june 15/RUN

5 miles
bottom franklin hill and back
72 degrees / dew point: 60

Whew! I was sure the dew point would be even higher. It felt very uncomfortable out there. And difficult. But I kept moving and didn’t push myself too hard. I ran to the bottom of the hill then walked up it. Then ran, walked, ran until I was back to the ancient boulder — no stones stacked on it today.

Last night RJP graduated from high school. I’m very proud of her for surviving it. I’m proud of myself too. It was very hard and I am tired. No more k-12 public school! Hooray! I loved many of the teachers and the music programs, but I won’t miss being subject to this schooling process.

RJP’s graduation was delayed by almost an hour because a fight broke out at the previous school’s graduation and someone was hauled away in an ambulance. FWA said he saw the guy, and he looked like he was probably fine and not in much pain. Other than the delay, the graduation was great. The awesome poet Bao Phi gave the address — so good! He, along with the student speakers, centered the experiences of BIPOC students.

10 Things

  1. white sky
  2. dark green mystery
  3. at least 2 specks in the sky — a plane? a bird?
  4. click clack — roller skiers powering up the franklin hill
  5. foamy water
  6. glowing orange shoes on a runner
  7. voices below near white sands beach
  8. one runner to another: well, that killed about an hour and a half — huh?
  9. a greeting from Mr. Holiday!
  10. a few days ago I mentioned something in orange spray painted on the sidewalk — it’s the outline of a cat (but not Garfield, I think?)

a section from Winter Ridge/ Lorine Niedecker

Reading (again, for the 3rd or 4th time?) LN’s “Wintergreen Ridge,” I was delighted by her connections and associations:

Women saved
a pretty thing: Truth:

“a good to the heart”
It all comes down
to the family

“We have a lovely
finite parentage
mineral

vegetable
animal”
Nearby dark wood—

I suddenly heard
the cry
my mother’s

where the light
pissed past
pistillate cone

how she loved
closed gentians
she herself

so closed
and in this to us peace
the stabbing

pen
friend did it
close to the heart

pierced the woods
red
(autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
to grieve

june 13/RUNSWIM

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
70 degrees / dew point: 60

Overcast, which helped it feel a little less warm. Sticky, thick air. A lot of sweat, especially on my face. Dripping ponytail. So green even the air was green. Greeted the Welcoming Oaks — hello friends! Descended into the tunnel of trees and was enveloped in green. Chanted triple trees: sycamore/sycamore/sycamore/red oak leaf/silver birch. Heard the rowers through the trees. Admired the barely moving, calm water under the bridge — the surface was dotted with foam and reflected clouds. Saw a speck in the sky out of the corner of my eye. Tried to look at it, gone. Tried again, a plane almost covered in fog. Saw a dark ring around it — my ring scotoma? Appreciated how the outline of the treetops on either side of the river road echoed the shape of the river banks. Walked up the hill — it took me 7 minutes — then ran, walked, ran back. Ended with a dozen roller skiers above me while I climbed out of the tunnel of trees.

For the first mile, in the dark green quiet, everything was dreamy. Thought again about how running puts me in a strange, surreal state. Nothing quite real. Then thought about Lorine Niedecker and the physical act of seeing with messed up eyes and using the poetic form to represent that. I’m not aware of how my eyes move as I see except for when I look to the peripheral as a way for my central vision to see something. I imagine having nystagmus makes you more easily register the movement of your eyes. How conscious was LN of her eye movement and how it was mimicked in her lines? When I think about how I see — the mechanics of it and its physicality — I think more about what happens when the corrupt or limited data travels as electrical impulses through the optic nerve and to the brain. Are the effects of nystagmus primarily physical — strain on eyes, the rapid movement creating dizziness and headaches? I should read more about it. . . . The physical impact of my vision sometimes reads as dizziness and light-headedness, but mostly it’s just a vague sense of unease and fatigue — more naps. I rarely feel the eye strain or get headaches from my effort.

In the article I was reading about LN’s nystagmatic poetics, this poem was discussed:

Tattoo/ Wallace Stevens

The light is like a spider.

It crawls over the water.

It crawls over the edges of the snow.

It crawls under your eyelids

And spreads its webs there—

Its two webs.

The webs of your eyes

Are fastened

To the flesh and bones of you

As to rafters or grass.

There are filaments of your eyes

On the surface of the water

And in the edges of the snow.

note at 11 am: Today is my first day of open swim! After the swim, I’ll return to this entry.

I’m spending the afternoon on the deck, reading Niedecker and thinking about Alice Oswald and Niedecker and my Haunts poems. Here are some jumbled thoughts:

You have been in my mind/between my toes/agate — Lake Superior/LN

You’ve been in
my mind

beneath my
feet Mom

Look for me under your boot-soles — Walt Whitman

Ars Poetica/ Arcelis Girmay

May the poems be
the little snail’s trail.

Everywhere I go,
every inch: quiet record

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

“We a lovely/finite parentage/mineral/vegetable/animal” — Wintergreen/ LN

I’m interested in how many layers you can excavate in personality. At the top it’s all quite named. But you go down through the animal and the vegetable and then you get to the mineral. At that level of concentration you can respond to the non-human by half turning into it.

Alice Oswald interview for Falling Awake

To write a poem is to be a maker. And to be a maker is to be down in the muck of making and not always to fly so high above the muck.

Poetry is Not a Project/ Dorothy Lasky

We can’t float or fly for long, above. We are part of the muck, not stuck but entangled, beholden

to work down/ to ocean’s black depths/us us an impulse tests/the unknown — Paean to Place/ LN

2 loops / 1.5 miles
lake nokomis open swim
80 degrees

Open swim! Open swim! I was nervous before the swim, wondering if I would see the buoys. I did! The water felt wonderful — a little cold, but not too cold, and wavy but not choppy. I watched the sun filtering through the water, avoided the vegetation growing up from the bottom and the swan boat stuck right by the orange buoy. That menacing swan was a little too close as I neared the buoy. The last green buoy was so far from the orange buoy — it seemed to take forever to reach the beginning of the loop. Oh, I love open swim and what joy to have had a good first swim!

june 10/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls
60 degrees

Ah, summer mornings! Beautiful. Cooler. If I would have slept better, I would have tried to go out even earlier. The first half of the run felt good, then I got hot and it got harder. Today I didn’t worry about what that meant for my training. Instead, I enjoyed the brief minutes of walking, taking in the trees at the falls — so green! so full!

10 Things

  1. the falls, flowing, white, undulating — the water not falling straight, but almost falling over itself — was it hitting some limestone on the way down?
  2. a bundle of something on the ground next to the dirt trail — a hammock?
  3. 2 women with tall hiking packs on their backs walking on the paved path
  4. some animal — a turkey? — upset, calling out, a human voice saying something — hey?
  5. a flash below the double bridge — a sliver of creek almost covered by green
  6. 2 roller skiers near locks and dam no 1
  7. the dirt trail cutting through the small wood near ford bridge looking cool and inviting
  8. happy kids on the minnehaha park playground — happy: green voices, where green = young, outside, tender
  9. (walking back, about to cross 46th ave at 37th street) 2 older women chatting, then greeting me, oh! hello!
  10. (walking back almost to my alley) heard on a radio or from a phone or a computer in neighbor’s backyard, the next one is Scandia — was this talk radio or a zoom meeting or what?

Lorine Niedecker and “Paean to Place”

to dwell with a place:

What is required, however, is sensual, embodied experience—close encounters of awe, wonder, fright, disgust, or even tedium—which remind us both of the real earth with which we dwell, and that we share our home with innumerable cohabitants.

Dwelling with Place: Lorine Niedecker’s Ecopoetics

opening to “Paean to Place”:

Fish
fowl
flood
Water lily mud
My life

in the leaves and on water
My mother and I
born
in swale and swamp and sworn
to water

My father
thru marsh fog
sculled down
from high ground
saw her face

at the organ
bore the weight of lake water
and the cold—
he seined for carp to be sold
that their daughter

might go high
on land
to learn

Wow! Reading this opening, I’m thinking about the Objectivists and the Imagists and Ezra Pound’s 3 rules for writing poetry:

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome

What condensery and music in these lines! And what wonderfully effective descriptions of two people dwelling in and with a particular place, especially her mother, born in swale and swamp and bearing the weight of lake water and the cold.

definition of ecopoetics:

The word itself is an amalgam of two Greek words: oikos [household or family] and poïesis [making, creating, or producing], so that ecopoeticsquite literally means the creation of a dwelling place, or home-making. The term came into special prominence after the influential British literary critic Jonathan Bate published The Song of the Earth in 2000. There, Bate defined ecopoetics as a critical practice in which the central tasks are to ask “in what respects a poem may be a making … of the dwelling-place” and to “think about what it might mean to dwell upon the earth.”

Dwelling with Place: Lorine Niedecker’s Ecopoetics

LN’s opening lines and her descriptions of her parents, reminds me of Mary Oliver’s The Leaf and the Cloud and her brief mentions of her parents in the first section, “Flare.” LN and MO have different experiences but they rhyme, somehow, or echo?

My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
oh, unforgettable!

Like LN, MO was also an amazing poet of place, but she doesn’t extend her ideas of place to her parents — a deliberate severing:

I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

So much to say about that iron, but I have run out of time right now. Perhaps more later. . .

I’m back. First, the not carrying the iron makes me think of my mom and her desire for displacement from her abusive parents. More than once she said to me that she wanted to break that cycle of abuse — and she did. And I am grateful. But there’s something to explore here for me and my relationship to place, this place 4 miles from where my mom was born and raised, that I can’t quite get at yet.

The iron also reminds me of the wonderful lines from the opening of LN’s “Lake Superior”:

In every part of every living thing
is stuff that once was rock

In blood the minerals
of the rock

*

Iron the common element of earth

Both MO and LN write about their fathers. First, MO:

My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trusts,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.

and LN:

He could not
—like water bugs—
stride surface tension
He netted
loneliness. . .

. . . Anchored here
in the rise and sink
of life—
middle years’ nights
he sat

beside his shoes
rocking his chair
Roped not “looped
in the loop
of her hair”

The “looped” quote comes from William Butler Yeats and his poem, Brown Penny and it’s about love. I like how she throws in this line from poets or about poets, like this:

Grew riding the river
Books
at home-pier
Shelly would steer
as he read

I noticed another line of the poem in quotes, “We live by the urgent wave/of the verse.” Looked it up and found an article about “Paean to Place” and thanks to my college-attending son, I have access to it! Time to read it: Lorine Niedecker’s “Paean to Place” and its Fusion Poetics


june 3/RUN

4.2 miles
longfellow garden and back
73 degrees / dew point: 75

Sticky again today, but not as bright. Still hard to run through the thick air. Struggled on the way back — walk run walk run. Trying to remember to keep showing up and believing that it will get easier, or I will get better at handling the difficult moments, or I will finally start getting up early. I tried to think about green.

my favorite green

Running south, just past the ford bridge, nearing the locks and dam no. 1, cool air was coming from the green to my right — a small wood. Refreshing! Often I associate late spring green with thick and stifling, but today it was fresh and generous, making it easier to breathe and to run.

Before my run, I read this green poem:

Making Life on a Palette/ Raina J. León

After Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827), “George Washington at Princeton,” 1779

the color of life
takes sun yellow and bluest blue sky and water
for green ferns
chartreuse buds beading above moss
dappled shamrocks
fragrant healing of sage, laurel,
mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, myrtle
amid the tall wonders of juniper
pine, olive, pear
even the meeting of sea and river—
the sky, an intermingling of viridian and chetwode horizons,
and cerulean clarity—
offers its green seafoam,
its seaweed pats,
the crocodile at the edge of a freshwater marsh
its teeth open gritted in green
against the backdrop of hunter rainforest
dripping in green

heaven is a field of persian green
lit by translucent jade and celadon lamps
a many-roomed chateau scented by aromatic tea leaves
the aperitivo: gin, apple, and bitter lime
the time: midnight green
the guardian: a mantis in prayer

joy: harlequin, verdun, spring
magic: kaitoke forest in its energetic whisper and pulse

green must exist
inside brother james
would he call it camouflage
or nyanza or sap
for washington it’s in the colors of flags
the fields far off
feldgrau or military or empire green
or dollar bill or rifle green
revolution with chains the result
mix the green
like a spell in making
safe life
hush arbor life
nurturing abundant life
free life
bring the background to the fore
ease
ease
ease
life

So many greens! How many different greens can I see? Today, mostly, it was just green (or brown or gray).

Offering some advice on being judicious with your use of adjectives, Ted Kooser writes the following lines:

Morning Glories/ Ted Kooser

We share so much. When I write lattice,

I count on you seeing the flimsy slats

tacked into squares and painted white,

like a French door propped in a garden

with a blue condensed from many skies

pressed up against the panes. I count on

you knowing that remarkable blue,

shaped into the fluted amplifying horns

of Edison cylinder record players.

What? Come on, you know exactly
what I’m talking about. I didn’t need

to describe them like that, but I like to

however a little over my words, dabbling

the end of my finger in the white throats

of those __. You fill it in.

I could go on, but all I really needed to do

was to give you the name in the title.

I knew you’d put in the rest, maybe

the smell of a straw hat hot from the sun;

that’s just a suggestion. You know exactly

what else goes into a picture like this

to make it seem as if you saw it first, 

how a person can lean on the warm

hoe handle of a poem, dreaming,

making a little more out of the world

than was there just a moment before. 

I’m just the guy who gets it started.

Do I know that remarkable blue he’s writing about? Does he see the same blue that I do? Do we need to imagine the same blue to make his poem meaningful?

Reading “Making Life on a Palette” and “Morning Glories,” I’m thinking about the different work they ask of the reader, or, of this reader, me. “Palette” is filled with green words with histories that I don’t know; I had to do a lot of googling to dig into the poem. “Morning Glories” asks me to build an image from the name he offers, to draw upon the shared understanding/image of the flower that I already have.

Lately, I keep coming back to the question, how little data can we have and still “see” what something is? Not much, I think. Yet, to assume that we all see the same thing — the thing as it is — excludes a wide range of experiences and detail and ways of seeing. It leaves out a lot of different shades of green.

Speaking of green, I remembered that I had collected ideas about green in my plague notebook vol 3, June 2020:

june 1/RUN

4.15 miles
marshall loop (cleveland)
65 degrees
humidity: 85% / dew point: 60

Mostly overcast, a few moments of sun, no shadows. Sticky, everything damp, difficult. I felt better during the run — distracted by the dew point and the marshall hill — but when I finished, I felt a heaviness: hormones. The NP agrees: perimenopause. The good news: I’m healthy, the new NP I went to is awesome, I don’t feel anxious, I have an order in for an SSRI (lexapro). The bad news: I feel bummed out (depression doesn’t quite fit, I think), there’s some problem with insurance so they can’t fill the prescription so I have no idea when I can actually start taking the medication. But it’s June, I have several cool books to dig into, and I just got a hug from my daughter so I’ll be okay.

10 Things

  1. the red of a cardinal seen as a flash
  2. one small white boat on the river
  3. shadow falls falling, sounding like silver
  4. the smell of breakfast at Black — faint, sweet
  5. pink peonies about to pop
  6. click clack click clack — a roller skier’s poles: orange happiness
  7. the strong smell of fresh green paint on the base of a streetlamp
  8. the next streetlamp base: disemboweled, gray wire guts hanging out
  9. a purple greeting: morning! — good morning!
  10. a group of people in bright yellow vests laughing and walking on the road near the Danish American center — why?

added a few hours later: When writing this entry, I forgot about all the chanting I did. Started with triple berries:

raspberry strawberry blueberry
strawberry blueberry raspberry

Then added in some other 3 beat words:

intellect mystery history
remember remember remember

Then played with remember:

remember
try to re

member try
to remem

ber try to
remember

Then I decided to chant some of my favorite lines from Emily Dickinson:

Life is but Life
and Death but Death
Bliss is but bliss
and Breath but Breath

Life is but life is but life is but life
Death is but death is but death is but death
Bliss is but bliss is but bliss is but bliss
Breath is but breath is but breath is but breath

Life life life life
Death death death death
Bliss bliss bliss bliss
Breath breath breath breath

something important to remember: Donald Trump was convicted on all 34 counts of falsifying business records. He is now a felon and will be sentenced on July 11th. He can still run for office, but most likely won’t be able to vote (for) himself.

I’d like to focus on color this summer: June, July, and August. I’m not sure how I’ll do it, yet. Will I break it down my color? Possibly. Yesterday I picked up 2 color books that I had checked out 4 or 5 years ago. I’m anticipating that I’ll find them more useful now: The Secret Lives of Color and Chroma.

I also checked out Diane Seuss’ latest, Modern Poetry. Here’s one of her poems with some color in it:

Legacy/ Diane Seuss

I think of the old pipes,
how everything white
in my house is rust-stained,
and the gray-snouted
raccoon who insists on using
my attic as his pee pad,
and certain
sadnesses losing thei redges,
their sheen, their fur
chalk-colored, look
at that mound of luandry,
that pile of pelts peeled away
from the animal, and poems,
skinned free of poets,
like the favorite shoes of that dead
girl now wandering the streets
with someone else’s feet in them.

At the beginning of the book, Diane Seuss offers a quote from Wallace Steven’s poem, Man with Blue Guitar, which I first learned of while reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. It is a long poem, so I won’t include all of it, just the part that Seuss quotes, with a few lines before that too:

from The Man with the Blue Guitar/ Wallace Stevens

Here, for the lark fixed in the mind,
in the museum of the sky. The cock

will claw sleep. Morning is not sun,
it is the posture of the nerves,

It is as if a blunted player clutched
The nuances of the blue guitar.

It must be this rhapsody or none,
The rhapsody of things as they are.

may 24/RUN

3.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back
64 degrees

Another hot and hard run with heavy legs. Not enough water or iron or rest? My body adjusting to warmer, heavier air?

Ran with Scott to the falls. Windy, green. We talked about the runner’s high and I mentioned my log post from may 24, 2017 that included an early poem about the runner’s high. I’d like to edit it, or at least revisit the ideas in it. This revisiting will include trying to experience more runner’s highs. I also mentioned Jaime Quatro’s article, Running as Prayer, and the deepest level of the runner’s high. Scott said he preferred the word meditation to prayer: less Christian baggage. That conversation lasted about 15 minutes, I think. I can’t remember what else we talked about — oh, the wind, the value of having designated spots for returning your ride share bikes, side stitches.

10 Things

  1. slick path or slippery shoes or both — mud, worn-down tread
  2. wind in our face, running south. Scott suggested that the wind was like a trainer holding a belt around your waist as you ran, which is something we noticed happening before the twins game last week with a player and his trainer and a belt
  3. flashes of pale blue, almost white, river through the thick trees
  4. plenty of puddles
  5. kids yelling on the playground
  6. spray coming off the rushing falls — water falling down and from the sides of the limestone
  7. a long queue for paying for parking in the minnehaha lot
  8. the surreys are back — bunched together near the falls overlook
  9. a cooling breeze heading north again
  10. minneapolis parks mowed a wide strip of grass near the trail by the ford bridge but left the meadow — good news for the bull frogs! Today I couldn’t hear them because of the wind and the traffic but I bet they’re there

Yesterday I posted part of a poem from Lucie Brock-Broido. Here’s part of another beautiful one:

from Periodic Table for Ethereal Elements/ Lucie Brock-Broido

A girl ago, a girlhood gone like a phial of ether
Thrown on fire-just

A little jump of flame, like grief, or,

Like a penicillin that has lost its will for killing
Off, it then is gone.

And, here’s a recording of her reading the whole poem.

may 23/RUN

5.35 miles
flats and back
61 degrees

10 Things

  1. globs of white foam on the river surface, moving slowly south, flat, brown, opaque water near the shore
  2. a hissing goose
  3. dazed, dreamy, almost disembodied, running fast up the franklin hill
  4. dandelion stalks on the grass, right before the ancient boulder, illuminated by sun, casting ragged shadows
  5. looking down at the green of the grass, seeing it as just a clump of green, wondering if people with better vision than me can see the individual blades
  6. walking along the cracked concrete wall that holds back the river, comparing the actual wall to its shadow, noticing what I see better in each. The shadow, the line/edge of the wall, especially when it is cracked — noticing how the shadow breaks there. The “actual” wall: texture, not in fine detail but roughly — all over, not smooth / specifically, gray depressions where shadows inhabit the spots the wall has broken off
  7. approaching a person standing in the middle of the path under the trestle, realizing at the last minute they were not alone, but hugging another person — were they comforting them (or vice versa)? or were they just expressing affection? They held the hug for a long time, much longer than one would in a greeting
  8. Hi Dave!
  9. (how could I almost forget!?) catkin fuzz! white fuzz from cottonwood trees, looking like a dusting of snow, lining the edges of the path. White fuzz, not looking like snow, floating through the air. I had fun trying to bat it around
  10. Taking a walk break, feeling a strange drop of water on the back of my knee, wondering what happened, realizing it was a drip of sweat from my ponytail

Not an easy run. Somewhat of a grind. The first 3 miles were fine. Then I stopped to walk for a few minutes until I returned to the bottom of the hill. Put in a playlist and picked up speed as I run up the hill. Walked for a minute near the crosswalk, then ran faster up the rest of the hill. Ran then walked then ran again for the rest of the run.

No rowers or shadows from birds or big groups of runners or frantic squirrels or unleashed dogs or menacing turkeys. At least one roller skier. Today my shadow only appeared at the end of the run, looking strong with broad shoulders.

the shadow of death

Yesterday as I was reading more of C.D. Wright’s Casting Deep Shade, I was thinking about how she unexpectedly died before it was published, wondering what “unexpectedly” meant. So I looked it up. Maybe a little out of morbid curiosity, but mostly because concrete details about death help me (us, I think) to engage with death in deeper ways that go beyond fear or discomfort or dismissal. Anyway, I looked it up and discovered that she died at 67 in her sleep from a blood clot she got on an overly long plane ride from Chile. Woah — that is unexpected. Thinking about this unexpected fact while I was running this morning, I thought that, for the person dying at least, this might not be a bad way to go — in your sleep. Then I wondered what experience of dying you might miss out on in your sleep. Would you dream about going into a light? Would your life still flash before your eyes as you slept? Or would all just be suddenly nothing?

A few days ago, someone somewhere (a poetry person on instagram?), posted a poem by Lucie Brock-Broido: After the Grand Perhaps. She died a few years ago. I remember that it was shocking and upsetting to many poetry people. She had been 61 and it was a brain tumor. Reading another poet’s account of her, I know she knew she was dying for at least a few months. I thought about her as I ran today, too.

2 shadow moments from After the Grand Perhaps/ Lucie Brock-Broido

After the pain has become an old known
friend, repeating itself, you can hold on to it.
The power of fright, I think, is as much
as magnetic heat or gravity.
After what is boundless: wind chimes,
fertile patches of the land,
the ochre symmetry of fields in fall,
the end of breath, the beginning
of shadow

*

After what is arbitrary: the hand grazing
something too sharp or fine, the word spoken
out of sleep, the buckling of the knees to cold,
the melting of the parts to want,
the design of the moon to cast
unfriendly light, the dazed shadow
of the self as it follows the self

may 18/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
67 degrees

Warm this morning. Humid, too. Lots of sweat and a flushed face. Ran alongside the 10 milers for the “Women Run the City” race — just briefly; they passed me quite quickly. Everything was wet from the all-night rain. Was there sun? I can’t remember. Rowers? Not sure. Lots of people on the edge of trail, cheering on the runners.

Running north, I listened to the spectators. Running south, Beyoncé’s “Carter Cowboy.”

Right after I got back, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk. No more runners, but the road was still closed. So quiet! Scott remarked, and I agreed, that you don’t realize how much car noise there is on the river road until the cars are gone. I wish they could close the road to cars more — like they did during the pandemic.

shadows: cave paintings

The other day, I came across a poem by Muriel Rukeyser that reminded me of a great topic for shadows, especially in terms of painting:

The Painters/ Muriel Rukeyser

In the cave with a long-ago flare
a woman stands, her arms up. Red twig, black twig, brown twig.
A wall of leaping darkness over her.
The men are out hunting in the early light
But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
and a woman among them.
Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
a woman among them, painting.

I know very little about cave paintings. Here’s an article to read: Were the First Artists Mostly Women? Also, I could watch the documentary: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

may 17/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill
65 degrees

Feels like summer is here. Everything green, my view of the river gone. I did see the river for a few minutes, as I ran down to the flats, but I don’t remember what I saw. Wait — yes, I recall seeing the reflections of trees.

Felt good for the first half, not so good the second. Tired legs, some gastro stuff.

added a few hours later, when I remembered: Along the river road, the workers were out patching asphalt and replacing wires in the street lights that were recently disemboweled again. How many times has this happened? Running north, I saw a guy in an orange vest with a big spool of coated wire, rolling out a lot of it on the bike path. Later, returning south, I saw another worker sitting at the base of a street lamp, fiddling with the wire. It looked like a time-consuming job. I read somewhere that all this stolen wire has cost St. Paul millions of dollars this year. I also read — maybe in the same article? — that the coated wire was stamped with “City of St. Paul” on it and that that stamped wire had been recovered at at least one scrap metal company that frequently bought stolen wire. Is Minneapolis wire stamped too?

I think I partly remembered witnessing the street lamps and the wire because of reading today’s episode of the Slowdown. Major Jackson picked a poem by Liesel Mueller that I gathered a few years ago for my list of vision poems: Monet Refuses the Operation. When I first encountered it, I didn’t really get it. Then, a few months ago (18 feb 2024), I read it again and it suddenly made so much sense. Yes, I thought, she gets it. She starts the poem with an image of streetlights:

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.

I don’t think I see halos around street lamps, but the idea of things blurring together, and edges not being visible (or not existing), is very true to my experience. This poem, along with several others I’ve collected, including Ed Bok Lee’s “Halos” offer ways to think about how I see as beautiful and magical, not tragic. Here’s how Major Jackson (love his poetry!) describes this “bad” vision as beautiful:

Poets and visual artists work to give representation to the world which shimmers and blurs. Sometimes only impressions are available. Rather than a fidelity to things as they are, we desire to represent those very distortions. Today’s dramatic monologue is a gem of a poem, one that reminds how everything around us is divined with light, even our imperfections.

Episode 1120

I can’t remember what I listened to for the first half of my run, but after running up most of the hill, I stopped to walk and put in my “Slappin’ Shadows” playlist. My favorite came from, “Dancing in the Moonlight”: you can’t dance and stay uptight

Favorite song: “Evening” — the haunting flute! the melancholy bass clarinet! love it

Evening makes me think of a wonderful poem that I encountered while rereading old entries from on this day.

Evening/ Jeremy Radin

Another word I love is evening
for the balance it implies, balance
being something I struggle with.
I suppose I would like to be more
a planet, turning in & out of light
It comes down again to polarities,
equilibrium. Evening. The moths
take the place of the butterflies,
owls the place of hawks, coyotes
for dogs, stillness for business,
& the great sorrow of brightness
makes way for its own sorrow.
Everything dances with its strict
negation, & I like that. I have no
choice but to like that. Systems
are evening out all around us—
even now, as we kneel before
a new & ruthless circumstance.
Where would I like to be in five
years, someone asks—& what
can I tell them? Surrendering
with grace to the evening, with
as much grace as I can muster
to the circumstance of darkness,
which is only something else
that does not stay.

I think I’d like to memorize this poem, just so I can spend some more time with it, especially out on the trail.

random line encountered again: “squirrels devote much of their life to not-dying.” Today, I’d like to write around and into this stark line.

silhouettes

On Wednesday, I picked up three books related to my shadow month: the kids’ book, The Shades, Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost of, and Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. Today, I’m skimming through Nguyen’s and Walker’s books and thinking about silhouettes again.

When I look at Kara Walker’s work, I see adamantly two-dimensional images — images pinned and flattened in a rejection of Renaissance space.

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Okay, I would love to be able to read all of this book, but, wow, there is very little contrast and even with my brightest lamp, I’m struggling to read the words. Bummer.

I observe in Walker’s visual liexicon a world I’ve never seen quite so explicitly: a pictorial vision in which everyone is a mere silhouette of self, a profile drained of facture (def: the manner in which — a painting — is made) or flesh, pushed flat and up against the wall.

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Halbreich references an interview with Kara Walker in Index, which I can read much more easily than the book:

The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that’s also what the stereotype does.  So I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked.  Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people, and a lot of people can understand it, the other side of this is that it also reduces difference, reduces diversity to that stereotype.  I was kind of working through this in the tableaus and things that I’ve been doing, where the intention was to render everybody black and go from there.  Go from this backhanded philosophy that blackness is akin to everything.   

Kara Walker

In a quiet voice, she [Walker] might say that her narratives are a radical condensation of a faith in shadows, or “becoming.”

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Two silhouettes I recall encountering during my run:

one: Running down into the tunnel of trees, dark and thick with green, I saw a figure ahead moving strangely, something dark trailing around them, almost like flapping wings. Getting closer, I could see it was a dark jacket of sweatshirt tied around their waist. As they swung their arms widely, the sleeves of the jacket were ruffled.

two: Hi Dave! Thinking again about how I (almost) always can identify Dave the Daily Walker because of his distinctive form: one arm that swings out from his side — wide and awkward.

may 16/RUN

4.2 miles
ford loop (short)
56 degrees / humidity: 84%

Sticky with a cool wind. Glad to have my orange sweatshirt on when we started, but happy to take it off after 2 miles. Very moist. I told Scott I felt like one of those sponges you use for moistening stamps — damp all over. This led us to a discussion of how most stamps are stickers now and how hard it is to find non-sticker stamps. I suggested that my comparison — between sweaty me (would that be the tenor of a metaphor?) and the sponge (the vehicle?) — might be a dead metaphor. Then I took it a step further and suggested that stamps and letters were becoming metaphors that no longer worked because people don’t use stamps and send letters as much as they used to. Now it’s all online. This lead us to a discussion of library archives and old papers and what’s being lost when all of our evidence is online (and easily manipulable). I think that conversation was wrapping up as we headed east on the franklin bridge.

I remember admiring the dark, flat river and hearing a far off woodpecker. No sun or shadows today.

note: this paragraph was added later in the today. Earlier I couldn’t remember what we talked about on the east side of the river, finally it came to me. Between Franklin and the trestle on the east side, we talked about Still Life paintings and I mentioned how many dead animals are in the ones I’ve seen — the only way to study them closely — and with pools of blood or strung up, their bodies contorted in grotesque ways — or were those just the still life paintings Diane Seuss picked for her poetry collection? Anyway, I mentioned wanting to play around with different meanings of still: not just keeping still, but enduring. Scott mentioned a whiskey still and I thought that, since we both like bourbon, I should write a poem titled Still Life that was about drinking bourbon.

Sometimes it felt gloomy and sometimes, like walking back over the lake street bridge after we finished, it felt intense, vibrant as a certain slant of light made the green leaves glow. Woah! What a bright green!

After delighting in the green, we talked about the difference between shadows and reflections and I mentioned how I always see the edge of the water, darkened by trees, as shadows and not reflections. Scott couldn’t understand how I would get reflections and shadows mixed up. I couldn’t either until I realized much later that my confusion stems from my vision loss, at least partly. The dark forms at the edge of the shore don’t look like reflections, they look like dark shadows — no details, no evidence that it’s anything but a mass of darkness. When it’s brighter, I can easily see and understand that the smiling bridge in the water is a reflection and not a shadow. Another example: I can picture and imagine easily the difference between the shadow of a cloud crossing over me and the reflection of a cloud on the water.

At the beginning of the run, I recited the Jorie Graham poem I memorized this morning. Then I talked about the other Graham poem I encountered (see below). After I finished reciting the poem — which I did successfully while running! — Scott and I discussed the difficulty of listening to modern poetry and trying to grasp the meaning of strange language, or language used strangely with ears instead of eyes. As part of this, we discussed the oral tradition and its different methods for telling stories that people could make sense of as they listened. Again (because I have mentioned it on this blog before), it makes me want to study more oral forms of poetry, especially as I learn to rely more on hearing rather than seeing words.

a poet speaks to me from across the page

This morning, before running with Scott, after I finished memorizing Jorie Graham’s “Still Life with Window and Fish,” something strange and wonderful happened. Looking through the collection that “Still Life” is from, Erosion, I found another poem I wanted to read: To a Friend Going Blind. I began to read it and, seven lines from the end, there it was, me. Not Sarah but Sara. Out of nowhere, like the narrator or Graham was speaking just to me. Wow. Maybe I’m missing something and her Sara is referencing something earlier in the poem, but reading it for the first time, I gasped. I am Sara, and I am (most likely) going blind, and I know the beauty of the walls.

To a Friend Going Blind/ Jorie Graham

Today, because I couldn’t find the shortcut through,
I had to walk this town’s entire inner
perimeter to find
where the medieval walls break open
in an eighteenth century
arch. The yellow valley flickered on and off
through cracks and the gaps
for guns. Bruna is teaching me
to cut a pattern.
Saturdays we buy the cloth.
She takes it in her hands
like a good idea, feeling
for texture, grain, the built-in
limits. It’s only as an afterthought she asks
and do you think it’s beautiful?
Her measuring tapes hang down, corn-blond and endless,
from her neck.
When I look at her
I think Rapunzel,
how one could climb that measuring,
that love. But I was saying,
I wandered all along the street that hugs the walls,
a needle floating
on its cloth. Once
I shut my eyes and felt my way
along the stone. Outside
is the cash crop, sunflowers, as far as one can see. Listen,
the wind rattles in them,
a loose worship
seeking an object
an interruption. Sara,
the walls are beautiful. They block the view.
And it feels rich to be
inside their grasp.
When Bruna finishes her dress
it is the shape of what has come
to rescue her. She puts it on.

Her use of inside and rich and interruption here surely must be connection to the poem I just memorized: the beautiful interruptions, the things of this world and even the windowpanes are rich and I love it here where it blurs and nothing starts or ends but all is waving and colorless and voiceless.