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 18/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
33 degrees

A good run. A little harder at the beginning, a littler easier at the end. Stopped at the 2 mile mark to put in my headphones and listen to a playlist. The sky was gray, the gorge gold, rust, light brown. Was able to notice several of the sewer pipes sticking out of the steep slope. Thought about crossing the lake street bridge but didn’t at the last minute because a car was coming. Looked down at the river from high above, noticing the patches of snow. At some point during the run, caught the slightly sickly sweet of mulching leaves. After finishing, stood still and stared hard at the forest below, breathing in the colors and the space and the soft fuzzy shapes. The tall rock didn’t have rocks on it, but a dead squirrel?–not sure, I didn’t want to stare too hard and my vision is not great these days.

The Crazy Woman by Gwendolyn Brooks

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I’ll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.

I’ll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I’ll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
“That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May.”

I love this little poem and the idea of wanting to sing in November instead of May. Not sure what a song of gray would sound like, but maybe I’ll go out and sing one tomorrow? Why wouldn’t I? Perhaps one of the reasons I like November is that it is unloved by so many–not so much because I want to give it love (even though I do) but because it’s less crowded out here–just us crazy people.

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 16/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
45 degrees
16 mph wind

Warmer but so windy! Seems like a theme for this week: running straight into the wind. Today my visor almost came off at least 3 times. 2 times I had to stutter step to avoid stupid squirrels darting in front of me. The view of the river from my favorite part of the trail was beautiful–so much to see, not hidden behind leaves. Felt much colder than 45 but I was still overdressed with 2 shirts, tights and shorts. Encountered several groups of walkers, a few runners, some bikers. No roller skiers. Was pelted by leaves swirling in the wind. Don’t remember any distinctive noises–no headphones for the first half, running playlist as I returned.

The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee
BY N. SCOTT MOMADAY

I am a feather on the bright sky
I am the blue horse that runs in the plain
I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water
I am the shadow that follows a child
I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows
I am an eagle playing with the wind
I am a cluster of bright beads
I am the farthest star
I am the cold of dawn
I am the roaring of the rain
I am the glitter on the crust of the snow
I am the long track of the moon in a lake
I am a flame of four colors
I am a deer standing away in the dusk
I am a field of sumac and the pomme blanche
I am an angle of geese in the winter sky
I am the hunger of a young wolf
I am the whole dream of these things

You see, I am alive, I am alive
I stand in good relation to the earth
I stand in good relation to the gods
I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful
I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte
You see, I am alive, I am alive

nov 14/RUN

6.5 miles
river road, south/falls/minnehaha creek/lake nokomis
30 degrees
30-40% snow-covered

Ran over to Lake Nokomis for the first time in a while. Ran straight into the wind for most of it. The path was slick in spots. Will this small bit of snow ever go away or it will just keep melting during the day, then re-freezing at night? Some annoying squirrels almost got in my way. Pretty sure I spotted an albino squirrel on the creek path between the duck bridge and the echo bridge. No ice on the creek but the lake was covered with snow. When I reached the lake, I met Scott and ran around it with him. He pointed out how the snow illuminated a narrow crack in the ice that spanned the entire lake. Strange looking out at the water as we ran, so many trees have been cut down–the view here too clear, too exposed. For most of the day it was sunny, but during my run it was gray. Felt like January.

Hardly a month left in this decade and I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done in the past ten years. So much of it is documented on my many virtual spaces and in my notebooks. Might be fun to read through it all.

I love Maggie Smith’s poetry. So many beautiful ideas and images. The hum as an appliance inside of us, then as the soul. So cool.

The Hum/maggie smith

It’s not a question
without the mark: How do we live
with trust in a world that will continue

to betray us. Hear my voice
not lift at the end. How do we trust
when we continue to be betrayed.

For the first time I doubt
we’ll find our way back. But how
can we not. See how the terminal

mark allows a question
to dress as statement and vice versa.
Sometimes if I am quiet and still,

I can hear a small hum inside me,
an appliance left running.
Years ago I thought it was coming

from my bones. The hum
kept me company, and I thought
thank god for bones, for the fidelity

of bones—they’ll be there
until the end and then some.
Now what. How to continue.

I’ve started calling the hum the soul.
Today I have to hold
my breath to hear it. What question

does it keep not asking
and not asking, never changing
its pitch. How do I answer.

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

nov 11/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
14 degrees/feels like -3/18 mph wind

First cold run of the season. It didn’t feel like -3 to me, but it still felt cold and difficult. Ran straight into the wind heading north. Wore too many layers–two pairs of running tights, two pairs of socks, gloves, mittens, two shirts, vest, jacket, buff, hat. Was sweating a lot by the end. Listened to a playlist. Saw 2 or 3 walkers and one runner. No squirrels or birds. Several planes in the sky. Maybe the outline of the moon. Hard to tell with the bright blue sky and my vision. Saw my shadow–she didn’t mind being out here. The walking path that winds through the tunnel of trees was covered in snow–not slippery at all. Too cold maybe? My third mile was 35 seconds faster. Thanks wind! (It was at my back, gently urging me along.) Walking before I started I took a deep breath–such wonderfully cold & fresh air! Read a twitter thread about using and or & in poetry. I like using & when I imagine that the two items being joined are partners or friends or a pair of co-conspirators or two halves of one particular whole or a comedy team/musical duo.

So many great things to read this morning before my run. In addition to the twitter thread about the ampersand, I read an excellent excerpt of Jane Alison’s book, Meander, Spiral, Explore: Design Pattern in Narrative in The Paris Review. She writes about using forms found in nature (rivers, spirals, twisted branches) to structure stories/narrative. I started thinking about seeps and springs and eroding limestone, twisted and gnarled branches, water slowly dripping out of the sewer drain, weathered tree trunks, mulching asphalt. What sorts of poems could I make from these forms?

Started the morning by reading a poem which plays with the different meanings of bluff–river bluff, to bluff. I’m going to spend some more time listing of the different meanings of bluff in this poem. How might it work for me to use gorge in a similar way?

Self-Portrait as a Series of Bluffs
Chris Hayes

Boys I loved to follow in the dark climb up
find me on that bluff above the river
muddy swirl sparked with stars I felt
something break apart my head saying
hang back they won’t love you like you love them
you’ll have to pedal home bewildered again
recall your icy chest how a startled dove
exploded out of the sleeve wind made of a shaken tree
when one of them leapt from so high up
you thought he’d die before he swam back to you
the bluff was that it happened that way the bluff
is that anytime I spat the word pussy
on the basketball court with those boys I wanted that
plosive sound on my tongue and nothing else
*
Born in a valley of bluffs,
I return to a bluff
cracked open by Union cannonballs,
called Red Paint Hill instead of Look at All This Blood;
bluff that accepted the wheels of a truck going over,
consumed by fire;
bluff overlooking a baptism,
the river that swallows a brief Hallelujah.
*
So I kept alive easy enough there in the smallness of wounds
I carried like everyone else and waited for nothing to change.
So I met a girl, got married and had kids and went with it until
something else broke or I did or it didn’t feel like love at all,
and by then it was too late. Stroll the baby, feed the horses,
lie down next to a woman estranged from all she wanted
because of me. Imagine it. Such a small house and no wish
fulfilled within it. I have regrets. To bluff: to say: to not.
*
Bluff meaning husband and forever;
bluff that hides a cave with a mattress inside
covered in lovesick graffiti,
where I reached for a boy’s hand then pulled back;
to bluff around the bush; to bluff up the wrong tree.
*
Eros an empty locker room.
Eros a jockstrap.
Earthy smell
I lingered undressing
to be nearer to.
And afterward, the slick,
steam-whittled showers
mystical with heat
held me there. Hang back.
Some beginning
with an end inside—
small-town fear. A boy
dragged behind a truck
was in the news.
I didn’t want to be the news.
*
Bluff no helicopter can reach when the suicidal leap,
posted with a sign: NO TRESPASSING;
bluff haunted even in daylight;
King’s Bluff, where I got laid, or said I got laid;
bluff of the tourism slogan “Gateway to the New South”;
bluff of the backward glance,
of our youth pastor saying I’ll jump (not a bluff).
*
This other misdirection—
I’ve slept my way into so many rooms.
Marriage den, motel of my affair.
And it was never about the greasy,
incessant need of two people
fucking only for lust.
When I felt alone, there was always
a man or woman ready
to deadbolt the door behind us
for an hour, to give or receive,
then leave with nothing.
Cherry pits, an empty bottle of wine.
*
Bluff where I lost my keys, my nerve;
bluff I carry like a nail in the roof of my mouth;
bluff that says This is all I want.
*
I walk in late winter
some unscripted ledge
leading down to the river.
Landscape as wish.
Look at the way the bluff
breaks and holds, like desire.
Look: no doves or boys,
only a hunk of rock
somebody gave a name
because they wanted a way back to it.

nov 9/RUN

4.8 miles
to downtown
44 degrees

A one-way run. Thought I could avoid it, but ran straight into the wind for at least 1/2 of it. A little too warm. Tough on sore legs. Surprisingly, not too crowded for a mild Saturday. Did I see my shadow briefly? I think so. Noticed a seep frozen over in the flats, below the west bank of the U. I have been reading about springs and seeps and how they are much easier to spot in the winter because the water freezes, sometimes creating icy ledges/boulders and ice pillars. Never knew it before but people like to climb this ice. Not me, but I’d love to see other people doing it. Spied 2 roller skiers. Encountered several runners running up the Franklin hill while I was running down it. Ran more of the I-35 hill than I thought I could. Walked the rest. Felt strong and refreshed at the top, running down past the Guthrie and Mill City Museum. Scott passed in front of me, running from the other direction. Even after I yelled his name several times he didn’t hear me, so I had to chase him up a short, steep hill.

Currently I have too many ideas to write about. Thinking about the wild, being bewildered, ways in and ways out, layers, inside/outside/periphery. All of this related to the river gorge and park management and running on the west river parkway.

On Friday, went to the South High Choir concert to hear my daughter’s middle-school choir sing with the high school choirs. Wonderful. I love the choir director at South. She gave the students 4 goals: 1. Breathe, 2. Listen, 3. Move somebody and 4. Have fun. These goals are great. I’d like to mash them up with Mary Oliver’s: 1. Pay Attention, 2. Be Astonished, 3. Tell About it.

  1. Breathe
  2. Listen
  3. Pay Attention
  4. Be Astonished
  5. Tell About it
  6. Move Somebody

Lemony Snicket collected some poems for Poetry Foundation that were not written for children but that children might like: All Good Slides are Slippery. Here’s the intro, which focuses on doors. I’m thinking about this as I ponder “the way in”:

“Knocks on the door”

Knocks on the door.
Who?
I sweep the dust of my loneliness
under the rug.
I arrange a smile
and open.
— Maram al-Massri
tr. by Khaled Mattawa

Doors

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.
— Carl Sandburg

Starting to read something, such as a portfolio, is like opening a door, so I thought it would be interesting to start with two poems about doors written by two very different poets. Maram al-Massri is a Syrian woman who now lives in the city of Paris, France. Carl Sandburg is an American man who doesn’t live anywhere, due to death.

nov 8/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge turn around
25 degrees

Heading south at the start, ran straight into the wind. Even though I was listening to a playlist, I could hear chainsaws below in the oak savanna. Must be clearing out dead limbs. Sometime soon, I’ll have to check out what they’ve done. Stared down at the river through the bare trees. Sparkling in the sun. The river is beautiful in November. As I continued south, I noticed how much of the Winchell Trail I could see. No leaves on the trees to hide it. The ravine below the double bridge at 44th looked empty and endless. Made it to the ford bridge and turned around. No wild turkeys here today. What did I think about? Can’t remember. Noticed a jogger with a bright yellow shirt on, glowing in the distance. Oh, I almost forgot–the leaves! Leaves swirling in the air looking like birds, circling the sky then dive-bombing me. I was hit in the face at least twice with their brittle sharpness.

Elms
BY LOUISE GLÜCK

All day I tried to distinguish
need from desire. Now, in the dark,
I feel only bitter sadness for us,
the builders, the planers of wood,
because I have been looking
steadily at these elms
and seen the process that creates
the writhing, stationary tree
is torment, and have understood
it will make no forms but twisted forms.

Found this poem through a podcast about Louise Glück: No Forms but Twisted Forms. I love twisted forms–on trees and in poetry. I’d like to think some more about this poem. In the podcast, one of the speakers mentions the idea of looking and not looking away, of being still and staring at twisting and writhing. I like these ideas of staying, staring, being still, not turning away from that which is painful, uncomfortable.

nov 7/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
21 degrees/feels like 16

Getting colder. A few more layers: an extra pair of tights, a winter hat. I don’t remember breathing in the crisp, sharp air but I do remember seeing my shadow and the river through the forest. Smelled the sewer and wondered, how cold does it have to be before that stinky stench freezes–or does it smell more in the cold? My legs felt heavy and a bit sore. Forgot to check out the paved path down below in the east river flats. Thought I saw someone sitting under the railroad trestle on the east side but it could have just been a bush. On the east side, the trestle is much taller. Took a quick walk break on the final hill up past Meeker Dam because my right thigh was twinging occasionally. Saw some other runners, a mini peloton, some dogs and their humans. No Daily Walker or roller skiers or wild turkeys or eagles or coyotes or geese. Running back over the lake street bridge to the west river road, was dazzled by a single spot near the shore shining too bright in the sunlight.

It has been awhile since I’ve seen my shadow. Where was she before today?

I Looked for Life and Did a Shadow See
BY JAMES GALVIN

Some little splinter
Of shadow purls
And weals down
The slewed stone
Chapel steps,
Slinks along
The riverrock wall
And disappears
Into the light.
Now ropy, riffled,
Now owlish, sere,
It smolders back
To sight beneath
A dwarfish, brindled tree
That chimes and sifts
And resurrects
In something’s sweet
And lethal breath.
This little shadow
Seems to know
(How can it know?
How can it not?)
Just when to flinch
Just where to loop and sag
And skitter down,
Just what to squirrel
And what to squander till
The light it lacks
Bleeds it back
And finds
My sleeping dark-haired girl —
O personal,
Impersonal,
Continual thrall —
And hammocks blue
In the hollows of her eyes.

nov 5/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop*
27 degrees

*west river road, north/lake st bridge/east river road, west/ cretin, north/marshall hill, east/marshall bridge/west river road, south

Windy, sunny, leafy, hilly. Checked out Shadow Falls Park as I ran above it on the east river road. With the leaves gone, I could see all the way down to the trickling creek. Noticed several inviting benches, perched on the edge of the bluff, but didn’t stop to sit or look out at the river. Felt a little stiff and sore in my legs. Passed the Daily Walker at the beginning of my run. Saw some dogs but no roller skiers or fat tires or geese. Did I see any squirrels?

Mindful/mary oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for–
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world–
to instruct

myself
inside this soft world–
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful,
the very extravagant–
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these–
the untrimmable light,

the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

nov 2/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
34 degrees

A dusting of snow on the ground, flurries in the air. Gloomy–not gray but white. Yellow and brown on the ground. Swirling wind. Not a bad run. Heard a roller skier slowly approaching me for a few minutes. Click clack click clack. Encountered some other runners. No fat tires or Daily Walker. Lots of cars on the road for a Saturday. Don’t remember looking at the river at all, but I must have. Didn’t I?

Earlier this morning, while reading a review on LitHub, I encountered this phrase:

…whose apertures present as door and window offering a way ‘in’ to language.

This got me thinking more about ways in and aperture as opening, hole, gap. What are some ways in? Doors, windows, fissures, gaps, cracks, seeps, leaks, holes, openings, breaches, chasms, chinks, gashes, gaps, vents, slots, slits, passages, crevices, mouths, orifices, ruptures, rifts, gates, gateways, portals, entryways. These things offer entry but they also offer escape, ways out. Reviewing one of older notebooks, I found these lines from a Jenny Xie poem:

My father taught me wherever you are,
always be looking for way out: this opening
or that one, or a question sharp enough
to slice a hole for you to slip through.

“Zuihitsu” from Eye Level, jenny xie

A way in is also a way out, an entrance is an escape, a window a portal. A few more random bits about ways in, ways out:

I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple–or a green field–a place to enter, and in which to feel.

Upstream/mary oliver

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth, be plant
desiring sunlight, believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

Rounding the Human Corners/linda hogan

nov 1/RUN

7 miles
washington bridge turn around
35 degrees

A great run! Longest one I’ve done in over a year. Overcast, grayish brown. Felt warmer than 35 degrees. Greeted the Daily Walker. Smelled breakfast at longfellow grill up on lake street. Admired the river through the bare threes. Looked down at the gorge, over to St. Paul.

An Epiphany

As I looked over at the other side of the gorge–the east side and sometimes St. Paul, sometimes Minneapolis side–I suddenly understood something about why I like to see beyond the thickly thatched trees lining the bluff. The view is not just about seeing the forest floor and the river, it’s about seeing the other side. And seeing the other side is about possibilities, other perspectives, other/new ways of being, hope beyond this rutted reality, more than only this/here/now, the future, not really death but maybe a little about death, that which is not-me/not-I, outside of my self, beyond, beside, to where my mom was born and lived until she left for college [West St. Paul].

Loved running in the flats. Almost wanted to take the old stone steps up to riverside park but didn’t. Never have. I should some day. Listened to the water seeping and falling and gurgling. Thought about the mudslide a few years ago. Watched the water flowing fast, foaming, getting ready for ice. Decided that I’ll probably go faster if I incorporate a walk break into my 10K race. So glad I stopped at a porta-potty. So happy to have run for over an hour. I love November running. Pre-snow, post-leaf show. Heard some clanging and loud buzzing, almost like an alarm, but not quite. Saw a big boat on the river.

Eagle Poem
Joy Harjo – 1951-

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear,
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

How wonderful it is that Joy Harjo is the United States Poet Laureate right now! Her words are a beautiful gift.

oct 30/RUN

5.1 miles
franklin hill + winches trail
29 degrees

Ran north on the river road until I reached the bottom of the franklin hill. Reversed direction, running back up the hill. Took a set of wooden stairs down to the rusty red leaf-covered Winchell Trail. With reluctance, resorted to walking most of it–too risky to run…so many hidden roots and rocks and ruts! As I carefully hiked the steep rim, more and more of the railroad trestle revealed itself. I’ve never approached it from this angle. Returned to the paved path by the road after climbing another set of stairs right by the rickety, rotting split rail fence. Listened to the sounds around me. Rusty, rustling leaves, rooting rodents. What a racket! Ended my run by the 2 big rocks. Before leaving the river, remembered to stop at the overlook and then the ravine to absorb the roomy view.

Jotting down some notes about my run, I started to see lots of words that started with r. So I made a list and decided to create my entry around them. I didn’t use a dictionary, only words that I could think up on my own.

I don’t think I’ve posted this poem before. Love this idea of fall falling on us.

Fall
Edward Hirsch – 1950-

Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer’s
Sprawling past and winter’s hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.

oct 29/RUN

4 miles
two trails + falls
33 degrees

Sitting here, post-run, writing this log entry, I’m watching the leaves falling like snow off the tall maple tree in my front yard. Very calming. Another nice run where I felt strong. So little green around now, just red and orange and yellow and brown and dull purple. Crossed the road, entered the path and twisted my foot slightly on a stick or an acorn or something hiding in the leaves. Thankfully no injury. Ran south to the falls on the trail next to the road. Encountered some roller skiers–one almost ran into me, some other runners, walkers. Noticed some kids across the parkway at their school playground, lined up, ready to go somewhere or do something, not sure where or what. Made it to the falls and saw (but didn’t hear because I was listening to music) the gushing, spraying water. Wow, Minnehaha Creek is high and rushing so fast towards the river. Looped around the park and headed north again. At the 44th street parking lot, took out my headphones, turned down the hill, and entered the Winchell Trail. Beautiful and dangerous. So many cracks and sticks and nuts hiding under the fallen leaves. Encountered some walkers/hikers and at least 2 other runners. Looked down at the river, when I could. Didn’t trip or fall or twist anything. I enjoy the trail running–wish I could do more of it.

The Cave
BY PAUL TRAN

Someone standing at the mouth had
the idea to enter. To go further

than light or language could
go. As they followed
the idea, light and language followed

like two wolves—panting, hearing themselves
panting. A shapeless scent
in the damp air …

Keep going, the idea said.

Someone kept going. Deeper and deeper, they saw
others had been there. Others had left

objects that couldn’t have found their way
there alone. Ocher-stained shells. Bird bones. Grounded
hematite. On the walls,

as if stepping into history, someone saw
their purpose: cows. Bulls. Bison. Deer. Horses—
some pregnant, some slaughtered.

The wild-
life seemed wild and alive, moving

when someone moved, casting their shadows
on the shadows stretching
in every direction. Keep going,

the idea said again. Go …

Someone continued. They followed the idea so far inside that
outside was another idea.

I love the line breaks in this poem and light and language as 2 panting wolves and an idea as something that talks to us and pushes us to keep going and the Someone who stood at the mouth and entered, then kept going deeper, and the last line about following the idea so far inside that outside was another idea. For over a year, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between inside and outside and how it works for me as I run by the gorge. What is inside and what is outside? And then, what about being beside–not in or out but next to? Two questions I’m ruminating on right now: Why am I resistant to going deeper and deeper in–and is this resistance a bad thing?