dec 15/RUN

7.25 miles
lake nokomis and back
41 degrees

Ran to Lake Nokomis and back — a December goal achieved! A few weeks ago, I told Scott that I wanted to do that at least once before the end of 2023. Today was a great day to do it. Overcast, mild, hardly any wind. Everything brown and orange and calm. I felt relaxed and strong and only a little sore in my left hip.

Ran above the river, past the falls, over the mustache and duck bridges, by Minnehaha creek and Lake Hiawatha, then to the big beach at Lake Nokomis. I ran down the sidewalk that leads to the lifeguard stand and the water — the sidewalk I often take in the summer just before starting open swim. I thought about summer and swimming, then took this video:

Lake Nokomis / 15 dec 2023 / above the frame, a bird was flying

Ran on Minnehaha Parkway on the way back.

10 Things

  1. several spots in the split rail fence where the railing was bent or leaning or broken
  2. headlights cutting through the pale gray sky
  3. people walking below me on the Winchell Trail
  4. kids laughing on a playground*
  5. the parking lot at the falls had a few more cars in it then earlier in the week
  6. the creek was half frozen — thin sheets of ice everywhere
  7. a woman called out to a dog — liam or sam, I think? — or was she calling out to me, ma’am?
  8. a young girl testing out the thin ice on the edge of the lake — her name was Aubrey — I know this because a woman kept calling out Aubrey! Aubrey! No, don’t! and then, Let’s go Aubrey. I need to eat!
  9. the sidewalk was wet — in some spots, slick
  10. running north on the river road trail, in the groove, an older man on a bike called out, You’re a running machine! I was so surprised I snorted in response

*as I listened to the kids, I thought about how this sound doesn’t really change. Over the years, it comes from different kids, but the sound is the same. Season after season, year after year.

before the run

I’m trying to stop working on my poem about haunting the gorge, but I keep returning to it and just as I believe I have found the way in, another door opens, leading me in a different direction. When do you follow those doors and when do you stop? I worry that I’ll just keep wandering and never settle on/into anything. As I write this, I’m realizing that the question of when to keep moving and when to stop are a central theme of the poem. Here’s a bit of the poem that I wrote the other day that sums it up:

Stone is
satisfied
water
wants to be
somewhere
else. Sometimes
I am
water when
I want
to be stone
sometimes
I am stone
when I
need to be
water.

What to do with all of this? Maybe a run will help…

during the run

I kept returning to these questions of staying and leaving, moving and standing still. At one point, I started thinking about how nothing really stands still, the movement just happens at different speeds/paces/directions, in different scales of time. I’m interested in slow time, directionless time, time that seems to repeat, drip.

Then I thought about the value of solid (or stable or slow moving) forms in which to put my words. These forms aren’t forever fixed, but are solid enough to hold those words, to shape them into something meaningful.

after the run

Not sure what to do with all of this, but forms I’m thinking about: running form — the running body, breaths, feet; boulders; dripping, seeping, sloping water

Water! Now I thinking about Bruce Lee’s poem, be water my friend:

Empty your mind. Be
formless shapeless
like water 
now you put 
water into a cup
it becomes the cup you put
water into a bottle
it becomes the bottle you put 
it into a tea pot
it becomes the tea pot
now water can flow or it can
craaaaasshh
be water my friend

And all the different types of water I encountered on my run: river, dripping ravine, falls, creek, weir, lake, puddle, ice. Different forms with different properties — some flow, some stay

And also Marie Howe’s lines about learning from the lake in “From Nowhere”:

 think the sea is a useless teacher, pitching and falling
no matter the weather, when our lives are rather lakes

unlocking in a constant and bewildering spring.

And now I’m remembering some lines from a draft of my poem, “Afterglow”:

No longer
wanting to be water —
formless fluid — but 
the land that contains 
it. Solid defined
giving shape to the flow.

And finally, it’s time to post a poem I read from Gary Snyder in his collection, Riprap:

Thin Ice/ Gary Snyder

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

note: I just checked and I might have missed something, but I think the last time I ran over 7 miles was on September 21, 2021. I ran 7.2 miles to the bohemian flats. And here’s something interesting: I posted a draft, just finished, of “Afterglow,” with the lines mentioned above included for the first time. Strange how that works.

may 22/BIKEYARDWORK

lake nokomis and back
bike: 8.6 miles
80 degrees

The first outdoor bike of the year! I’m always anxious, not knowing how much I’ll be able to see on my earliest bike rides of the season, but today was fine. Hooray! Not scared at all, nothing popping up unexpectedly. okay, maybe once when I was focusing on a bike that was approaching from far off, I didn’t notice another bike that was much closer to me. I was more concerned with my tires, which NEED to be replaced; they’ve been leaking air for a few years now. They were fine too. Several times during the bike ride I had a big smile on my face as I thought, I can still bike! then, I get to bike to the lake and swim across it all summer!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the wind was rushing in and past my ears as I biked south
  2. several bikers on fat tires — I wondered why. Do they know something about the road conditions that I don’t?
  3. the port-a-potties at the falls for the race this past weekend were still there, so were the detour signs
  4. the duck bridge is temporarily gone — it’s being repaired until ? As I biked by, I noticed a chainlink fence and an asphalt trail abruptly ending where the bridge should be — now that’s an image for one of my nightmares!
  5. squeak squeak squeak On your left — some squeaking bikes approaching from behind, then passing me just past the duck bridge
  6. the lake — open water, but not empty water — some people already swimming
  7. the safety boat — a silvery white beacon across the lake
  8. the surreys (Scott’s nemesis) were lining the trail, ready to torment him
  9. an older guy, sitting in a lawn chair at the beach, telling someone a story about how his baseball card collection isn’t worth anything — he said, you might as well throw it all away. — even this card? it should be worth something?! Nope
  10. an even older guy stopping a woman in a bikini walking by and talking at (not to) her about how there aren’t any lifeguards. Couldn’t quite tell what he was saying, but I assume he meant, but there should be! If he had asked me, I would have said — the season doesn’t start until next weekend and who will you be able to hire this early in the year?

yardwork: 1 hour
mowing, raking, pulling weeds
73 degrees

Mowed the front yard, raked some fallen branches, pulled the irritating garlic mustard that erupts every spring. Least favorite thing about it: it always comes back. Most favorite thing about it: it’s satisfyingly easy to pull; it just pops right out! Listened to an audiobook — the 2nd in a murder mystery series where Agatha Christie’s bff and head housekeeper solves murders. This one’s called, A Trace Poison.

I like mowing the lawn with our reel mower. (I didn’t know that it was called a reel mower. Last summer, when I asked the guy working at the store for help I thought he said real mower, and then I thought, as my daughter would say, he gets it. Yes, the only kind of mower to get is a hand-powered one and not a loud, huge monster mower. But no, he just meant a mower with a reel, a reel mower.) Anyway, it’s fun to be outside, and it’s a chance to move while I listen to my book. Unfortunately, as my vision gets worse (and our yard does too), it’s harder to see where I’ve mowed and where I’ve missed. My aesthetic has always been “almost-chic” or that’s good enough, so I don’t mind, but I think Scott might. So this summer, FWA will have to mow, and I’ll stick to pulling weeds.

Mary Ruefle and not knowing or knowing nothing

Today I finally arrived at the part in Madness, Rack, and Honey in which Mary Ruefle uses one of my favorite quotes of hers, a quote that was an inspiration for my “Bewildered” poem:

The difference between myself and a student is that I am better at not knowing what I am doing.

“Short Lecture on Socrates,” page 250

I am almost positive I did read this exact passage when I checked out this book from the library, but maybe I didn’t? Anyway, reading Ruefle’s book was much later after I had already encountered the quote and fallen in love with the idea of being better at not knowing. I first read it in an article about bewilderment, Less Than Certain. I had no idea (or no memory of it, at least) that the quote is in a lecture about Socrates and the unknowingness/not knowing/knowing nothing as the foundation of Western civilization. Wow. I forgot to take my own advice to always think about the larger context of a quote that I want to use!

Reading this small lecture, recognizing that we know nothing seems to be about humility. Recognizing the limits of what you do or can know. Not believing you can know everything. In another article on this topic that mentions Ruefle’s quote, Jack Underwood echoes this:

What interests me about poetry is that rather than looking up for answers, it tends to lead us back indoors, to the mirror, as if seeing ourselves reflected within its frame, confused, gawping, empty-eyed, and scalded by circumstance, might re-teach us the lesson: that meaning presents itself precisely as a question — therefore, you can’t entertain it by seeking to answer it. Imagine! The old, old universe, arranging itself legibly into a puzzle that our small brains might be qualified to solve with the knowledge we can accrue from our small corner of its tablecloth. Solving the mysteries of the universe: isn’t that just the most arrogant, preposterous thing you ever heard? The idea of there being some sort of Answer to Everything is an admirable feat of imagination but also displays a woeful lack of it.

On Poetry and Uncertain Subjects

Even as I appreciate the importance of humility, I like thinking about this not knowing or knowing nothing in other ways.

Not knowing as an action. To actively not know something. This could mean unlearning it, to be engaged in the act of not knowing it or divesting (disinvesting?) from it. Or it could mean willful ignorance — a refusal to know some fact, someone. I choose to not know! It could be Mary Ruefle’s wonder from “On Secrets” — I would rather wonder than know. Or it could my moment or many moments of refusing to conceal my not knowing to others, to admit/embrace/accept that I can’t see that bird, right over there, that you are pointing out to me.

Knowing nothing as knowing the thing, or things, that is/are nothing, where nothing is a space where time is stopped or where productivity doesn’t happen (Ross Gay). Or where nothing is the Void, the absence, the blank space around which we orbit, trying to find meaning or possibility or connection. Or where nothing is Marie Howe’s singularity:

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

may 17/RUN

6 miles
annie young meadow and back
55 degrees

The perfect temperature for a spring run. The light looked strange. Filtered through trees, clouds, haze? it looked almost pink or light orangish-pink. I liked it. Everything, everywhere thick with green.

note, 19 may, 2023: talked with Scott and RJP about the strange light, which has continued: forest fires

I greeted the Welcoming Oaks and good morninged Mr. Morning! and another regular — did I ever name him? Maybe it was Mr. Holiday?

I chanted in triple berries to keep a steady rhythm — strawberry blueberry raspberry — and tried to stop thinking or noticing anything, to just be on the path, moving and breathing. What did I notice anyway?

10 Things I Noticed When I Wasn’t Noticing

  1. 2 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. down in the flats, the river was moving fast. I tried to race it
  3. white foam on the river, under the I-94 bridge I thought (or hoped?) it was a rowing shell
  4. a fat tire bike sped down the franklin hill, abruptly turned at annie young meadow and almost ran into a parked car, then called out to the guy in the car — his friend — Hey!
  5. the bucket of a big crane curled under the franklin bridge with a worker in it, studying the underside of the bridge
  6. a guy walking on edmund in a bright yellow vest, no other vest wearers or official vehicles in sight
  7. a runner coming down the other franklin hill — the one near the dog park — then entering the river road trail 25 yards? ahead of me
  8. smell: pot, down in the flats
  9. a woman stopped at the edge of the trail, looking through a camera lens at a tree on the other side of the road. I thought about calling out, what’s in the tree?, but didn’t
  10. the weeds on the edge of the trail, poking out of cracks in the asphalt looked monstrous — now I can’t remember what I thought they were at first, just not weeds
  11. bonus: a turkey! chilling in the grassy boulevard between edmund and the river road

I don’t really remember what I heard as I ran without headphones toward franklin. After stopping 3/4 of the way up the hill to walk, I put in music. I thought I put in Lizzo’s Special but I must have forgot to tap something because when I hit the play button it was Dear Evan Hansen again. Oh well.

Mary Ruefle, “Madness, Rack, and Honey”

Last night during Scott’s community jazz band rehearsal, after our regular community band rehearsal, when I sit for an hour and try to read or write or think about my poetry, I started Ruefle’s titular lecture (is that the correct way to use titular?). Now, after my run, I’m back at it again. This lecture is a chewy bagel and I’m determined to not spend too much time on it.

The title is strange — what does she mean by madness, rack, and honey? — and I was pleased to discover that she devotes the lecture to explaining the title. She begins with a Persian poem:

I shall not finish my poem.
What I have written is so sweet
The flies are beginning to torment me.

honey:

It is so simple and clear: the “figurative” sweetness of the author’s verse has become honey, causing “literal” flies to swarm on the page or in around the autor’s ead. This is turly the Word made flesh, the fictive made real, water into wine. That is the honey of poetry: the miracle of its transformation, which is that of creation: once there was a blank page–scary!–now there is something in its place that is attracting flies. Anyone who has not experienced the joy, pleasure, transport, and who has not experienced the joy, pleasure, transport, and sweetness of writing poems has not written poems.

pages 130-131

rack:

Enter the flies who feast. For teh poem clearly reminds us that honey has complications–those flies are beginning to torment the poet. Torment, pain, torture, is what I mean by the rack.

page 134

It is what poetry does to the world, what poets do with words, and what words will do to a poet. And that’s the rack of it. And if you have never experienced the rack while working on a poem then you have have never worked on a poem. Have you never put language in an extenuating circumstance with dangerous limits until an acute physical sensation results?

page 135

And, if I have time, I’ll return for madness later today.

One more thing to post before I go eat lunch. Instead of posting the poem, which I also like, I’m only posting the poet’s explanation of it.

About This Poem (Evening)

“Sometimes you hear a word as if for the first time, a word you’ve been saying your whole life. I don’t know what in the brain allows the word, in that moment, to reveal itself, but it always makes me feel very smart and very foolish at once. This poem was written during the period when I had just gotten into gardening and was gaining a new appreciation for everything—food, nature, and time. I wonder what else is waiting to reveal itself to me in such a way, and whether I’ll be distracted enough to receive it.”
Jeremy Radin

Now I’m thinking of the opening lines from Marie Howe’s “The Meadow”: As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them…is this idea of walking into words similar to words (and new meanings) revealing themselves to us? As I write this question, I’m reminded of a Mary Ruefle piece in My Private Property: “In the Forest”

When I wander in the forest I am drawn towards language, I see meaning is quaintly hidden, shooting up in dark wet woods, by roots of trees, old walls, among dead leaves…

page 74

And these lines helped me to remember a thought I had as I ran this morning on the part of the pedestrian path that dips below the bike path, the two separated by a slight rise and some bushes. When I first started to run this trail, almost 10 years ago, I was a little afraid of taking this lower trail. It was hidden from the road and other people and I wondered if someone might be lurking, waiting for me. Today I thought, how could I have been afraid of this short part of the path, only hidden from view for a few seconds? It does seem ridiculous.

may 14/RUN

4.35 miles
marshall loop to cleveland
52 degrees
humidity: 80%

Wet air, wet ground. Everything bright green or muddy brown. Overcast. Ran up the marshall hill and past Cretin to Cleveland. As I approached St. Thomas, I wondered if I’d hear the bells. Yes! Dum dum dum dum at 11:15. Encountered a few other runners, some walkers, bikers, a dog. Scanned the river for rowers, saw a paddleboat! A Mother’s Day brunch? Heard a black-capped chickadee calling out fee bee fee bee, then some blue jays screeching ha ha ha ha. Running right past a bush, a red bird suddenly flew out if it, a whirr of red in my face. Later, heading down the Summit hill, heard the shimmering (or tinkling or fluttering or ?) of water falling over the limestone ledge at Shadow Falls. Noticed near the end of my run that the forest below the tunnel of trees is hidden by a veil of green. I thought about how nice it was that the gnats and mosquitoes hadn’t arrived yet — or the catkin fluff from the cottonwood trees.

A very relaxed run. A nice way to spend a Mother’s Day morning. I don’t feel too sad today, but I don’t like Mother’s Day — especially since I lost my second mother last fall. My current take on the day: it irritates me. Anyway, here’s a beautiful mother poem that I was happy to find this morning:

I Inherit the Whims of my Mother As I Prepare to Trash This Draft/ Donna Vorreyer

I discover a piece of stationery, bordered with red-gold

leaves. In the center, her cramped hand reads simply

The snow is so so white today.

How odd to read these words in June, air hung with 

humidity, sweat jeweling my lip. Just that one line,

stuck in an old calendar underneath a stack of books.

I upend each one, fanning the pages to search for more

and out they flutter like doves, each one scribbled like

urgent messages from some simpler beyond–

That red bird is back, crashing into the window.

Railroad tracks are the saddest things.

The wood is pretty where it is rotting.

If I could revise our lives, make her survive the cancer

that burned fast and bright through her insides,

I would tell her how wrong she was to say she couldn’t 

write, how much I am like her with my mundane

notes, my daydreaming observations, post-its 

congregating in each bag, notebooks on each surface,

and I would sit with her and notice every moment,

rebuke her for thinking she was not good enough, 

a mistake I still make, one that I am making right now 

as I question and regret each line I add to this poem. 

I want to talk to her. I want to tell her that cardinal 

is back, flying straight at the window again and again.

These lines:

If I could revise our lives, make her survive the cancer/that burned fast and bright through her insides,

After stopping my run at the ancient boulder and crossing the river road, I pulled out my phone and recited a poem that I memorized a few years ago and am memorizing again as part of my 100 poems memorized goal: The Meadow/ Marie Howe. I listened to my recording while looking at the poem just now. Not too bad, only a few missed words, one mixed up line.

may 10/YARDWORK

1 hour
mowing, raking, pulling weeds
70 degrees

After almost 2 months of preparing for, then waiting, then watching it happen, the house is finally painted. Now I can mow and garden and bring out the umbrella for the deck. Hooray! Since I knew I should have a day off from running — having run 4 days in a row, I decided to do yardwork today.

Yardwork. And now the yardwork is over (it is never over), today’s
Stint anyway. Odd jobs, that stretch ahead, wide and mindless
–“Hymn to Life”/ James Schuyler

Today it feels like summer but the backyard looks like early spring. Tulips in full bloom, peonies popping up with their green shoots that look like asparagus — at least to me. Big bare patches from where robins had dropped crabapple seeds in late winter. Dandelions, garlic mustard, creeping charlie, the half-mulched leaves left over from late fall.

I listened to a Maintenance Phase episode — Oprah v. the beef industry — while I mowed and raked and swept up scattered mulch.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. everywhere, in the back and front yards, the ground seemed soft — too soft. is it the ants?
  2. right next to the front step, a giant mound — an ant hill
  3. the soft metallic whirr of the reel mower blades
  4. the distinctive thunk of the blade getting jammed from a small twig
  5. strange — bare vines by the yucca bushes — is this ground cover dead/dying, or have the leaves not appeared yet. is it the ants?
  6. the sloped front lawn, soft and bare, a few patches of weeds, some suspicious looking soft dirt. is it the ants?
  7. weeds infiltrating the red and yellow tulips on the south side of the house
  8. a few bright green leaves growing on the hydrangea twigs
  9. some small maple leaves poking out from the spirea
  10. small asparagus-like stalks emerging from the earth — time to put the cages around the peonies before they get too big to tame!

Mary Ruefle and Washing Dishes

In the opening lines of “Towards a Carefree World,” Ruefle writes:

Many of the most astonishing writers in the world had ser-
vants. It is doubtful they ever really washed the dishes.
Which is too bad; I think they would have enjoyed wash-
ing the dishes, especially after dinner. Repetitive motion
can take your mind off things. By things I mean the cares
of this world.

With these lines, I decided to think about washing dishes.

1

Mother, Washing Dishes/ Susan Meyers

She rarely made us do it—
we’d clear the table instead—so my sister and I teased
that some day we’d train our children right
and not end up like her, after every meal stuck
with red knuckles, a bleached rag to wipe and wring.
The one chore she spared us: gummy plates
in water greasy and swirling with sloughed peas,
globs of egg and gravy.

Or did she guard her place
at the window? Not wanting to give up the gloss
of the magnolia, the school traffic humming.
Sunset, finches at the feeder. First sightings
of the mail truck at the curb, just after noon,
delivering a note, a card, the least bit of news.

2

What the Living Do/ Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

3

Mostly I like washing dishes. It’s a chance to move after a meal, or as a break from writing. I listen to a podcast — Maintenance Phase, Ali on the Run, Vs., Between the Covers — or an audio book while I soak then scrub then rinse. Sometimes I look out the window at the trees swaying in the wind or the sky glowing orange or a squirrel taunting my dog. Occasionally, but not often, I shatter a dish on the granite countertop.

Usually I can see well enough to properly clean the dirty dishes. Sometimes I rely on feel — if it’s smooth, it’s clean; if it’s rough, it’s dirty. My biggest struggle is with the metal cheese grater. I hold it under the light, tilt it in different directions, trying to see if I missed any streaks of cheese. Almost impossible for me to tell.

We have a dishwasher but it hasn’t been working properly for 2 or 3 years now so I hand wash the dishes. Sometimes I wish our dishwasher worked, sometimes I don’t care. Often I wonder if washing dishes will be one more thing lost to me once all of my central vision is gone.

I don’t remember washing too many dishes with my mom, but I do remember drying them for Scott’s mom and dad after dinner. They always had to do the dishes right after eating. It took me years (15? 20?) to finally feel comfortable enough to help them. They were very particular about how you should wash dishes — don’t waste water, make sure they are absolutely dry before putting any dishes away, use a drying cloth that doesn’t leave lint but also doesn’t dry anything. When they both stopped caring about the dishes and how they were done, I knew we were entering the final stage.

Our kitchen faucet had been dying for three or four years. First, it dripped when you turned it off. Sometimes, if I jiggled it just right, it would almost stop. For at least 3 years this happened. Then, the retractable hose started getting stuck. You could pull it out, but not put it back in. Then you couldn’t move it from one sink to the other. Finally, the whole faucet — base and all — wouldn’t stop moving and leaking water into the cabinet below. When this happened Scott abruptly declared it was time, right this minute, to go out a buy a new faucet. So we did. And when we returned home Scott removed the old faucent, which was hard to get out, and put in the new one, which slid in without a problem. Why, I wondered, had we waited so long to get a new faucet?

oct 17/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes
basement, bike stand

I’d like to run this morning, but I won’t. I’m trying to give my right knee a break. So instead, I did a short bike ride in the basement. Hopefully, later this week, I’ll swim at the Y. No deep thoughts while biking, just the chance to move and get my heart rate above 120 bpms. Thought about starting the second season of Cheer! — I watched the first during the winter of 2020 — but ended up watching another track race. Maybe next time I’ll start re-watching Dickinson? I’ve started listening to the awesome poetry podcast about the show, The Slave is Gone, and I’ve been wanting to return to ED’s poems, and read the book I bought earlier this year, My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe. Too many projects, not enough time or energy. Oh well.

Marie Howe and the Moment

Yesterday, I posted 2 poems from Marie Howe, Part of Eve’s Discussion and The Meadow, and I mentioned a third that I had posted earlier in this year on July 19, “The Moment.” Here it is:

The Moment/ Marie Howe

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when, nothing

happens

no what-have-I-to-do-today-list

maybe half a moment

the rush of traffic stops.

The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be

slows to silence,

the white cotton curtains hanging still.

This last line about the white curtains hanging still reminds me of an interview with Howe that I posted an excerpt from 3 days later. When asked about caring for her dying brother, she mentions a green, flapping shade:

 being with John when he was alive in those hours and days in his room with the green, flapping shade. Sitting by Johnny and just talking in those ways for those hours and all the particulars: the glass, the sandwich, the shade, the bedclothes, the cat, the summer heat outside pressing against the windows, the coolness in the air, the dim room. The peacefulness. The sounds of kids on bikes outside. For once there was nothing else going on but that. That’s the freedom of it, right? What’s more important? Nothing. So you’re actually living in time again.

and also this:

That was really a big deal. I was given this place to be without any expectations really. And everything changed so that the particulars of life—this white dish, the shadow of the bottle on it—everything mattered so much more to me. And I saw what happened in these spaces. You can never even say what happened, because what happened is rarely said, but it occurs among the glasses with water and lemon in them. And so you can’t say what happened but you can talk about the glasses or the lemon. And that something is in between all that.

Reading her words here, and thinking about the death of her brother, has helped me to enhance/shift my understanding of a few lines from “The Meadow”:

But in this world, where something is always listening, even
murmuring has meaning, as in the next room you moan

in your sleep, turning into late morning. My love, this might be
all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you can forget

what you are. 

I first wrote about these lines on july 13 and 14, 2020. In those entries, I talked a lot about the value of forgetting. To forget what you are and just be, without judgment, giving attention to the light and the breeze and a flapping, green shade.

a few more thoughts about moments:

In “Logic” Richard Siken writes the moment before something happening and sleeping and possibility. I don’t completely understand his words, but they reminded me of Howe’s words:

A hammer is a hammer when it hits the nail. 
A hammer is not a hammer when it is sleeping. I woke 
up tired of being the hammer. There’s a dream in the 
space between the hammer and the nail: the dream of
about-to-be-hit, which is a bad dream, but the nail will
take the hit if it gets to sleep inside the wood forever. 

Also, I keep thinking about a moment as not being a unit of time, but a location, that in-between space. And I’m also thinking of time outside the clock, which is a theme I’ve return to a lot, and that comes up in the bit of the poem I re-memorized yesterday:

Our clock is blind, our clock is dumb.
Its hands are broken, its fingers numb.
No time for the martyr of our fair town
Who wasn’t a witch because she could drown.

It’s also in the a few lines I wrote in my long poem, which I was calling “Haunts,” but am now thinking of it as “Girl Ghost Gorge”:

I slip through time’s tight
ticks to moments so
brief they’re like shudders,
but so generous
they might fit every-
thing left behind by
progress.

oct 16/RUN

3.25 miles
marshall loop
42 degrees / 16 mph

Overcast, a heavy white sky. No snow coming, just thick clouds. A nice contrast for the bright yellows and reds and oranges lining the gorge and neighborhood sidewalks. The best view: running back across the lake street bridge, from Minneapolis to St. Paul. Such vivid colors!

About 1/2 mile in, my kneecap seemed a little shifty. Do I need to turn back? I decided to walk for a minute and regroup. Started running again, still uncertain whether I would keep going or not. For the rest of the run, it sometimes felt strange. Or was it just that I was worried about it? I can’t decide if it — my knee, my leg, my calf — feels strange because I’m worried, or because it’s warning me? Should I take several days off to be safe? Probably.

image of the day

Running over the bridge, I noticed these foamy streaks on the east side of the river — not continuous lines, but dashes or slashes in the water. I wondered what caused them. Later, walking for a short stretch back across the bridge I decided it was the strong wind pushing the water, making little ripples. Now I’m wondering again: was it just wind, or wind and small sandbars below the surface?

Last night, I recall reading something about how low the Mississippi River is this year and about some rock formation near St. Louis (I think?) that you normally can only access by boat, but now you can walk to. Okay, I looked it up. It’s Tower Rock and it is near St. Louis and here’s an article about it.

Before I went out for my run, I re-memorized my favorite part of one of my favorite Halloween poems. It’s from “A Rhyme for Halloween” by Maurice Kilwein Guevara:

Our clock is blind, our clock is dumb.
Its hands are broken, its fingers numb.
No time for the martyr of our fair town
Who wasn’t a witch because she could drown.

Now the dogs of the cemetery are starting to bark
At the vision of her bobbing up in the dark.
When she opens her mouth to gasp for air,
A moth flies out and lands in her hair.

The apples are thumping, winter is coming.
The lips of the pumpkin soon will be humming.
By the caw of the crow on the first of the year,
Something will die, something appear.

Oh, the mood this poem creates! I love it. I intended to recite this in my head as I ran, but I forgot. I think I was too distracted by worries about my knee.

Found this poem on twitter yesterday. It’s from Marie Howe, one of my favorite poets:

Part of Eve’s Discussion/ Marie Howe

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.

I want to return to this poem and think about this moment some more, and the last line. And I want to compare it to some of her ideas about moments, like in The Moment or The Meadow:

The Meadow/ Marie Howe

As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them, so
the meadow, muddy with dreams, is gathering itself together

and trying, with difficulty, to remember how to make wildflowers.
Imperceptibly heaving with the old impatience, it knows

for certain that two horses walk upon it, weary of hay.
The horses, sway-backed and self important, cannot design

how the small white pony mysteriously escapes the fence every day.
This is the miracle just beyond their heavy-headed grasp,

and they turn from his nuzzling with irritation. Everything
is crying out. Two crows, rising from the hill, fight

and caw-cry in mid-flight, then fall and light on the meadow grass
bewildered by their weight. A dozen wasps drone, tiny prop planes,

sputtering into a field the farmer has not yet plowed,
and what I thought was a phone, turned down and ringing,

is the knock of a woodpecker for food or warning, I can’t say.
I want to add my cry to those who would speak for the sound alone.

But in this world, where something is always listening, even
murmuring has meaning, as in the next room you moan

in your sleep, turning into late morning. My love, this might be
all we know of forgiveness, this small time when you can forget

what you are. There will come a day when the meadow will think
suddenly, water, root, blossom, through no fault of its own,

and the horses will lie down in daisies and clover. Bedeviled,
human, your plight, in waking, is to choose from the words

that even now sleep on your tongue, and to know that tangled
among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change your life.

july 20/RUN

3.1 miles
big loop*
68 degrees

*44th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, west/edmund, south

Another good run. Cooler and very calm, still, quiet. Don’t remember hearing (m)any birds, no conversations, no rowers. At least 3 separate times, I thought I was hearing the clickity-clack of roller skiers, but was actually hearing a bike with noisy wheels or messed up gears or something. Strange that it happened 3 times when I don’t remember ever making that mistake before. Was it the quality of air? Hardly any wind this morning. Sunny, but not bright. Did I see my shadow? Can’t remember.

Recited “The Gate” one more day and thought about gates and openings and doorways and thresholds and windows and spaces where movement and breathing and new stories/ways of being are possible. I think this is my new theme for the month and/or for a series of poems/essays.

Recorded myself reciting it just after finishing my run–my heart rate was probably around 140 or so as I spoke. I got it mostly right but messed up the second to last “this.” The order she writes the three thises–“This is what you’ve been waiting for, ” “And he’d say, This,” and “This, he’d say” is important. It doesn’t have as much impact the way I recited it.

The Gate, July 20

Yesterday, reading Ted Kooser’s Delights and Shadows, I found these two poems that I really liked:

Grasshopper/ Ted Kooser

This year they are exactly the size
of the the pencil stub my grandfather kept
to mark off the days since rain,

and precisely the color of dust, of the roads
leading back accross the dying fields
into the ’30s. Walking the cracked lane

past the empty barn, the empty silo,
you hear them tinkering with irony,
slapping the grass like drops of rain.

The Early Bird/ Ted Kooser

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-bully notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy
bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.