july 6/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
77 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 71

And yet another hot morning. Had to wait a few hours until the thunder storms stopped. Not much shade, several annoying groups of walkers taking up almost the entire road. For a long stretch at the beginning, I was able to run right above the river on the trail. It almost felt normal. A wall of green made it nearly impossible to see the river but near 38th street, where some steps wind down to the part of the Winchell Trail that’s paved, I saw it! Blue, beautiful. I miss water–seeing it, swimming in it, hearing it.

Lots of puddles on the path. Not much dripping from the trees, already evaporating in the hot air. Tried reciting “Before I got my eye put out” again but it was too hot. Also tried “Love Song of the Square root of Negative One”– “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/ tremble but I am invisible, bloom without flower, knot/ without rope, song without throat in wingless flight, dark/ boat in the dark night, pure velocity.” I love this poem and I love reciting it even as I still don’t understand it. Would it make more sense in the context of the whole collection? I’d like to buy this collection, War of the Foxes. I do know that the square root of negative one is an imaginary number and so I wonder if this is a love song to the imagination, which makes the leaves tremble while still being invisible? I’m not sure it needs to make sense; it’s fun to memorize and recite. Such great flow and rhythms.

This morning, I found a great article from the New Yorker on Why We Should Memorize poems. Here’s one reason the author gives:

The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. Robson puts the point succinctly: “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”

Then, while looking up the term “ars poetica,” I found this wonderful poem about memorizing a poem:

Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne/ BILLY COLLINS

Every reader loves the way he tells off 
the sun, shouting busy old fool 
into the English skies even though they 
were likely cloudy on that seventeenth-century morning.

And it’s a pleasure to spend this sunny day
pacing the carpet and repeating the words, 
feeling the syllables lock into rows
until I can stand and declare, 
the book held closed by my side,
that hours, days, and months are but the rags of time.

But after a few steps into stanza number two,
wherein the sun is blinded by his mistress’s eyes, 
I can feel the first one begin to fade 
like sky-written letters on a windy day.

And by the time I have taken in the third, 
the second is likewise gone, a blown-out candle now,
a wavering line of acrid smoke.

So it’s not until I leave the house
and walk three times around this hidden lake
that the poem begins to show
any interest in walking by my side.

Then, after my circling,
better than the courteous dominion 
of her being all states and him all princes, 

better than love’s power to shrink
the wide world to the size of a bedchamber, 

and better even than the compression
of all that into the rooms of these three stanzas
is how, after hours stepping up and down the poem,
testing the plank of every line,
it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.

I’d like to memorize this poem, I think. So I can spend more time with it, figuring out my favorite lines and what works, what doesn’t. In addition to his great lines about the process of memorizing the poem– “after hours of steeping up and down the poem,/ testing the plank of every line,/ it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within”– I love how it engages with Dunne’s poem, weaving it into his own lines. I’d like to do something like this with Mary Oliver’s poem, “Invitation.”

july 5/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Came across this wonderful little poem the other day:

Ars Poetica/ Aracelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.

Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record

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

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

july 4/RUN

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

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

Right after finishing my run, I did a recording:

Before I got my eye put out, July 4

My favorite stanza today:

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

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

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

I’m Not Asking for Much/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

xi.

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

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

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

Natural Forces/ Vicente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatross

Two glances
to hold back the landscapeat the river´s edge

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

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

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong the life
of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood
dance

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

july 3/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before I Got My Eye Put Out, July 3

july 2/RUN

2.5 miles
a figure 8 + extra*
77 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 75

*43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/33rd st, west/edmund, south/river road, south/38th st, west/edmund, north/river road, north/river road, south

Same temperature as yesterday but higher dew point and sun. Hot. Managed to recite all of the bird poems in my head as I ran. Pretty cool. Made sure to check out the aspen eyes as I ran by them. Was able to run in the shade for more than half of the run. Wanted to find a sprinkler to run under up on edmund, but the only one on wasn’t watering the street or the sidewalk today. Encountered a few other runners, walkers, 1–or was it 2?–roller skiers, bikers. Didn’t see the river. Felt strong and relaxed until around a mile and a half when I started feeling the heat. I remember hearing a black capped chickadee right before I left the house but not near the gorge. I am sure there were many birds chirping away as I ran but I don’t remember hearing them. Also don’t remember what I thought about.

black capped chickadee

This is my bird of the summer. I hear it all the time. Last night, sitting on the deck with Scott, I heard it call, “chickadeedeedeedee” right before it landed in the tree above my head. Usually, I struggle to see these small birds, but I was able to see this one. Nice!

The World Has Need of You/ Ellen Bass

everything here
seems to need us

Rainer Maria Rilke

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple.

O, this poem from Bass’s collection Like a Beggar! I love how she describes walking as “the ancient/prayer of my arms swinging/in counterpoint to my feet” and being “suspended between the sidewalk and twilight.” Invisible tug is great too–another IT acronym. And, “we know too much/and too little” seems like a great theme for a set of poems to memorize.

The line, “If you’ve managed to do one good thing,/the ocean doesn’t care” reminds me of this Mary Oliver poem, which has a slightly different meaning but still speaks to the wonderful indifference of the water:

I Go Down To The Shore/ Mary Oliver

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall–
what should I do? And the seas says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

june 30/RUN

3 miles
42nd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river, south/river road, north
75 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 74

Very hot and humid today. Overcast, thick and green. Didn’t notice many bugs or have any difficulty breathing. Heard a cardinal and a black-capped chickadee in the distance. No view of the river. Saw some roller skiers, a kid biking with an adult, several other kids biking together, a few other runners. Forgot to notice the aspen eyes by the school but I do remember wondering why there were so many cars parked in the lot.

Recited the last poems in my bird series: Turkey Vultures/Ted Kooser and Perhaps You Tire of Birds/Donika Kelly. Started with Donika Kelly’s beautiful poem, reciting it for the first half of my run, then switched to Kooser’s for the second half.

Perhaps You Tire of Birds/Donika Kelly

but the yellow-beaked night bird—

in the moonlight,
in the clover,
in the deep deep grass—

could hold me
always, in the swell
of her little eye.

O, my scouring eye
that scrubs clean

the sky and blossomed tree.

O, my heart that breaks
like a bone. O, my bones
full and flying.

What a gorgeous poem. I love the flow and the rhythm at the beginning–“in the moonlight/in the clover/in the deep deep grass”–especially the deep deep grass. As I recited it in my head, I couldn’t remember if the last line was flying and full or full and flying. I decided it was flying and full. I was wrong. Later after I was done running and after I recited the poem into my phone, I thought about the scouring eye–the eye that sees, scrutinizes, dissects with its sharp focus the things within it’s gaze. I don’t have a scouring eye because nothing is ever completely in focus for me. Images are soft and fuzzy and never sharp. What would I call my eye–the dirty eye? the gentle eye? the generous eye? Maybe I want to memorize some vision poems next?

Perhaps you Tire of Birds, June 30

june 29/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
69 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 70

Happy Birthday to me. Found out yesterday that I am one day younger than Derek Jeter; he turned 46 yesterday, I turned 46 today. Glad to be done with the number 45. Rained all morning so I had to wait to run until after noon–12:36 to be exact. Hot and humid and wet. I didn’t mind. Managed to catch a few glimpses of the river–at least, the blue of the river through the green leaves. It was very windy, which helped make the heat less oppressive. Do I remember anything else? Not sure if it was still raining a little or if I was just feeling drops from the trees.

Recited the latest poem I memorized: Turkey Vultures/ Ted Kooser:

Circling above us, their wingtips fanned
like fingers, it is as if they were smoothing

one of those tissue paper sewing patterns
over the pale blue fabric of the air,

touching the heavens with leisurely pleasure,
just a word or two called back and forth,

taking all the time n the world, even though
the sun was low and red in the west, and they

had fallen behind with their making of shrouds.

I love the line, “smoothing one of those tissue paper sewing patterns over the pale blue fabric of the air.” It reminds me of going with my mom to the fabric store, sitting in the chair at the slanted table, looking through pattern books–Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick–finding something I wanted her to sew for me, making note of the number and then finding the corresponding pattern in a big filing cabinet. I have never learned to sew but I will always remember how exciting it was to pick out patterns and then the fabric, and have my mom sew for me. In my early 20s I wanted to learn to sew. For my birthday that year, my mom gave me an elaborate sewing kit, with a how to sew book and several very nice scissors, needles, pins, a pin cushion, measuring tape, thread. I still have the kit and sometimes I use it, like earlier in the quarantine when I comically attempted to patch my son’s favorite pajama pants. I was amazed that I could thread the needle. How did I do that with my central vision almost gone?

In reciting this poem, I also thought about the word leisurely and how to pronounce it–with a short e or a long one? I prefer the long e–leeesurely.

june 27/RUN

2 miles
river road, south/north
76 degrees

Ran with Scott on the rive road. Warm in the sun. Crowded. Saw a peloton turn onto the road and whizz by. Heard the crack of ski pole as a roller skier prepared to roll down the hill just past the welcoming oaks. While Scott was talking about XTC and their strange side projects, I though I heard the cackle of either Emily or Agatha (the pileated woodpeckers I named the other day).

When we returned home, I sat on the deck and recited Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” into my phone. For some reason I keep thinking it’s “you only have to let the SMALL animal of your body” instead of “you only have to let the SOFT animal of your body.” Not sure why because soft makes much more sense.

Wild Geese, June 27

june 25/RUN

3.1 miles
47th ave to 32nd st to river road, south to edmund to river road, south to 42nd st to river road, north
64 degrees
humidity: 82%

Ran at 8 and it’s already feeling warm. Sunny. I think I saw my shadow a few times off to the side. Ran by the aspen eyes on 32nd. Encountered runners, bikers, walkers, a few roller skiers. Always at a safe distance. Heard some birds–the cackling of a pileated woodpeckers, perhaps. On our walk last night, Scott and I (well, mostly him) saw 2 pileated woodpeckers sitting on a branch. Even though they were probably male, I named them Agatha and Emily, after one of the best Bugs Bunny cartoons ever–the one where Bugs Bunny takes a wrong turn and ends up at a castle with a vampire. I didn’t see the river or hear the river or even smell the river today. Too far away–two paths, a lot of grass, and a thick line of trees between me and my view.

Recited “Invitation” and “Crows” while I ran. Got stuck on one line from Invitation–I couldn’t remember what came right before, “it is a serious thing/just to be alive.” I finally remembered it when I got home–“believe us, they say.” Didn’t have any problems remembering the lines from “Crows.” Last night I recited it for Scott and we talked about the structure of the poem, the first part as philosophical reflection, and the second part as details from specific memory of the is.

the IS

to stack each is up against emptiness–
images collected in consciousness

the images collected

the food’s here of the first crow to arrive
numbers 2 and 3 at a safe distance, then approaching the hand-created taste of leftover coconut macaroons

I’d like to try writing a poem using this structure. Not sure how I feel about the phrase, “hand-created.” I like it better than hand-crafted but it sounds awkward, which is probably intentional?

I’ve decided to add two more poems to my bird list, and remove one. Here’s the new list:

june 23/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
64 degrees

Cloudy this morning. Felt cool when I started, warm when I stopped. Ran north on edmund until I crossed over to the river road at 32nd. Saw the river for about a minute, peeking through the green. I miss being able to pay attention to the gorge, listening for rowers, admiring the river’s shine. Before crossing back over to the road, I glanced at one of the dirt trails leading into the gorge–so dark green and thick! You could get lost in there…and bit–lots of bugs near the gorge right now. They didn’t bother me while I was running, but they did last night during my evening walk with Scott and Delia.

yesterday’s rather ridiculous performance: super chill man on bike, singing

Speaking of last night, about halfway through our walk, we saw a man biking, nearing the top of a hill, just past the welcoming oaks. He was singing–what was he singing? a show tune or a love song or something like that–and had his hands resting on his knees while he was biking. He looked calm and chill and unworried about the fact that he was about to bike down a hill without having his hands on the handlebars. He looked rather ridiculous but his embracing of this ridiculousness was wonderful and delightful and brought me some joy. Usually I would judge this behavior as reckless, but he was so relaxed and ridiculous that I all I could was marvel at it. I wasn’t the only one. About a minute later, I heard some other people talking excitedly about him too. This idea of a “rather ridiculous performance” is a line from Mary Oliver’s “Invitation”: “I beg of you/do not walk by/without pausing/to attend to this/rather ridiculous performance.” Maybe I’ll try to make a list of the rather ridiculous performances I encounter/witness?

I recited “invitation” a few more times on my run. I did a better job of not getting distracted. I thought about the line, “you must change your life” and about how much (and sometimes how little) COVID-19 has changed my life. And I thought about how many of the changes have been less about will and more about letting go–staying home, doing “nothing,” listening. When I finished my run, I recited the poem into my phone. Listening back to it, I’m struck by my mistakes, especially my saying “competition” instead of winning. Winning sounds so much better rhythmically. Also, my choice to say “this” is a serious thing instead of “it” and “their” ridiculous performance instead of “this”.

Invitation, june 23

I love Ours Poetica and I love this poem about aphids and foolishly telling off the nosy, stern older lady–“the town’s most successful corporate attorney’s mother”:

june 22/RUN

3.4 miles
47th st loop
64 degrees

Ran the 47th street loop for the first time in awhile. At turkey hollow I saw a turkey! Recited Mary Oliver’s “Invitation.” All I remember about it was that I couldn’t recite it straight through. I kept getting distracted by the effort of summer running or of trying to avoid other people. One other thing I remember–I struggled with the line “a field of thistles.” I kept thinking it was a thistle filled field. Also struggled with the line about the strong, blunt beaks. I kept thinking it was sharp, blunt beaks which demonstrates how little I was actually thinking.

Recording myself reciting the poem a minute or two after finishing my run, as I walked home.

Invitation, june 22

I think I’d like to start a new series of memorized poems with this one. I had planned to memorize poems about water but it’s too difficult to think about water right now; it makes me sad about missing open swim this year. I’m not sure what my theme will be yet–probably second person poems, although I’m always thinking about transformation or attention or maybe birds or what about advice/how to? It’s a tough one.


Okay, spent a few minutes thinking about it and I have decided to (at least) start with a series on birds. I might then move onto You poems and How to poems (and, when I do how to poems, it must include Dickinson’s “To Make a Prairie”. Here’s a tentative list (taken from poems I’ve already read and have wanted to memorize):

Birds

june 21/RUN

3.5 miles
47th ave to 32nd st to river road to edmund to river road
66 degrees/ humidity: 83%

A beautiful morning for a run. Calm, sunny, cooler. Lots of birds, a nice breeze. Did some triple berry chants–strawberry, blueberry, raspberry–for a few minutes, then some 3/2–mystery/is solved, running on/the road. For a stretch, I listened to all of the sounds–black capped chickadees, cardinals, crows, a woodpecker. Wind gently shaking the leaves in the trees, a rock song blasting from a bike radio. Saw one stray bit of white fuzz from a cottonwood tree and a few aspen eyes. Didn’t see the river or hear any rowers down below. No roller skiers. Also, no troops of synchronized roller-bladers this year. For the past 2 or 3 summers, I’ve noticed a group of 4 men roller-blading on the bike path, sometimes accompanied by a coach on a bike. So fast and graceful and in sync–swinging their arms in unison. Not this year. Maybe I’m not running early enough this summer?

I’m still thinking about You (second person) in poems. Here’s one of my favorite You poems by Mary Oliver. I love this poem so much, I wrote a poem about it–a poem I’m not quite happy with but might be someday. Anyway, here’s Oliver’s poem:

Invitation/ Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
I beg of you

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant when he wrote,
You much change your life.

june 19/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/river road, south
65 degrees
dew point: 60

Ran north on the river road today towards downtown. A little cooler, sunny, less wind. Listened to some birds–I can’t remember if they were cardinals or bluebirds or finches or something else–and the rush of the traffic on the freeway a mile down the road. Didn’t think about any of the poems I’ve been memorizing or the significance of doors as ways into something. Didn’t think about COVID-19 or whether or not the schools would be open in the fall. Didn’t think about much of anything. Remember my feet striking a few clumps of wet leaves on the road, running over some mud on the grass. Everything was wet from the rain last night. I wonder how muggy and buggy and dripping the tunnel of trees is today?

I am writing this log entry on my deck and it is delightful. So many sounds! Cardinals close by, another type of chirping bird farther away. A plane, some traffic–is it on lake street or across the river? Sizzling leaves. Buzzing flies. The clicking of my computer keys. A random wind chime. A kid whining. The pop–or thud? or crack?–of an air conditioner starting up next door. A car door closing, the door to a house slamming. The rumble of a motor, needing to be serviced. Feet shuffling through some grit in the alley.

And I am sitting here, thinking about You–writing in second person–wondering what poem to post as a great example of it. Then, I came across this one (which I had already seen on an instagram post earlier this morning) and knew I had found it:

won’t you celebrate with me/ Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

june 17/RUN

3 miles
36th to 42nd to 36th
74 degrees
dew point: 57

It’s going to be another hot one today. Already before 8 it’s 70 degrees. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me that much. A nice run near the river road. Green and shady. Was able to glance over at my shadow a few times. She was running beside me today. Don’t remember hearing any birds just a few random people and hovering helicopters to the south. I wonder what’s happening? Briefly thought about running on the tunnel of trees trail but then decided I didn’t want to risk getting that close to another runner or walker. Not sure if I’ll ever get down there this year.

Right now, I have two poems I recently memorized that I want to think about while I run: Carl Sandburg’s “Doors” and Mary Oliver’s “Praying.” Decided to recite “Doors” for the first half of the run, “Praying” for the second half.

Doors

I noticed the rhythm more. I like how the line, “Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors”–partly because the rhyme of go through with the previous line’s “who are you” and partly because he begins with shadows (shadows and ghosts) instead of ghosts (ghosts and shadows). It sounds much better this way to me. Also thought about the use of shut instead of closed for the doors that aren’t open. Shut is a much firmer, sharper, stronger sound than closed.

Praying

As I recited Praying I thought about how simple and beautiful it is as a statement about paying attention. In her book Long Life Oliver talks about her poems as little alleluias. In one of my chapbooks, I turned her explanation into a tanka:

an alleluia
on the page that’s what these poems are
not trying to
explain anything just here
breathing and offering thanks


Oliver’s poem is a little alleluia. Nothing elaborate, intended to be mined for hidden meaning, but an offering of thanks. A prayer to be repeated and lived and remembered. This fits with her own language in the poem–“this is not a contest”. Yes! I love the idea of writing for these reasons and not about being elaborate or clever or deep. I think I’d like to recite a series of poem on the idea of joy, delight, and thanks. (I have too many ideas and not enough little gray cells to devote to them!)

I also love her image of the doorway here–a doorway into thanks. I’ve been thinking about doors as possibility in general terms, but haven’t thought specifically and concretely about them-what doorways does moving and paying attention and reading/writing/breathing poetry give me and where do those doorways lead–into what?

After finishing my run, as I was walking back, I recited both poems into my phone. There were a few minor errors in the Oliver that I need to work on:

Doors and Praying, june 17

june 16/RUN

2 miles
36th to 42nd to 36th
70 degrees

Ran the short loop with Scott this morning. We talked about the fall, whether or not schools would open, how complicated and messy and difficult it is, and how much the federal government has failed us. It’s warmer today and we could feel it, especially in the shade-less stretches. Still nice to be outside and start the morning running near the river.

After the run, walking through the neighborhood with Delia the dog, I recited the poem I memorized yesterday to Scott: Praying/ Mary Oliver. Another door poem.

Praying/ Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t 
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

I love this idea of a doorway into thanks and how paying attention to the world can lead us through it. Also like the idea of silence and other voices speaking and how paying attention can help us to listen.

june 15/RUN

3 miles
36th to 32nd to 42nd to 36th
65 degrees

Another windy day. Not too warm, some sun, some clouds. Was able to briefly glimpse the river through the trees. It was glowing white. Heard many cardinals. Lately–or has it been happening for a long time?–I’m having more trouble seeing people approaching me. Today, I ran up on the grass, planning to head down a hill to where the river road opens up again, and suddenly I noticed a runner there. They weren’t too close and I was able to move far out of the way when I finally saw them. Still, I had looked and should have been able to notice them. I wonder how bad my vision is these days? It’s easier not to notice because I am not driving or going into strange buildings with signs I can’t immediately read or trying to recognize people or make eye contact with them. Some morning, when it’s not too crowded, I should try biking somewhere, just to see if it’s possible. That would be a good test of my vision.

Memorized Carl Sandburg’s doors yesterday. Recited it a few times in my head as I ran. Didn’t really think about the rhythm as I ran. Is that because summer runs are always more difficult for me and I can’t think about anything else but how I’m hot or tired? Right before leaving for my run I read someone’s brief analysis of the poem; they believed Sandburg’s doors symbolize opportunity–opportunities taken or squandered. In my own thinking about doors, I’ve imagined them as symbols of possibility and freedom, but never opportunity. Opportunity seems like a business/career/success/progress symbol which narrows its scope too much for me.

Doors/ Carl Sandburg

An open door says, “Come in.” 
A shut door says, “Who are you?” 
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors. 
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
why open it? 
If a door is open and you want it open,
why shut it? 
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
doors forget.

I like the line about shadows and ghosts going through shut doors. Speaking of shadows and ghosts, I saw my shadow today but in the cloud-covered light it was so faint it almost looked like a ghost of a shadow, or a trace of where a shadow had once been. Very cool effect. At first, I thought I saw it there, but when I paid closer attention it was gone. Then, in the next minute, it was back–a vague outline of me.

Right after finishing my run, I recorded myself reciting the poem. Just a few errors.

doors, june 15

june 13/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
58 degrees

Cool and sunny and wonderful. Repeated my run from yesterday. Encountered a few roller skiers near the trestle. Was passed by a mini peloton. Noticed some dogs with their owners. Heard some guy walking and talking very loudly into his cellphone. Also heard lots of noise coming from the gorge or the tunnel of trees trail. Could it have been some rowers–or people watching the rowers? Didn’t see the Daily Walker or hear any music. Did hear a woodpecker and the crunch of feet striking some piled up sand near lake street.

Recited the new poem I memorized yesterday, Anne Sexton’s “I Remember.”

I Remember/ Anne Sexton

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began to
snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color — no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of june and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

Became easily distracted with my running or the road or avoiding people on the road, so I couldn’t recited it straight through in my head without stopping. Still managed to think about and enjoy many of the lines in the poem–the invisible beetles snoring, wearing bare feet bare, taking gin warm and neat from old jelly glasses, the sun blowing out of sight. Thought about how much I liked her choices of “taking gin” and “from old jelly glasses” instead of drinking gin out of jelly glasses, although I would have liked “old jelly jars” instead of jelly glasses.

Perhaps the line that stumped me the most was “like a red picture hat.” Googled “what is a picture hat?” (tried red picture hat first but that search returned a lot of pointless pinterest posts) and found this useful post on a site called the Dreamstress: “Terminology: What is a picture hat?” I’m very glad I looked this up. Fun and fascinating. Here’s the Dreamstress’s basic definition: “A picture hat is a large, broad-brimmed hat, usually rather elaborately trimmed.” They were popular from the 1890s until the 1910s and were extreme and ostentatious and very irritating to theater goers sitting behind the hat wearer. I have often thought it would be fun to wear a big hat like this; it would probably help with my vision too, blocking out extra visual noise.

Now I’m thinking about Sexton’s referencing a vintage, out-of-fashion hat and her mention of winding up (as opposed to setting) an alarm clock and tying her hair back, looking almost like a Puritan lady. All of this makes her memories seem old, out of reach, way in the past.

After I finished my run, walking back home, I recorded myself reciting the poem. A few mistakes, some extra words:

I remember, june 13

june 12/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
65 degrees

What a beautiful morning! Sunny, not too warm, not too windy. Managed to run mostly in the shade. Thought about running through the welcoming oaks on the trails but decided it might be too crowded. Greeted them silently from afar. Didn’t see my shadow or the river. Didn’t hear any rowers or roller skiers. No birds circling the sky. No cottonwood sticking to the sweat on my face. No annoying gnats or squirrels. Don’t remember thinking about anything. Ran near a sprinkler–the one that has been watering the grass, the sidewalk, the street, every morning this week. On Wednesday I was able to get a quick shower on my shins from the sprinkler. Not today.

Decided to stop at the bottom of edmund to recite the Emily Dickinson poem before running up the hill. I talked with more confidence into the phone, not carrying if any of the runners or walkers nearby heard me. I’m getting better.

I dwell, june 12

And here’s another alphabet poem. I love playing around with the alphabet!

O/ Claire Wahmanholm

Once there was an opening, an operation: out of which oared the ocean, then oyster and oystercatcher, opal and opal-crowned tanager. From ornateness came the ornate flycatcher and ornate fruit dove. From oil, the oilbird. O is for opus, the Orphean warbler’s octaves, the oratorio of orioles. O for the osprey’s ostentation, the owl and its collection of ossicles. In October’s ochre, the orchard is overgrown with orange and olive, oleander and oxlip. Ovals of dew on the oatgrass. O for obsidian, onyx, ore, for boreholes like inverted obelisks. O for the onion’s concentric O’s, observable only when cut, for the opium oozing from the poppy’s globe only when scored. O for our organs, for the os of the cervix, the double O’s of the ovaries plotted on the body’s plane to mark the origin. O is the orbit that cradles the eye. The oculus opens an O to the sky, where the starry outlines of men float like air bubbles between us and oblivion. Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen. O for the mussels opening in the ocean’s oven. O for the rising ozone, the dropping oxygen, for algae overblooming like an omen or an oracle. O Earth, out-gunned and out-manned. O who holds the void inside itself. O who has made orphans of our hands.

My love of alphabets reminds me of the collection of kids ABC books I inherited from my mom when she died. I should look at them, be inspired by them. Should I do an ABC book about the gorge (or the gorge in a pandemic, or running by the gorge, or running by the gorge in a pandemic?).

june 10/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
60 degrees
humidity: 77%/ dew point: 52

Felt much cooler today. Windy. Overcast. Ran all the way to the falls for the first time in several months. Managed to see the river. Noticed how one of my favorite views during the winter–the spot just past the oak savanna, where the mesa dips down to meet the river–was completely hidden behind a wall of green. The falls were gushing. Someone was setting up the bike surreys as I reached it. Minnehaha creek was rushing. Heard at least one woodpecker; don’t remember any other birds. Encountered some bikes, walkers, runners. Heard but didn’t see the clickity-clack of at least one roller skier. Anything else? Happily ran over some grit and listened to it crunch. Almost tripped on a pothole on the other side of turkey hollow.

While I ran, I recited “I dwell in Possibility” several times. Thought about pulling out my phone and reciting it as I ran but didn’t. One day, I’ll finally do it. Love the rhythm of: “And for an everlasting Roof/The Gambrels of the Sky–” About a minute after I finished running, I recorded myself reciting it into my phone. How could I mess up the last line?

I dwell in Possibility, june 10

I really appreciate the prowling Bee’s analysis of the poem:

What is possible is, again by definition, more vast and varied than the Prose world of observation and logic. It is the world of imagination and of poetry. Little wonder Dickinson finds her imaginative world – her true dwelling – “fairer” than the cramped quarters of the prosaic, that is to say, her actual, physical house and home. Possibility has more doors and windows – the better to let in light and to look out of!

Yet there is a wonderful privacy, too. Those “superior” doors have a dual purpose. And despite the numerous windows, there are private “Chambers” as “Impregnable” to the eye as a cedar tree. The poet can be as reclusive as she wishes in this marvelous house.

I love the idea of the freedom the doors and windows bring and the privacy they allow. They’re both an entry into a bigger, fairer world and an escape/protection from an restrictive, oppressive one.

Found a poem on twitter this morning from Donika Kelly who wrote Bestiary–which I just checked out of the library and that has a poem about a door. Here’s the one I found and the door one:

Perhaps you tire of birds/ Donika Kelly

But the yellow-beaked night bird–

in the moonlight,
in the clover,
in the deep deep grass—

could hold me,
always, in the swell
of her little eye.

O, my scouring eye
that scrubs clean

the sky and blossomed tree.
O, my heart that breaks

like a bone. O my bones,
full and flying.

Self-Portrait as a Door/ Donika Kelly

All the birds die of blunt force trauma—
of barn of wire of YIELD or SLOW
CHILDREN AT PLAY. You are a sign
are a plank are a raft are a felled oak.
You are a handle are a turn are a bit
of brass lovingly polished.
What birds what bugs what soft
hand come knocking. What echo
what empty what room in need
of a picture a mirror a bit of paint
on the wall. There is a hooked rug
There is a hand hard as you are hard
pounding the door. There is the doormat
owl eye patched by a boot by a body
with a tree for a hand. What roosts
what burrows what scrambles
at the pound. There is a you
on the other side, cold and white
as the room, in need of a window
or an eye. There is your hand
on the door which is now the door
pretending to be a thing that opens.

Wow! I’m looking forward to reading Bestiary today. What a wonderful poet!

june 9/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
72 degrees
humidity: 56%/ dew point: 59

Warm, but low humidity. Sunny, green, calm, relaxed. Encountered many bikers and walkers but was able to keep a good distance from all of them. Couldn’t get close enough to the river to see it but did hear the coxswain calmly directing the rowers, her voice amplified by a bullhorn. I wish I could have seen the rowers and the sparkling water. How many rowers were in the shell? Can you properly social distance in those things?

note: was planning to write about how sad it is that open swim is starting today and I won’t be doing it and how frustrated and confused I am by how so many other people seem to think we don’t need to social distance or be careful anymore, but I decided to leave it out. Still, I wanted to make note of it and how it casts a shadow over this time and my log entry today.

Didn’t recite “voiceover” as I ran today…it’s probably time to move onto another poem. Because of the heat and humidity and how difficult that makes it to think about anything but how hot and humid it is, I’m wondering if I should adjust my poem list and memorize some that are short and rhythmic. Yes. I think I’ll memorize some more Emily Dickinson. When I didn’t feel motivated to recite “voiceover” today, I recited “It’s all I have to bring today” instead. I love Emily Dickinson. And I love this poem about possibility, especially after reading the prowling Bee’s analysis!

I dwell in Possibility – (466)/ EMILY DICKINSON

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

This poem fits with my theme of inner and outer–it, along with Smith’s “Threshold” and Dove’s “Voiceover” feature doors.

Smith: “passing through doorway after doorway after doorway” and “but any open space may be a threshold, an arch, of entering and leaving.”
Dove: “We walk back and forth without a twitch…with only the occasional stubbed toe…The keyhole sees nothing”

Door as a way in, way out, to pass through, to close, to open, to protect, to retreat, to keep private, a barrier, a limit.

june 8/RUN

2 miles
36th st to 32nd st to 38th st to 36th st
75 degrees
humidity: 76%/ dew point: 67!

It’s going to be a hot one today. 96? 97? Already now, before 9, it’s over 80 degrees. Decided to do a short run this morning before I have to retreat to the air conditioning this afternoon. Not too bad, considering the dew point is 67. That’s way up there on the misery index. Heard lots of birds, a sprinkler, some bike wheels. No geese or Daily Walkers or roller skiers or music or chainsaws cutting down trees. No sirens or rushing car wheels. No rowers on the river or voices rising up from the gorge. Lately I’ve been noticing cotton from the cottonwood trees flying around. Is the floodplain forest white with it yet? Will I be able to get down there to see?

At the end of my run, about 2 minutes after I stopped, I recorded myself reciting “Voiceover.” Thought about the title and how voiceover can refer to the voice of an unseen narrator speaking and the voice of a visible character expressing unspoken thoughts. So it can be a voice outside oneself narrating the scene, or a voice inside oneself revealing inner thoughts.

voiceover/rita dove (june 8)

Feeling frustration over how everything is opening back up–even the beaches at the lake–and disappointment that so many people seem to have given up on trying to be prevent the spread of COVID-19. I’m seeing too many pictures of people getting together without social distancing. I don’t understand. Maybe most people are being careful and I’m only seeing/hearing about the ones who aren’t? Whatever the case, I’m not letting up on keeping my distance from people.

Minneapolis City Council voted to dismantle the Minneapolis Police yesterday (with a veto-proof 9 votes)! Very exciting. Here’s a few things I read/watched that are related to what’s happening:

1

2

It’s not just that police are ineffective: in many communities, they’re actively harmful. The history of policing is a history of violence against the marginalized– American police departments were originally created to dominate and criminalize communities of color and poor white workers, a job they continue doing to this day. The list has grown even longer: LGBTQ folks, disabled people, activists– so many of us are attacked by cops on a daily basis.

And it’s bigger than just police brutality; it’s about how the prison industrial complex, the drug war, immigration law, and the web of policy, law, and culture that forms our criminal justice system has destroyed millions of lives, and torn apart families. Cops don’t prevent crime; they cause it, through the ongoing, violent disruption of our communities.

It’s also worth noting that most social service agencies and organizations that could serve as alternatives to the police are underfunded, scrambling for grant money to stay alive while being forced to interact with officers who often make their jobs even harder. In 2016, the Minneapolis Police Department received $165 million in city funding alone. Imagine what that kind of money could do to keep our communities safe if it was reinvested.

from MPD150 Frequently Asked Questions

3

Daniel Bergin, documentary filmmaker for Twin Cities PBS: This paradox goes to the very founding of the state: the colonization and the displacement of Dakota and Ojibwe, which is its own complex and deep and insidious story. But in terms of the African-American experience, even after the territorial period, there was this tension around abolitionist culture from the New Englanders who had largely made up Minneapolis at the time, and the businessmen who were seated in St. Paul.

from Revealing the Divisive History of Minneapolis

june 7/RUN

3.75 miles
river road, north/river road, south
65 degrees
humidity: 72%

Started the run by myself but at the halfway point I encountered Scott and decided to run with him the rest of the way. Sunny. Windy, feeling warmer than 65. Remember hearing at least one woodpecker, a lone goose up high honking, “wait for me!” or “where is everybody?” Caught a quick glance of the river before having to move to the road to avoid an approaching walker. Forgot to look at the trestle–no trains above. More than once I thought the fast, whirring wheels of a bike were an approaching car.

reciting while running

Before meeting up with Scott, I recited Rita Dove’s poem a few times. Almost memorized it enough to dig into the meaning of the words. Today I liked the line “If you think about it,/everything’s inside something else;/everything’s an envelope/inside a package/in a case—/and pain knows its way into every crevice.” Need to think some more about what that means. Also liked, “There are spaces for living/and spaces for forgetting.”

A few minutes after returning home, recited the poem into my phone. I need to work on the line about standing outside of your skin–I said body.

voiceover/rita dove (june 7)

A few hours later, sitting in red lounge chair in the shade of the crabapple tree, I thought some more about Dove’s poem and the lines about everything being inside something else. Wrote in my plague notebook #3: There is no ultimate outside of everything. No pure objectivity, free of pain or perspective. No access to the Big, complete picture.

june 6/RUN

3.5 miles
47th st loop, short
67 degrees
clouds: cumulus (I think?)

What a beautiful morning for a run! Some sun, some clouds. Coolish air, a breeze. Soft, calm green everywhere. Lots of birds. Not too many runners or bikers. After the frightening, end-of-the-world feelings last week, it’s nice to have a few relaxed, almost normal moments. Ran down past turkey hollow but forgot to look for any turkeys. Didn’t get close enough to the river to see whether it was blue or gray or silver or brown. On the stretch somewhere between 38th and 42nd, heard a dog’s chain clanging below on the Winchell trail. I’ve heard a chain clanging like this on all 3 of my most recent runs–is it at the same spot? is it the same dog? am I just imagining it?

reciting while running

Last week, I memorized Maggie Smith’s “Threshold.” This week I discovered Rita Dove’s “Voiceover” and decided I should postpone memorizing water poems and do a series on inside and outside and traveling in-between them with “Voiceover” as the second poem. So far, I’ve memorized the first half. I recited it in my head a few times as I ran. It’s harder to hang onto the works and think about them during my run as it gets warmer and more humid outside. Haven’t noticed the rhythm in the poem yet. Here are some things I’m noting about the poem today:

  • vast is a great word
  • love the image of smoke coming off the ice on a thawing lake
  • like this idea of being inside a house and still feeling the rooms you’re not in and how feeling them is not the same as observing/seeing them–I want to think more about the limits of vision (as opposed to other senses) in enabling us to be both inside and outside at once
  • I’ve never heard the phrase, “popping a beer.” I get what it means–popping the tab of a beer can–but I’ve never heard it used this way
  • the keyhole sees nothing + stubbing your toe as you move back and forth–a connection to Smith’s threshold!

About 30 minutes after I returned from my run, I recorded the first part of the poem into my phone. I mostly have it memorized, with a few mistakes. I can’t believe I forgot the second sentence, “try it.”

Voiceover/rita dove, pt 1 (june 6)

abolishing the police

It is a unsettling, sad, exciting, and hopeful time in Minneapolis (and around the country) as people who have never–or maybe just barely–questioned the validity of the current police state are thinking deeply about what it might mean to get rid of the police and reimagine how communities/cities might look out for/care and keep each other safe. Intellectuals and activists have been doing this thinking, theorizing, planning work for decades, so there are tons of resources, like this reading list: Reading Towards Abolition: A Reading List on Policing, Rebellion, and the Criminalization of Blackness

june 5/RUN

3.1 miles
2.5 mile loop + extra
62 degrees
humidity: 83%, clouds: none

Sun! Not much wind! Not too many people! A beautiful almost summer morning for a run. Saw my shadow several times. Hello again, friend. Thought I heard some birds–a woodpecker, cardinals, at least one black-capped chickadee. A kid called out to an adult, “look at the runner!” Recited a few lines from Love Song of the Square Root of Negative One and more lines from What Would Root. Steered clear of approaching garbage trucks and bikes. Got a quick glimpse of sparkle–a river sliver. Ran on the river road over clumps of dirt, grass, dead leaves. Yesterday when I ran over the same debris it was dry and made an agreeable crunch and sounded like shredded paper used to cushion objects in a package.

Things here in Minneapolis seem to be settling down–the immediate threat of more violence and destruction could be over, at least for now. Time to return to panic over the pandemic and the inevitable massive spike in cases in the next few weeks. I hope I’m wrong. Such messy feelings about all of this–excitement over the possibility of real change, unwavering belief in the value of people over property, support for many of the extreme actions taken to disrupt normal life and force us to pay attention, fear over the effects of all these public gatherings on the virus, confusion over how/why people seem to be ignoring/forgetting the serious, long term threat of COVID-19. I’m having trouble reconciling my strong belief that these protests/gatherings to collectively share grief and rage were necessary with my equally strong belief that we must socially distance and/or be as careful as we are able to stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead of trying to reconcile these right now, I’ll dwell in the discomfort they create for a while.

Yesterday I posted a Rita Dove poem from the latest issue of POETRY magazine. Today, I’ll post her other poem from that same issue. I love Rita Dove.

Voiceover/ Rita Dove

Impossible to keep a landscape in your head.
Try it: all you’ll get is pieces—the sun
emerging from behind the mountain ridge,
smoke coming off the ice on a thawing lake.
It’s as if our heads can’t contain
anything that vast: it just leaks out.

You can be inside a house and still feel
the rooms you’re not in—kitchen below
and attic above, bedroom down the hall—
but you can’t hold onto the sensation
of being both inside the walls
and outside looking at them
at the same time.

Where do we go with that?
Where does that lead us?

There are spaces for living
and spaces for forgetting.
Sometimes they’re the same.
We walk back and forth without a twitch,
popping a beer, gabbing on the phone,
with only the occasional stubbed toe.

The keyhole sees nothing.
Has it always been blind?

It’s like a dream where a voice whispers,
Open your mouth and you do,
but it’s not your mouth anymore
because now you’re all throat,
a tunnel skewered by air.
So you rewind; and this time
when you open wide, you’re standing
outside your skin, looking down
at the damage, leaning in close …
about to dive back into your body
and then you wake up.

Someone once said: There are no answers,
just interesting questions.
(Which way down? asked the dove,
dropping the olive branch.)

If you think about it,
everything’s inside something else;
everything’s an envelope
inside a package in a case—

and pain knows a way into every crevice.

I want to spend some more time with this poem, thinking about the idea of inside and outside/inner and outer and how we can’t be both at the same time. And, what do I do with that last line?–“pain knows a way into every crevice.” Wow. I’d also like to put it beside a poem by Maria Howe that I discovered last year.

The Affliction/ Maria Howe

When I walked across a room I saw myself walking

as if I were someone else,


when I picked up a fork, when I pulled off a dress,

as if I were in a movie.


                                    It’s what I thought you saw when you looked at me.


So when I looked at you, I didn’t see you

I saw the me I thought you saw, as if I were someone else.

I called that outside—watching. Well I didn’t call it anything

when it happened all the time.

But one morning after I stopped the pills—standing in the kitchen

for one second I was inside looking out.

Then I popped back outside. And saw myself looking.

Would it happen again? It did, a few days later.

My friend Wendy was pulling on her winter coat, standing by the kitchen door

and suddenly I was inside and I saw her.

I looked out from my own eyes

and I saw: her eyes: blue gray    transparent

and inside them: Wendy herself!

Then I was outside again,

and Wendy was saying, Bye-bye, see you soon,

as if Nothing Had Happened.

She hadn’t noticed. She hadn’t known that I’d Been There

for Maybe 40 Seconds,

and that then I was Gone.

She hadn’t noticed that I Hadn’t Been There for Months,

years, the entire time she’d known me.



I needn’t have been embarrassed to have been there for those seconds;

she had not Noticed The Difference.

This happened on and off for weeks,

and then I was looking at my old friend John:

: suddenly I was in: and I saw him,


and he: (and this was almost unbearable)

he saw me see him,

and I saw him see me.

He said something like, You’re going to be ok now,

or, It’s been difficult hasn’t it,

but what he said mattered only a little.

We met—in our mutual gaze—in between

a third place I’d not yet been.

june 4/RUN

3 miles
47th st loop variation (return north on 43rd ave)
67 degrees

Another quiet night last night. No cars or explosions or sirens. Today is the George Floyd memorial service in Minneapolis. Last night the Minneapolis Parks Board unanimously voted to stop using the Minneapolis Police Department. Wow–the U of M, Minneapolis Public Schools and now the parks department. Momentum.

Ran with Scott this morning. Already feeling warm and green. Didn’t notice as many bugs today. Also, not too many people. Definitely more bikers than runners. Saw 2 turkeys crossing the road, heading to turkey hollow. As we ran we talked about what it might look like to reimagine or eliminate the police, and then about our very limited and disappointing experiences with the police in the past. (Such privilege in our lack of experience with the police).

Random memory: Last summer–or was it the summer before last?–we had just arrived home from a trip. For the brief minute we were away from the car, bringing our bags in through the backyard to the house, someone broke into our garage, stole an old iPod from the car, the garage remote, some tools/pump from my bike, and a few other things. It never crossed my mind to call the police. Instead, we talked to several of our neighbors and we all kept a closer eye on the alley for the next few weeks. I can imagine safe/r communities without the police.

Almost forgot: at some point, while we were running on the river road, I looked up at the clouds and remembered Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s suggestion to learn all the cloud types. Here’s what I found (after the briefest google search):

Now I can’t remember what today’s clouds looked like. Maybe I should try to describe the clouds in each log entry? Here’s a cloud identifier, in case I’m having trouble figuring it out.

Since memorizing Rita Dove’s “Ode to My Right Knee” last month, I have realized that I love her writing. Here’s a great one that was just published in the June issue of Poetry magazine:

Mirror/ Rita Dove

Mirror,
take this
from
me:
my blasted gaze,
sunken
astonishment. Resolve
memory & rebuild; shame’ll
dissolve
under powder pressed into
my skin.

Oh, avalanche, my harbor:
can I
look
over you;
pit & pustule, crease & blotch
without seeing
you through you—
if all I am
(Am I all?)
is Woe is
me?

Mirror,
this take
from
me:
gaze blasted, my
sunken
resolve, astonishment.
Shame’ll rebuild & memory
dissolve
into pressed powder under
skin, my

harbor, my avalanche. Oh
I can
look
you over;
blotch & crease, pustule & pit—
seeing without
you, through you.
Am I all if
all I am
is Woe is
me?

I love the form of this poem! I want to experiment with it soon. So creative and fun and powerful.

june 3/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/42nd st, west/43rd ave, north/edmund, north/34th st, west
65 degrees
humidity: 90%

Back in Minneapolis. Ran around the neighborhood with Scott this morning. We were gone for a few days and when we came back it was summer. Even more green. Buggy. Overgrown. Last night was quiet. Haven’t heard about any fires or explosions or mayhem. Everything looks peaceful today. Running on the river road, there was no view of the river, only green trees and haze. Surprisingly, I handled the humidity and sun better than I have in the past.

I forgot that yesterday was my 9th anniversary of running. Even if I had known, I don’t think I would have run. By the time we got home to Minneapolis, it was over 90 degrees. I’ll take today as my celebration. 3 relatively easy miles, running with Scott through a neighborhood of resilient people working to create a better city.

I haven’t been thinking about poetry for about a week now. Too overwhelmed with all that’s happened. I want to return to it now. Here’s a poem I’d like to spend some more time with. (Listen to a brief discussion about the poem + Brimhall reading it here.)

Resistance/ TRACI BRIMHALL

I must be the heavy globe
of hydrangea, always bowing
by summer’s end. Must be salt,
like sadness at a burning city,
an ethical disobedience. I must be
a violet thorn of fire. These days
I don’t taste good, but I must
be singing and boneless, a lily.
I must beg for it, eyes flashing
silver as a fish. Must be a rosary
of listening. This is how I know
to love. I must hide under desks
when the forecast reads: leaves red
as meat, sleeping lions, chandelier
of bone, moon smooth as a worry
stone. I must want my life and fear
the thin justice of grass. Clouds
hunt, wound the rising tide. I must
be paradised. On my knees again.

june 1/RUN

3.7 miles
running, with lots of walking
austin, mn
83 degrees

Ran with Scott on his 9 year anniversary of running. Mine is tomorrow (I’m writing this a few days late; it was too hot to run on my anniversary date). To commemorate the day, we included the 1/2 mile stretch he had to run in high school. He hated doing it because he was out of shape and couldn’t run that far, and all the jocks in the class were assholes. Hot and sunny, but we did it. So much has happened since we started running 9 years ago. Wow.

may 27/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/river road, north/edmund north/edmund, south
64 degrees
humidity: 94%/ dew point: 61

Another sticky morning. Rained all last night. About a mile from my house, people protested the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to think of what to write after that last sentence. I have no words, or too many words about structural racism and white supremacy and the urgent need to confront it and how to hold a deep love for a place beside a recognition of how racist and unjust it has been and continues to be.

Encountered an entire troop of roller skiers this morning on the river road. Usually I consider roller skiers to be a good omen for my run but not when there are at least a dozen of them not social distancing and taking over half of the road. The rest of the runners and walkers were alone or with only one other person.

I don’t remember too much for the run. Saw 2 construction trucks moving the barricade so they could enter the road, heading to their work site just above the tunnel of trees. Didn’t see the river. Heard some birds, I think, but can’t remember which ones. I’m sure there were some cardinals and black capped chickadees. Also heard water rushing loudly through the drain, making its way to the sewer pipes dumping into the gorge. Don’t remember hearing any fragments of conversation or music but I do remember hearing some sirens–police? ambulance? Not sure.

It was sticky and hot and thick but not too bad. Lots of sweating and dripping. Wore my black twins baseball cap with the velcro in the back–the one I got for free at a game 2 or 3 years ago, handed out at the entrance to the stadium by Dairy Queen. I have at least 2 of these free twins hats. Missing baseball this summer.

reciting while running

Memorized a non-green poem yesterday: Threshold/ Maggie Smith. Thinking about how the west river parkway (aka, the river road), edmund boulevard, and the grassy patch in-between are all part of the threshold between neighborhood and the river gorge. In a management plan from 2002, they describe one purpose of the west river parkway:

To function as an effective transitional zone, the boulevard should retain the natural character of the Gorge but also be visually acceptable to local residents and those using the boulevard and its pedestrian trails.

Thinking about Maggie Smith’s opening lines:

You want a door you can be
       on both sides of at once,

              You want to be
       on both sides of here

and there, now and then,

A door you can be on both sides of: park and neighborhood, civilization and wilderness, houses and river, asphalt and dirt, inside and outside, dreaming and awake. A transition as an easing away from and into (Smith’s line, “passing from and into”).

As I recited this poem, it was hard to think about it too much with all of the humidity, but when I did think about it I wasn’t aware of the rhythm too much. I did notice these pleasing rhymes: “now and then, together and” and “passing from and into/passing through.”

may 26/RUN

3.25 miles
3 mile loop
67 degrees
humidity: 91%/ dew point: 64

At some point, there was sun, but mostly clouds, thick air, humidity. Heard a black capped chickadee calling out as I started my run with no response from another chickadee. I kept hearing, “Hello? Hello? Hello? . . . Hello?” Also heard some cardinals. Reaching the river road, I noticed an older man–probably in his late 70s, early 80s–walking on Edmund. Tall, extra lean, his back slightly hunched but otherwise looking wiry and athletic, wearing running shorts and a tank top. I bet he was a runner.

Was able to run on the trail for a few, short stretches, but mostly stayed on the road. Not too crowded. Managed to get a few quick glimpses of the river–slashes of grayish-blue in between all the green. Ran all the way to under the ford bridge for the first time in more than 2 months. Last time I remember running under it was at the very beginning of all of this pandemic mess, when another runner, way on the other side of the wide path, called out jokingly, “I’m running from the virus!” That was on March 12th, I checked, and it wasn’t the last time I ran under the bridge. I ran to the falls again the next week, but after that I stopped running the trail and started running on the road.

Anything else I remember? Didn’t think about green or any poems I memorized. I was too preoccupied with the humidity and the sweat dripping into my eyes and–I almost forgot–my visor slipping down on my forehead. I think it’s time to retire the visor. What will I wear instead–another baseball cap?