowing again. I decided not to wear my yaktrax, which was a bad idea. Very slippery. Lots of ice hidden under the snow. I slipped a few times, but never fell.

a few tips to avoid slipping

It was difficult for me to see where it was icy, but within a few miles I had developed a system that mostly worked.

First, look for the footsteps that stretch, the ones that seem longer than a foot. That is where someone has slipped or slid from ice underneath. Try to avoid these spots.

Second, accept that every single crosswalk entrance will be slippery and that you need to slow down in those spots. Slow down by shortening your stride and lifting your feet more often but with less height. Do a shuffle. Or, slow down to a walk. Keep your foot flat as you step down.

Third, stay focused, constantly reminding yourself the ice is lurking everywhere. Do not look away or try to pick up your pace.

I liked this run and am glad that I did it, although I wondered what I had gotten myself into when I was on the east side of the river, too far in to turn around.

the river

Crossing the Franklin Bridge, the snow just starting again, I noticed the river was brown and open and that the faintest fog, due to the light snow, was hovering above the surface. Later when I was crossing under the lake street bridge on the east side, I noticed 2 people standing at a railing, looking out at the river. I walked up the steps and stopped halfway to stand at another railing and admire the grayish-brown water. This view, a reward for the effort of trudging through the snow for 50+ minutes.

10 Things

  1. on the bridge, closest to the railing, there were squares of bare pavement. As my feet landed on snow then bare pavement then snow again, I could feel the difference — a slight slide, then a thud, then a slide again
  2. voices yelling from down below in the gorge — people having fun in the snow?
  3. a quiet voice grunting or clearing their throat, gently alerting me to their presence before biking by
  4. cars moving very slowly, carefully
  5. a truck on the bridge starting to stop way back from the cars in front of it. Must be slippery on the road
  6. chick a dee dee dee
  7. headlights down at the bottom of the franklin hill — a car slowly climbing up
  8. an adult pulling a young kid in a sled on the path
  9. 2 walkers having an animated conversation as we all approached meeker island. I heard one of them talking as I passed. Now I can’t remember what he said, just that he said it strangely
  10. the pipe under the lake street bridge — the one that I recorded gushing the last time I ran the franklin loop — was frozen solid. One thick, ugly icicle hanging at the bottom

Another Pastan poem:

The Death of the Self/ Linda Pastan

Like discarded pages
from the book
of autumn, the leaves
come trembling down
in red and umber,
each a poem
or story,
an unread letter.

Think of the fires
in ancient Alexandria,
the voluminous smoke
of parchment burning.

Open your arms
to the dying colors,
to the fragile

of November.
Deep in the heart
of buried acorns,
nothing lost.

Nothing lost. I like imaging my past selves — not past lives, but the many selves I’ve been throughout my life — as not lost. Buried acorns to become, over time and slow, steady growth, a new forest of trees. Now I’m imagining a forest of Saras. I’d like to walk through that forest! This makes me think of something I’ve been noticing about Pastan — she loves trees. She wants to be a tree, she links trees with the act of writing poetry, she finds hope against the inevitability of death in trees. A forest of Saras also makes me think of a poem I started a few years ago about a lake of Saras, different ages, lining up to make a bridge. It also makes me think of something funny I did last night. I positioned 2 of the mirrored doors of our bathroom medicine cabinet in such a way that I could look into the small wedge between each mirror and see around 20 of me. I stuck out my tongue and all these Saras were sticking their tongues out too. So many Saras. I kept looking to see if one of them might decide not to stick out their tongue. Nope, at least not that night.

feb 19/SWIM

1.3 miles
ywca pool

Swam with RJP this morning. Only 2 lanes open. The H2O combo class was happening in lanes 3-5. Fun to watch all the bouncing underwater. RJP and I had to circle swim with one more swimmer for a few minutes. I told her that I’ve only circle swum twice in the last 30 years. Wow! That’s a long time.

Had a nice conversation with one of the H2O people in the locker room after we were done. She said she used to swim but couldn’t any more because she injured her rotator cuff. It was fun to talk to her. I love the older women energy in the y locker room.

What do I remember about my swim?

  1. A blue pool noodle was creeping over the edge of the lane line. I felt it first, then saw it, ready to attack me
  2. The guy in the next lane, in red swim trunks, churned up a lot of foam with his kick.
  3. It was calming to watch the H2O people bouncing in the water.
  4. 2 cute little kids in the locker room, fully of weekend energy.
  5. the pool floor had some dark crud on the tiles
  6. the water was clearer than Thursday
  7. the water had faint shadows that danced on the tiles
  8. I forgot to wash out all of the baby shampoo and now my eyes burn

Today’s Pastan poem:

Ethics/ Linda Pastan

In ethics class so many years ago
our teacher asked this question every fall:
If there were a fire in a museum,
which would you save, a Rembrandt painting
or an old woman who hadn’t many
years left anyhow?  Restless on hard chairs
caring little for pictures or old age
we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
and always half-heartedly.  Sometimes
the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face
leaving her usual kitchen to wander
some drafty, half-imagined museum.
One year, feeling clever, I replied
why not let the woman decide herself?
Linda, the teacher would report, eschews
the burdens of responsibility.
This fall in a real museum I stand
before a real Rembrandt, old woman,
or nearly so, myself.  The colors
within this frame are darker than autumn,
darker even than winter — the browns of earth,
though earth’s most radiant elements burn
through the canvas. I know now that woman
and painting and season are almost one
and all beyond the saving of children.

I like the idea of asking the old woman what she wants, but wish it could have taken that idea somewhere other than to the inevitable conclusion of death. I really like Pastan’s poems, but it does seem that so many of her poems end with death. Aging seems to be reduced to dying/getting closer to death.

feb 18/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
31 degrees
5% ice-covered

Felt off this morning — sore, unsettled. Wasn’t sure I should go for a run, but did it anyway. I’m glad. It felt like spring again: less layers, birds, sun, bare grass in a few spots, gushing water at the falls. My mood has improved. My back felt a little sore, my knees too, but most of the run felt good. The other day, I saw an instagram post on running form and arm swing. From the video I saw (with no audio) it looked like you should swing your arms further forward and higher than you’d expect. I tried it by focusing on swinging forward — not quite, but almost, like punching the air in front of you — instead of what I’ve usually done, focusing on extending my arms back more. It seemed to help, making my run feel more smooth, effortless, locked in.

moment of the run

Running north, approaching the double bridge, I heard a strange howling noise. It repeated several times. What was it? A coyote? Dog? Human? I couldn’t tell. I also couldn’t tell if it was right below on the west side, or over on the east side. I also started hearing sirens, and a bunch of dogs yipping. Crossing over from the river road to Edmund to run past my favorite poetry window, I suddenly remembered a bit of a poem I encountered this morning on twitter:

from March, 1979/ Tomas Tranströmer

Weary of all who come with words, words but no language
I make my way to the snow-covered island.
The untamed has no words.
The unwritten pages spread out on every side!
I come upon the tracks of deer in the snow.
Language but no words.

Was this the cry of language but no words? Or, just some kids trying to imitate a howl?

Here are 2 earlier (as in, before Almost an Elegy) Pastan poems that I found today:

Emily Dickinson/ Linda Pastan (1971)

We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won’t explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain.

The economy of pain, I like that.

Wind Chill/ Linda Pastan (1999)

The door of winter
is frozen shut,

and like the bodies
of long extinct animals, cars

lie abandoned wherever
the cold road has taken them.

How ceremonious snow is,
with what quiet severity

it turns even death to a formal

Alone at my window, I listen
to the wind,

to the small leaves clicking
in their coffins of ice.

I like the last stanza with its small leaves clicking in their coffins of ice.

feb 17/RUN

5.5 miles
bottom of franklin hill turn around
15 degrees / feels like 5
5% ice-covered

Colder today, but almost a completely clear path! Sunny, bright. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker early on. He was bundled up today. Wrapped in so many layers, I felt disconnected. I barely remember running on the stretch between the Welcoming Oaks and the lake street bridge. Only one flash of memory: looking down from the bike path, I noticed the walking path was hidden by a hard pack of snow, hardly looking like a path.

Listend to the gorge running north, a playlist returning south.


  • my (recently) dead mother-in-law’s purple Columbia jacket
  • pink jacket with hood
  • green shirt
  • 2 pairs of black running tights
  • 2 pairs of gloves (black, pin and white striped)
  • gray buff
  • black fleece-lined cap
  • 1 pair of socks

10 Things I Noticed

  1. my shadow, running ahead of me
  2. the shadow of the lamp post beside the trail — the tip of the top of the lamp post looked extra sharp
  3. the river was open and brown, with a few streaks of white
  4. the path was clear but on the edges there were thick slabs of opaque ice where the puddles had refroze
  5. birds!, 1: the tin-whistle song of a blue jay
  6. birds!, 2: the laugh of the pileated woodpecker
  7. birds!, 3: the drumming of some woodpecker. Was it a pileated woodpecker, or a downy woodpecker, or a yellow-bellied woodpecker?
  8. birds!, 3: so many chirps and trills and twitters on the way up the franklin hill — a rehearsal for spring
  9. an impatient car illegally passing another car on the river road
  10. very little ice on the trail — where there was ice, Minneapolis Parks had put some drit down to make it less slippery (finally!)

Today, I have 2 Pastan poems. I am including both of them because they work together to speak to one set of struggles I have with losing my vision: I can no longer drive because of my deteriorating central vision AND this inability to no longer drive makes me feel much older than I am. Pastan is writing about surrendering her key when she’s in her late 80s. I stopped being able to drive at 45.

Ode to My Car Key/ Linda Pastan

Silver bullet
shape of a treble clef
I slip you
in the ignition—
an arrow
seeking its target—
where you fit
like a thread
in the eye
of a needle
like a man and
a woman.
A click and
the engine roars,

the road unscrolls
on its way
to anywhere.
At night you sleep
in the darkness
of a drawer,
On a pillow
of tarnsied coins.
Oh faithful key:
last week I gave
you up
for good—
Excalibar back
in its stone—
as I climbed into
the waiting vehicle
of old age.

Reading “Ode to My Car Key”

Cataracts/ Linda Pastan

Like frosted glass,
you blur the hard edges
of the cruel world.

Like summer fog, you obscure
the worse even an ocean can do.
But watch out.

They are coming for you
with their sterile instruments,
their sharpened knives,

saying I will be made new—
as if I were a rich man
wanting a younger wife.

Soon the world will be all glare.
Grass will turn a lethal green,
flower petals a chaos

of blood reds, shocking pink.
What will I see? I am afraid
of so much clarity, so much light.

This second poem offers an interesting contrast to the first one, which is a lament over the loss of the ability to drive, presumably (mostly?) because of her vision. In “Cataracts,” Pastan is worried about regaining her vision and how it will change the gentle ways she sees. “I am afraid/of so much clarity, so much light” immediately reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s “Tell it Slant”: “too bright for our infirm Delight” and “Before I got my eye put out”: “So safer — guess — with my just my soul/ Opon the window pane/ Where other creatures put their eyes/ Incautious — of the Sun– “

I like how putting these poems together offers space for both lamenting the loss of vision, and for appreciating the new ways it allows you to see. Is this what Pastan is doing? I’m not sure, but it speaks to how I feel about my vision loss.

feb 16/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

A swim! The last time I swam was 10 days ago. How has it been that long? The water was the cloudiest I ever remember it being. Was it that cloudy, or was it my vision or my loose googles? Swam alone for 30 minutes, then my daughter joined me.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the water was so cloudy I couldn’t see to the other end
  2. starting out, swimming just above the bottom, I heard some kicking noises and worried that I had picked a lane that someone was already swimming in (I hadn’t)
  3. something brown, looking suspiciously like a band-aide, was stuck to the floor as it sloped down to the deep bottom. It stared back at me every time I swam above it
  4. in the next lane, someone was swimming an exaggerated breast stroke, kicking their legs way out, taking up most of the lane, possibly stretching over into my lane. I was a little irritated, but more enchanted by the wide swing of their legs and their froggy look
  5. I could see a small circle of light in the far corner
  6. trying to look more closely at the band-aide, I noticed some other white things stuck to the sloped floor too. What were they?
  7. as I flipped at the wall and looked up at the ceiling from below the water, I noticed that at the wall closer to the windows the light was yellow, and at the wall that was farther, the light was a pinkish-orange
  8. my nose plug squeaked once — a high-pitched squeak
  9. in the next lane a swimmer waited at the wall. Right as I flipped then pushed off, he started swimming. Was he trying to race me? Probably not
  10. I don’t think I saw anything floating in the pool today

Another good swim. For reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, I was agitated before my swim. It took some time, but the swimming helped calm me down.

Today’s Linda Pastan poem reminds me of something I was just writing about for my week five lecture for my class: gnarled branches.

In the Orchard/ Linda Pastan

Why are these old, gnarled trees
so beautiful, while I am merely
old and gnarled?

If I had leaves, perhaps, or apples . . .
if I had bark instead
of this lined skin,

maybe the wind would wind itself
around my limbs
in its old sinuous dance.

I shall bite into an apple
and swallow the seeds.
I shall come back as a tree.

This idea of coming back as a tree also reminds me of a poem I found the other day on twitter by Czesław Miłosz:

Longing/ Czesław Miłosz

Not that I want to be a god or a hero.
Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone.

feb 15/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.5 miles
outside: 23 degrees / icy

Maybe it wasn’t as icy on the sidewalks or the trail as it was on my driveway and the alley, but I decided not to risk it and bike and run inside. During my bike, I watched Linda Pastan read “Elegy” and a few running races. During my run, I finished up the latest episode of Nobody Asked Us with Des and Kara. I’m really enjoying their discussions. Today they talked about being introverts (me too) and struggling to promote themselves and being motivated by something other than fame. As I listened, I also paid attention to my body, noticing how it felt different depending on how I did my arm swing. At one point, I locked into a rhythm between my arms and legs that felt effortless and machine-like. I remember writing about the body as a machine (and not a machine) on this log in the beginning. Maybe I should return to some of those discussions?

Maggie Smith has started doing a newsletter about craft. Yay! Today’s was about stanzas and the idea that a stanza is a room in the poem or its paragraph. She discusses couplets in particular:

I have a soft spot for unrhymed couplets. I like the padding of white space around them, so each stanza is like a piece of art hung on a gallery wall. White space is literal “breathing room” on the page, and it slows a poem down. Shorter stanzas in a poem = more white space between stanzas on the page = more time for the reader to savor each line.

To slow a poem down, build in more white space by shortening the stanza length. You can also shorten the line length to slow the reader down.

To pick up the pace in a poem, do the opposite: lengthen the stanzas by removing white space. You can also speed up the reader’s momentum by lengthening the lines.

As I draft a poem, I often decide on the line length and the grouping of lines I prefer for the opening stanza, and then I use that line and stanza length as a template for the rest of the poem. If I prefer the opening to be a quatrain, for example, I’ll naturally try quatrains for the whole poem and see if that might work. Sometimes it does, but not always. Other times I might find that irregular stanzas work best, or I might end up collapsing the whole poem into a single stanza to speed it along.

Craft Tip from Maggie Smith

Today’s Pastan Poem:

Elegy/ Linda Pastan (1986)*

Last night the moon lifted itself
on one wing
over the fields,

and struggling to rise
this morning
like a hooked fish

through watery
of sleep.

I know
with what difficulty

must pull themselves
all the way up
their stems.

How much easier
the free fall of snow
or leaves in their season.

All week, watching
the hospital gown

and falling
with your raggedy breath,
I dreamed

not of resurrections
but of the slow, sensual
slide each night

into sleep, of dust
of newly shoveled earth

*Pastan wrote more than one poem with the title “Elegy.”

I’m struggling with her use of “struggling” in the second stanza. The full sentence doesn’t make sense to me. It’s quite possible I’m just not reading it right, but shouldn’t it be “struggled”?