may 24/RUN

2 miles
1.75 loop + extra
63 degrees
humidity: 94%, dew point: 62

Established another loop for my summer loop project: 1.75 loop/ start at 36th, north on Edmund, then north on the river road at 33rd, loop around 32nd, south on edmund, then south on river road at 36th, loop around 38th, north on edmund, end at 36th. Sounds more complicated than it is. If they weren’t doing some big sewer project near the tunnel of trees which has shut down the river road for a small stretch, this loop would be north on edmund, south on the river road. Found out this morning that this project is expected to last until the fall. Bummer.

Everything was thick and green. Heavy, but also calm and slow. Wore a tank top today which helped with the heat. Heard lots of birds–some robins I think. (Later, walking with Delia the dog, I heard 2 black capped chickadees doing a call and response–except for it was more a response and call. I heard the response first. I’d like to imagine what they might be saying to each other in their reversed conversation. Anything else? No view of the river, no roller skiers, no Daily Walker. No running path, no spazzy squirrels, no woodpecker. No sun, no bugs, no shadows. Only green–green sky, green view, green air.

Thinking some more about “What Would Root” and what is and isn’t mentioned in the poem: it’s May, there’s some sun, but no wind or humidity or weather at all. No shadows. There are scolding squirrels, birds, and lizards, but no bugs–mosquitoes or gnats or moths or butterflies. No evidence of other humans. No road or path or dirt trail. There is a smell–“the air was sweet with pine and Island Mountain lilac,” taste–“I could taste the granite in the spring,” sight–“the land spread itself greenly for me,” and touch–“the rock was very hard,” but no hearing–no wind rustling through the trees, no noises from the scolding squirrels, or slurps from the red hummingbirds dipping their beaks into the little red hoods of penstemon.

Here’s another poem I found on twitter the other day involving vision. Will I have to memorize a series of poems about vision sometime this summer?

Eyesight/ A.R. Ammons

It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes
I’ve

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see:

don’t worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring: but
said the mountain
it’s not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone

may 23/RUN

2.4 miles
1.5 mile loop + .75 loop + extra
62 degrees
94% humidity/ dew point: 61

Humid and thick and sticky. Hard to breathe. Yuck! I already miss the fresher, cooler air. Oh well. Decided to run a few miles this morning before the rain arrives. It’s supposed to rain here all weekend. Lots of other people–runners and walkers–had the same idea. I should start getting up much earlier, when it’s cooler and less crowded. Heard some woodpeckers and a bunch of other birds that I couldn’t readily recognize. Don’t remember much else from my run except that there were lots of puddles on the sidewalk, lots of dripping trees. At some point during the run, I got a nice little shower when the wind nudged some wet leaves and they misted me. Recited “What Would Root” a few times. When I finished my run I recited it into my phone.

What Would Root, may 23

Listening back to the recording, I’m pleased with how I remembered almost all of it and struck by how many birds I can hear in the background. As I listened to the line, “that they were a part of my body, I could not doubt; they were living and enervated and jutting out”, I thought about how I am not entirely sure what “enervated” means. Looked it up and was surprised: exhausted, fatigued, weary. I was thinking it would mean the opposite of that but as I think about the rest of the poem it makes sense. The next line is, “I sat down” and a few lines later the narrator says, “I lay down beneath my own branches.” So, does that mean rooting is akin too resting here? Stepping away from the world, “to nuzzle into the earth”? Or maybe it means being restored, revitalized–for me, that fits better with the color green. I love the world Farris creates here and I want to lay beneath my own branches and nuzzle into the earth–at least for a while, until this terrible pandemic is over and the assholes who are making it much worse are gone.

Speaking of the pandemic, we are entering a new phase. Things are opening back up and it seems like some people think this means things are getting better. Who thinks this and why? I can’t decide how much of this attitude is coming from “actual” people, and how much of it is propaganda designed to get us to risk our lives for the sake of spending money. I do not like this phase; I like it less than the last phase.

Found this poem after using the search word “green.” I want to think about it some more as it relates to my vision and how I see color and forms.

I Look Up from My Book and Out at the World through Reading Glasses/ Diane Seuss

The world, italicized.

Douglas fir blurs into archetype,
a black vertical with smeared green arms.
The load of pinecones at the top,
a brown smudge which could be anything: a wreath
of moths, a rabbit strung up
like a flag.

All trees are trees.
Death to modifiers.

A smear of blue, a smear of gold that could be a haystack,
a Cadillac, or a Medal of Honor without a neck to hang upon.

I know the dog killed something today, but it’s lost in fog.
A small red splotch in a band of monochromatic green.
And now, the mountain of bones is only a mountain capped in snow.
 
It’s a paradise of vagaries.
No heartache.
Just and eraser smudge,
smoke-gray.

All forms, the man wrote, tend toward blur.

may 22/RUN

3 miles
2.5 mile loop + extra
61 degrees

Green gloom with white sky today. Please come back Sun. I like that it’s warmer outside, but I wish it wasn’t so cloudy. I want to see my shadow and the light green glow by the gorge. Decided, for the first time in a long time–a month, at least?–I ran with headphones. It helped a little to listen to AC/DC, Lizzo, Beck, Prince. For a few minutes, I felt like I was flying. Didn’t think about the poem I’m reciting this week. Did I think about anything–other than, how fast am I running, or why does this seem so hard, or I am a badass running up this hill?

Yesterday afternoon I decided to test how well I could still recite all the poems I’ve memorized. Not too bad. The hardest one was the last few lines of Lovesong for the Square Root of Negative One by Richard Siken. Maybe when I’m running loops this summer I could recite different poems on different loops? A fun challenge, maybe?

Wow, this poem! I want to spend more time with it, learning all the lines about listening. So good.

Push the button, hear the sound/ HELEN MORT

Listen to the lorikeet’s whistling song.
Can you hear the call of the mynah bird?
Can you hear the flamingos in the water?
Can you hear your small heart next to mine
and the house breathing as it holds us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the bones
of our neighbor’s eucalyptus breaking?
It’s summer, high, emptied. Listen to the ground,
giddy with thirst. Listen to the dog shit
on the lawns, the murderous water boatmen
skimming the green pond. Can you hear
the roses rioting on the trellis? Can you
make a noise like a cheeky monkey? There are
sounds your book lacks names for. Can you
hear the sleepless girls in Attercliffe?
Can you hear the aspirin of the sun dissolving?
Listen to the casual racists in the family pub.
Listen to the house Shiraz I drink as if
it’s something’s blood. Listen to my fear,
blooming in the vase of my chest,
and listen to how I water it. Can you hear
your grandfather’s lost childhood? Can you hear
the suburban library shutting? The door closing?
The books still breathing? O can you hear
the budget tightening? It’s almost dark.
Listen to the noisy penguins on the ice.
Listen to my late-night online purchases.
Orange lipstick. High-waisted bikini briefs.
Types of plant that will never die. Listen
to your half-sister hissing to her friends at 2 a.m.
You hang up. No, you hang up. Listen
to the panic in their emojis. Can you hear
your father lighting his first cigarette?
Can you hear the foxes mating all the way
to oblivion? Their sounds are inhuman,
too human, scaling the high fences,
pressing our windowpanes. Listen
to the utter indifference of the stars.
The night is full of holes and we
grate our bodies against them.
Can you hear that, Alfie? Can you hear me
holding you, closer than my life?
Listen to “The Trout” by Schubert.
Listen to the blackbird’s chirpy song.
Listen to this waltz by Paganini.
Listen to the stage as we walk clean
off the front of it, into the audience,
the pit, the silent orchestra.

I love how she trades off between lines with the question, Can you hear, and the command, Listen. I love the line, “there are sounds your book lacks names for” and roses rioting and indifferent stars, the thirsty ground, the panic in their emojis.

may 16/RUN

4.3 miles
Edmund, north/river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south
57 degrees

What a wonderful morning run! The overcast sky made the green glow even more. Even as there were people out on the trails, there were stretches of solitude. Often, the closed road was empty. I was able to run right above the river a few times. Why can’t I remember what the river looked like? Encountered a large group of bikers–over 10, maybe 15 or 20?–by the railroad trestle, getting ready to head out somewhere. Glad I didn’t see them again. Heard some voices way below me, peered down the old wooden steps just north of the trestle to the Winchell Trail–so green and mysterious and buggy, I bet. Heard a murder of crows, then looked up and watched them circling in the sky. Also heard some Northern Cardinals and the strident, irritating call of a few bluejays (I think?).

Recited my poem a few times more. The line about the baubles and trinkets seems to have a bit more movement. Recited it into my phone right after I finished walking, when my heart rate was still high and my breathing heavy, but got distracted by some approaching walkers and momentarily forgot a line. Still made it through the whole poem.

Instructions on Not Giving Up, may 16

open swim

Last night I found out that they are not cancelling open swim. This confuses me. How can it be safe enough to gather and swim? And it saddens me. As much as I love my fellow swimmers when we are all in the lake, I am not confident we can social distance in the water. How can I? With my bad vision–barely able to see buoys or bobbing caps–I might run into someone else. It was difficult to miss out on swimming when I thought it was cancelled. It is even harder to have to make the choice not to do it when it’s still happening.

Thought I’d end with another rumination on green. This time, green grass and one of my favorite parts of Song of Myself.

Song of Myself, 6 [A child said, What is the grass?]/ Walt Whitman

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Favorite line for a long time: “the beautiful uncut hair of graves”

may 15/RUN

4 miles
32nd st loop
51 degrees

Decided to run the whole loop, from 32nd to 42nd to 32nd again to see how long it is: 3.2 miles. Added on some extra in the neighborhood to make it to 4 miles. Not too bad. I wonder how many loops I could do? Should that be a goal this summer? Maybe. I suppose if I can’t loop in the lake, I’ll have to do it on land.

Another beautiful spring morning. Not too windy or crowded. I think I remember hearing a black capped chickadee (and I can hear them outside of my window as I type this). Not sure about any other birds–I bet they were chattering but I tuned them out. Noticed the soft green glow of the leaves over the gorge offering less of a view and more of a mood or a feeling. Was almost able to get a glimpse of the river but the rim of the bluff was too far away and it was too green. I didn’t run on the trail at all today, just the road.

reciting while running

Recited “Instructions on Not Giving Up” over and over again. A few times I even whispered it out loud. Didn’t really stumble over any words, except for maybe, “the world’s baubles and trinkets,” because it seems to stop the flow of the sentences. Does it or is it that I haven’t fully memorized the poem yet? My favorite line today: “more than the neighbor’s/ almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving/ their cotton-candy color blossoms to the slate/ sky of spring rains.” I remember now how I stumbled over “cotton candy color blossoms” a few times–I’d think candy cotton or cotton-candy colored instead. Why does she use color and not colored? Or, why do I assume it should be colored–because of phrases like “rose colored glasses”?

update, may 21: Looking over this poem again, I noticed that it DOES say “cotton-candy colored.” Why did I see it as cotton-candy color before? Must be my very bad vision.

Right after I finished running, I pulled out my phone and recorded myself reciting the poem. I almost got it all right, except: 1. I said through instead of out of the crabapple tree, 2. their green skin instead of the green skin, and 3. continuously living instead of continuous living.

Instructions on Not Giving Up, may 15

Found this poem the other day and bookmarked it. I love poems that give advice in unconventional ways.

ADVICE FROM A BAT/ Michael T. Young

Hunt only at night. Fly erratically.
Defy even your own expectations.
Feed on beetles, moths, and mosquitoes,
whatever is small and annoying.
Cultivate the myths about you
until every predator fears your legend.
When hunting, be guided by a language
only you can hear. The same is true
when courting the one you love.
Clean fangs and fur nightly. Crawl
or climb to confuse the observant.
Retreat to a cave no one believes in.
Let the day and the world pass
while you sleep, and sleep upside down,
ready to wake and fall into flight.

A few favorite lines: “Defy even your own expectations”, “Feed on…whatever is small and annoying”, and “Retreat to a cave no one believes in.”

may 13/RUN

3.5 miles
32nd st loop*
52 degrees

*edmund, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, east/edmund, north/34th st, west)

Tried a variation on the loop I did yesterday by making it a little longer. My loop yesterday from home to 36th to 42nd to 36th again was about 1.8 miles; the loop today from home to 32nd to 42nd to 34th was about 3 miles. Next time, I should try continuing on until 32nd and see how long a complete loop is. It’s fun to figure out different routes. I’m thinking this might be the summer of loops.

It’s overcast this morning. Rain coming soon. Everything was green and quiet and expectant. Up on edmund early in the run, I saw a roller skier down below. A few minutes later, I passed them on the hill. Can’t remember if I heard them clickity-clacking. Saw a few other runners, walkers, and bikers. Not too crowded except for the spot on the road right before the tunnel of trees. Trucks were blocking half the road, working on high speed internet lines. Couldn’t see the river because I was too far away from the bluff. At some point, when I was closest to the bluff, I heard some rustling in the bushes just beyond the trail. What was down there? A squirrel? A bird? A coyote?

bird sounds

Didn’t hear any black-capped chickadees this morning but as I was nearing 42nd, I hear a few other birds that sounded like laser beams or guns from 70s science-fiction movies. Pew pew pew. Looked it up and I’m pretty sure it was a few northern cardinals. As I was turning onto Edmund, I thought about how much more I’m paying attention to bird sounds this year and how my language/description is getting more specific. In the past, when I talked about birds, I might describe them as singing or chirping or trilling but I wasn’t really thinking about the specific sounds they were making. I was using those verbs generically. I should start making a big list of words for bird sounds that I find.

reciting while running

Recited The Trees again this morning. Over and over. Thought about the meter and how it was easy to lock into a cadence that sounded too rhythmic until I got to the line, “Yet still the unresting castles thresh.” Can’t remember that much else about the poem while I was running but later, while walking Delia the dog, I thought about the first line and the unique, musical and literal way he describes the leaves returning to the trees–“The trees are coming into leaf.” Then I thought about the second line–“Almost like something being said.” Later in the poem, Larkin tells us what they seem to say: “Last year is dead” and “Begin afresh afresh afresh” I wonder, what else might the leaves be saying? What do I hear them saying?

sidewalk poetry

Yesterday, during our evening walk, Scott and I noticed some writing on the sidewalk. If I had stopped and spent a few minutes staring at it, I could have read it, even with my bad vision. Luckily I didn’t have to; Scott could read it instantly. A haiku by the famous Japanese poet Issa about a snail climbing Mt. Fuji slowly. I am familiar with Issa but haven’t really studied them–I’ve read up a little more on one of the other notable Japanese poets, Basho. Very cool. I love how literary my neighborhood is–we live in the Cooper (as in James Fenimore Cooper) part of Longfellow (as in Henry Longfellow) neighborhood. Within a few blocks of me are 2 different poetrees (trees with poem prompts affixed to them). I’d like to chalk some Emily Dickinson on our sidewalk–maybe “In the name of the Bees—And the Butterflies—And the Breeze—Amen!”

Speaking of Issa, when I looked him up on the poetry foundation site, I found this delightful poem:

[the snow is melting]
BY KOBAYASHI ISSA, TRANSLATED BY ROBERT HASS

The snow is melting 
and the village is flooded 
      with children.

may 12/RUN

4 miles
river road, south/42nd street, west/edmund, north x 2 + extra on edmund at end
42 degrees

Decided to try looping today. Starting at the end of my block, turning right at the river, looping back on edmund twice = 3.44 miles. Stayed on edmund after the second loop past 36th and kept running until 34th. Not too bad. Maybe next time I loop, I’ll try turning left on edmund, running north until 33rd, running south on the river road until 42nd. How much more distance will that add?

Wore a new pair of running shoes today: some Saucony grid cohesions that I bought 6 months ago. Slate gray with mint green accents. I had thought, when I ordered them online, that they were black (because the description said they were black) but gray will do. The favorite color I’ve had so far? Electric blue. I wish I could still get those.

A good run. Still cold outside but not for long. Maybe the 80s next week. I wore my winter vest + long sleeve green shirt + winter tights. I’m ready to put away all these layers!

Sounds

  • a black-capped chickadee singing the “feebee” song
  • a woodpecker drumming on a tree
  • a few crows
  • the clickity-clack of a roller skier
  • some part of my vest banging against my shoulder, sounding like another runner approaching from behind
  • a tin whistle chirp from some bird I couldn’t identify (I think it’s a Robin)
  • car wheels slowly approaching from behind
  • a group of three walkers talking

Made sure to look down at the river for the short time that I was able to run right above the gorge. Blue framed in green. Don’t remember noticing it sparkling or shimmering or undulating or doing anything but being below me. After I crossed over to the road, I noticed the soft green glow of the new leaves lining the bluff. I think this spring and summer are going to much more about green than blue.

reciting while running

On my second day of reciting The Trees by Phillip Larkin, I did a much better job of remembering all the lines. I don’t think I stumbled over any this time. Thought a lot about the line, “Last year is dead, they seem to say/Begin afresh, afresh, afresh” For me, when does a new year begin–the fall or the spring? And where does winter fit into all of it? Also thought about the line “Their greenness is a kind of grief” and the contrast between Larkin’s grief as the greening of the trees and Gerard Manley Hopkins’s golden unleaving grief. How do these griefs differ for me? Which one is more difficult? At the end of my run, I recorded myself reciting the poem. Not perfect, but okay. The only glaring mistake is the last line. Instead of saying “Begin afresh” I say “Be afresh.” Begin sounds so much better, makes much more sense, than be.

The Trees, may 12

Since I mentioned Hopkins, I thought I’d put in Spring and Fall again (which is one of the first poems I remember memorizing and loving back in high school):

Spring and Fall 
BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving 
Over Goldengrove unleaving? 
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? 
Ah! ás the heart grows older 
It will come to such sights colder 
By and by, nor spare a sigh 
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; 
And yet you wíll weep and know why. 
Now no matter, child, the name: 
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same. 
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed 
What heart heard of, ghost guessed: 
It ís the blight man was born for, 
It is Margaret you mourn for.

may 9/RUN

Even as I often think about how white running is, and how white and privileged the spaces I run in are, I rarely (if ever?) post about it on this blog. Why not–maybe something to interrogate further? But when I saw this thread about the recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery while he was running through his neighborhood, I knew I needed to post it here. This thread offers a brief history of the whiteness of running and the dangers of running while black and links to several useful articles, including:

3 miles
river road, south/edmund, north/33rd street, west/44th ave, south
45 degrees

Overcast this morning but not too cold or too windy. The river road is completely closed to cars now. Much quieter and calmer. Not crowded–except for all the green on the edge of the bluff blocking the view. Didn’t see the river even once. Barely glimpsed the oak savanna by the ancient boulder that looks like an armchair. Don’t remember hearing many birds. No clickity-clacks from a roller skier. Did hear a small group of bikers talking as they approached from the north. I can’t remember what I thought about–maybe that’s partly because I’m writing this hours after my run. Recited “Ode to My Right Knee” a few more times. A good, uneventful run.

After looking way too long for a poem I might post, I found this beautiful one by Linda Paston. I first encountered her through her poem Vertical (which I experimented with on this blog a few years ago).

I Am Learning To Abandon the World/ Linda Pastan

I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.

The site on found this poem on is fascinating. I’ve been returning it to every so often–anonymous, combining fragments from their life with poems.

may 8/RUN

3.3 miles
river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
40 degrees

Brrr. Colder today but still sunny and green and spring-y. No surprise snow storms here. (note: after writing this smug sentence, I came across a tweet by MPR weather–we might get some snow on Sunday. Less than a inch, but still snow. I promise to not be smug again!) Ran a little later and was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker. I’m not sure the last time I saw him–a week ago? Didn’t hear any woodpeckers or black capped chickadees or geese or roller skiers. Did hear my feet shshshushing on the grit at the edge of the road. Also heard my iPhone banging against my headphones in my chest pocket at the beginning of my run. I don’t remember hearing it later. Did it stop or settle or did I tune it out? Saw a few runners, some bikers, more walkers. Was able to keep my distance almost all of the time. I might have gotten closer than 6 feet for a few seconds once near the rowing club. I ran on the trail, the dirt, the road, the grit, and the grass. Don’t remember looking down at the river or noticing how abundantly green it was. I do remember running through the Welcoming Oaks and greeting every single one of them. I noticed that all but one of the cairns on the ancient boulder had blown off in the wind or been knocked off by something. Also noticed that they have closed down the entire parkway starting at the trestle and heading north. Will that make it much more crowded on Seabury and Edmund? I hope not. I bet it will make it super crowded on the parkway in the late afternoon.

what happened?

Yesterday, on our daily evening walk, Scott and I heard a lot of sirens. When we got near the river, we saw them all lined up near folwell. 7 or 8 emergency vehicles. What happened? I hope no one was seriously hurt or killed.

reciting while running is a success

Recited “Ode to My Right Knee Again.” I have finally mastered pronouncing obstreperous. Briefly contemplated taking out my phone and trying to recite it into the voice memo app but I wimped out. Now, I wish I would have. I’ll have to try tomorrow or Sunday on the treadmill. Last night Scott and I were discussing the poem as we finished up our walk–we talked about the phrase leathery Lothario and which word in it was worse. He agreed that leathery was awful, explaining that Lothario is not specific enough to be too terrible, but that leathery conjures up a specific image for him of an older woman who has spent too much time in the sun and smoked too much. I think it is very cool to spend this much time with these words and really thinking through what they might mean and how they affect the reader. The reciting while running project is turning out to be a big success!

Speaking of running while reciting, here’s another possible poem to memorize this month:

The Trees/ Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Click on the link to watch an awesome animated video with Larkin’s reading of the poem. Sweet!

I love the lines, “Their greenness is a kind of grief.” and “Their yearly trick of looking new” Something about this poem and the full-grown thickness every May reminded me of Williams Carlos Williams’ “Winter Trees.” I’d like to memorize this poem and maybe compose a companion poem, “Summer Trees.”

I think this poem, Larkin’s “The Trees” will be the next poem I memorize. I find the rhyme scheme–abba, which I discovered is called enclosed rhyme–to be a bit awkward sounding. I wonder how it will move when I’m running?

may 7/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, north/34th, west/44th, south
50 degrees

A shorter run today because I’ve already run 3 days in a row this week. Another sunny, calm, beautiful morning. Ran on the trail right above the river heading south. Oh, the river! So sparkly and shiny and inviting. Almost stopped to look at it for a few minutes. I need to do that someday soon when it’s early. Didn’t hear the black capped chickadee. Did I hear any birds? I can’t remember. Heard at least one person talking. A leaf blower and a lawn mower. A kid explaining something to an adult–his mom, maybe? Felt strong and relaxed.

Recited “Ode to My Right Knee” again a few times. Got distracted, so I didn’t recite it straight through. Lots of stopping and starting again. I think the phrase that generates the most negative reaction from me is “leathery Lothario.” Which part of it is worse, leathery or Lothario? I think it’s leathery. Anything leathery sounds gross to me. A leathery knee? Yuck. But what does the Lothario mean here? The knee as seducer, foppish rake?

the howling dog

My new morning running routine is to run, return home, and pick up Delia the dog for a short walk around a block or two. So calm and quiet and beautiful! As Delia stopped at every tree to sniff, I stood straight and slowly breathed in the trees and peonies and the gentle breeze. On the next block, Delia sniffed up and down a new branch shooting out of the bottom of a trunk and a dog barked from a backyard. As we walked away, it started to howl. It howled for a long time–20 or 30 seconds–and sounded like a wounded animal. It did not sound like a dog. So strange. At first, I tried not to laugh because it was so weird but then I thought about how lonely and sad this dog might be–or maybe that’s just how it complains or shouts out its “good morning?” I wish I had had my phone with me to record the sound. I’ll have to take Delia by that house again tomorrow and bring my phone.

May/ Jonathan Galassi

The backyard apple tree gets sad so soon,
takes on a used-up, feather-duster look
within a week.

The ivy’s spring reconnaissance campaign
sends red feelers out and up and down
to find the sun.

Ivy from last summer clogs the pool,
brewing a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch
soft to the touch

and rank with interface of rut and rot.
The month after the month they say is cruel
is and is not.

Love the images of a sad apple tree looking like a used-up feather-duster and the sludge in the pool as a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch that is “rank with interface of rut and rot.” Also appreciate and agree with the idea that May is both cruel and not cruel. Everything is getting too green too fast and yet, it’s wonderful and so needed to have all the green. My backyard looks full and glowing–the weeds aren’t too much yet but they’re already starting to establish their supremacy. It’s mostly in the 60s with sun, but every day that’s colder seems even colder and crueler by comparison. Speaking of colder, the northeast is supposed to get a huge winter storm this weekend. Upstate New York and New England could get up to a foot of snow and lots of frozen slushy stuff.

Thinking more about the green ode I started yesterday. I like using Dove’s form for it–but maybe making it seem more excessive than she does with all my alliteration. For the rest of May, I’d like to memorize some green poems to get more ideas about green and excess and abundance.

Green in Poetry

may 6/RUN

3.5 miles
47th ave loop, short
52 degrees

Beautiful sunny breezy morning. A little more crowded than usual, but still got over 6 feet of distance from everyone. Heard a black capped chickadee calling out and waiting for an answer 3 times as I started my run:

Hello?
Hello?
Hello?
Listen.

Did I notice the river? I don’t remember.

The run was peaceful and relaxing but at moments, difficult and labored. I recited my poem–Ode to My Right Knee–a few times. Noticed how the alliteration for n was only 2 words: No noise. In some lines I found yesterday in my notes, I had 2 ns too: noisy nothingness

Anything else? Runners, bikers, and several pairs of walkers taking over the road. No turkeys. No way of seeing the river from high up on Edmund–too much green. Glanced at a few benches.

Thinking about green, here are a few lines about green in the spring, inspired by Rita Dove’s alliteration:

Ode to Green

Greedy green gluts gobbling gorges, grifting
vistas. Vast views vanished
or overrun. Orchestrated
take-overs: trees trimmed, tressed, twined,
voluminously vined.
Air altered. Advancing
leaves lining limbs
their thick thatches
blue-blocking blinding breathtaking.
Oh overcrowding obstruction! Oh
consuming, constricting color!

That’s all I have right now. I’ll keep working on it. I love the color green and seeing it in the spring, yet I dislike how excessive it is, how it overruns everything.

Started reading Marie Howe’s Magdalene last night. Wow! Love this poem:

Magdalene—The Seven Devils/ Marie Howe

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out”

Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.

The second—I was different from you: whatever happened to you could
not happen to me, not like that.

The third—I worried.

The fourth—envy, disguised as compassion.

The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too—its face.    And the ant—its bifurcated body.

Ok   the first was that I was so busy. 

The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn’t have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.   

The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.

The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living

The sixth—if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched  the left arm a little harder than I’d first touched the right then I had
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.  

The seventh—I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive, and I couldn’t stand it.
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word—cheesecloth—
to breath through that would trap it—whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in.

No.  That was the first one.

The second was that I was so busy.  I had no time.   How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?

The third was that I couldn’t eat food if I really saw it—distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate. 

Ok. The first was that. I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.

The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
love?  

The fourth was I didn’t belong to anyone. I wouldn’t allow myself to belong
to anyone.

The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn’t know.

The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.

The seventh was the way my mother looked   when she was dying, 
the sound she made—her mouth wrenched to the right and cupped open
so as to take in as much air… the gurgling sound, so loud
we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.

And that I couldn’t stop hearing it—years later—grocery shopping, crossing the street—

No, not the sound—it was   her body’s hunger
finally evident—what our mother had hidden all her life.

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,   
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath.  That was the first devil.   It was always with me
And that I didn’t think you—if I told you—would understand any of this—

may 5/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south
48 degrees

Started my run listening to 2 male black-capped chickadees calling out to each other over and over again. Sometimes one after the other, sometimes on top of each other. I wish I could have recorded it. As they called out, I tried to remember the words to my recent poem about them. All I could think of was: “let’s do nothing—slow down/down size” and “hello? hello.”

A nice run. Forgot to greet the Welcoming Oaks as I ran by them but did notice that there were 3 or 4 cairns stacked on the ancient boulders–both the tall and short ones. In past years, there’s has only ever been one cairn stacked on the taller rock. Ran down through the tunnel of trees and checked the progress of the leaves: a full green veil. No view of the trail winding through the forest to the river. In other spots, higher up on the path, I could see brief slashes of the river through the greening trees.

Started reciting my poem of the week: Ode to My Right Knee. I struggled to pronounce “obstreperous” and had to say it a few times in my head before I got it right and could move on. Favorite lines today? I think it was: “Membrane matter-of-factly/corroding, crazed cartilage calming chipping/away as another arduous ambulation/ begins. Bone bruising bone.” Thought about how quickly I recite this poem–not franticly, but almost. Why? Is it the alliteration and how it seems shaped by the words and not any particular meter? Am I not noticing the rhythm?

After reciting the ode for a while, I decided to recite all of the other poems I’ve memorized this year. Stumbled a little in “tell all the truth but tell it slant” on the line: “As lightening to the children eased/with explanation kind”

I feel like there was something else that happened that I’m forgetting now, something that made me stop reciting for a few minutes. What was it? Oh–I remember! Running south on seabury, then the river road trail, I kept hearing this strange rubbing, almost squeaking sound. At times I thought I was causing it–a weird way I was running or some part of my jacket or ponytail brushing against my shoulder? Then I thought it might be an odd bird call or another runner’s or walker’s noisy gait. Still not sure what caused it but it was probably was me since it followed me for a lot of the time. Maybe it was my shadow? Whatever it was, it was mildly irritating.

Came across this wonderful poem about water in the collection Rose, the other day:

WATER/ Li Young-Lee

The sound of the 36 pines side by side
  surrounding
the years and swaying all night like
  individual humans is the sound
of water, which is the oldest sound,
the first sound we forgot.

At the ocean
my brother stands in water
to his knees, his chest bare, hard, his
  arms
thick and muscular. He is no
  swimmer.
In water
my sister is no longer
lonely. Her right leg is crooked and
  smaller
than her left, but she swims straight.
Her whole body is a glimmering fish.

Water is my father’s life-sign.
Son of water who’ll die by water,
the element which rules his life shall
  take it.
After being told by a wish man in
  Shantung,
after almost drowning twice,
he avoided water. But the sign of
  water
is a flowing sign, going where its
  children go.

Water has invaded my father’s
heart, swollen, heavy,
twice as large. Bloated
liver. Bloated legs.
The feet have become balloons.
A respirator mask makes him look
like a diver. When I lay my face
against his–the sound of water
returning.

The sound of washing
is the sound of sighting,
is the only sound
as I was my father’s feet—
those lonely twins
who have forgotten one another—
one by one in warm water
I tested with my wrist.
In soapy water
they’re two dumb fish
whose eyes close in a filmy dream.

I dry, then powder them
with talc rising in cluods
like dust lifting
behind jeeps, a truck where he sat
bleeding through his socks.
1949, he’s 30 years old,
his toenails pulled out,
his toes beaten a beautiful
violet that reminds him
of Hunan, barely morning
in the yard, and where
he walked, the grass springing back
damp and green.

The sound of rain
outlives us. I listen,
someone is whispering.
Tonight, it’s water
the curtains resemble, water
drumming on the steel cellar door,
  water
we crossed to come to America,
water I’ll cross to go back,
water which will kill my father.
The sac of water we live in.

Last year, I posted another poem by Li Young-Lee, “From Blossoms.” Such a wonderful poet! What a great opening stanza. I’d definitely like to add that to lines I’ve memorized:

The sound of the 36 pines side by side
  surrounding
the years and swaying all night like
  individual humans is the sound
of water, which is the oldest sound,
the first sound we forgot.

I have started to acquire many wonderful poems about water. Maybe in June, in honor of what should be the start of Open Swim, I’ll memorize a series of water poems. This one, and one by Ed Bok Lee, one by May Swenson, and one by Maxine Kumin. I might have a few more too.

may 4/RUN

4 miles
47th ave loop
45 degrees

A little colder today but sunny and not too windy and wonderful. The slight but persistent sinus headache I have had for 3 or 4 days has mostly lifted. The run felt easier, more relaxed. Heard the male black capped chickadee’s feebee song. Did I hear any woodpeckers? I can’t remember. Heard the clickety-clack of a roller skier. Encountered a few walkers and runners and bikers, but at a very safe distance of at least 10 feet or more, I think. Noticed how much thicker the green veil is. Saw the river, blue and shiny. Didn’t even think about looking for turkeys down by the tree graveyard–but Scott did. On his run, a few minutes earlier than me, he stopped and took an awesome video of at least 6 turkeys walking across the road. Gobbling!

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Seen on my morning run…

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Reciting While Running

While I ran, I recited the poem I picked to memorize this week: Ode to My Right Knee by Rita Dove. I came across this poem several years ago when I was looking for poems about knees and I’ve always wanted to spend more time with it. Memorizing and reciting it is a great way to do that.

Ode to My Right Knee/ Rita Dove

Oh, obstreperous one, ornery outside of ordinary

protocols; paramilitary probie par

excellence: Every evidence
you yield yells.

No noise
too tough to tackle, tears

springing such sudden salt
when walking wrenches:

Haranguer, hag, hanger-on—how
much more maddening

insidious imperfection?
Membranes matter-of-factly

corroding, crazed cartilage calmly chipping
away as another arduous ambulation

begins, bone bruising bone.
Leathery Lothario, lone laboring

gladiator grappling, groveling
for favor; fair-weather forecaster, fickle friend,

jive jiggy joint:
Kindly keep kicking.

I love this poem and am very happy I memorized it, which was not that difficult. Am I getting better at memorizing, or did I connect with this poem more than others, or something else? I don’t know. It was fun to become better acquainted with the words. I love the abundant alliteration which doesn’t seem excessive but natural. I’d like to try writing some lines like these. Back in 2018, I wrote an abecedarian about sighting the lake buoys and in one draft I had the line: wondering what will work what won’t when waves warp. I didn’t keep it, but I remember the fun of discovering it.

Today as I recited it over and over again, I thought about the phrase, “fair-weather forecaster” and the surprise of it because “fair-weather friend” is such a common expression that you might anticipate that friend will end that phrase, not forecaster. I also like how well this pithily describes the phenomenon of aching knees as weather vanes. I briefly wondered if reciting lines about cartilage chipping away, membranes corroding, and arduous ambulations was the best idea when I was running–would it give my right knee some bad ideas?–but it was fine and fun and fast. I wonder how many times I repeated the poem?

some words that I was familiar with but didn’t know the precise meanings of:
  • obstreperous: unruly, noisy
  • From Merriam Webster “Obstreperous” comes from ob- “in the way,” “against,” or “toward,” plus strepere, a verb meaning “to make a noise,” so someone who is obstreperous is literally making noise to rebel against something, much like a protesting crowd or an unruly child. 
  • probie: probationary rank, rookie
  • Lothario: a man whose chief interest is in seducing women; a foppish, unscrupulous rake (note: love this second definition!)
    From Merriam Webster: “Lothario comes from The Fair Penitent (1703), a tragedy by Nicholas Rowe. In the play, Lothario is a notorious seducer, extremely attractive but beneath his charming exterior a haughty and unfeeling scoundrel. He seduces Calista, an unfaithful wife and later the fair penitent of the title. After the play was published, the character of Lothario became a stock figure in English literature. For example, Samuel Richardson modeled the character of Lovelace on Lothario in his 1748 novel Clarissa. As the character became well known, his name became progressively more generic, and since the 18th century the word lothario has been used for a foppish, unscrupulous rake.

Towards the end of my run, I tried to recite Carl Phillip’s “And Swept All Visible Signs Away,” but I struggled. I need to make sure and review all the poems I’ve already memorized so I don’t lose their words. How many poems can I keep in my head at one time? Not sure.

may 1/RUN

3.8 miles
47th ave loop, short
55 degrees

note: In April, I tracked the number of deaths due to COVID-19. I wanted to add these in as a way to acknowledge how scary and surreal it is even as I write about the things I’m enjoying, noticing on my run. For this month, I’ve decided not to include this data. I’m hoping to avoid thinking about the virus as much as I can. Is this possible? Will it help? I’ll see at the end of the month.

Gloomy and gray but not cold. Ran into the wind at first, then had it at my back on the way home. I remember looking at the river and I remember admiring it but I can’t remember why or what it looked like. The leaves are filling in on the trees. Slowly the green veil is growing. Soon, no more view. Not too crowded on the trail and was able to keep at least 6 feet of distance. My knee felt okay–a little stiff and sore afterwards.

Recited the poem, “Dear One Absent This Long While.” Didn’t have any problems remembering the lines, but had to take a lot of time between lines–too focused on the effort of running. Oh–at first, I recited a line as “I have new shoes” then boots then I remembered it was “I have new gloves.” Thought about how gloves fits much better than boots or shoes in telling the story of a gardener. One of my favorite lines: “She has the quiet ribs of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.” Quiet ribs. Old pony post road. Salamander. Such great phrases/images/words!

Found this poem the other day, and I thought about Bruce Lee and the interview in which he talked about being water.

ANTHEM/ Aaliya Zaveri

This is my first memory of my mother.
We were in India.
My mother, graceful, cross-legged in front of her sewing
machine and I, holding the pins.
She stops running material abruptly and takes my small
face in her cupped hands,
my round cheeks in her long fingers. I could feel the cold
metal of her engagement ring, her wedding ring.
She said to me:
one day you will be a woman. And I want you to understand
that you must be like water.
Like water, you have to know where you are going before
anyone else does.
You have to be able to rush into the gaps. You have to be
diffuse. You have to uncoil
to fill the space.

You have to be transparent.
In times of hardship, in the times of heat, you have to steam
only then will your rise.
You have to be smooth. You have to shift easily. Stay the
same but take the shape of every new place.
You have to be patient. You have to move only when you are
called to move.

You also have to know when not to move.
You have to know when to freeze and then expand so full
and so eloquent, you can force those spaces in between rocks
to deepen, to widen, and then force the rocks to shatter.
you must watch, she said, You must reflect back. You must
be water.

Love thinking about who to be like water:

  • rush into the gaps
  • be diffuse
  • uncoil
  • fill the space
  • transparent
  • in times of hardship, steam, so as to rise
  • smooth
  • shift easily
  • stay the same but take the shape of every new place
  • patient
  • move only when you are called to move
  • know when not to move
  • know when to freeze and then expand so full you force spaces between rocks to deepen, widen, shatter
  • reflect back

Do all these fit? I’m not sure, but I like thinking about what water does/is and how to try and be more like it. I love water–swimming in water, running beside water. Looking at moving water, still water. Hearing water lapping against a shore, dripping out of the eaves, gushing from a sewer pipe.

april 29/RUN

2.3 miles
river road path, south/edmund, north
44 degrees/ 17 mph wind
Deaths from COVID-19: 319 (MN)/ 58,529 (US)

A difficult run this morning. Straight into the wind on the way back. About 5 minutes in, my knee hurt. Stopped for a few seconds, then started again. Mostly fine while I was running, but decided to not run too much. Not crowded on the path. It’s getting greener. Looked over at the Oak Savanna and the Winchell Trail. I don’t remember much from this run except for worrying about my knee or feeling the wind. The stretch of grass between Becketwood and 42nd was muddy and wet.

At the very beginning of my run, I heard the bird call that Scott and I have been curious about lately. I’d like to figure out which bird makes this sound and why. Found it!

Male Black-capped Chickadee

The song Scott and I have been hearing comes from the male black-capped chickadee. It’s also called the “fee bee” call or, when it has three notes, the “hey, sweetie” call. The song is used to attract mates or defend territory.

Some facts I’d like to remember from this brief video: 1. This song signals spring is coming and 2. Males use it in singing battles.

Of course, this mention of singing battles reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver:

Invitation/ Mary Oliver

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

and important day
   for the goldfinches
      who 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 the 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 must change your life.

My effort to notice and then figure out the bird song, reminds me of another poem that I encountered (and posted here a few years ago):

Bird Song/Rebecca Taksel

After all these years
I still don’t know the name
of the bird who has followed me
with his early-morning song
to all the places I’ve lived.

I’ve never asked
“Which bird is that, singing now?”
I remember hearing him first
on a spring morning in childhood
somewhere in the woods
behind our little house, his song clear
above the thousand little sounds
of grass and water and trees around us.

I’ve thought about the deaths I fear,
but only now do I know the death I want:
to let that song be the last thing I hear,
and not to mind at all that I never learned
the singer’s name.

I wonder, was she writing about the male black-capped chickadee?

Thinking about the purpose of the black capped chickadee’s call, I’m imagining more of the conversation:

I’m right/you’re wrong
Welcome/spring’s here
hello/goodbye
get lost/no way
Beatles/Elvis
gray duck/no, goose

april 26/RUN

3.75 miles
47th ave loop, shorter
50 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 272 (MN)/ 54,001 (US)

I wore shorts this morning on my run. Shorts! Very exciting. Ran south on the trail, right above the river. It had a dull, un-sparkly surface but it was still beautiful. Soft, subdued. So many birds chattering away. A few runners and walkers and bikers. I had to weave around the path several times, from one end–on the edge of the bluff, above the water–to the other–across the walking and biking paths and the road, over to the grass between the parkway and the boulevard– but it didn’t bother me. As long as I can run and keep my distance, I’m fine.

Recited Emily Dickinson’s poem again, “it’s all I have to bring today.” Played around with the rhythm in the second line: “This, and my heart beside—” So awkward when running. (note: I can’t actually remember what beats I did with this line while running, so I’m experimenting after the fact. Now, I want to try running with each of these. Which works best?)

This and my heart beside/ 123 4 5 6/ ♪♪♪ ♩ ♩ ♩
This and my heart beside/ 123 4 56 7/ ♪♪♪ ♩ ♫ rest

This and my heart beside/ 12 34 5 6/ ♫ ♫ ♩ ♩

This and my heart/ 1 2 3 4/ ♩ ♩ ♩ ♩
beside/ 1 2 3 4/ ♩ ♩ rest rest

I’m really fascinated by these rhythms and what they do to the word beside, particularly what gets stressed. BEside or beSIDE or BESIDE. Trochee or Iamb or Spondee (I think that’s right. I’m trying to learn and then remember these terms. Maybe one day they will be second-nature to me?)

The other day, I read a beautiful thread about the poet Ted Kooser. I liked the poems that were mentioned in the thread, but decided to read some more of his work online. Because I find soaring turkey vultures to be beautiful, I was drawn to this poem:

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 in the world, even though
the sun is low and red in the west, and they

have fallen behind with the making of shrouds.

I have decided that I really like the couplet form–with its simple grace and interesting line breaks adding more meaning and movement.

april 24/RUN

3.75 miles
47th ave loop
47 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 221 (MN)/ 50,031 (US)

Wow, what a glorious morning! Soft light, hardly any wind, singing birds, uncrowded paths. Everything felt calm, relaxed. I don’t remember looking at the river that often, but I do remember the sky over the gorge and the view on the bluff near Folwell. Beautiful.

Anything else I remember from my run? I’ve noticed–today and yesterday, at least–that the morning sun makes it hard for me to see people sometimes. It also makes it almost impossible for me to determine if people are coming towards me or are moving away from me–is that the cone dystrophy or my near-sightedness? Not sure.

I recited Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today” again and I’m liking it more. The second line with the anapest–“This, and my heart beside”–is still awkward, but I like running to “this, my heart, and all the fields/and all the meadows wide” and “this, and my heart, and all the bees, which in the clover dwell.”

When I got back from my run, I started thinking about changing the words of Dickinson’s poem to fit with my run:

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my knee beside—
This, my knee and all the trees—
And all the river wide
Be sure to count — should I forget
Some one the sum could tell —
This, and my knee, and all the Birds
whose songs can cast a Spell.

Not totally happy with my words, but I’ll work on it some more. I struggle to understand “some one the sum could tell.” It mostly makes sense, but it still trips me up.

more wild turkey sightings!

Yesterday on our walk, near the tree graveyard, we saw 2 more wild turkeys! Scott took some video and posted it on instagram:

Finally, looking back through my log posts from 2018, I found this beautiful poem. It will be the next one that I memorize. So many lines I am looking forward to learning and keeping.

Dear One Absent This Long While/ Lisa Olstein 

It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;
everything blooms coldly.

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.
We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires
over which young men and women leapt.

June efforts quietly.
I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall

so even if spring continues to disappoint
we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.

I have new gloves and a new hoe.
I practice eulogies. He was a hawk

with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs
of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.

Yours is the name the leaves chatter
at the edge of the unrabbited woods.

april 23/RUN

4.2 miles
river road path, north/seabury, south/edmund, south
40 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 200 (MN)/ 46,859 (US)

Such a strange, scary time. For now, managing to keep the terror at a low simmer. Relieved that the governor announced today that schools are closed for the rest of the year. It’s awful, but necessary. Not sure if it’s all my training in being present on the path and paying attention to everyday delights in the midst of mess, but I’m doing okay. I know, without any doubt, that the gorge–being able to run and walk near it every day–is making all of this bearable. What a gift this river and trails and trees and ancient boulders are!

A beautiful morning! Started at 8:25 and there was hardly anyone out yet. For the first time in several weeks, I was able to run through the tunnel of trees, above the floodplain forest! The bare brown trees had a low soft glow and the dirt path winding through to the river looked quiet and lonely. Thought about how nice it would be to take Delia the dog on that trail but then I remembered how narrow the old stone steps are–difficult to keep 6ft of distance on them. Kept running north, glancing down at the river every few minutes. Mostly pale blue with a few spots of shining, sparkly brightness, almost white, or would you call it silver? Heard lots of birds, the low rumble of fast moving cars on a far away freeway, some music coming out of a bike radio. Enjoyed feeling and hearing the scratch scratch scratch of my feet striking the grit on the road.

Recited the Emily Dickinson poem, “It’s all I have to bring today,” a few times. It’s a beautiful poem, but not satisfying to recite. Why? Not sure. I’m thinking I should try memorizing and reciting “Before I got my eye put out” next. How will that poem move, I wonder?

Listened to Danez Smith’s Homie yesterday. Beautiful and uncomfortable, which is good and necessary. Heard this poem and felt it, having lived in California and longed for Minnesota:

I’m Going Back to Minnesota Where Sadness Makes Sense/ Danez Smith

O California, don’t you know the sun is only a god
if you learn to starve for him? I’m bored with the ocean

I stood at the lip of it, dressed in down, praying for snow
I know, I’m strange, too much light makes me nervous

at least in this land where the trees always bear green.
I know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.

Have you ever stood on a frozen lake, California?
The sun above you, the snow & stalled sea—a field of mirror

all demanding to be the sun too, everything around you
is light & it’s gorgeous & if you stay too long it will kill you

& it’s so sad, you know? You’re the only warm thing for miles
& the only thing that can’t shine.

Love the line, “I know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.” And the description of standing on a frozen lake, the stalled sea, the field of mirror all demanding to be the sun. What a beautiful poem!

april 21/RUN

3.7 miles
47th ave loop, short
34 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 160 (MN)/ 42,458 (US)

Sunny and bright. Looked down at the river and noticed it sparkling. Encountered a few runners and walkers and bikers. Heard some birds–a few geese, a woodpecker, some cardinals. Noticed a wild turkey hanging out in someone’s front yard–on Edmund, across from the tree graveyard. Nice! Always a good day when I see a wild turkey in the neighborhood. Here’s some turkeys that Scott and I saw on our walk on Saturday:

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Neighborhood turkeys.

A post shared by Scott Anderson 📎 (@room34) on

Recited the poem I memorized this week, Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today.” Kept noticing how awkward the second line was as I tried to keep my running rhythm while I said it in my head. Reading the prowling bee’s analysis, I realized it’s because every other line follows an iambic meter–da dum/da dum da/dum da dum or unstressed stressed/unstressed stressed–but the second line is strange: THIS and my HEART BEside–at least that’s how I hear it. “and my HEART” is an anapest (unstressed unstressed stressed). Found this basic description:

This poem consists of two four-line stanzas of ballad meter. In most of her poem, Dickinson typically uses ballad meter, which consists of four-line stanzas (or quatrains) of iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter: the syllable count of the four lines is therefore 8, 6, 8, 6. Ballad meter is similar to common meter, which is the meter of many Protestant hymns, such as “Amazing Grace.” In common meter the first and third lines of each stanza rhyme as do the second and fourth, making the rhyme scheme ABAB. Common meter also tends to be strictly metrical because it forms the basis of hymns sung in church. However, because Dickinson tends to rhyme only the second and fourth lines of each stanza (resulting in a rhyme scheme of ABCB) and is less strictly metrical, it is more accurate to say she uses ballad meter.

For some reason, I often struggle to recognize meter and to identify when syllables are unstressed or stressed. Not sure why. Slowly, I’m learning the terms–like tetrameter (4 feet) and trimeter (3 feet). I like thinking about this in relation to my running rhythms. Which rhythms work best for me? Which ones get me in a good groove, make running easier or faster or more fun? I’m not sure if the ballad works. I should experiment with it more. I’m also thinking about how breath fits into all of this. On easy runs, I might breathe every 4 or 3, on harder runs, every 2. How does breathing shape these lines? How does breath work in Dickinson? Here’s a source: The Breath of Emily Dickinson’s Dashes

After reciting Dickinson’s poem dozen of times, I decided to return to Richard Siken’s “LOVESONG FOR THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE.” For some reason, I enjoyed reciting it more than the Dickinson. Was it because there were more words, more ideas, more rhythms to untangle? Possibly.

Yesterday, I encountered the opening lines from this poem and was delighted. I’d like to memorize at least the first few stanzas, but maybe all of it.

from Maud (Part I)/ ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON

A Monodrama

Come into the garden, Maud, 
      For the black bat, night, has flown, 
Come into the garden, Maud, 
      I am here at the gate alone; 
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, 
      And the musk of the rose is blown. 

   For a breeze of morning moves, 
      And the planet of Love is on high, 
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves 
      In a bed of daffodil sky, 
To faint in the light of the sun she loves, 
      To faint in his light, and to die. 

   All night have the roses heard 
      The flute, violin, bassoon; 
All night has the casement jessamine stirr’d 
      To the dancers dancing in tune; 
Till a silence fell with the waking bird, 
      And a hush with the setting moon. 

   I said to the lily, “There is but one 
      With whom she has heart to be gay. 
When will the dancers leave her alone? 
      She is weary of dance and play.” 
Now half to the setting moon are gone, 
      And half to the rising day; 
Low on the sand and loud on the stone 
      The last wheel echoes away. 

   I said to the rose, “The brief night goes 
      In babble and revel and wine. 
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those, 
      For one that will never be thine? 
But mine, but mine,” so I sware to the rose, 
      “For ever and ever, mine.” 

   And the soul of the rose went into my blood, 
      As the music clash’d in the hall; 
And long by the garden lake I stood, 
      For I heard your rivulet fall 
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood, 
      Our wood, that is dearer than all; 

   From the meadow your walks have left so sweet 
      That whenever a March-wind sighs 
He sets the jewel-print of your feet 
      In violets blue as your eyes, 
To the woody hollows in which we meet 
      And the valleys of Paradise. 

   The slender acacia would not shake 
      One long milk-bloom on the tree; 
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake 
      As the pimpernel dozed on the lea; 
But the rose was awake all night for your sake, 
      Knowing your promise to me; 
The lilies and roses were all awake, 
      They sigh’d for the dawn and thee. 

   Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls, 
      Come hither, the dances are done, 
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls, 
      Queen lily and rose in one; 
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls, 
      To the flowers, and be their sun. 

   There has fallen a splendid tear 
      From the passion-flower at the gate. 
She is coming, my dove, my dear; 
      She is coming, my life, my fate; 
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;” 
      And the white rose weeps, “She is late;” 
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;” 
      And the lily whispers, “I wait.” 

   She is coming, my own, my sweet; 
      Were it ever so airy a tread, 
My heart would hear her and beat, 
      Were it earth in an earthy bed; 
My dust would hear her and beat, 
      Had I lain for a century dead, 
Would start and tremble under her feet, 
      And blossom in purple and red.

april 20/RUN

4.1 miles
river road path, north/seabury, south/river road path, south/edmund, south
46 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 143 (MN)/ 40,724 (US)

Started my run at 8:41. Not very crowded at all. Only a few runners and bikers. I think I remember glancing down at the river, but I don’t remember what I saw. Heard lots of birds at the beginning, don’t remember any during the run. Noticed lots of activity down by the rowing club–many cars. Will there be any rowers on the river today? Running on the walking path between the trestle and Franklin, a biker called out thanking me for staying on the proper path. I called back “you’re welcome!” and felt good for the rest of the run. What a difference such a small gesture makes! Focusing on these moments, instead of other annoying ones helps me.

A Freaked Out Runner

Yesterday, Scott, Delia the dog, our daughter, and I took a 4 mile walk around the neighborhood. Walking in the grass between the boulevard and the parkway, we witnessed a runner running in the road (on the part designated for pedestrians), getting increasingly upset as bikers (who are not supposed to bike on this part of the road) whizzed by her. When the first one passed her, she yelled “this is not the bike lane!” and then muttered to herself in anger. When the next one passed, she shrieked frantically “read the FUCKING signs!” (the city has signs posted all over the road/path identifying who should be in what lane). I could understand her anger–in other situations, I’ve been her, maybe not screaming “fuck!” but feeling that upset–but I could also see how difficult it was for the bikers, trying to find room to move when it was so crowded and when walkers were also ignoring the signs and taking over the bike paths. I’m not sure how to make this situation with crowded paths any easier, so I try to avoid it by running early, before it gets crowded.

Periodically during my run, I sang out in my head the delightful lines from Emily Dickinson I learned a few days ago: “In the name of the bee—and the butterfly—and the breeze—Amen!”

Speaking of Dickinson, I have decided the poem I will memorize for this week is:

It’s all I have to bring today—/Emily Dickinson

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure to count—should I forget
some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
which in the Clover dwell.

Such a beautiful poem. I think it will be fun to recite as I run on these early spring mornings. A poet and gardener decided in 2011 to systematically read through and analyze each of Dickinson’s poems. She’s still working on it now, in 2020. Here’s her post on this poem. In her discussion, she mentions Marianne Moore’s poem about imaginary gardens. I think I’d like to memorize this one too–if not this week, then for next week:

Poetry/ Marianne Moore – 1887-1972

I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
      all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
      discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
      they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become
      unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
      wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse
      that feels a flea, the base-
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must
      make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets,
      the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them,
      shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

april 18/RUN

2.5 miles
river road path, north/32nd st, west/43rd ave, south/38th st, east/45th ave, north
43 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 121 (MN)/ 37,708 (US)

A short run in the sun and the wind. Heard at least one woodpecker. I think I remember seeing my shadow. Got a brief glimpse of the river. Breathed in fresh outdoor air. It feels like spring is coming back. I bet the trails will be very crowded in a few hours. (update, 3 hours later: yes, they were very crowded. Went walking with Scott and Delia the dog and the path was packed with bikes, the road jammed with cars).

Found a thread on twitter about abecedarians. I love abecedarians. Here are two with interesting takes on the form that I’d like to try.

1 ABC/ Robert Pinsky

Any body can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

Sweet time unaffected,
various world:

X=your zenith.

I like how this poem only has 26 words, each starting with a letter of the alphabet in order. I also like how each letter is not on a separate line.

2 Disorderly Abecedarian 2: Return/ Devon Miller-Duggan

Fainting sky today pulls at the
ground, trying to find color.

Why is saw blade made?
Zig-sag of teeth against
my grain, my gain, my rain, my rein.

Nailing words on trees in the forest, leaves
sursurrate like pages, but can’t read for themselves.

Trembling upward, wing-over-wing, all the birds called home,
Halving the music, having it fly upward with them, they
bother the stratosphere with all warbling and winging—
quilling sky.

Xanthic eyes
pored over every memory of you. Poured myself. Poored my own memory
operating away from itself.
Kindling catches, but there’s no more wood for this fire. This fire
exacerbates the cold,
cakes itself all over these hands
until they’re not hands.

Re-enter. Something can be worked out.
Justification by feint, by faint, by fifth, by filth.

Love me past
and forward, but not now. Now I’m a
demon for saw-teeth and nails
instead of words. When we were
younger we read poets, we were bright
versions of our jaundiced selves.

I like how this poem has 26 lines, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet, but they’re not in order. This could be fun to try.

april 17/RUN

4.4 miles
47th ave loop
37 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 111 (MN)/ 33,325 (US)

What a beautiful morning! Hardly any wind, lots of sun, uncrowded paths! Ran south right above the river. Pale blue. At one point, heard a woodpecker and thought about stopping to record it but didn’t. Looked longingly at the lone bench near Folwell with the clear, unobstructed view to the other side. Recited my poem of the week, LOVESONG OF THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE. I am the wind and the wind is invisible! Thought about the rhythm in the later lines:

As the hammer / 1 2 / ♫♫
is a hammer / 1 2 / ♫♫
when it hits the nail / 1 2 3 4 / ♫♩♩♩

and the nail / 1 2 / ♫ ♩
is a nail / 1 2 / ♫ ♩
when it meets the wood / ♫ ♩♩♩

Running on the road, after turning off of Edmund, I saw my shadow ahead of me. Hi friend! She led me until I turned again. Listened to my feet shuffle on the grit and my ponytail brush against the collar of my vest. Don’t remember hearing any crows or squirrels or geese–did I? Ran too early to see Dave, the Daily Walker. Didn’t see any roller skiers, but did see 1 or 2 bikers. 2 runners, one with a bright red shirt on.

Thought about the poem I’m working on and that I posted yesterday about sinking. I’m thinking of changing goo to jelly. Also, I’m not sure I like starting with think–I did it partly as a rhyme with sink but I’m not sure now. Here’s different version, in a different form. Instead of cinquains, I’m using couplets:

How to Sink/ Sara Lynne Puotinen (draft 2)

with Paul Tran

Try to recall when your son was young and so upset
all he could do was turn to jelly and ooze

down the couch in surrender — not giving in
but giving up control, a puddle of body parts

pooled at your feet. Learn to retreat like this.
Go to the gorge. Let your bones dissolve,

your legs liquefy. Submit to gravity. Slide
down. Reach the ground first, then seep deeper

through layers of loam, sandstone, shale. Drop lower
and lower, burrow through cracks and fissures, carve

out a way in and follow it farther. Go
so far inside that outside is another idea.

I think I like this version better, especially how some lines can stand alone and make interesting poems by themselves. Like, “out a way in and follow it farther” or “but giving up control, a puddle of body parts.”

It’s warmer today. Maybe spring is finally, actually coming?! Soon there will be flowers and green grass and bees. In honor of the bees, here are 2 wonderful poems by Emily Dickinson (found on this twitter thread about bee poems):

To make a prairie (1755)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

In the name of the Bee –/ Emily Dickinson

In the name of the Bee –
And of the Butterfly –
And of the Breeze – Amen!

april 13/RUN

3.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, north/33rd st, west/43rd ave, south
32 degrees/ 5% snow-covered
Deaths from COVID-19: 70 (MN)/ 22,935 (US)

Snowed 5.1 inches yesterday. Still a lot of snow on the grass, but almost all of it is melted off the roads, the paths, the sidewalk. A beautiful, bright sun. Hardly anyone on the trail. I don’t remember looking at the river even once. I bet it was glowing. Noticed the Winchell Trail below me, clear and dry. Wanted to listen to dripping, but I don’t remember hearing any by the gorge. I don’t remember much of the run. Don’t remember hearing any woodpeckers or geese or cardinals. I do remember hearing the grit under my feet on the road. Much harder to run up the hill on slippery sand.

How to Sink, some ideas

For at least 6 months now, I’ve wanted to write a companion poem to How to Float about sinking. Back in August and September of last year, I imagined this sink poem to be only about the gorge and erosion and the idea of becoming grounded/rooted/settled in a space. Now, during this time of social distancing, I’m thinking of it in terms of sinking deep inside–holing up, hiding out, hunkering down, trying to wait patiently. I’m playing around with my own version of a cinquain (inspired by Adelaide Crapsey): 5 line groupings with 1 syllable/3/4/5/6. Here’s something I have so far

Be
a boulder
not a stone too
big to be stacked too
much trouble to be moved.

And here’s a beautiful poem I found on twitter. Dorianne Laux is wonderful. I really enjoyed listening to a poetry foundation podcast with her a few weeks ago. This poem is amazing. Love the idea of remembering only the flavor like a fine powder. I keep thinking about that fine powder–the hint of something but never quite fully the thing–as all that we have access to. Can we ever open the window? Are we ever not too tired?

Dust/ Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
now, I remember only the favor—
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes—
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

april 11/RUN

2.6 miles
river road, south/edmund, north
43 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 64 (MN)/ 19,701 (US)

O, what a morning for a run! Bright sun, low wind, clear uncrowded paths! I have decided that if I can get to the gorge before 9, I’m fine. After 9, it’s too crowded. Will this time change as it gets warmer? Maybe. Ran on the river road towards the falls. For the first mile, I only encountered 2 bikers. After that, there were a few more walkers and runners. Just before I got to 42nd, there were 2 people with their dogs, taking over the road. I decided to cross over early, run in the grass, and then turn around at 42nd. A lot more crowded heading north. I heard a woodpecker, pecking at something that sounded more metallic. Saw the shadow of a smallish bird fly over my head. Listened to the rumble of a plane. Noticed the river, sparking light (I intended to write sparkling, but I like the idea of sparking light). The gorge, glowing light brown. Anything else? I recited “And Swept All Visible Signs Away” at least once.

Missing

No Daily Walker. No roller skiers. No more fat tires. No wild turkeys or bald eagles or wedges of geese. No coyotes crossing my path. No trots of runners. No music blasting from bike or car radios. No rowers on the river. No headphones. No chanting. No snow. No wind. No tunnel of trees or welcoming oaks. No touching my face to wipe the sweat off my forehead. No blowing my nose. No getting closer than 6 feet to other runners or walkers. No “good mornings!”

After finishing my run, I went on a 2.5 mile walk with Scott and Delia the dog. So nice outside! We talked about the possibility of several inches of snow tomorrow night and a little bit about panic and the constant, slow simmering terror we both feel–usually very slight–about getting sick and not being able to breathe and maybe having to go to the hospital. Then, we talked about Star Trek vs. Star Wars. Right now we’re watching the Star Trek movies. We started 4 (with the whales) last night. Scott mentioned how Star Trek is science fiction, while Star Wars is not. I agreed and mentioned how I prefer Star Trek and am tired of the focus in Star Wars on the hero’s quest. A good discussion and a nice distraction from worrying about when shelters-in-place will elapse and infection/death rates will spike.

We ordered groceries to pick up 9 (or was it 10?) days ago and they are finally ready this afternoon. Will we get the toilet paper hat we ordered?
Update: No, we didn’t. According to Scott’s daily assessment/analysis, we will run out the first week of June. Hopefully we can get some more by then.

woodpecker!

At the end of our walk, when we were almost home, we heard a woodpecker pecking away at a dead tree. Scott managed to get some video of it.

Song of a Second April/ Edna St. Vincent Millay – 1892-1950

April this year, not otherwise
   Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
   Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
   Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.

There rings a hammering all day,
   And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
   The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
   The men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.

The larger streams run still and deep,
   Noisy and swift the small brooks run
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
   Go up the hillside in the sun,
   Pensively,—only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.

I love how she connects humans hammering with a woodpecker pecking.

april 10/RUN

4.35 miles
47th st loop
34 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 57 (MN)/ 17,836 (US)

Sunny. Not too windy. Not too warm or too cold. Not too many people on the path or the road. Not too much pandemic panic. A great morning for a run! Noticed that the river had a few extra sparkly spots–one was over on the other side, right next to shore. A beautiful circle of white gold. Looked longingly at another solitary bench. Is this the one I’ve looked at before? I can’t remember. This bench had a clear view of the river and the other side. And it was not alone. Beside it was a big boulder.

Recited the poem I memorized yesterday, And Swept All Visible Signs Away. I stumbled a few times, but I enjoyed hearing the words in my head as I moved. The toughest part: “except to those who want for shade,/ and find it there. Who keep finding they hardly/ care anymore–almost, some days, as if they’d never cared–” It was the hardly and anymore and almost that I kept having to remember to add in. Did reciting change my perspective on the poem, add any new insight? I’m not sure. The lines that were most fun to say: “I am stirred. I’m stir-able. I am a wind-stirred thing.” and “Green as water, the willow’s motion. Green as oblivion/ the willow’s indifference.” It is very rewarding to memorize a poem, to repeat the lines until they are etched inside of you. It helps me to understand the flow of words and their meaning better. I’d like to build up a bigger basket of them (I initially put arsenal, but I’m not interested in war imagery) and try to remember them for longer.

After reciting this poem over and over again, I also recited Dickinson’s “Tell All the Truth but Tell it Slant,” “Auto-lullaby,” and my version of it, “Pandemic Lullaby”. I have decided to change back the line with the stump to tree stump–running and reciting, I determined it needs that extra syllable. Also, still trying to figure out Cyclops Baby or big cyclops–what about one-eyed tot?

Found this poem the other day about pandemics from the March 2013 issue of Poetry Magazine:

Pandemania/ BY DANIEL HALPERN

There are fewer introductions
In plague years,
Hands held back, jocularity
No longer bellicose,
Even among men.
Breathing’s generally wary,
Labored, as they say, when
The end is at hand.
But this is the everyday intake
Of   the imperceptible life force,
Willed now, slow —
Well, just cautious
In inhabited air.
As for ongoing dialogue,
No longer an exuberant plosive
To make a point,
But a new squirreling of air space,
A new sense of  boundary.
Genghis Khan said the hand
Is the first thing one man gives
To another. Not in this war.
A gesture of  limited distance
Now suffices, a nod,
A minor smile or a hand
Slightly raised,
Not in search of   its counterpart,
Just a warning within
The acknowledgment to stand back.
Each beautiful stranger a barbarian
Breathing on the other side of the gate.

“Each beautiful stranger a barbarian/ Breathing on the other side of the gate.” Wow. Love this line. This take on social distancing is very masculine, which is fine, but I’d also like to read a poem with a non-war, non-masculine perspective on dialogue and interaction–one that doesn’t see conversation as debate and greeting as aggressive assertions. Should I try writing one? Sounds hard, but I might try. I’ll add it to my unabridged list of exercises.

april 8/RUN

3.25 miles
river road path, south/river road, path, north/edmund, south
50 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 39 (MN)/ 12, 912 (US)

Yesterday in the late afternoon it was almost 70 degrees! Today, at 8:45 am, 50! Wow. It’s warming up. Having windows open, hearing more birds, feeling the sun on bare arms. It all helps me to endure this terrible pandemic. Ran on the river road path heading towards the falls. Not too many people. Ran back on the part of the road that has been temporarily turned into a pedestrian path. More people out today, but still not bad. 6+ feet of distance the whole way! I liked running above the river although I can’t remember what I saw or heard below. Too busy listening to a playlist, I guess. Ran my second mile faster then took a quick walk break before running by the ravine and the welcoming oaks. Saw a few runners, walkers, dogs, bikers. No roller skiers. No Dave, the Daily Walker. No shadows–mine, or planes, or big birds. Usually, there is a constant buzz or hum or rumble of a plane somewhere overhead. How many planes are flying out of Minneapolis right now? (Looked it up: about 100 flights listed for the day, 47 of them cancelled. Not sure how that compares to a “normal” day. Still seems like too many flights to me. )

Update on planes: Sitting at my desk with the window open, writing this, I am hearing a plane roaring above me. It’s the first one I’ve noticed in a while.


I like the idea of this poem–reflecting on what you didn’t know you loved until finally you did. I like how it’s a list–a long list. I’m thinking that this poem could be an inspiration for a poem about what I didn’t see. Maybe what I’m not seeing during this pandemic? Things I don’t realize I’m missing until suddenly I do? Perhaps this is a variation on a writing prompt I created: #61 Run beside the gorge. Afterwards, think about your run in terms of what wasn’t there, but usually is. Make a list of what you missed. Write a poem that creates something out of that lack.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved/ Nazim Hikmet – 1902-1963

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain 
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it 
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                         and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before 
                         and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky 
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish 
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard 
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest 
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish 
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
                         lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief 
                                        to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads 
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea 
                                                          Koktebele
                               formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish 
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute 
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
                                        when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take 
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play 
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
                                       going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand 
   his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
      with a sable collar over his robe
   and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
   and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason 
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika 
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky 
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars 
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below 
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts 
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
                             or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t 
   be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract 
   well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to 
   say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them 
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad 
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind 
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors 
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
                             except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois 
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my 
   heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop 
   and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved 
   rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting 
   by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette 
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty 
   to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
   watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

                                                     19 April 1962
                                                     Moscow

april 7/RUN

4.3 miles
47th street loop
53 degrees/93% humidity
Deaths from COVID-19: 34 (MN)/ 11,018 (US)

Another good run. Started on the river road trail and was able to stay on it until I crossed at Becketwood. Very humid and foggy. Saw the Oak Savanna and the river and the Winchell Trail. Encountered only a few runners–6+ feet away. Noticed the solitary bench again. One day, when this is all over, I’ll stop and sit at that bench. Heard some woodpeckers and cardinals and some other bird that almost sounded like it was cackling–what was it? No roller skiers. No geese. Running south on Edmund, almost to 47th, I saw an animal over in the “tree graveyard”–the flood-prone stretch of grass between the river road and Edmund that once housed the tree with teeth. Fairly certain it was a dog but I’m not sure–I hardly ever am with my vision. Don’t think it was a coyote. Running back, north on Edmund, I saw Dave, the Daily Walker from a distance! I almost called out, “Hey Dave!” but decided against it. He was too far away. I’m glad to see that he’s doing okay and still out by the gorge. Did some more triple berry chants. Listened to the grit scratching under my shoes. Anything else? Very happy to be outside and feeling okay and not freaking out because there were too many people on the trail.

Everything this morning was wet–the air, the road, the grass, the trees. A thunderstorm earlier. The thunder was so loud and rolled for a long time. After one roll, I felt the floor shake. Wow! Our power went out for a few seconds. I don’t remember ever hearing thunder roll like that. I’ve heard an occasional boom or crack but not a rolling rumble. Scott said that they used to have about 10 of these big thunderstorms every summer in Austin, MN. Usually when we get bad storms, tree limbs litter the path. I don’t remember seeing any this morning.

I love the form of this poem and the various ways you can play with the lines. In his description, Herrera writes: “The solar circle poem can be read in any direction, or simultaneously with various voices at a ‘distance,’ or it can be cut out and spun like a wheel. You choose where to begin and end.”

april 6/RUN

4.35 miles
47th ave loop*
46 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 30 (MN)/ 10,524 (US)

*a new loop for this year: Edmund Bvld, south (or, if really early and uncrowded on river road trail)/grass just after 42nd to Becketwood to short stretch of paved trail/cross 44the Edmund/Right on 47th/right on 44th/right on short paved trail to Becketwood to grass/Edmund Bvld, north/left on 32nd/left on 43rd

Started at 8:30 this morning and there was hardly anyone out near the gorge! Decided to risk it and run south on the river road trail. I encountered two other people–both walkers, both respectful of the need for distance. It makes such a difference to be out there alone! It was overcast. The river was not shimmering or sparkling. I couldn’t tell if it had ice on it or foam or what. Ran past a solitary bench overlooking the gorge and thought how nice it would be to sit there and watch the river. Heard a woodpecker. Some workers laying fiber internet lines. 2 bikers on the road. Some cars–after I passed it, one car started honking. Not sure why. Was someone biking on the wrong side? Were they saying hello? I always have trouble understanding honks. Did some triple berry chants for a while. Also, recited “Auto-lullaby” and my variation, “Pandemic Lullaby.” Decided that my line: “think of a tree stump/housing a gnome” would fit better as “think of a tree stump/that houses a gnome.” Now that I’m saying it again, I think it should actually be: “think of a stump/housing a gnome”

surfaces

The new route I’ve been trying during this social-distance era has many different surfaces: street, sidewalk, dirt path, grass, shoulder, curb, asphalt trail. Smooth, rough, wet, slanted, uneven, muddy, gritty, high, low, full of divots, leaf-covered, cracked, pot-holed, narrow, wide. Straight, curved, up, down, partially blocked.

from “The Victorious Ones”/ Chris Nealon

Then came fire

It wasn’t yet a new world, or the end of the old one

But water, money, feeling overspilled their banks

                There was finally something real to be afraid of

                There was finally no reason to fear

Even animals approached us as they hadn’t in ten thousand years

Buildings were either shelter or they weren’t

Music got quiet

And poetry—

Poetry began to ask the question it had hidden in the forest

Poetry returned to lists, enumeration, inventory

It chose sides

This was not the same as prophecy

Look around you now        and ask yourself

Which of these—

                The innovators, profit-makers, the ones behind high walls,

                                The ones who are planning for the great catastrophes—

                Or the ones with no ability to plan,

                Who live from hour to hour, year to year,

                                In whom terror waits to be uncurdled,

                Who live in the great wide world—

Which of these will be the victorious ones?

Nobody knows.

Love this line: “Poetry began to ask the question it had hidden in the forest.”
 

april 4/WALKBIKERUN

walk 1: 2 miles
Edmund Bvld
30 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 24 (MN)/ 8,407 (US)

Walked with Scott, Delia the Dog, and my daughter this morning. Nice, crisp air. Sunny. Hardly any wind. A perfect morning for a run, but I decided to only walk. Trying not to push it too much with the running. They’ve turned the river parkway into a one-way and created a lane for walkers. Will this help enable people to get more distance from each other? Not sure. I’ll check it out tomorrow when I run. Felt great to be outside and moving. Heard at least one cardinal, several crows, a woodpecker. Anything else? There were traces of the snow from yesterday still settled around the trees in the grass by Edmund. Walked by the Cyclops Baby on the garage door again. Enjoyed walking with my daughter–only her second time outside in almost a month.

bike: 27 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.1 miles
treadmill, basement

Gave myself another easy day in the basement today. Watched some of a Joan Didion documentary–The Center Will Not Hold–and listened to Harry Styles as I ran. Don’t remember thinking about much. Happy to be able to move and breathe and not always be worrying.

Poem/ Charles Bernstein – 1950-

here. Forget.
There are simply tones
cloudy, breezy
birds & so on.
Sit down with it.
It’s time now.
There is no more natural sight.
Anyway transform everything
silence, trees
commitment, hope
this thing inside you
flow, this movement of eyes
set of words
all turns, all grains.
At night, shift
comets, “twirling planets,
suns, bits of illuminated pumice”
pointing out, in harsh tones
cancers & careers.
“Newer Limoges please.”
Pick some value
mood, idea, type or smell of paper
iridescent, lackluster
&, “borne in peach vessels,”
just think
“flutter & cling”
with even heavier sweep
unassuaged
which are the things
of a form, etc
that inhere.
Fair adjustment
becomes space between
crusts of people
strange, rending:
as sound of some importance
diffuses
“as dark red circles”
digress, reverberate
connect, unhook.
Your clothes, for example
face, style
radiate mediocrity
coyly, slipping
& in how many minutes
body & consciousness
deflect, “flame on flare”
missed purpose.
Your eyes
glaze
thought stumbles, blinded
speck upon speck
ruffling edges.
“But do not be delighted yet.”
The distance positively entrances.
Take out pad & pen
crystal cups, velvet ashtray
with the gentility of easy movement
evasive, unaccountable
& puffing signs
detach, unhinge
beyond weeds, chill
with enthusiastic smile
& new shoes
“by a crude rotation”
hang
a bulk of person
“ascending,” “embodied.”

I want to spend some time with this poem, thinking about it. Check out the erasure I did of it on April 6th.