dec 7/RUN

5.25 miles
bottom of franklin loop and back again
29 degrees/feels like 20
less than 5% ice covered

Another great winter run. Sunny, not too much wind, clear path. Heard some cawing crows before I started. Enjoyed breathing in the cold air. Did not enjoy how that same cold air made my eyes water even with sunglasses on. Encountered lots of other runners. A few fat tires, walkers, dogs. No more squirrels. Heard the nail gun at the house near the trestle that they’ve been working on for months. Smelled some type of food coming from the Longfellow Grill–some brunch thing, I guess. Ran down the franklin hill, passing at least 5 people running up it. Decided to see how far I would get in 25 minutes–to the gate near Annie Young Meadows Park–and then turn around. Ran up the hill until I reached the turnoff for the bridge then walked for 2 minutes. Started running again, slowly gaining on 2 women ahead of me. Finally passed them and then ran much faster than I wanted to stay ahead of them. Mistook 2 trashcans for a group of people. Also thought a bright yellow jacket draped over one of the ancient boulders by the sprawling oak was a person. Good thing I didn’t greet them! On my walk home from the river, greeted Dave, the Daily Walker, just heading out for his walk.

Epistemology
Catherine Barnett

Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle,
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate,
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing.
They don’t use words, but they can be said to love.
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it’s called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare,
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I’m alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches.

Oh, I love this poem! I remember encountering it a few years ago when I was trying to figure out what the term/process is for trees that grow through fences. It came up again this morning on my twitter feed. I’m not sure what I think about the first line: “Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.” I’ve been writing a lot about the limits of knowing and the need to feel the force of ideas more. Yet, I like this idea of knowing as becoming familiar with things (knowing knots) and acquiring interesting facts (about preventing fraying, how trees communicate). I’d like to distinguish between knowing as familiarity and knowing as conquering/mastering/fully understanding. I’d also like to put this poem next to another poem I discovered this fall, Learning the Trees, which I posted in my sept 15 log entry. I want to ruminate some more on the difference between learning and knowing and Knowing.

dec 5/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin and back again
31 degrees
5-10% ice and snow covered

Another great run! Sun. Almost above freezing. Hardly any wind. Today the river was beautiful. More gray than brown. Shimmering. Still open and flowing. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. Admired the occasional tree painted white on one side. Lamented the parts of the walking path–especially where it dips below the road–that are still covered in almost a foot of snow. Noticed how lovely the view was framed by the 1-94 bridge as I neared the bottom of the franklin hill. Checked out the Winchell Trail and, after noticing some footprints in the snow, wondered who walks it this time of year. Ran under a moving train at the trestle! I thought ADM had closed but I guess not. I think this is only the second time I’ve run under a train in the 5+ years I’ve been running here. Liked watching the drips from the train drop down from the trestle. So cool. At the end of my run, stopped at the split rail fence above the ravine. I could almost, but not quite, hear the water trickling/dripping/splashing on the limestone ledge.

Hotel Lullaby
Srikanth Reddy

No matter how often you knock
on the ocean the ocean

just waves. No matter
how often you enter the ocean

the ocean still says
no one’s home. You must leave

her dear Ursula. As I write this
they polish the big

chandelier. Every prism
a sunset in abstract

or bijou foyer depending
on where you stand.

They take it apart every Fall
& call it Spring cleaning.

They bring me my tea.
They ask me my name

& I tell them — Ursula,
I don’t even know

how to miss who you left.
So many cabanas

to choose from tonight
but only one view.

It’s the sea.
What keeps me awake

is the sound of you sleeping
beside me again my dear Ursula,

Ursula, Ursula dear — then
you’re nothing

but waves & I break.

So many wonderful lines in this poem and I love the way a story unfolds the more times I read it. The line about how the ocean just waves is great and so is the one about spring cleaning in the fall but I think my favorite right now is “so many cabanas/ to choose from tonight/but only one view. / It’s the sea.”

dec 4/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge and back again
34 degrees
15% snow-covered

Ran to the river and turned right instead of left today, heading towards the falls. So much sun. Encountered several walkers, a few runners. Any bikers? The river was sparkling, much prettier today. The bike path was mostly clear of snow, the walking path was not. Encountered a group of walkers taking up the entire path and refusing to move at all. I actually had to stop moving as they approached me. Finally the guy realized I was there and moved over a little. After I turned around, catching up to them again, I had to call out “excuse me” 2 or 3 times before they moved. Surprisingly, I was not mad at all. I wish I could be this chill about path hoggers all the time.

I just discovered a wonderful book (and project) from Georges Perec, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place. A wonderful inspiration for my running beside the gorge. In his brief introduction he writes:

My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest instead: that which is generally not taken not of, that which is not noticed, that which which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.

what happens when nothing other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds?

Cherry blossoms
Toi Derricotte – 1941-

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;
a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:
ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.
A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
heaven.
All around us
the blossoms
flurry down
whispering,

Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

Be patient,
you have an ancient beauty.

No cheery blossoms for a long time, but I couldn’t resist posting this beautiful poem and its description of a place and a relationship. Oh Cherry Blossom, why can’t my poems be as beautiful? I love the answer: be patient.

dec 3/RUN

4.5 miles
under the franklin bridge and back
28 degrees
25% snow and ice covered

Winter running! Icy in the neighborhood, but not too bad on the path. Sunny, bright, beautiful. Remembered to look at the river today. Not as pretty as the path. Boring brown. No ice yet. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker–not just “good morning” but “how are you?” too! Spent a lot of time trying to avoid big icy-snowy chunks, which are almost impossible for me to see with my vision. Also spent time de-fogging my sunglasses. How do people run with sunglasses? I still haven’t figured it out. At the start of the run, encountered a walker with his dogs. I think he called out, “will power!,” which I assumed meant he thought that the only reason I was out here in the winter was because I had a strong will. I wanted to yell out, “This isn’t miserable! I love being out here in this cold!”

additional note: Just remembered about the sun and my shadow. As I ran north, she was behind me and off to the side. Occasionally I could see her out of the corner of my left eye–well, not the actual shadow but the hint of something there almost. I kept thinking someone was about to pass me. I think I looked back to check at least 3 or 4 times. Strange.

This poem! So beautiful and heartbreaking and exciting as a form.

Heartbeats
Melvin Dixon – 1950-1992

Work out. Ten laps.
Chin ups. Look good.

Steam room. Dress warm.
Call home. Fresh air.

Eat right. Rest well.
Sweetheart. Safe sex.

Sore throat. Long flu.
Hard nodes. Beware.

Test blood. Count cells.
Reds thin. Whites low.

Dress warm. Eat well.
Short breath. Fatigue.

Night sweats. Dry cough.
Loose stools. Weight loss.

Get mad. Fight back.
Call home. Rest well.

Don’t cry. Take charge.
No sex. Eat right.

Call home. Talk slow.
Chin up. No air.

Arms wide. Nodes hard.
Cough dry. Hold on.

Mouth wide. Drink this.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

No air. Breathe in.
Breathe in. No air.

Black out. White rooms.
Head hot. Feet cold.

No work. Eat right.
CAT scan. Chin up.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
No air. No air.

Thin blood. Sore lungs.
Mouth dry. Mind gone.

Six months? Three weeks?
Can’t eat. No air.

Today? Tonight?
It waits. For me.

Sweet heart. Don’t stop.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

dec 1/RUN

4.3 miles
top of franklin hill and back
30 degrees/snow
75% snow-covered

What a run!! Snow was falling gently–sometimes annoyingly in my face but, who cares? The paths weren’t slick and icy. Geese were honking overhead. Pretty sure I didn’t look at the river once. Too busy admiring the snow. Almost missed the Daily Walker but he called out to me. He was walking with his wife. Cool. Felt strong and happy and relaxed. Don’t remember thinking about anything except for when I should turn around. Towards the end of my run saw a dog and its 2 humans about to cross the road. The humans were wearing snow shoes. Winter goal: to try out snow shoes. I’ve wanted to do this ever since I met fast Eddie at the Y and he told me about racing 10Ks in snow shoes. Today is a wonderful start to winter running season!

Let It Be Forgotten
Sara Teasdale – 1884-1933

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow.

I love this poem. I want to memorize it and then recite it like a little prayer.

nov 28/RUN

3.2 miles
lake harriet
25 degrees

Ran around Lake Harriet with Scott on Thanksgiving day. Some ice and snow but hardly any wind. Not too cold. The water is still open–no ice skating yet. Lots of people walking and running. A few bikers, some fat tires. Driving over to the lake on the parkway, it looked like a winter wonderland with all of the snow-covered trees.

Tonight for dessert, I am making an apple crumble. It is baking in the oven and smells delicious as I write this entry. Looked up “apple” at the poetry foundation site and found this wonderful celebration of all things A:

The Letter A
BY DARREN SARDELLI

The letter A is awesome!
It simply is the best.
Without an A, you could not get
an A+ on a test.
You’d never see an acrobat
or eat an apple pie.
You couldn’t be an astronaut
or kiss your aunt goodbye.
An antelope would not exist.
An ape would be unknown.
You’d never hear a person
say “Afraid” or “All Alone”.
The A’s in avocado
would completely disappear
and certain words would be forgot
like “ankle”, “arm”, and “ear”.

Without the A, you couldn’t aim
an arrow in the air.
You wouldn’t ask for apricots
or almonds at a fair.
Aruba and Australia
would be missing from a map.
You’d never use an ATM,
an apron, or an app.
The arctic fox and aardvark
would be absent from the zoo,
and vowels, as you know them,
would be E, I, O, and U.
There wouldn’t be an A chord
on the instruments you play.
Let’s appreciate, admire,
and applaud the letter A!

nov 26/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
36 degrees

What a great run! So beautiful and brown and calm outside. Tonight the first winter storm arrives and tomorrow the gorge will be white, most likely until March or April. I have loved this late fall running when the temperature is in the 30s and the paths are bare. And I will love winter running and the crunching snow, the impossibly beautiful branches painted white. Felt strong and relaxed. Ended my run at the overlook to check out the wider view then hiked down the gravel trail to the ravine. Lots of water coming out of the sewer pipe, making its way to the river. At the first ledge, the water was dribbling, sounding like the shower when I’m outside of the bathroom. At the second ledge, the water was moving more swiftly, sounding like when I’m inside the bathroom, under the shower. Really cool. As I was running, then later walking, I kept thinking about how this was probably the last bare day of the year. I will miss the way the blueish gray water complements the rich brown forest and the sweet smell of mulching leaves and the view above the rim of the gorge on the path that winds through the tunnel of trees (and doesn’t get plowed in the winter).

Four-Word Lines
May Swenson – 1913-1989

Your eyes are just
like bees, and I
feel like a flower.
Their brown power makes
a breeze go over
my skin. When your
lashes ride down and
rise like brown bees’
legs, your pronged gaze
makes my eyes gauze.
I wish we were
in some shade and
no swarm of other
eyes to know that
I’m a flower breathing
bare, laid open to
your bees’ warm stare.
I’d let you wade
in me and seize
with your eager brown
bees’ power a sweet
glistening at my core.

nov 25/RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around + extra
42 degrees/ 16 mph wind

Listened to my playlist. Sunny. Saw my shadow a few times but she didn’t lead me–I bet she was avoiding the awful wind. Ran into the wind most of the time as I headed north. Don’t remember admiring the river that much but did notice the railroad trestle. So easy to see now that the leaves are all gone! Briefly mistook a trash can for a person. Felt too warm. Took off my outer layer at the half way point.

A pretty good run, even with the wind. Allowed me to forget about kids playing video games too much, refrigerators needing to be defrosted but hopefully not replaced, snow storms messing up Thanksgiving plans, a wonderful dog demanding too much attention.

November
Lucy Larcom

Who said November’s face was grim?
Who said her voice was harsh and sad?
I heard her sing in wood paths dim,
I met her on the shore, so glad,
So smiling, I could kiss her feet!
There never was a month so sweet.

October’s splendid robes, that hid
The beauty of the white-limbed trees,
Have dropped in tatters; yet amid
Those perfect forms the gazer sees
A proud wood-monarch here and there
Garments of wine-dipped crimson wear.

In precious flakes the autumnal gold
Is clinging to the forest’s fringe:
Yon bare twig to the sun will hold
Each separate leaf, to show the tinge
Of glorious rose-light reddening through
Its jewels, beautiful as few.

Where short-lived wild-flowers bloomed and died
The slanting sunbeams fall across
Vine-broideries, woven from side to side
Above mosaics of tinted moss.
So does the Eternal Artist’s skill
Hide beauty under beauty still.

And, if no note of bee or bird
Through the rapt stillness of the woods
Or the sea’s murmurous trance be heard,
A Presence in these solitudes
Upon the spirit seems to press
The dew of God’s dear silences.

And if, out of some inner heaven,
With soft relenting comes a day
Whereto the heart of June is given, —
All subtle scents and spicery
Through forest crypts and arches steal,
With power unnumbered hurts to heal.

Through yonder rended veil of green,
That used to shut the sky from me,
New glimpses of vast blue are seen;
I never guessed that so much sea
Bordered my little plot of ground,
And held me clasped so close around.

This is the month of sunrise skies
Intense with molten mist and flame;
Out of the purple deeps arrive
Colors no painter yet could name:
Gold-lilies and the cardinal-flower
Were pale against this gorgeous hour.

Still lovelier when athwart the east
The level beam of sunset falls:
The tints of wild-flowers long deceased
Glow then upon the horizon walls;
Shades of the rose and violet
Close to their dear world lingering yet.

What idleness, to moan and fret
For any season fair, gone by!
Life’s secret is not guessed at yet;
Veil under veil its wonders lie.
Through grief and loss made glorious
The soul of past joy lives in us.

More welcome than voluptous gales
This keen, crisp air, as conscience clear:
November breathes no flattering tales;—
The plain truth-teller of the year,
Who wins her heart, and he alone,
Knows she has sweetness all her own.

Yes! Lucy gets how wonderful November is.

nov 24/RUN

4 miles
marshall hill
40 degrees

Listened to a playlist. Noticed the shimmering water on the river and in the ravine. What a beautiful view of the gorge from the lake street bridge! Encountered a roller skier, bikers, dogs, a trot of runners. Felt strong and capable and happy.

nov 23/RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around + extra
32 degrees

I think I got my layers right today: 1 shirt, vest, pair of running tights. Not too hot or too cold. My shadow led me as we ran north. Do I remember anything else from my run? Encountered a roller skier. Lots of runners. I think 2 of them were in shorts. At least 1 bike. Dogs, walkers. Heard a saw buzzing across the parkway. Counted to 4 as I ran. Ended at the overlook. Today was one of those runs that felt great and also like nothing–time stopped, I was just there at the gorge moving.

Speaking of runners in shorts: last night as we (Scott, me, our son) drove back from a concert on the river road, we saw a runner running in complete darkness with shorts and no shirt on. The temperature was 25/feels like around 15. What the hell? He didn’t have anything with him–no sweatshirt to put on if he got cold. I hope he made it home okay.

Like Coins, November
BY ELIZABETH KLISE VON ZERNECK

We drove past late fall fields as flat and cold
as sheets of tin and, in the distance, trees

were tossed like coins against the sky. Stunned gold
and bronze, oaks, maples stood in twos and threes:

some copper bright, a few dull brown and, now
and then, the shock of one so steeled with frost

it glittered like a dime. The autumn boughs
and blackened branches wore a somber gloss

that whispered tails to me, not heads. I read
memorial columns in their trunks; their leaves

spelled UNUM, cent; and yours, the only head . . .
in penny profile, Lincoln-like (one sleeve,

one eye) but even it was turning tails
as russet leaves lay spent across the trails.

What a cool idea to think about November trees as looking like coins. Love: “the shock of one so steeled with frost/it glittered like a dime.” and “blackened branches work a somber gloss/that whispered tails to me, not heads.”

nov 22/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls loop
23 degrees/feels like 14

What a wonderful run! Love the cold air and the sun and the clear view through the trees to the river. Ran south today to the falls. Was greeted by the Daily Walker who was heading north on the path. Heard some kids playing at their school playground. Noticed someone ahead of me turning down to the Winchell Trail at 42nd. They were wearing a heavy coat and shorts. Shorts when it feels like 14 degrees doesn’t surprise anymore, having lived here in Minnesota for the last 16 years. Approaching the falls, I could hear the water still roaring. The sound of it mixed with car traffic and a leaf blower. The water is very high at the top. I wonder when it will freeze. Running back north, I passed another runner. For about a minute I could hear their footsteps behind me. Didn’t see any roller skiers today or fat tires.

Checked out May Swenson’s poetry collection, Nature, from the library the other day and found this poem:

View to the North
May Swenson

As you grow older, its gets colder.
You see through things.
I’m looking through the trees,

their torn and thinning leaves,
to where chill blue water
is roughened by wind.

Day by day the scene opens,
enlarges, rips of space
appear where full branches

used to snug the view.
Soon it will be wide, stripped,
entirely unobstructed:

I’ll see right through
the twining waves, to
the white horizon, to the place

where the North begins.
Magnificent! I’ll be thinking
while my eyeballs freeze.

nov 20/RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around + extra
40 degrees

What a wonderful run on an overcast day! The sky seems so full, the air so thick. Rain and maybe snow moving in. As I ran through the tunnel of trees and looked down at the forest, I noticed (not for the first time) the black sewer pipe with the white plastic cap sticking out of the slope. A few minutes later I looked up and saw a squirrel’s nest, normally hidden from view by a thick veil of green leaves. And I thought about how many mysteries are solved in November: How does the water from the neighborhood make its way to the river? Sewer pipes in the slope. How high up are we and where is the bottom? There’s the forest floor, not too far down. Where does the trail that winds through the trees begin, end? At a bench near the franklin bridge. Where do the squirrels go when they’re not annoying me? A big nest up at the top of that one tree. Where does the water weep and seep through the limestone cliff? The seeping water freezes in the cold, creating white patches easy to spot. One mystery not yet solved: Down on the sand flats, just before the beach ends and the trail travels back into the forest, is that two people fishing or two trees standing? Running high on the gorge, I’ve stared intently at the mystery forms twice as I ran by and I still can’t decide.

Stopped to stare at the thing on top of the tall boulder: a mitten with fur lining. Realized it was placed on top of the stack stones to keep them from falling off. Can’t decide if I appreciate this or not.

[Lately when sorrows come]
Susan Laughter (law – ter) Meyers

Lately when sorrows come—fast, without warning—
whipping their wings down the sky,
I know to let them.
Not inviting them, but allowing each
with a deep breath as if inhaling a wish I can’t undo.

Some days the sky is so full of sorrows
they could be mistaken for shadows of unnamed
gods flapping the air with their loose black sleeves:
the god of head-on collisions,
the god of amputated limbs,
the god of I’ll-dress-you-in-mourning.

Is the buzz in the August trees,
that pulsing husk of repetition, an omen?
I hear it build to a final shaking. I hear it build
louder and louder, then nothing.
Like a long, picaresque novel that’s suddenly over.
Like the last inning of kickball until the rain.

What falls from the sky is not always rain
or any kind of weather. Call it precipitous.
I’m fooling myself, of course. Wearing sorrow
is nothing like skin shedding water.
It’s more like the weight of a cloak of crows.

And yet the sun still shines on the honey locust
arching its fringe over grass. Lit, too,
the pasture and its barbwire strung from post
to leaning post. See how the stump by the road
is rotting and how the small yellow leaves, twirling,
catch light on their way to the ground.

The more times I read this poem, the more I love it. A cloak of crows! Call it precipitous! That pulsing husk of repetition! Whipping their wings! So many great lines.

Let it Be, revisited

Before heading out for my run, I started playing around with a poem experiment I started in 2018, based on the phrase (which is on my coffee mug)–Let it be. Here’s a few I came up with:

Let ink trails be a way in
to a world of intelligent trees
who incubate theories
in their subterranean information thoroughfare.

Let indifferent trapezoids be
a model for how to live–
never interested in even, parallel lines
never caring to reach infinitely towards the sky?

Let indian takeout be
what saves us from eating
icky tacos again.

Let incanting toads be what finally
sings us to sleep
so we can dream better dreams
imagining terrains that believe in us.

Let invisible threads be revealed
so we may see how we belong
connected, tethered to each other–
vulnerable to violence yet
also to the inviting touch of another.

Let indefatigable toddlers be
given inside time to quell their irritating tantrums.

Let indigo tunics be required attire
for ill-tempered teetotalers

Let insufferable Todd be
forced to drink iced tea
while we imbibe tequila

nov 19/RUN

6.1 miles
flats turn around
39 degrees

Gloomy and humid. Greeted the Daily Walker. Encountered some squirrels. Admired the tree tunnel and the forest floor. Noticed the seeping water on the limestone cliffs near the U in the flats. All frozen. Ice patches everywhere. Almost looked like raindrops were falling on the river but I didn’t feel them on my skin. Saw some geese hanging out in the park. Ended near the tall boulder. Whatever was on top of it was still there–I think it’s a hat, not a dead animal. It’s always interesting what I see through my cone dystrophy eyes.

Happiness
BY JANE KENYON

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

nov 17/RUN

4 miles
top of Franklin hill turn around
38 degrees

A great run. Still windy but not as bad as yesterday. A little cooler. The snow has melted and the forest floor is brown and gold and burnt orange and rusty red. Thought about space and breathing and views. Chanted in triplets: strawberry, raspberry, blueberry. Admired the river and the snow lining its shore. Noticed the Winchell Trail below me, especially at the overlook past the railroad trestle. Thought about how my recent poems about this route almost all take place at the beginning or the end of the run–is it because I am not thinking about anything during the middle of it? Talked to the Daily Walker and finally, after 4 or 5 years, we introduced ourselves! His name is Dave. Dave is one of my favorite people. We agreed that being outside in the winter is the best. I would like to write more about November and how wonderful it is at the gorge: no snow, no unruly green, clearer views, less oppressive weather, quiet colors, earthy smells, occasional geese, wild turkeys.

I like this poem, but don’t agree with this assessment of November:

November
BY MAGGIE DIETZ

Show’s over, folks. And didn’t October do
A bang-up job? Crisp breezes, full-throated cries
Of migrating geese, low-floating coral moon.

Nothing left but fool’s gold in the trees.
Did I love it enough, the full-throttle foliage,
While it lasted? Was I dazzled? The bees

Have up and quit their last-ditch flights of forage
And gone to shiver in their winter clusters.
Field mice hit the barns, big squirrels gorge

On busted chestnuts. A sky like hardened plaster
Hovers. The pasty river, its next of kin,
Coughs up reed grass fat as feather dusters.

Even the swarms of kids have given in
To winter’s big excuse, boxed-in allure:
TVs ricochet light behind pulled curtains.

The days throw up a closed sign around four.
The hapless customer who’d wanted something
Arrives to find lights out, a bolted door.

nov 13/RUN

4.9 miles
franklin bridge turn around
24 degrees/light snow

Warmer today. Paths completely snow covered. Not slippery yet, just crunchy. Hooray for crunching, compacting snow. Such a delightful sound! Falling from the sky, the snow shimmered–or did it sizzle? scratch? lightly tap? Whatever it did, it generated a lovely sound. The snow illuminated the paths in the woods. The mystery of where and when the Winchell trail begins or ends near the Franklin bridge is solved! Finally, I can see how the trail enters the wood below the bluff and hugs the rim. Also saw the path that winds through the forest beneath the tree tunnel. Noticed snow on the tall, slender boulder, partly covering the cairn on top. Felt the snow pelting my eyelashes. Stopped at the overlook and admired how wintery and cold and desolate the river looked today. Smelled the sewer. Avoided the frantic squirrels. Greeted the Daily Walker. Today is one of my favorite kinds of winter runs!

This poem!!

Usage
BY HAYAN CHARARA

An assumption, a pejorative, an honest language,
an honorable death. In grade school, I refused to accept
the mayor’s handshake; he smiled at everyone except
people with names like mine. I was born here.
I didn’t have to adopt America, but I adapted to it.
You understand: a man must be averse to opinions
that have adverse impacts on whether he lives
or dies. “Before taking any advice, know the language
of those who seek to advise you.” Certain words
affected me. Sand nigger, I was called. Camel jockey.
What was the effect? While I already muttered
under my breath, I did so even more. I am not
altogether sure we can all together come. Everything
was not all right. Everything is not all right.
Imagine poetry without allusions to Shakespeare,
Greek mythology, the Bible; or allusions without
the adjectives “fanatical,” “extremist,” “Islamic,”
“right,” “left,” “Christian,” “conservative,” “liberal.”
Language written or translated into a single tongue
gives the illusion of tradition. A lot of people murder
language—a lot fully aware. Among all the dead,
choose between “us” and “them.” Among all the names
for the dead—mother, father, brother, sister,
husband, wife, child, friend, colleague, neighbor,
teacher, student, stranger—choose between
“citizen” and “terrorist.” And poet? Immoral,
yes, but never amoral? Large amounts, the number
between 75 and 90 percent of the estimated
150 million to 1 billion—civilians—killed during wars,
over all of recorded human history. Anxious is “worried”
or “apprehensive.” American poetry, Americans.
Young, I learned anyone born here could become
President. Older, I can point to any one of a hundred
reasons why this is a lie. Anyway, I don’t want to be
President, not of a country, or club, not here or there,
not anywhere. He said, “I turned the car around because
it began raining bombs.” There’s no chance of ambiguity—
an as here could mean “because” or “when”; it makes
no difference—he saw the sky, felt the ground,
knew what would come next; it matters little
when the heart rate in less than a second jumps from
70 to 200 beats per minute. What they did
to my grandfather was awful—its wretchedness,
awe-inspiring; its cruelty, terrible; it was awfully
hard to forget. Just after 8:46 AM, I wondered awhile
what would happen next. At 9:03 AM, I knew
there was going to be trouble for a while to come.
When in her grief the woman said, “We’re going
to hurt them bad,” she meant to say, “We’re going
to hurt them badly.” For seventeen days, during
air strikes, my grandfather slept on a cot beside
a kerosene lamp in the basement of his house. Besides
a few days worth of pills, and a gallon of water,
he had nothing else to eat or drink. Given these conditions,
none of us were surprised that on the eighteenth day,
he died. Besides, he was eighty-two years old.
I can write what I please. I don’t need to ask, May I?
Like a song: men with capital meet in the Capitol
in the nation’s capital. Any disagreements, censored;
those making them—poets, dissenters, activists—
censured. The aftermath, approximately 655,000
people killed. “The Human Cost of War in Iraq:
A Mortality Study, 2002-2006,” Bloomsburg School
of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore,
Maryland); School of Medicine, Al Mustansiriya University
(Baghdad, Iraq); in cooperation with the Center
for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts).
The figure just cited—655,000 dead—resulted from
a household survey conducted at actual sites, in Iraq,
not the Pentagon, or White House, or a newsroom,
or someone’s imagination. Of course, language has been
corrupted. Look, the President, who speaks coarsely,
says, “We must stay the course.” The problem with
“Let your conscience be your guide” is you must first
be aware, conscious, of the fact that a moral principle
is a subjective thing. I wonder: when one “smokes ’em
out of a hole,” if the person doing the smoking
is conscious of his conscience at work. Am I fully conscious
of how I arrived at this? The continual dissemination
of similar images and ideas. The continual aired footage
of planes striking the towers, the towers crumbling
to the streets, dust, screams, a continuous reel of destruction,
fear, as if the attacks were happening twenty-four hours
a day, every day, any time. For a while, I couldn’t care less
about war. Then I saw corpses, of boys, who looked
just like me. This was 1982, at age ten. Ever since,
I couldn’t care less why anyone would want it.
In 1982, any one of those boys could have been me.
Now, it’s any one of those dead men could be me.
The Secretary of State offered such counsel
to the ambassadors of the world that the United Nations
Security Council nodded in favor of war. Criterion
easily becomes criteria. Even easier: to no longer
require either. The data turned out false. The doctrine
of preemption ultimately negated its need. While we
both speak English, our languages are so different from
each other, yours might as well be Greek to me.
When the black man in the park asked, “Are you
Mexican, Puerto Rican, or are you Pakistani?”
and I said, “I’m Arab,” and he replied, “Damn.
Someone don’t like you very much,” I understood
perfectly what he meant. The President alluded
to the Crusades because of (not due to) a lack
of knowledge. Later, he retracted the statement,
worried it might offend the Middle East;
it never occurred to him the offense taken was due to
the bombs shredding them to bits and pieces. “You are
either with us or with the terrorists” (September 20, 2001).
“You’re either with us or against us” (November 6, 2001).
The day after, the disc jockey advocated, on air,
a thirty-three cent solution (the cost of a bullet)
to the problem of terrorists in our midst—he meant
in New York; also, by terrorists, I wonder did he know
he meant cab drivers, hot dog vendors, students, bankers,
neighbors, passersby, New Yorkers, Americans;
did he know he also meant Sikhs, Hindus, Iranians,
Africans, Asians; did he know, too, he meant Christians,
Jews, Buddhists, Atheists; did he realize he was eliciting
a violent response, on the radio, in the afternoon?
Among those who did not find the remark at all illicit:
the owners of the radio station, the FCC, the mayor,
the governor, members of the House, the Senate,
the President of the United States. Emigrate is better
than immigrate. Proof: no such thing as illegal emigration.
Further proof: emigration is never an election issue.
I heard enthusiastic speeches. They hate our freedoms,
our way of life, our this, that, and the other, and so on
(not etc). Not everyone agreed every one not “with us”
was “against us.” Detroit was farther from home
than my father ever imagined. He convinced himself
soon after arriving here he had ventured further
than he should have. Fewer people live in his hometown
than when he left, in 1966. The number, even less,
following thirty-four straight days of aerial bombardment.
First (not firstly) my father spoke Arabic; second
(not secondly) he spoke broken English; third (not thirdly)
he spoke Arabic at home and English at work;
fourth (not fourthly) he refused to speak English
anymore. Not every poem is good. Not every poem
does well. Not every poem is well, either. Nor does
every poem do good. “To grow the economy”
is more than jargon. Can a democracy grow
without violence? Ours didn’t. They still plan to grow
tomatoes this year, despite what was done.
Several men, civilian workers, identified as enemies,
were hanged on a bridge, bodies torched, corpses
swaying in the breeze. Photographs of the dead
were hung with care. I can hardly describe what is
going on. Day after day, he told himself, “I am
an American. I eat apple pie. I watch baseball.
I speak American English. I read American poetry.
I was born in Detroit, a city as American as it gets.
I vote. I work. I pay taxes, too many taxes. I own a car.
I make mortgage payments. I am not hungry. I worry
less than the rest of the world. I could stand to lose
a few pounds. I eat several types of cuisine
on a regular basis. I flush toilets. I let the faucet drip.
I have central air conditioning. I will never starve
to death or experience famine. I will never die
of malaria. I can say whatever the fuck I please.”
Even words succumbed; hopefully turned into
a kind of joke; hopeful, a slur. However, I use the words,
but less, with more care. The President implied
compassion; but inferred otherwise. This is not
meant to be ingenious. Nor is it ingenuous.
The more he got into it, the more he saw poetry,
like language, was in a constant state of becoming.
Regardless, or because of this, he welcomed the misuse
of language. Language is its own worst enemy—
it’s the snake devouring its own tail. They thought
of us not kind of or sort of but as somewhat American.
Lie: “To recline or rest on a surface?” No. “To put
or place something?” No. Depleted uranium, heavy
like lead; its use—uranium shells—led to birth defects.
When in his anger the man said, “We’re going
to teach them a lesson,” I wonder what he thought
they would learn. In a war, a soldier is less likely
to die than a civilian. He looks like he hates our freedoms.
You don’t know them like I do. He looks as if he hates
our freedoms. You don’t know them as I do.
When in his sorrow my father said, “Everybody
loose in war,” I knew exactly what he meant. It may be
poets should fight wars. Maybe then, metaphors—
not bodies, not hillsides, not hospitals, not schools—
will explode. I might have watched the popular sitcom
if not for my family—they were under attack,
they might have died. Others may have been laughing
at jokes while bodies were being torn apart.
I could not risk that kind of laughter. Of all the media
covering war, which medium best abolishes the truth?
I deceive myself. I will deceive you myself. In the Bronx,
I passed as Puerto Rican. I passed as Greek in Queens,
also Brazilian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, even a famous,
good-looking American movie actor. As Iranian
in Manhattan. At the mall in New Jersey,
the sales clerk guessed Italian. Where Henry Ford
was born, my hometown, I always pass as Arab.
I may look like the men in the great paintings
of the Near East but their lives, their ways, I assure you,
are in the past. Plus, except in those paintings,
or at the movies, I never saw Arabs with multiple wives,
or who rode camels, lived in silk tents, drank from
desert wells; moreover, it’s time to move past that.
Did language precede violence? Can violence proceed
without language? It broke my father’s heart
to talk about the principle of equal justice.
The news aired several quotations from the airline
passengers, one of whom was a middle-aged man
with children, who said, “I didn’t feel safe with them
on board.” He used the word “them” though only one,
an Arab, was on the plane. Being from Detroit,
I couldn’t help but think of Rosa Parks.
Then I got angry. I said to the TV, to no one
in particular, “If you don’t feel safe, then you
get off the goddamn plane.” You can quote me
on that. I was really angry—not real angry,
but really angry. The reason? A poet asked me
why I didn’t write poems about Muslim and Arab
violence against others, and I said I did. And then
he said he meant violence against Americans and Israelis,
respectively, and I said I did, and before I could
go on he interrupted to ask why I didn’t write
poems about mothers who sent their sons and daughters
on suicide missions. As if, as if, as if. I respectfully
decline to answer any more questions. Write your own
goddamn poem! Does this poem gratify the physical senses?
Does it use sensuous language? It certainly does not
attempt to gratify those senses associated with
sexual pleasure. In this way, it may not be a sensual poem.
However, men have been known to experience
sexual gratification in situations involving power,
especially over women, other men, life, and language.
My father said, “No matter how angry they make you,
invite the agents in the house, offer them coffee,
be polite. If they stay long, ask them to sit. Otherwise,
they will try to set you straight.” When in his
frustration he said, “Should of, could of, would of,”
he meant, “Stop, leave me alone, I refuse to examine
the problem further.” Because (not since) the terrorists
attacked us, we became more like the rest of the world
than ever before. This is supposed to be a poem;
it is supposed to be in a conversation with you.
Be sure to participate. “No language is more violent
than another,” he said. Then he laughed, and said,
“Except the one you use.” Do conflicts of interest
exist when governments award wartime contracts
to companies that have close ties to government officials?
From 1995 to 2000, Dick Cheney, Vice President
of the United States, was CEO of Halliburton,
which is headquartered in Houston, Texas,
near Bush International Airport. Would they benefit
themselves by declaring war? Please send those men
back home. My grandfather lay there unconscious.
For days, there was no water, no medicine, nothing
to eat. The soldiers left their footprints at the doorstep.
His sons and daughters, they’re now grieving him.
“Try not to make too much of it” was the advice given
after two Homeland Security agents visited my house,
not once, not twice, but three times. I’m waiting for
my right mind. The language is a long ways from here.
After the bombs fell, I called every night to find out
whether my father was alive or dead. He always asked,
“How’s the weather there?” Soon enough, he assured me,
things would return to normal, that (not where)
a ceasefire was on the way. Although (not while)
I spoke English with my father, he replied in Arabic.
Then I wondered, who’s to decide whose language it is
anyway—you, me? your mother, father, books,
perspective, sky, earth, ground, dirt, dearly departed,
customs, energy, sadness, fear, spirit, poetry, God,
dog, cat, sister, brother, daughter, family, you, poems,
nights, thoughts, secrets, habits, lines, grievances,
breaks, memories, nightmares, mornings, faith, desire,
sex, funerals, metaphors, histories, names, tongues,
syntax, coffee, smoke, eyes, addiction, witness, paper,
fingers, skin, you, your, you’re here, there, the sky,
the rain, the past, sleep, rest, live, stop, go, breathe