april 3/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement
Deaths from COVID-19: 22 (MN)/ 6,605 (US)

Biking in the basement this afternoon. When I went down there, everything was brown. When I came back up, most of it was white. A dusting of snow. Classic April in Minnesota. Finished the documentary about Merrily We Roll Along while I biked. Lots of great reflections on what we do/fail to do with our lives.

Decided not to run today. Time to give my legs a break. It’s difficult not running. It really helps with stress over rising body counts and expected surges in cases. But it would be worse to run and get injured so I didn’t run.

Found out last night that they have cancelled all summer parks activities. No open swim this year. No open beaches at all. So sad, but necessary. I can’t imagine swimming this summer. It will be hard to wait another year–will all of my central vision be gone by then? Will I even be able to see the buoys to swim?

BREATH/ Lee Potts

We can only carry so much breath with us
and I learned then that it may not be enough.
 

Every summer morning, we rushed
to be the first body to break
the pool surface, still
and cold as a bare marble altar
long stripped of cloth and candle.

Diving from the deep end’s edge
I followed my open, empty hands
into what was once
mist or cloud or untidy ocean
before being bleached
and boxed in for us.

Down toward the drain,
a starless night sky
just beyond its iron grate.

A thin current pulled past.
Ghost tide needing no moon,
that never turned, that kept
whatever it washed away.

Love this line: “what was once/ mist or cloud or untidy ocean/ before being bleached/ and boxed in for us.” Also the idea of a starless night sky by the drain and a thin current.

april 2/RUN

4 miles
edmund, south/45th/edmund, north/32nd street, west/43rd ave, south
51 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 18 (MN)/ 5100+ (US)

Bracing for scarier weeks as the virus continues to spread in the U.S. Minnesota is supposed to reach the peak in late May/early June. Ordered groceries (including toilet paper) online to pick up. It will be ready on Saturday, April 11th. Glad we’re stocked until then. Such strange, unsettling, terrifying, exhausting times.

Ran the new route that Scott and I discovered yesterday. South on Edmund, on the grass after 42nd street, past Becketwood, back on Edmund, right on 45th street, Becketwood, grass, north on Edmund, right on 32nd street/left on 43rd ave. It was 4 miles. Not too bad. Encountered a few people on Edmund but that was it. A nice route. It would have been nicer if I hadn’t been running straight into a 14mph wind for a lot of it. What do I remember? Listening to my feet shuffle on the grit. Noticing the river through the trees as I ran at the highest point on Edmund, between 36th and 35th streets. It was cloudy so it wasn’t glowing and too far to see any detail, but it was beautiful. I think I heard some birds. Don’t remember any woodpeckers. Oh–I think I heard a wedge of geese honking high up in the sky. Heard some chainsaws. Some people talking. Another runner said hello but I wasn’t sure if it was to me or someone else. Felt pretty good running. Don’t remember what I thought about. I do remember, as I returned on Edmund starting to feel too warm. Took my pink jacket off and zipped it up while running, then put it around my waist. Quite the feat. I probably looked ridiculous.

Last night, during one of the many times I got up with restless legs, I started composing a variation to “Auto-lullaby,” one of the poems I like to recite while I’m running.

A Pandemic Lullaby/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Think of a sheep
reciting a poem;
Think of a tree stump
housing a gnome.

Think of your dog
asleep in a chair;
Think of that time
when you cut your own hair.

Think of a bird
that sings in your ear;
Try to resist
suffocating from fear.

Think of Cyclops Baby on
a garage door;
Think of a run, and
count to four.

If you are anxious, then
take a deep breath.
The outcome most likely
is sickness not death.

For now, I’ll stick with this ending, but I’m not satisfied. I’ll keep working on it. Read it to Scott and he didn’t really like my original first stanza: Think of a sheep/ cooking your breakfast;/ think of that summer/ when you visited Texas. Partly because he didn’t think it rhymed, partly because I’ve never visited Texas in summer. I’m not sure; I like how breakfast and Texas work together, but I decided to switch it up and connect it more to what I like to think about in order to feel better.

While searching for “april” in poets.org, I came across this poem. It’s not about April–well, it could be talking about April in Minnesota.

Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry/ Howard Nemerov – 1920-1991

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow 
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

april 1/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 3.5 miles
edmund bvld, south/north
45 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 17 (MN)/ 4.749 (US)

bike: 26 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk this morning. We discovered that there is a trail that connects Edmund at 42nd with Edmund farther south. Hooray! I’m excited to try it out tomorrow. I should be able to run over 4 miles that way. As we walked near Becketwood, across from the double bridge, I noticed 2 big birds soaring above us. Bald eagles, we both decided. One was close, the other much higher in the sky, both circling. Riding a thermal? So cool.

In the afternoon, I biked in the basement to get my exercise minutes (a 72 minutes, 3.5 mile walked didn’t earn me a single minute of exercise on my apple watch). Watched more of the S Soundheim/Hal Prince documentary about the failed 1981 musical, Merrily We Roll Along. Finished by running 1.2 miles on the treadmill.

Starting off national poetry month with one of my favorite poets, Maggie Smith.

Rain, New Year’s Eve/ Maggie Smith (from Good Bones)

The rain is a broken piano,
playing the same note over and over.

My five-year-old said that.
Already she knows loving the world

means loving the wobbles
you can’t shim, the creaks you can’t

oil silent–the jerry-rigged parts,
MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum.

Let me love the cold rain’s plinking.
Let me love the world the way I love

my your son, not only when
he cups my face in his sticky hands,

but when, roughhousing,
he accidentally splits my lip.

Let me love the world like a mother.
Let me be tender when it lets me down.

Let me listen to the rain’s one note
and hear a beginner’s song.

march 31/RUN

3.5 miles
edmund bvld, south/north/32nd west/43rd south
46 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 12 (MN)/ 3,400 (US)

Trying not to read too much news about the virus. I am doing what I need to do: nothing. I haven’t left the house, except for my daily runs and walks since March 10th. This staying home all the time is not that different from my regular (pre-pandemic) schedule, except for the added fear about how bad it might get that hovers around me all the time.

After reading about how the virus can (in the right conditions) spread through the air and thinking about how much less fun it has been to run by the gorge, always trying to avoid people, I decided to run on Edmund Boulevard today. It is parallel to the river road, separated by a large stretch of grass, an occasional tree and some ancient boulders. From Edmund, you can’t ever see the river, but you can see the trail and the trees on the bluff and, in early spring, a few glimpses of the other side. Because it’s a road, there’s more room and more chances to stay farther away from other people. The only problem: the continuous stretch of it near me starts in the south at 42nd and ends in the north at 32nd. Even when you add in a few more streets to make a loop, it’s only a 5k. I’ll have to think about ways to make it longer without having to repeat.

Bright sun today. A few birds. Too many people walking around everywhere. Don’t remember what I thought about. Did I see anything interesting? No birds soaring above me. No Daily Walker. No shimmering river or welcoming oaks or spazzy squirrels. No kids playing at the playground. No roller skiers. No fat tires. No shadow following or leading me. Ran over some grit in the street and was able to listen to the shshshsh of my striking feet. Saw some dogs and their humans. A little kid on a bike. Two women taking over most of the road, keeping 6 feet of distance from each other. A runner pushing a kid in a jogging stroller. A man talking on the phone as he slowly walked on the grass.

an evening walk

Around 6pm yesterday, Scott, Delia the dog, and I took a walk around the neighborhood. Here are three things that I wanted to remember:

  1. Someone was playing saxophone outside. They were very good, so good that lots of people were walking on the street towards them. I was curious to see who and where they were, but Scott was freaked out by all the people, so we kept walking. I like hearing random instruments playing around the neighborhood.
  2. I found it! Finally, after seeing a cute little gnome-sized door at the bottom of a tree several years ago and then trying to locate it again with no luck, I found it! Well, Scott found it first. It’s near the corner of 33rd street and 48th avenue. Hidden behind some tall grass.
  3. We noticed some chairs set up at the end of a street, blocking it off. A woman was sitting in one of the chairs reading a book. Kids were biking up and down the street. Am I being too freaky to think that this might not be a good idea and that these kids aren’t staying far enough away from each other? I’m so glad my kids are older and that they are introverts who mostly like to text with their friends. It would be very hard to find ways to entertain a young kid who was super extroverted right now.

a poem, a page

Here are two poems I recently discovered that are about the relationship between a poem and a page.

POEM WHITE PAGE WHITE PAGE POEM/ from Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Gates”

Poem white page white page poem
something is streaming out of a body in waves
something is beginning to declare for my whole life
all the despair and the making music
something like wave after wave
that breaks on a beach
something like bringing the entire life
to this moment
the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
something like light stands up and is alive

Fool’s Gold/ Ted Mathys

This morning I love everyone, 
even Jerome, the neighbor I hate, 
and the sun. And the sun 

has pre-warmed my bucket seat  
for the drive up Arsenal Street  
with the hot car effect,  

a phenomenon climatologists 
use to explain global warming 
to senators and kids. 

I love the limited edition 
Swingline gold stapler 
in the oil change lounge 

which can, like a poem, 
affix anything to anything 
on paper. One sheet of paper, 

for instance, for that cloud of gnats, 
one for this lady’s pit mix 
wagging his tail so violently 

I fear he’ll hurt his hips.  
One sheet for glittered lip balm, 
for eye contact, Bitcoin extortion 

and the imperfect tense.  
Sheets for each unfulfilled wish 
I left in a penny in a mall fountain. 

Sun spills into the lounge  
through the window decal 
in geometric Tetris wedges. 

I have a sheet for Tetris, 
its random sequence of pieces 
falling toward me in this well 

like color coded aspects of the life 
I neglected to live, for the pleasure 
of making line after line 

disappear. The gold stapler 
has twenty-sheet capacity 
so I straighten my stack 

on the reception counter 
and staple the day together 
with an echoing chunk.

Wow. I love both of these poems and want to spend some more time with them. In Rukeyser’s poem, I love the idea of something streaming out of the body in waves of despair and music. I love the idea of something–what is that something? An urge? A soul? I love the different things you can imagine about that something. In Mathys’s poem, I love how the line break works in line 3: “and the sun. And the sun”. I love how the sun keeps returning. I love the gold stapler and how he links it with a poem: “like a poem,/ affix anything to anything/ on paper.” I love how each idea gets its own sheet of paper.

march 30/RUN

4.1 miles
river road, north/edmund bvld, south
39 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 10 (MN)/ 2,509 (US)

As expected, COVID-19 is getting much worse. Deaths in Minnesota almost doubled in one day. I just read an article about a choir rehearsal in Washington state in which 45 out of the 60 attending members were infected. Experts think it was spread through the air. Should I stop running by the gorge? Almost all of the time I’m able to keep a safe 6 feet+ distance, but not absolutely always. Today, for example, while running through the tunnel of trees I was only 3 or 4 feet away from some walkers. I almost twisted my ankle trying to stay as far away from them as possible. Maybe I should just run on the road through the neighborhood? As much as I usually love running beside the gorge, it has been more stressful than joyful lately.

Run with/without headphones, an experiment

Today, I’m trying a variation on this experiment:

Run on the two trails loop beside the gorge. Listen to music as you run south, up above near the road. Take out your headphones and listen to the gorge as you run north, down below on the Winchell trail. Think about how you experience running and breathing and paying attention differently when you listen to a playlist versus when you have no headphones in. Write about it.

It’s a variation because I didn’t run on the 2 trails. I ran north on the river road without headphones, and south on it and Edmund Boulevard with headphones.

without headphones

Sunny, bright, low wind. Looked down and admired the floodplain forest. So brown and airy. Felt like I was floating above it. Heard some birds–just a general sense of birds, can’t remember any specific ones. Don’t remember seeing too many cars on the road. A walker with his dog called out and asked how my run was going. I said, “Good. It’s a great day for a run!” Noticed a few patches of snow below me, near the Minneapolis Rowing Club. Noticed the Winchell Trail between the trestle and my turn around spot 1/2 mile later. Looking more clear and less muddy. Any other sounds? Some people talking. Can’t remember any other sounds. Counted to 4 a few times then tried chanting triple berries (strawberry/blueberry/raspberry–strawberry/blueberry/blackberry). Felt mostly relaxed and happy to be running but also on edge as I constantly thought about making sure I had enough distance from other people.

With Headphones, Listening to Playlist

More relaxed and happy to be listening to music: I’m So Free/Beck; Black Wizard Wave/Nur-d; Juice/Lizzo; Let’s Go Crazy/Prince. Had a big smile on my face and felt free and fast for a few minutes. Not worrying about viruses or annoying people who refused to move over or what would happen if I suddenly had a lot more trouble breathing. Often when I run without headphones, I feel more connected to the trail and my body. When I listen to music, I feel more like I’m floating, like I don’t have a body, like I’m not quite on the trail.

I really like listening to Beck’s “I’m So Free”. Thought I’d look up the lyrics:

excerpt from I’m So Free/ Beck

[Verse 1]
I’m on a tangent
Textbook ephemeral
Facts are confusing me
I’m so free now

I’m on a one-man waiting list
I’m bored again
I buried all my memories
I’m so free now

I see the silhouette of everything
I thought I ever knew
Turning into voodoo
I’m so free now

A panic cycle, sentimental
Feel it out until you know
It isn’t meant for you
I’m so free now

[Pre-Chorus]
I’m so free now
I’m so free now
And the way that I walk
Is up to me now
And if I breathe now
I could scream now
You can hear me
From Topeka to Belize now
I’m gonna freeze out
These enemies out
They never see what I got
No need to bend my knees down
Heaven forbid
I never cared
Time is running out
Nothing new under the sun
Better get down

[Chorus]
I’m so free
I’m so free-ee-ee
I’m so free
I’m so free-ee-ee
I’m so free (free)
From me, free from you-ou
I’m so free
I’m so free-ee-ee
Free-ee-ee
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
(I’m so free from you)
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
(I’m so free from you)

A horizontal aspiration
In the basement
With a thick and digital lust for life
I’m so free now

Looking over the lyrics, I always thought he said something about booking his ticket to Belize now, not “From Topeka to Belize now.” Whenever I listen to this song, I think of it as a feel-good anthem. Reading the lyrics, I’m realizing it’s much darker and angrier. Will that affect how I hear it in the future?

Later, during a deck do-nothing

This afternoon it is sunny and 58 degrees and the shadows don’t consume our deck until almost 3:00 so Scott and I decided to sit outside. Scott worked a little while I read a few chapters from 2 books and then soaked up the sun listening to the birds. A lot quieter today than last week. I had noticed that when I headed out for my run around 9:30 but forgot to mention it earlier in the entry. The bird that I heard last week, who keeps adding to their trill, was singing again. Scott told me it was a cardinal. Hopefully I can remember this. Decided to look up the cardinal and find out why they sing that way and why they might add syllables to their song. Found a great resource (TheCornellLab/All About Birds) and this information:

Scientists have described at least 16 different calls for the Northern Cardinal, but the one you’ll hear most commonly is a loud, metallic chip. Cardinals make this call when warning off intruders to their territory, when predators are near, as females approach their nests, and by both sexes as they carry food to the nest or when trying to get nestlings to leave the nest. When one member of a pair is about to feed the other, either bird may make a softer took note.

16 different songs! In another paragraph about the cardinal, it mentioned that their “syllables can sound like the bird is singing cheer cheer cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie.” Interesting. I’d like to listen to some more birds on the deck or out in the neighborhood and figure out my own words to match their syllables. Maybe the first step is to gather some recordings when I’m walking. Yes! Another experiment to add to my list!

I clicked on one the links at the bottom of the page and found a great video about how the Cardinal sings: with a paired structure located where the bronchial tubes from each lung come together, the syrinx. Fascinating! Cardinals are a strange bird for me because my damaged cones in my retina make them virtually impossible to see. I rarely can see red. But, I can hear it!

One more thing: I just remembered that I heard another bird that sounded much farther away. Who who who. Was it an owl in Seven Oaks? In looking for a link to Seven Oaks, I found this cool site about the history of Minneapolis Parks. Nice!

march 29/RUN

2.6 miles
river road, south/edmund bvld, north
39 degrees/ 18 mph wind
503 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Happy Birthday to my two children, born on the same day three years apart! It’s a crappy time to be having a birthday but they’re both handling it well. As I write this at 12:30 pm, they are both still sleeping. They have turned nocturnal while the schools are closed. Scott and I managed to stay up until midnight (no easy thing to do for us old folks) and blast The Beatles “Birthday” while I danced around clapping and singing loudly and looking foolish.

Wind

Windy this morning during my run. It was at my back heading south. I ran straight into it heading north. Speaking of the wind, I just added a writing prompt to my unabridged list of experiments:

What do you remember–other than how difficult it is–when you are running straight into the wind? Pick a windy day, run straight into the wind, write about it.

Often when I’m running into a strong wind, I think about the other people around me–the walkers, runners, drivers–and wonder if they’re feeling it too and what they think about me running straight into it. Do they think, how crazy is she to be running into this wind? As I passed some people about to cross the street, heading west instead of south, I wondered if they were feeling the wind too. I noticed how much less I felt it when I had my hood on. I almost didn’t notice it. I remember it making a loud rushing noise, every so often, as gusts came through. Sometimes I thought this noise was a car, but it never was. I felt the wind tug at my hat a few times. I don’t remember seeing any trees swaying or leaves swirling. Oh–I also remember hearing it rushing through the ravine at 42nd and wondering if it was gushing water or the wind–I guess I’m still not sure. I thought about the Boston Marathon and the Olympic Trials and the strong winds the runners had to run into and couldn’t imagine how they ran so fast for so long with such resistance. Yuck, no fun! Professional runners are such bad asses.

Here are two poems about wind:

Wind/ Florida Watts Smyth

What does wind stir in me
That stirs not in the tree?
It stirs a farther hope.
Trees stand, but I shall run
Beyond that slope,
Beyond the sun,
And see,
Wind-swept, the spaces of eternity.

Who Has Seen the Wind?/ CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither I nor you: 
But when the leaves hang trembling, 
The wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither you nor I: 
But when the trees bow down their heads, 
The wind is passing by.

march 28/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 1.5 miles
longfellow neighborhood
bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.3 miles
treadmill, basement
441 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Started the day with a walk around the neighborhood with Scott and Delia the dog. Lots of birds, hardly any people. We meandered, often turning when we saw people approaching. Ended up walking by one of my favorite garages–so awesomely weird.

We also walked by the creepy, completely shrouded in towering trees, house across from Sanford Middle School. Scott noticed a few windows on one side but they were concealed with thick awnings. Even the side entrance is fenced over, with the railing poking through fence boards. What happened here? I can’t believe my kids haven’t passed on any ghost stories from other Sanford kids about this place.

Later, after it began raining, I decided to workout in the basement. Started watching a documentary on Netflix about a failed Stephen Sondheim/Hal Prince musical, Merrily We Roll Along: The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened. So far, I’m enjoying it. I love musicals. Another version of me, in a different universe, would have loved to be in musicals. In this universe, I’ll just have to appreciate my niece Isabel and her amazing talent as an actor.

Finished off my workout with a short run. I’m growing to like these quick, fast-feeling treadmill runs. No 6 feet of distance needed! As much as I enjoy them occasionally, I hope we don’t get to a point where we can’t go outside and this is the only way I can run.


Right now, I’m working on creating an unabridged list of writing experiments (tried or to be tried), inspired by my runs beside the gorge. I’ve thought of turning some of them into an autobiographical poem. This poem is very different from what I imagine writing, but it’s helpful as an example–and so powerful.

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)/ Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home. 
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle, 
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.  

march 27/RUN

4.2 miles
river road, north/river road, south/32nd to Edmund Bvld
43 degrees
398 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Another beautiful day by the gorge! As the days get scarier, my hour outside in the morning (running, then walking Delia the dog) becomes more necessary and appreciated. Fresh air, warm sun, noisy birds! Early on in my run a group of walkers thanked me for moving over and giving them space. A simple gesture that enabled me to be open and generous to others I encountered. Not too crowded. Was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker. Heard some geese, woodpeckers, a few dogs barking down below. Also heard the beeping alarm of an approaching train (I think?) as I ran under the trestle. Didn’t stop to see if a train would come. Ran by a lonely bench with a beautiful view of the other side. Didn’t stop to sit and take in the brown slopes and the blue river. Will I ever stop? Maybe someday. Running above the rowing club, admiring the bare tree trunks, I thought about what color brown they were. Maybe milk chocolate? I love the soothing colors of light blue and brown.

Bliss Point or What Can Best Be Achieved by Cheese/ Benjamin Garcia

A.k.a.

          the other gold. 

                    Now that’s the stuff, 

                               shredded or melted 

                                         or powdered 

                                                 or canned. 

                                                             Behold 

                                         the pinnacle of man 

                     in a cheeto puff! 

Now that’s the stuff 

                      you’ve been primed for: 

                                             fatty & salty & crunchy 

          and poof—gone. There’s the proof. 

Though your grandmother 

                        never even had one. You can’t 

                                    have just one. You 

                                              inhale them puff— 

                                                                     after puff— 

                                                                after puff— 

                               You’re a chain smoker. Tongue 

                      coated & coaxed 

but not saturated or satiated. 

                       It’s like pure flavor, 

                                   but sadder. Each pink ping 

                                                       in your pinball-mouth 

                                                                expertly played 

                             by the makers who have studied you, 

                               the human animal, and culled 

                    from the rind 

         your Eve in the shape 

                                 of a cheese curl. 

                                              Girl, 

                                come curl in the dim light of the TV. 

                           Veg out on the verge of no urge 

                  of anything. 

         Long ago we beached ourselves, 

                                 climbed up the trees then 

                                          down the trees, 

                                                knuckled across the dirt 

                               & grasses & thorns & Berber carpet. 

                                           Now is the age of sitting, 

                                   so sit. 

           And I must say, 

                       crouched on the couch like that, 

                             you resemble no animal. 

                                    Smug in your Snuggie and snug 

                                                     in your sloth, you look 

                                           nothing like a sloth. 

           And you are not an anteater, 

                                   an anteater eats ants 

                                                   without fear 

                                       of diabetes. Though breathing, 

                 one could say, resembles a chronic disease.  

                                                                                            What’s real 

                             cheese and what is cheese product? 

                              It’s difficult to say 

               but being alive today 

                                      is real- 

                                                real- 

                                                       really 

                                like a book you can’t put down, a stone 

                       that plummets from a great height. Life’s 

                      a “page-turner” alright. 

               But don’t worry 

                                      if you miss the finale 

                                                of your favorite show, you can 

                                                   catch in on queue. Make room 

                                      for me and I’ll binge on this, 

                                                            the final season with you.

The first time I read this poem, I didn’t like it. But after listening to the poet speak it (which you can on poets.org) and reading his blurb, it started to grow on me. I like the use of orange/cheese/cheese puff and what it references without directly saying. And I like his ideas about the form: “having the lines feel like eating cheese puffs—addictive, airy, crunchy, gone.”

march 26/RUN

4.15 miles
river road, north/river road, south/32nd to Edmund Bvld
35 degrees
346 confirmed cases of COVID-19

What a beautiful morning! Went out about 30 minutes earlier, wondering if that might mean less people on the trail. It did. Got a little closer than 6 feet when I was passing a few people, but was able to mostly keep a good distance. So many birds this morning! Geese honking. Woodpeckers pecking. Not sure of the others–probably some robins or cardinals, blackbirds. There are lots of finches near the gorge, so maybe some of those too? One day, I will be able to hear the difference and identify them.

The river was a beautiful light blueish gray. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. Recited one of the poems I memorized last week (Auto-lullaby) a few times. Anything else? Noticed the chain was still up, blocking the stairs to the Winchell Trail past the trestle. Thought about how muddy it probably was halfway down. Enjoyed running above the rowing club on the part of the trail farthest from the road. I’m finding it difficult to pay attention to anything other than the people and how far away from me they are. Maybe this will change as it becomes warmer. I hope so.

Walked Delia the dog right after my run. So calm and sunny and spring-like outside! Hardly anyone walking through the neighborhood.

Small Kindnesses/ Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

march 25/RUN

3.25 miles
river road, south/edmund bvld, north/33rd street, west/43rd ave, south
45 degrees
287 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Felt warmer today. Wore shorts with tights underneath and my orange pullover. No gloves, no buff. Started on the path by the gorge, but it was crowded. At one point, three walkers were evenly spread out across the path. I had to temporarily cross the road and run in the grass. What is wrong with people? Still managed to keep my 6 feet of distance. Decided at the 44th street parking lot, to cross over to the grass on the other side and then run on the road at Edmund. Much better. If there are this many people out on the trail, and some of them refuse to honor a safe distance, I might have to start running on Edmund all the time. Not as nice as being right by the river, but still a nice view. And still outside. Took a left at 33rd and ran through the neighborhood on the edge of the road, mostly in the sandy grit. ShShShShShSh. Love that sound and the feeling of my feet slightly slipping. Why? Not sure. Was able to greet Dave the Daily Walker. I’m glad he’s doing okay.

birds! birds! birds!

Even as I recognize that chattering birds have been here all along, there is something different about hearing them in early spring. So loud today. Heard a few mourning doves and my favorite: the bird who does a rapid fire of sharp noises, almost like a laser gun from a 1970s sci-fi movie. Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu. What is that bird? Also heard at least one woodpecker. Will I ever be able to recognize and remember bird sounds? I think it might take years.

LOVESONG OF THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE/ Richard Siken

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves
tremble but I am invisible, bloom without flower, knot
without rope, song without throat in wingless flights, dark
boat in the dark night, pure velocity. As the hammer is
a hammer when it hits the nail, and the nail is a nail when
it meets the wood, and the invisible table begins to appear
out of mind, pure mind, out of nothing, pure thinking.
Through darkness, through silence, a vector, a violence,
I labor, I lumber, I fuel forward through the valley as
winter, as water, I mist and frost, flexible and elastic to
the task. I am the hand that lifts the rock, I am the mind
that strings the worm and throws the line and feels the tug,
the flex in the pole, and foot by foot I find the groove,
the trace in the thicket, the key in the lock, as root breaks
moving through the stations of the yardstick. I track,
I follow, I hinge and turn, frictionless and efficient as an
equal sign. I flip and fold, I superimpose, I become
location and you veer toward me, the eye to which you
are relative, magnetized for your revelation. Hook and bait,
polestar and checkmate, I am your arrival, there is no
refusal, we are here, you see, together, we are already here.

5 Things I Like About this Poem

  • The flow and effortless movement forward
  • Assonance: rope/throat/boat
  • through silence, a vector, a violence
  • I labor, I lumber, I fumble forward
  • I am the hand that lifts the rock, I am the mind/ that strings the worm and throws the line and feels the tug,/ the flex in the pole, and foot by foot I find the groove,/ the trace in the thicket, the key in the lock, as root breaks/ rock, from seed to flower to fruit to rot, a holy pilgrim/ moving through the stations of the yardstick.

I just remembered why this poet seems familiar–I just listened to an amazing podcast with him! Episode 52: Richard Siken–Commonplace Conversation with Poets (and other People)/ Rachel Zucker A great interview and really intense when he talks about how fucked up his father was.

What is the significance of the square root of negative one? After looking it up (because I have forgotten any high level math I might have had 25 years ago), I know it has to do with imaginary numbers. But, what does that mean here?

I want to memorize this poem.

march 23/RUN

4.3 miles
top of franklin hill and back
35 degrees
5% slushy snow-covered
235 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Snowed last night. Only a dusting but enough to cover the deck. No snow on the sidewalk, only a little on the trail. Some people outside, doing a better job of keeping their distance. Very wet and drippy. The floodplain forest was the color of light brown sugar with a dusting of white sugar–I guess that sounds nice, but I prefer either brown or white, not both. A helpful run. I was able to forget about everything. Listened to headphones on the way back, after turning around at the top of the franklin hill. Ah, a few minutes of freedom.

the birds aren’t coming back, they never left

Had a thought while I was walking Delia the dog after my run about the birds. I’ve been reading/hearing people talk about how wonderful it is that the birds are back because spring is almost here. Perhaps this is (somewhat) true, but I’ve been hearing the birds all winter. Sure, some of them migrated and are now returning, but many of them were busy making a racket all through January and February, even when it was below 0. Most people stay inside with their windows shut tight when it’s cold outside so they wouldn’t be able to hear any birds. My (not so deep) thought: The birds aren’t coming back. They never left. It is you who is returning for spring.

some delightful sounds

When I hear dripping around my house, it stresses me out as I envision crumbling foundations and rotting boards. But, when I’m walking around the neighborhood, I love hearing the different drips and drops and trickles and gushes. Today I had to stop twice and record some sounds. Now I wish I would have recorded more!

1

Dripping in the gutters, 2 ways

2

water bubbling near a neighbor’s foundation

This was the poem of the day on poetry foundation. I have always found tolerance to be an awful word so I appreciate the condemning of it here. A favorite line: “neutral fellows/seers of every side” Love this reminder to be less ironic and distanced and more committed and passionate. I’m trying.

Goodbye to Tolerance/ Denise Levertov

Genial poets, pink-faced   
earnest wits—
you have given the world   
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.   
Goodbye, goodbye,
                            I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,   
neutral fellows, seers of every side.   
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,   
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped   
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never   
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
forever
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,   
your loaves grow moldy,   
a gulf has split
                     the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving   
behind you the cherished   
worms of your dispassion,   
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,   
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? … then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle   
for joy …

march 21/RUN

3.4 miles
ford bridge and back
25 degrees
138 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Cold, sunny. Woke up feeling anxious again. Running and being outside always helps. Not too crowded on the trail. Still spent a lot of time focused on whether or not other people were near and how to be distanced from them. Even so, till managed to notice the noisy birds. Pretty sure I heard a woodpecker. Noticed the river too, glowing again. This time, it created a wide white path stretching from shore to shore. As I ran south, the white path moved with me. Almost stopped at a few of the benches overlooking the river but I never like to stop. When it gets a bit warmer, I should walk to one of them and sit and stare and breathe.

Immediately after finishing my run, I came home, got Delia the dog and took her for a walk. I could hear lots of birds, but it seemed quiet and calm. Hardly anyone out–many more people by the gorge than in the neighborhood. Walked by the kids’ old elementary school and felt nostalgic, a brief rush of sadness that they were almost grown up even as I’m glad that they’re older. Passed at least 2 houses with their delightfully tacky winter/christmas decorations still out. At one house, a grand old tree stump served as a table for several (4 or 5) plastic snowmen. In past summer’s this same stump has housed gnomes and trolls. At another house, lights, a make-shift archway, 2 fake christmas trees, and some garlands slumped sadly in the brown grass. Do they still turn on the crazy lights at night? Will I ever check? Not sure.

Such a strange, unreal time right now.

Yesterday, I finished a draft of my double abecedarian. The entire poem was crafted around using x-box for the Xs. Not sure if it is finished yet, but it was fun. I always love doing abecedarians, especially double ones. Every time I never believe I can come up with words that end in J or Q but I do.

Any Game Starting with Z/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

A
blank drab
claustrophobic
day. The kid
emits moans grunts an occasional whine
flails on the bed then falls off
grounded feeling
holed up with-
in this ennui
jailed in striped PJs
knee deep stuck
longing lacking all
meaning sucked from the room
nothing-to-do-ness raining down like a monsoon.
Oh cruel world too
pointless to want for more seconds pile up
quietly in a q
restlessness grows by the hour
spreads settles
travels right
up the walls like kudzu
vining hovers above like geese in a V
waiting wanting to break out. Meanwhile in the corner the not so new
x-box
yawns sputters chokes on its own dust imploring the kid to play something anything play
Zombie Apocalypse or Zombie Pinball or Zombie Death Drive. A plea: any game starting with Z.

Speaking of double abecedarians that begin and end with the same letter, here’s a list of words that begin and end with the same letter:

  • aqua
  • bib
  • caustic
  • dead
  • eye
  • fief or fluff
  • gig
  • hush
  • intermezzi (plural of intermezzo: brief piece of music between acts)
  • JJ (a name, or an abbreviation of judges or justices)
  • kink
  • lull (or lol)
  • Mom
  • northern
  • onto
  • plump
  • QQ (an instant messaging service in China)
  • rear
  • sass
  • tyrant
  • ubuntu (operating system for PCs)
  • verv (does this work?)
  • wow
  • xerox
  • yellowy (didn’t think this was a word, but it is!)
  • zzzzzzzz (when sleeping)

I only had to look a few of these up. Fascinating to learn new words, abbreviations, like JJ for judges.

march 19/RUN

2.65 miles
two trails
39 degrees
light drizzle
89 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Checked the weather and thought it wasn’t supposed to start raining again for an hour, but a few minutes into my run, it started. Didn’t notice it that much, with my baseball cap and jacket on. Everything was gloomy and wet, dripping. There were a handful of people out by the gorge. Most were trying to keep their distance. Ran to the 44th street parking lot and then looped around. Thought about heading down to the Winchell Trail here but I had noticed a few people walking on it so I stayed up above until I was past them. Entered the lower trail at Folwell. Only encountered one person. She was wearing a rain poncho. I heard her sniff as I quickly ran by. Don’t remember much about the run except for looking out for others and making sure I stayed clear of them.

such loud birds!

The thing I remember most about my run was the birds. So loud! Right after I started running, while I was still in the neighborhood, so many different chirps and trills and coos and warbles and caws. Wow. Thought about stopping to get a recording but I decided I could do it when I finished. Of course, I forgot.

Came across so many wonderful poems today–which one should I choose?

Slam, Dunk, & Hook/ Yusef Komunyakaa

Fast breaks. Lay ups. With Mercury’s
Insignia on our sneakers,
We outmaneuvered the footwork
Of bad angels. Nothing but a hot
Swish of strings like silk
Ten feet out. In the roundhouse
Labyrinth our bodies
Created, we could almost
Last forever, poised in midair
Like storybook sea monsters.
A high note hung there
A long second. Off
The rim. We’d corkscrew
Up & dunk balls that exploded
The skullcap of hope & good
Intention. Lanky, all hands
& feet…sprung rhythm.
We were metaphysical when girls
Cheered on the sidelines.
Tangled up in a falling,
Muscles were a bright motor
Double-flashing to the metal hoop
Nailed to our oak.
When Sonny Boy’s mama died
He played nonstop all day, so hard
Our backboard splintered.
Glistening with sweat,
We rolled the ball off
Our fingertips. Trouble
Was there slapping a blackjack
Against an open palm.
Dribble, drive to the inside,
& glide like a sparrow hawk.
Lay ups. Fast breaks.
We had moves we didn’t know
We had. Our bodies spun
On swivels of bone & faith,
Through a lyric slipknot
Of joy, & we knew we were
Beautiful & dangerous.

I love the energy and the line breaks in this poem. And so much movement and momentum. And the assonance! “Dribble, drive to the inside,/ & glide like a sparrow hawk” The alliteration: “Nothing but a hot/ Swish of strings like silk” I also love how you can read this poem backwards or take it one line at a time and still is a poem.

a writing prompt from Sundress Publications

Sundress Publications is posting a writing prompt each day for the next two months to keep people writing. Here’s one from yesterday:

Choose two letters of the alphabet. Select a source material and collect 10-12 nouns or verbs starting with each letter. Use the words as a bank for a new poem.

march 18/RUN

4.25 miles
top of franklin hill and back
38 degrees
77 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in MN

Another day, another great run by the gorge. Overcast. Earlier on my walk, it was drizzling but I think it stopped by the time I ran. Encountered lots of walkers, a few runners, some bikers. Many people are trying to keep their 6 feet of distance, others are not. If they can’t be bothered to move over when it’s recommended to help lessen the spread of a pandemic, I guess there’s no hope that they ever will. Felt pretty good running, even if I was a little warm and my nose was a bit runny–tried to avoid touching my face but it’s hard when you’re dripping sweat and snot (is that too gross?). I looked down at my favorite spot above the floodplain forest–so open and soft and light brown. Only a few patches of snow. Also looked at the river. Blue and beautiful. Running north towards downtown, I listened to the gorge and recited “Auto Lullaby” and “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” a few times. Heard at least one goose honking, some people talking, a few feet shuffling. Stopped just above the Franklin hill and put in my headphones, then headed south. Running under the trestle I heard a beeping, buzzing noise. Was it the alert for an approaching train? I looked around, but couldn’t see any train. Decided not to stop and wait. Anything else I remember? Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. Felt dreamy and dazed. Glad to forget everything else for 40 minutes.

the woodpecker

Earlier today, walking with Delia the dog, I heard a woodpecker. It might be the same one I heard a few days ago, around the same time and same place. So loud! Almost like a little jackhammer. Usually, any woodpecker pecking is loud, but not this loud. How irritating it must be for the people with houses nearby. When I was 8 or 9 and living in North Carolina in a house with cedar shakes, we had a woodpecker who liked to peck on the cedar. I don’t remember hearing it, I just remember how irritated it made my dad. Did he do anything about it? I don’t remember that either.


After memorizing one Emily Dickinson poem, I want to memorize some more. I’ll start with some shorter ones, like this, which seems appropriate right now:

“Faith” is fine invention (202)/ Emily Dickinson

Faith” is a fine invention
For Gentlemen who see!
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency!


corona virus update

Yesterday all the schools were closed. So were the restaurants and bars. Thankfully, we can still leave our house. I went to bed yesterday accepting that this would probably end by June, woke up to Pence’s announcement that it would last until July. When I mentioned this to Scott, he said he’d read, early fall. It’s definitely going to get a lot worse for the next month at least. Trying to keep Scott’s penchant for worst case scenarios in check, the theme for our house is: “Let’s dial back the Apocalypse.”

march 16/RUN

4.25 miles
top of the franklin hill and back
35 degrees
snow, big fluffy flakes

Feeling a bit better today. Wonderful and strange to be outside, trying to avoid encounters with others while breathing in the beautiful fresh air. Dark and gloomy. It started snowing just after I got outside. At first, very light. Then, big fluffy flakes flying right into my face–I should have worn my baseball cap or visor to block them out. Oh well. The snow didn’t bother me too much although I wondered if it was the best idea to be outside with a cold or sinus infection in this weather. I think it’s fine. It feels important to get out by the gorge as much as I can.

Was able to do all the walking trails, including the one through the tunnel of trees which is not a tunnel right now but a bunch of bare branches and trunks. The floodplain forest was a beautiful, fuzzy brown. I know I glanced at the river but I don’t remember what color it was or how it looked. I think that’s because of all the snow flying in my face. The gorge was a misty, blurry white. Encountered a few walkers, one or two runners, and Dave the Daily Walker, back in uniform! I’m glad he’s feeling better.

I remember admiring the railroad trestle as I ran by it, noticing the river below. Also, glancing at the Winchell Trail, close to Franklin. The trail looked like a muddy mess.

Memorized a new poem for today’s run:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant/ Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lie
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

It was fun to recite this over and over again as I ran. I really love Emily Dickinson’s poetry–her phrasing, the rhymes, the rhythm, the ideas. I think (I don’t know that much about Emily Dickinson right now–maybe I should learn?) this is one of her more famous poems, especially the idea of telling the truth slant. I like it because of how it fits with my vision. I read that Dickinson became blind temporarily for a few years and that she wrote about it in her poetry. With my cone dystrophy, I rely much more on my peripheral (sideways, slantways?) vision to see. And, while I need bright light to see and read things, if the light is too bright it makes it almost impossible to see. Also, my unfocused, fuzzy vision is softer and less harsh, which sometimes results in kinder, more gentle visions–things that might look ugly in sharp edges and lines, appear beautiful in the soft, fuzzy, absence of detail (one example: gnarled, bare branches in the winter).

march 12/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
42 degrees
light drizzle

Didn’t check the weather to see if it was planning to rain before I left the house, but the minute I got outside I could tell it was coming. I went running anyway. Turned right at the river, heading towards the falls. I love the quiet, gray gloom. It would have been even better if there had been fog. Recited the poem “Auto-lullaby” most of the time.

Some Things I Remember

  • Heard some kids at a school playground, yelling and having fun
  • Not too much snow at the oak savanna. From the parking lot at 36th street, the hill down to the Winchell Trail looks so bare and exposed
  • Forgot to check out my favorite spot–where the mesa curves down to reveal the river
  • I’m not sure when it started raining, but I’m pretty sure it was before I turned around at the falls
  • Was able to run on at least 2 more walking trails that were no longer covered in snow: the trail that curves around the back of the double bridge parking lot and the small, steep hill, just past the double bridge
  • the falls were gushing. I saw two other people there, admiring it
  • minnehaha creek, at the part just before it flows over the edge, was a beautiful gray blue, mostly open with a small shelf of ice and snow
  • Running under the Ford Bridge I encountered another runner on the other side of the wide trail. He called out something that I couldn’t quite hear. At first I thought he said, “I’m running for the corona virus” then “I’m running with the corona virus.” But after talking to Scott, I’m pretty sure he jokingly said, “I’m running from the corona virus.”
  • Running north, into the wind and the rain I wondered, is it good to be out here in this? Actually, I didn’t mind it–I like running in the rain. I just don’t want to get sick(er)
  • No woodpeckers or geese (although I did hear some geese earlier in the morning). No squirrels or bikers or dogs

Yesterday I was thinking about how you cast a shadow and cast a spell and how fun it would be to play around with that and the word cast and then I remembered a poem I read last year.

TO CAST/ Yesenia Montilla

I.
The question is always posed at a party
            If you were a cast away on a deserted island
                        who would  you want to          hold?

& the penny is hurled in the air
we are for eternity torn between a face                       & a tail —

& we fall into one of two categories
            those who cast spells               & those that cast things aside

love may not be discarded       but shipwrecked          yes

& so on —

II.
I’ve only been fly fishing once             it is something quite stunning
            the way the string dances above your head like wild imaginings
the striking of nylon against the pebbled water

the lure with its many colors dangling just above the wake
glistening like booty    & the fish come           if you’re silent

knee deep in Oshun’s river :: rubber against the skin :: lips slack from trying

III.
                        I want to hold              you —
If tomorrow the lush green of an island were my only dress
It’d be                                                  you —

IV.
Every four years I cast a                                  vote
                        & I might die anyway
                                                regardless of the outcome —

1. to throw or hurl, fling :: to throw off or away :: to direct (the eye, a glance, etc), especially in cursory manner :: to cause to fall upon something or in certain directions; send forth :: to draw, as in telling fortunes :: to throw out (a fishing line, net, bait, etc.) :: to fish in (a stream, an area, etc.) :; to throw down or bring to the ground 

I love this line:

& we fall into one of two categories
those who cast spells & those that cast things aside

march 11/RUN

4.25 miles
river road, north/south
36 degrees

Gray and calm outside. Nice to get some fresh air. Almost all the paths are clear. Thought about trying to run on the path that dips below the road and winds through the trees, but decided it would still have too much ice. I was right. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker just after running up the hill from under the lake street bridge. I know I saw the river but I don’t remember what it looked like. Did I ever really look at it? Heard a woodpecker pecking away. I wonder, is it a yellow bellied sapsucker? Listened to some of its sounds, like drum #1 and mew call and drums, and it might be. Later, when I was almost done with my run, I heard another woodpecker, not sure if it was the same kind. Sounded like a small jackhammer, which made me start thinking about my fascination with how machines mimic animals (for example, airplanes always remind me of sharks).

This morning, after I got up, I decided to memorize a poem to make myself feel better. I have a cold or allegories or something and my throat is tightening up, which is making me extra uncomfortable and worried as I read about people testing positively for the corona virus here. It’s amazing how memorizing a poem can make me feel better. Today, I re-memorized one of my classics: Auto-lullaby by Franz Wright.

Auto-lullaby/ Franz Wright

Think of a sheep
knitting a sweater;
think of your life

getting better and better.

Think of your cat
asleep in a tree;
think of that spot
where you once skinned your knee.

Think of a bird
that stands in your palm.
Try to remember
the Twenty-First Psalm.

Think of a big pink horse
galloping south;
think of fly, and
close your mouth.

If you are thirsty, then
drink from a cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.

Oh, I love this poem. It was a fun (and sometimes challenging) one to recite in my head as a ran. It was interesting to see how the meter worked differently and how I recited it to make it fit with my cadence. It helps to pick poems with rhymes–I have also memorized/recited Shel Silverstein’s “Sick.” How hard would it be to recite a poem with no rhyme or meter? Would I force it into a meter? Maybe I should try that.

possible exercise: reciting while running

Step One || Pick a poem.

Start with an “easier” poem–one that rhymes and isn’t too long, like a kid’s poem. Later, try a “harder’ poem that doesn’t have a meter or rhymes or is longer.

Step Two || Memorize it.

A few hours before running, spend some time memorizing it.

Step Three || Recite it while running.

Once you’ve warmed up, begin reciting the poem in your head (or, if you feel comfortable enough, out loud). At first, just focus on trying to recite it without stopping or without screwing up too much. Later, when you’ve mastered that, start paying attention to how the words do or don’t match up with cadence. If you are trying to sync it up with your steps and breathing, how does this affect the poem–it’s meaning? how it sounds? how it moves (or doesn’t move)?

Step Four || Take notes.

After your run, take some notes about the experience of reciting while running. What effects did reciting have on your running? Running on your reciting?

march 9/RUN

5.4 miles
franklin loop
35 degrees

Overcast and cooler today. Gray. Was able to run by the Welcoming Oaks and greet them because the walking path that splits off from the bike path just past the ravine and then winds through the oaks was open! Was grateful to be outside on a clear, dry path and not inside worrying about this week and how bad it might get as COVID-19 hits the US.

Not too many people crowding the path, which was nice. The river was beautiful from the Franklin and Lake Street bridges. Did a lot of triple berry chants, mostly: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry. Thought about how I draw the straw and blue out but don’t do that with black–that’s probably why I like putting it at the end of the chant. The east side of the river, first in Minneapolis, then St. Paul, was clear. Favorite part of that side is right before Meeker Island dam: everything seems more brown and there’s a lovely view of the river through the trees. Today the river was blueish gray. Favorite part on the west side lately: the part of the walking trail that winds above the Minneapolis Rowing Club. What a view! And, it’s nice to be fer away from the road.

Anything else I remember? I greeted Dave the Daily Walker as I was running faster up the final hill. Seeing him approach I wondered how out of breath I might sound when I said hi. It wasn’t too bad.

moment of the day

My moment of the day didn’t happen during my run but while I was walking Delia the dog around the neighborhood. Looking up, I noticed a huge bird circling in the sky. What a wing span! It looked white or light gray to me but that could have been because it was up so high. What kind of bird was it? Most likely a bald eagle, I think. I stopped and looked up for a few minutes, watching it make big loops. At first, the loops were almost above me, but soon they were farther away. I wondered why birds circle like this so I looked it up and discovered that it was because of thermals:

Thermals are updrafts of warm air that rise from the ground into the sky. By flying a spiraling circular path within these columns of rising air, birds are able to “ride” the air currents and climb to higher altitudes while expending very little energy in the process. Solitary birds like eagles and hawks often take advantage of thermals to extend their flight time as they search for food. Social birds that fly in large flocks also use thermals to gain altitude and extend their range during migration. The sight of dozens or hundreds of birds riding a thermal has been said to resemble the water boiling in a kettle, so the terms kettle or boil are sometimes used as a nickname for a flock of birds circling in a thermal updraft. The benefits of thermals are not limited to the animal world either as glider pilots often take advantage of them to gain altitude as well.

I want to see hundreds of birds riding a thermal and looking like water boiling in a kettle! Mostly so I can see them doing it but also so I can write about the boil of birds I just saw.

Thinking about a bird soaring and circling in the sky reminds me of a Mary Oliver (yes, I love Mary Oliver!) poem:

The Real Prayers Are Not the Words,
But the Attention that Comes First
/ Mary Oliver

The little hawk leaned sideways and, tilted,
rode the wind. Its eye at this distance looked
like green glass; its feet were the color
of butter. Speed, obviously, was joy. But
then, so was the sudden, slow circle it carved
into the slightly silvery air, and the
squaring of its shoulders, and the pulling into
itself the long, sharp-edged wings, and the
fall into the grass where it tussled a moment,
like a bundle of brown leaves, and then, again,
lifted itself into the air, that butter-color
clenched in order to hold a small, still
body, and it flew off as my mind sang out oh
all that loose, blue rink of sky, where does
it go to, and why?

There is no way I could write in such detail about the bird I saw today. It was too far up to see it’s eyes or shoulders or anything it might be carrying. And, even if the bird had been closer, I wouldn’t have been able to see such fine detail anyway.

march 8/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
50 degrees
15 mph wind/ 31 mph gusts

Sunny and warm today. Been running in the cold for so long now that I forgot what to wear when it gets a little warmer. So windy! Greeted Dave the Daily Walker near the beginning. Ran up the hill from under the lake street bridge, enjoying the sound and feel of the scratching grit. Was able to run on more of the walking path. Saw my shadow. Heard a woodpecker. Marveled at the sparkling water–couldn’t tell if it was blue or gray or brown, it only looked sparkly white. At the halfway point I took off my orange sweatshirt and ran south in a short sleeved shirt. The feeling of spring! Anything else I remember? Lots of runners in shorts.

Favorite part of the run: running south along the rim, above the rowing club. So beautiful hovering above the open water. Seeing a small motorboat speeding below, making the water ripple.

School

A few days ago, waking up in the middle of the night, I thought about Mary Oliver and some poem she had written about the sea as her classroom. What a great idea, I thought, I’ll remember it tomorrow when I get up. Forgot it, of course. But then, while walking with Scott, remembered it again. Was able to find the poem:

Breakage/ Mary Oliver

I go down to the edge of the sea. 
How everything shines in the morning light! 
The cusp of the whelk, 
the broken cupboard of the clam, 
the opened, blue mussels, 
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred— 
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split, 
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone. 
It’s like a schoolhouse 
of little words, 
thousands of words. 
First you figure out what each one means by itself, 
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop 
       full of moonlight. 

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

Love the line, “nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split” and “the opened” and “a schoolhouse of little words”. Looked up whelk and it’s a large marine snail.

Thinking about the idea of the gorge as a classroom–if so, who is the teacher?

Here’s another school related poem from Mary Oliver, who hated school as a child. I read in her memoir, Upstream, that the only thing she was good at doing in school was being truant.

Just As The Calendar Began to Say Summer/ Mary Oliver (Long Life)

I went out of the schoolhouse fast
and through the gardens and to the woods,
and spent all summer forgetting what I’d been taught–

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,
how to be modest and useful, and how to succeed and so forth,
machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back
to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,
the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn’t a penny in the bank,
the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

I love this idea of spending all summer trying to forget the lessons taught in school and the rest of the year trying to remember the river! It reminds me of my process of undisciplining/unmaking and remaking myself.

And, one more:

Mindful/mary oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

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

to lose myself
inside this soft world–
to instruct

myself
inside this soft world–
over and over

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

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

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

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

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

Oh good scholar! Love this line and love the idea of being a student out by the gorge and a teacher who instructs myself.

march 6/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
37 degrees

Sunny. Spring-y. Birds chirping. Hardly any wind. A few highlights: I was able to run on the walking path that curves away from the road and the biking path and follows the rim of the gorge just above the Minneapolis Rowing club! Still a few tricky snow-covered spots, but mostly clear. Enjoyed running up the hill from under the lake street bridge, listening to my feet sh sh sh on the grit–I liked the feel of it too, easier than bare asphalt. Anything else? No Dave the Daily Walker. No geese. Looked briefly at the river. It was open–no ice. I noticed a few stones stacked on the smaller of the two boulders just above the trail winding down through the tunnel of trees.

Before starting my run, I listened to two versions of my January Joy poem, one with the parts about running, one without. I’d like to keep the running stuff in and I love the line about adequate knees and functioning feet but I’m leaning more towards the version without it. Maybe I can use those lines in another poem?

January Joy, Version 1

To see the river
the open river
brown, a thin skin of pale blue

To be alone with the river
the uncrowded river
nothing between us but bare branches

To be as empty as the river
the bare white river
a blank page waiting for words

To be as spacious as the river
the boundless river
stretching wide, able to hold multitudes

To be nothing next to the river
the ancient river
small and new and insignificant

O to be the space
above the river
between tree top and sky
illuminated by the sun!

The sun!
glowing up the gray gloom
warming my cold face
flashing through tall, slender tree trunks

How wonderful it is to be alive and outside!

O great runs!
O clear paths!
O strong legs
and adequate knees
and functioning feet!

How wonderful it is to be
moving, breathing, feeling free
on this winter-perfect day!

January Joy, Version 2 (preferred)

To see the river
the open river
brown, a thin skin of pale blue

To be alone with the river
the uncrowded river
nothing between us but bare branches

To be as empty as the river
the bare white river
a blank page waiting for words

To be as spacious as the river
the boundless river
stretching wide, able to hold multitudes

To be nothing next to the river
the ancient river
small and new and insignificant

O to be the space
above the river
between tree top and sky
illuminated by sun!

The sun!
Glowing up the gray gloom
warming my cold face
flashing through tall, slender tree trunks

How wonderful it is to be
alive and outside
on this winter-perfect day!


I am really looking forward to Victoria Chang’s Obit, which comes out next month. Here’s something interesting she said in an interview about writing the poems for the collection:

The old self dies all the time, and it’s quite miraculous. Yet, I asked the man who runs these residencies in Marfa on the way in, what it’s like to be 77. He said, “I feel exactly the same.” How can this be? The tension between what remains and what is discarded in the self was really interesting to me. I always find it odd thinking about how we spend our whole lives learning and all that experience and knowledge accumulates, and then we die. Who designed this thing?

I feel this sense of old selves dying very strongly. I see myself as a series of Saras, not one Sara lasting through time. Sometimes the selves are associated with an age: like Sara age 8. Sometimes with a location: Hickory, North Carolina Sara. Sometimes with a tragic event: Sara whose mom is alive, Sara whose mom is dead. Looking again at Chang’s words I wonder, what have I kept (knowledge, memories, perspectives, understandings) that links all of my Saras together? What have I discarded/forgotten?

march 5/RUN

3.25 miles
ford bridge and back
37 degrees
sleet/rain mix

Today my mom would have turned 78. She died over ten years ago in 2009. When I headed out for my run, I wasn’t thinking about this fact or wishing she were on the run with me. I was thinking about how beautiful the gorge looked in the gloomy gray–so calm and wet and exposed. Even though it was windy and drizzling, I knew I needed to be out there beside it. Then, after I finished, feeling flushed and happy, I remembered that it was her birthday and I began to believe that getting me outside to the gorge, able to see all the way to other side of the river, to smell the smoke from some distant fire, to absorb the brown tree trunks and blue water, to breathe in the coming spring, to feel joy and delight and astonishment at the beauty surrounding me, was a present from her. She taught me to love being outside, to notice and wonder about the natural world, and to make life sacred through honoring daily routines. (I’m not sure I’m saying this quite right, maybe I’ll spend some more time today trying to figure it out?)

I looked back in this log, and I did runs on her birthday in 2017 and 2019–why not 2018? I looked at the entries near the 5th in 2018; it was snowing that day and my right kneecap was sliding around a lot.

I liked today’s run. The path was clear with only a few puddles. The gorge and the river were totally exposed. I could see all the hills and ravines and trails that are usually hidden by leaves or too much snow. I liked glancing down at my jacket and watching as little snowflakes bounced off the shiny black fabric. I could tell it was snowing and raining but I couldn’t feel it. Sleeves covered my arms, a baseball cap my face.

I encountered an annoying pedestrian who refused to move as I ran towards him. As I neared, I noticed he was wearing a surgical mask. Not sure what to say about this; just wanted to make a note of it. How strange and stressful and overwhelming it all is–between terrible presidents and failed parties and hoarding toilet paper and melting glaciers and possible pandemics.

After my run, walking home, I thought about how difficult it is to be (and stay) joyful in the face of so much fear and hate and fucked-up values. It is hard work you must do daily. In my own way, I’m trying to do that work through running by the gorge and writing about it. These thoughts were partly inspired by this twitter thread I read this morning.

Before leaving for my run, I recorded myself reciting 2 slightly different versions of the latest draft of my January Joy poem. Here’s my preferred one. It’s a lot different than the first draft I posted a few days ago. It is still not finished, I think.

January Joy/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

To see the river! 
The open river!
Brown, a thin skin of pale blue

To be alone with the river!
The uncrowded river!
Nothing between us but bare branches

To be as empty as the river!
The bare white river!
A blank page waiting for words 

To be as spacious as the river!
The boundless river!
Stretching, opening, able to hold multitudes

To be nothing next to the river!
The ancient river!
Small and new and insignificant

To be the space above the river
floating over the river
between tree top and sky, illuminated by sun!

The sun!
Glowing up the gray gloom!
Warming my cold face!
Flashing through tall, thin tree trunks!

How wonderful it is to be alive and outside!

O great runs! O clear paths!
O strong legs and adequate knees and functioning feet!

How wonderful it is to be 
moving 
breathing 
feeling free 
on this winter-perfect day,
white and woodsy and blueish gray.

march 4/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
36 degrees

Felt warmer than 36 degrees this morning. So warm that I was surprised to encounter ice on the path near the Welcoming Oaks. Sunny. Not too windy, but windier than I thought it would be.

I yelled at a biker as I crossed 46th, a block from the river. They didn’t stop at the stop sign and weaved around barely missing running into me. I thought I heard them yell something but realized too late it was a voice from the radio they were blasting. I yelled, “you have a stop sign!” I stewed over my outburst for a few minutes, feeling hostile towards everyone I encountered–the other runners approaching me, not wanting to move over and make room for me until the last minute, the clueless walker who didn’t move at all. I worked hard to remember how wonderful it is to be outside by the river with a clear path. Then I encountered another runner, who was thoughtfully on the other side, and smiled.

Every time I started to think about my irritation and regret over yelling, I forced the thoughts out of my head. I looked at the river, open and flowing. I listened to the shuffling grit under my feet. I felt the strength in my legs. Then I saw the shadow of a bird above me and I thought about how I love shadows and the strange feeling of something being there but only in shadow form–like a ghost or a trace or something else. And, as I was finding delight in this I realized that this quick flash was it, my moment for the day. Such a small moment, but enough for me. Why? Not sure if I can put it into words yet.

Some other things I remember:

  • Slowly catching up to and passing a runner just before the franklin bridge. Their gait was slow and relaxed.
  • Thinking about the january joy poem I’m working on and how wonderful poetry is for giving me a reason to spend more time with the river.
  • Dodging and hurtling over slabs of frozen earth on the walking path, probably unearthed by the plows last month.
  • Wondering if any of the cars would drive through a puddle and soak me (they didn’t).
  • Noticing that the Meeker Island dog park was open.
  • Seeing a few people standing at the top of the stairs leading up to the marshall/lake street bridge and wondering why they were there.
  • Hearing water rushing through the sewer on the street.
  • Thinking about how much taller the trestle is on the east side of the river.
  • Running on the bridge and hearing someone approaching from behind. It took them forever to pass! Is that how the runner I passed earlier in the run felt?
  • Hearing my zipper pull banging against my chest, sometimes thinking the sound was another runner approaching (it wasn’t).

As I made the above list, I suddenly remembered another moment of delight, equally as mundane and strange as my bird shadow. Running near Meeker Island on the St. Paul side, everything became brown. No snow, no green grass, no leaves. Just a rich brown, made deeper by the sun. Mostly mulched leaves and bare tree trunks, a little ground. It made me think of my childhood and exploring wooded trails in Virginia. It made me think of driving through the Keweenaw Peninsula in late fall. It made me think of spring coming. It made me feel a deep, warm, glowing joy.

Before I started my run, I recorded myself reciting Heather Christle’s poem, The Spider (posted on jan 6), and Susan Stewart’s, Pine (posted on jan 18). Then I listened to them in my headphones just before I started my run. I didn’t think about Christle’s poem but I do think Stewart and the different ways she played with the word pine, inspired my thoughts about loving poetry and its invitation to spend time experimenting with words and ideas and images .

march 3/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
39 degrees
clear path

Windy. Sunny. Not too cold. Ran in the early afternoon, since I voted in the morning. I loved running on the edge of the path, my feet landing on the grit, making a satisfying scratching sound. I think I looked at the river–did I? Now I can’t remember. I do remember noticing how the snow on the walking path that winds down through the tunnel of trees was melting. With all the warm weather this week–and 61! predicted for Sunday–maybe it will be cleared of snow soon. I also remember lifting my knees as I ran up from under the lake street bridge and noticing how the walking path at the top, which follows the rim of the gorge while the biking path follows the road, was clearing up too. Hooray! Anything else? I heard then saw a small wedge of geese flying north. Encountered a few runners, many walkers, at least one dog. It was a good run. I didn’t think about the coronavirus and the fear and worry and hassle it’s causing for so many people even once!

Before starting the run while I was still walking, I listened to a recording of myself reading 2 poems: 1. a draft of my latest poem, which I’m calling January Joy, and 2. a fabulous poem by Marie Howe, Singularity–I posted it on this log on Jan 19. I liked listening to both of them. I also liked recording myself reciting them. Maybe this will be a new thing I do with poems in 2020? Yesterday I recorded myself reading Love by Alex Dimtrov (posted on this log on jan 21)–over 11 minutes of lines starting with “I love…”! One of the I loves reminded me of Howe’s poem:

I love how the Universe is 95% dark matter and energy and somewhere in the rest of it there is us.

I read this line as loving the idea that we are such a small fraction of what makes up the Universe. I love this idea too–it’s comforting and liberating to me to matter so little. Most of Howe’s poem and the idea of singularity is a little different. It’s lamenting the loss of a time when we were not separate from the Universe, when there was no universe or we or I or us or anything to fuck up (which we have, as we trash the ocean and each other). She has one line that reminds me of Dimitrov’s and that resonates:

before we came to believe humans were so important

I find it’s easier to remember this–that I am not so important, or the most important–when I’m running outside by the gorge, above the Mississippi River, under the oak trees. I like remembering this. Here’s another line this discussion of not being important reminds me of:

You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind (Frédéric Gros/Philosophy of Walking, 84). 

And, of course, the minute I write nobody, I think of my introduction to Emily Dickinson:

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too? 
Then there’s a pair of us! 
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog – 
To tell one’s name – the livelong June – 
To an admiring Bog!

Wow, that was fun to wander around all of those words! As I was scrolling back through my January entries, I saw a lot of wonderful poems and ideas. More wandering around them is necessary.

Speaking of January, here’s a first draft of my January Joy poem. It’s a collection of things I enjoyed during the month of January for the past 4 years. I’m not quite satisfied with it. I want to find a better way to describe/express how thick slushy viscous water moves–how?

January Joy/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Oh to see the river! 
The river, open 
The river, brown
The river, thinly veiled
The river, pale blue
The river, empty 
The river, white 
The river, a big black hole of deep, cold nothingness 
The river, a thick slow slush traveling to the falls
The falls, flowing between frozen columns of ice
The ice, cleared from the path
The path, no big crowd
The crowd, 2 cross country skiers  
3 men in red jackets gliding
1 woman floating–confident bodies moving through space
The space between sky and tree top, illuminated by sun
The sun glowing up the gray gloom
The sun warming my face 
The sun flashing through tall, thin tree trunks 
My trunk, straight strong steady more machine than gangly human

How wonderful it is to move!

Oh great runs! 
Oh clearer paths! 
Oh strong legs and adequate knees and functioning feet!
How wonderful it is to move and breathe and feel free 
on this winter-perfect day, white and woodsy and blueish gray!

feb 29/RUN

5 miles
to stone arch bridge
27 degrees
90% clear path

Was able to do a one way run to the Stone Arch bridge today. Felt warm and relaxed and strong. Walked for about 30 seconds on the final big hill. Did a lot of counting to four. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker at the beginning. Encountered several runners, some walkers, and three bikers biking up the franklin hill as I was running down it. Saw my shadow in front of me. Heard some honking geese flying overhead; tried to spot them but couldn’t. Saw some big bird flying high up in the sky and then the shadow of a bird fly over me–was it the same bird? An eagle? A turkey vulture? The river was open–was it brown or blue? I can’t remember. Noticed the ice on the limestone cliffs in the flats. Heard the gushing of the water at the bottom, between Annie Young Meadows and the turnoff for the U. Just before I reached the Washington bridge, the light rail rumbled overhead. Anything else I remember? I was overdressed and very warm. One too many shirts. I’m sure I thought about something but I left it on the trail, probably on the last hill. Ended on the bridge–so breezy. Glad I wasn’t running into that wind the whole time!

What a beautiful poem! I found it through Ours Poetica and Ashley C. Ford’s reading of it.

Unwished For/ Shira Erlichman

I’m standing in my town’s ice cream shop when I notice them: the white couple smiling at me. Blonde woman standing beside a mailbox, waiting patiently for news, husband reassuringly placing a hand on her shoulder. The flyer they’re on is pink: international color of positivity in the face of infertility. They are having a hard time, my couple. That’s why they’re here in my ice cream shop. But they have faith, they’re trying, haven’t quit wanting what they want, in spite of it all.

             Could you be the one?

I lick the crest of my cone slowly, examine their bullet-pointed criteria.

             21 to 42 years

It’s not conscious, but somewhere inside a voice says: “Check.”

             No criminal record.                                       “Check.”

            No history of mental illness.

I say, out loud to the paper, not caring if the teenager behind me churning into an icy chunk with a steady fist hears, I say: “I know this is different, Susan, Jim, but I would never wish Frida to not have been hit by that trolley. I would never look her in the face and say, ‘I choose to unmake you and your paintings and your horroring heart. I rob the woods of your little deer.’”

“It’s different,” Susan says, “you’re not Frida.”

“Plus,” adds Jim, “that was physical. A freak accident. Try another argument.”

What they don’t want of me lives. It sees through my eyes that they would prefer it dead. It knows better than to whimper, or show defeat. What they don’t want of me breathes.

“Eugenicists,” it says

The woman gasps, hand to chest.

It continues: “You want to spare yourselves. That’s not love.”

“We don’t want her to suffer,” they chime in unison. Oh—her? It was decided: A girl. Claire. Or, Vanessa. Or, Claire. She’d have red curls, love olives, sing in her sleep.

“She doesn’t want to suffer either,” I peel the words open slowly, “but she’d rather be alive, than not suffer.”

I am not talking to a piece of paper in Herrell’s Ice Cream Shop. I am not invoking Frida. I am not naming an unloved ghost Claire. I’m licking my wrist of a smudge of strawberry cream, listening to the terrible Top 40 hit blaring overhead. I’m staring at the words No history of mental illness, trying to move my feet, and leave the world where this is taped up, natural as the moon.

Will the Normal Rockwell of our time paint me standing here before it? In my jean cutoffs, finishing what’s left of a soggy cone, drugs in my blood, unwished for by strangers.


Oh this poem and Ford’s reading of it! I love how she imagines and then makes real with her words this painful encounter between the wishers and the unwished for in such a mundane, every day setting. And I love how she conjures up Claire with red curls, who sings herself to sleep and loves olives. Wow.

feb 28/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Wanted to watch more of The Ring and to not run too much so I worked out in the basement today. The Ring was still creepy–and fun to watch. Only a few scenes were too dark to see and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read the words that were probably important; I’ve already seen this movie. Listened to my playlist while I ran. Got into a rhythm and felt like I was barely touching the belt. I’m getting used to running on the treadmill.

I was okay running inside because I had already gone for a walk earlier with Delia the dog. Brr. It felt cold outside. Walked around the neighborhood and finished the podcast I started yesterday with Victoria Chang. I’m looking forward to reading her book Obit. As I listened to her and the host Rachel Zucker discuss their grief over the loss of their mothers, my mind started wandering and I started thinking about my current project. I decided to record my thoughts:

So I’m thinking as I was walking–I’m thinking about how I’d like this workbook to kind of be some of the exercises I’ve already done and practiced (or am practicing) but also the ideas that I’ve put in that I’d like to try. Just make a list of all of those things and not worry so much about whether or not it can be done but whether I’d like to try it. The other thing I was thinking about was with listening to Victoria Chang about Obit and grief and thinking about how my mom’s death has changed me and how this project really comes out of that. Or does it come out of that? Where does it come from? Does it have a clear origin? Wanting to discuss what it’s origins are.

Speaking of Obit, here’s one of Chang’s poems from it. The book is a series of obituaries for all the things that died after her mom died. Such a powerful idea!

OBIT [Memory]/ Victoria Chang

Memory—died August 3, 2015.  The
death was not sudden but slowly over a
decade.  I wonder if, when people die,
they  hear  a  bell.   Or  if  they  taste
something sweet, or if they feel a knife
cutting them in half, dragging through
the flesh like sheet cake.  The caretaker
who witnessed my mother’s death quit. 
She holds the memory and images and
now they are gone.  For the rest of her
life, the memories are hers.  She said
my mother couldn’t breathe, then took
her last breath 20 seconds later.  The
way I have imagined a kiss with many
men I have never kissed.  My memory
of  my  mother’s  death  can’t  be  a
memory but is an imagination, each
time the wind blows, leaves unfurl
a little differently.

I woke up this morning thinking of the line about the knife dragging through flesh like sheet cake. Intense.

feb 27/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
26 degrees
100% clear!

Windy today. Not too crowded. Sunny. My legs felt weird for a mile or so–like they weren’t quite working. Heavy, plodding. Listened to a New Yorker poetry podcast with a poet I just discovered (Craig Morgan Teicher) and felt like I was in a dream. Barely on the path, floating, cocooned in layers, unable to hear birds or trickling water or striking feet. The river was open. Stopped and admired it by the trestle. Then turned on my new playlist. No Daily Walker but a few others walkers, at least one biker. Felt fast in the second half as I flew down the hill by the lake street bridge. Sprinted up the final hill. Don’t remember much from the run. What a wonderful thing it is to lose myself for 30 minutes!

Before I ran, I had a great morning. Started by listening to part of an episode with Victoria Change on Commonplace. At one point, they discuss their shifts in writing in first and third person which got me thinking about my own choice, in my latest project, to write in second person. Why am I using you? Who is you? Found some very interesting essays on second person online: Stuck on You: an ode the second person and the intimacy of writing in the second person in a bar. Then I started thinking about how Mary Oliver uses you, like in Wild Geese (You do not have to be good/you do not have to walk on your knees…). Finally I thought about who the I and the You are in my project. One answer: I = Teacher self and You = Student Self.

After all of that excellent thinking, I checked out twitter and found these lines from the poem Tomorrow and Tomorrow Again/Craig Morgan Teicher:

One cannot lock eyes with a bird,
its eyes vacant as ball bearings, but
mustn’t there be some recognition
in everything?

eyes vacant as black ball bearings? What a great line that reminds me of my own about not being able to see people’s pupils: “soul less black balls”. I looked Teicher up and found his poem, “Eye Contact”. I wondered, does he have macular degeneration or some other vision problem? Couldn’t find anything, but he sure does like referencing blindness. His poetry collection from 2012 is titled, To Keep Love Blurry and check out the titles he gave his NPR end of the year poetry reviews: “Keeping the Dark at Bay” and “In the Dark, The Eye Begins to See.” Hmm…I need to study his writing more. At this point, early on, I can’t decide what he’s doing with these references to blindness–is it signaling his own experiences/preoccupations with blindness or is it serving as metaphor, where blind = dark = bad = shame = grief = loss = death?

Tomorrow and Tomorrow Again/ Craig Morgan Teicher

Of course I don’t know what
happens to us: if we survive in the
hands of love; if Cal, if Simone
and all the trembling answers
those questions entail; whether
by time or by disease or by
an atom bomb right in the eye. Is it
possible death could be thrilling
and fun? And after could there be
something somewhere and what
will we do if we see each other
there? Will the same songs stay stuck
in our heads? Will medicine
succeed in making life so long
we will beg for medicine to end it?
One cannot lock eyes with a bird,
its eyes vacant as ball bearings, but
mustn’t there be some recognition
in everything? Some fury, some
questioning? If one phrase could echo
throughout eternity, would the ear
on the other side return
a word? But what am I asking?
Will I ever see a whale, and will his size
compared to mine be a true
form of knowledge? Loneliness
has depths writing fails to fathom.
I could be clearer, say more, but
it wouldn’t mean as much. Mother
will I ever find you again? Is fear
of spiders fair? Is a power
above minding the scales, be it
science or gods or the weather,
and can they be tipped toward
balance from here? Is beauty more
than another form of pleasure?
What, which, when, how is better?

Eye Contact/ Craig Morgan Teicher

As if bees are known for their pride.
But what’s so great about horses? They’re stuck 
on the earth except when they jump,

but even then they’re not bees.
But is there anything we value so highly 
as streetlights, which, unlike bees,

watch over us with their swan-like
necks and open their eyes at the right time 
every night? The answer is lonely

and whoever among us is brave enough 
to find it will come home to a family 
that won’t even look us in the eyes.


2

But what’s so great about eye contact? 
As if a horse knows a newspaper 
when he sees it. Streetlights don’t live

in hives; they’re not more afraid
of us than we are, fortified by stingers and swarms. 
Bees don’t brighten the alleyways

in which we commit our most heinous crimes 
to keep things moving and fill 
the papers with news. Why don’t we have

a holiday to recognize the alleyways?
The answer is lonely and whoever
among us is brave will have nowhere to jump.


3

Why don’t we sing a song that makes 
the bees proud? What’s so great 
about desolate meadows? The answer

is lonely. Why don’t we come home 
and look at our family? Why don’t we 
designate an hour to brag about news?

What’s so great about the way the papers 
blow through alleyways in the evening 
like deflated rats? As if pride could

brighten the meadows at night. Whoever 
among us is brave enough to forgive
a family gets to make eyes with a lonely horse.


4

As if the answer is flowers. As if 
we could gather streetlights
in a bouquet from the alleyways

and brighten family after 
beekeeping family. But what’s so 
great about seeing the truth?

Beneath every meadow is the earth’s 
molten core, red and hot as an evil eye. 
Why don’t we blow through the streets

at night? The answer is lonely, even 
if a horse knows the way home. 
What’s so great about being brave?


freeze-thaw, a different perspective

added in a few hours after I first posted this entry: Scrolling through my twitter feed, I encountered this very helpful, perspective-shifting idea from Paul Huttner on MPR Weather:

Temperatures over the next week look perfect for gradually reducing snowpack across the Upper Midwest. Days above the thawing point will melt snow. Nights below freezing mean that snowmelt will gradually be released into area rivers.

This gradual release helps mitigate the early-spring threat of flooding. Wow! All this time, I’ve been cranking about how much I hate these freeze-thaw cycles. I’m glad to read that they’re helpful. I still might not like how dangerous they make the path, but now I can get over myself and think about how they help the river. What a nice opportunity to shift my perspective. And, as a bonus: it will be warmer during the day next week!

feb 25/RUN

3.3 miles
ford bridge turn around
40 degrees

(Not sure about my dictation project. I don’t like doing the dictation inside and I’m already home. Maybe I should try it when it’s warmer outside?)

Another cycle of melting in the afternoon, re-freezing at night, frozen in the morning, melting in the afternoon. This sort of ice, just barely frozen, is the slickest and most dangerous. So I waited to run until after noon, when it had melted–12:13, to be exact (according to my apple watch). Had the wind at my back heading south, giving me a nice push. Kept thinking about how the wind would be in my face when I turned around. And it was, which made it harder. Noticed several new dips and cracks and holes in the path near 38th street. All the freezing and melting and re-freezing is hard on the asphalt. There was a deep puddle on the double-bridge, right where it bottoms out. Luckily I could climb on some snow to avoid it. Encountered a few walkers on the path. Saw an adult and a kid sitting on a bench, surrounded by snow. Heard, and briefly saw (I think) a runner below me on the Winchell trail. Noticed the river, open and flowing. The path right by the Ford bridge was terrible, almost completely covered in a thin, slick sheet of ice. When I turned around, I put in some headphones and listened to a new playlist. Heard, “Eye of the Tiger,” “Bad Guy,” “Juice,” “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution,” and “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Anything else I remember? I don’t remember hearing water gushing out of the sewer or kids at the school playground or music coming from a car or people talking loudly or geese honking or dogs barking. And I don’t remember having any deep thoughts or revelations. Did I?

Oh my god, this poem!

I want to read this book, and had requested it from the library, but I was unable to pick it up in time. I should request it again. I’m very glad that Our Poetica did a video of the text revealing itself as Diana Khoi Nguyen read it. So powerful!

Here’s another poem I found and copied into my green notebook on May 1st, 2019:

A Skull/ Dana Levin

is like a house
          with a brain inside. Another place
where eating
          and thinking
                     tango and spar—

At night
           you lean out, releasing
thought balloons.
           On the roof
                      someone stands ready

                      with a pin—

I’d like to put this poem and the idea of the skull as a house beside the two other poems with houses that I posted on feb 22.

feb 24/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin hill turn around
39 degrees
5% slick ice covered

Waited a little longer to go out running this morning. Needed to let the thin sheets of ice covering the puddles melt. A nice day for a run! Not too much wind, not too many people. Sun. Clear paths. I got my layers right today: 1 shirt, 1 vest, 1 pair of running tights, 1 headband, 1 pair of gloves, 1 pair of socks. It was warm enough today to smell the earth thawing–why does it smell like dog poop? I think I like the smell of death in the fall–the musty, mulching leaves–over the smell of life in the almost spring.

David Lee Roth is in town with KISS for a concert tonight. Scott read somewhere that he always brings his bike to Minneapolis and loves biking along the river. Today, I kept looking for him, hoping he’d bike by. No luck. Bummer.

Glanced down at the river a few times. Enjoyed hearing the sibilant sounds of my striking feet on the grit covered path. Ran hard up the hill, then stopped to a walk for a few minutes when I reached the bridge. Thought about the body that was found just north of this bridge early yesterday morning. Managed to mostly avoid the secret slippery spots where the water on the path was still frozen. Also managed to avoid getting soaked by cars rushing through big puddles on the road.

With less than a mile left, I had an idea about my current project and decided, even though I was running well, enjoying going faster, to stop and record my thoughts.

Uh oh.

Just tried to find and transcribe my voice memo, but it wasn’t there. I must have hit the wrong button when I was trying to record it. Here’s what I remember. For a few minutes before stopping, I was chanting. How to be/periphery, How to be/periphery. Then I realized: I need a (big) project to focus on, a project that involves structure and daily practice. A concrete project. This is the project I think I’m working on–and in many ways, it is what I’m working on–but, I’m also working on something else, off to the side, at the periphery, which is the real work I need/want to do. What a bummer. I feel like I can’t remember a key to my thought that helped it make sense. It connects with the article I read about how to be a procrastinator a few years ago, and with the idea of not approaching projects/thoughts/goals head on, but slant or sideways or sneakily (tricking your brain). Argh! I wish I hadn’t screwed up the recording.

My Weather/ Jane Hirshfield

Wakeful, sleepy, hungry, anxious,
restless, stunned, relieved.

Does a tree also?
A mountain?

A cup holds 
sugar, flour, three large rabbit-breaths of air.

I hold these.

What do I hold? Ever since I encountered the phrase, “inner and outer weather” (from a Frost poem about a tree at the window, via Edward Hirsch), I have been thinking about weather as metaphor for one’s mood/emotions/feelings. Love this poem and how it plays with this idea. And I love imagining how much air is 3 large rabbit-breaths worth. How big is this rabbit? And, in general, how big are rabbit breaths?

feb 23/RUN

3.1 miles
locks and dam #1 turn around
45 degrees
50% ice and puddle covered

note: no dictation today. Just as I started, Delia the dog ran in, barking and making lots of noise, which was fine because I wasn’t really feeling it anyway.

Today it was sunny and warm and sloppy and not as much fun. I do not regret going out for this run–well maybe my wet socks and shoes do!–but I would rank these conditions as some of the worst. Overcrowded paths, narrow strips of dry pavement in-between little lakes of cold, sometimes icy water. Very slick. Instead of feeling open and joyful and generous to everyone I encountered, I felt hostile and threatened–would they push me off into a puddle or a slick spot? I do not like feeling this way and I do not want to give too much space to my grumpy thoughts. So I won’t. Instead, here’s something very cool that I saw on my run today:

The river was still mostly white but at one spot, I think it was between 38th and 42nd somewhere, I noticed a path of open water winding across from the minneapolis to the st. paul side. It reminded me of a slithering snake. I love the strange patterns that open water makes when the ice cracks open. And I love the contrast between the frozen white and the darker water–black on cloudy days, brown on sunny ones.

Another thing I saw today that I liked: my shadow! She ran in front of me on my way back from the locks and dam.

I liked wearing less layers: only one pair of running tights, one neon yellow shirt, one vest.

I liked the squish squish squish my shoes made after I ran straight through the deep puddle on the double bridge.

I liked talking to the couple after my run who asked me how I could run on the ice. I’ve been asked this several times and I always say: “It’s easier to run on it then to walk on it. It’s when I stop running that I slip!”


Yesterday, I posted May Parton’s poem, The Work of Happiness. In her first stanza, she writes:

But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.

Here are a few things that her tree ring/circle made me think about:

1

Reflecting on how she always feels like she’s 11, even though she’s 64, Sandra Cisneros tells Krista Tippett:

You know how you look at a tree, and there are some rings that had a lot of rain, and it gets really bigger, and they shrink? Well, we can think about our own years and what defined us or what happened to us in those years.

2

In her poem, “Can You Imagine?”, Mary Oliver imagines a tree’s irritation with the slow, soundless, boring passing of time represented in the thickening of the rings:

Can You Imagine?/ Mary Oliver

For example, what the trees do
Not only in lightening storms
or in the watery dark of a summer night
or the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now–whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they just stand there, looking like they look
when we’re looking; surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade—surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in it’s own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

3

Did you know the modern science of tree-ring study is called dendrochronology? I didn’t, until I read this essay, Shared Dendrochronologies: Andrew Schelling on poetry, translation, & the aliveness of wor(l)ds.

4

And that the original dendrochronologist, William E. Douglass, created it to track how trees record climate change through their rings?

What a wonderful log entry this is! Through the process of writing it, I feel better–joyful and delighted with my run today.