april 7/RUN

4.25 miles
top of franklin bridge and back
37 degrees
wind / rain / snow

Ran in the afternoon, after returning from Austin. A huge wind gust almost blew me off the trail as I ran through the Welcoming Oaks. Later, the tornado siren went off. Because of the wind, I was concerned. Called Scott to check. It’s severe weather week and today they’re testing the sirens. Whew. With all the wind and snow and sirens, I don’t remember looking at the river. Did I? Yes! I just remembered. I admired the snow flurries looking like mist hovering right above the river. Very cool.

I chanted, mostly in my head but a few times out loud, the Christina Rossetti poem, “Who Has Seen the Wind?”:

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 leaves bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

Anything else? Lots of black-capped chickadees. A Minneapolis parks vehicle approaching with a double set of headlights — 2 at the normal spot on the bumper, and 2 up above on the roof.

before the run

Today dirt = mud and sinking down into the earth. Found this poem by a Minnesota poet, Joyce Sidman (search term: mud):


slant low,
chill seeps into black
water. No more days of bugs
and basking. Last breath, last sight
of light and down I go, into the mud. Every
year, here, I sink and settle, shuttered like a
shed. Inside, my eyes close, my heart slows
to its winter rhythm. Goodbye, good-
bye! Remember the warmth.
Remember the quickness.
Remember me.


hashtłʼish = mud

About This Poem

“‘Muddy’ is inspired by the motion and cadence of Diné words. Looking at it on the page, one sees kinetic text and hears onomatopoeia, so the repetition of ‘tł’ish’ reenacts the sound of someone stepping in mud, and then the word itself turns into a poem.”
Orlando White 

Mud as where you sink and settle during winter, and the sound of squishing through mud.

during the run

Tried to notice the mud. Mostly, it was on the edge of the trail. I ran over it to avoid 2 walkers. Biggest (and yuckiest) bit of mud was right by the big boulder near the sprawling oak just above the tunnel of trees at the grassy spot between the walking and biking trails. A vehicle had driven through it, leaving deep, muddy tire ruts.

after the run

One more poem:


This is what happened
the dead were settling in under their mud roof
and something was shuffling overhead

it was a badger treading on the thin partition

bewildered were the dead
going about their days and nights in the dark
putting their feet down carefully and finding themselves floating
but that badger

still with the simple heavy box of his body needing to be lifted
was shuffling away alive

hard at work
with the living shovel of himself
into the lane he dropped
         not once looking up

and missed the sight of his own corpse falling like a suitcase towards him
with the grin like an opened zip
         (as I found it this morning)

and went on running with that bindweed will of his
went on running along the hedge and into the earth again
as if in a broken jug for one backwards moment
               water might keep its shape

bindweed: invasive species that can clog harvesting equipment

march 12/RUN

5.25 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
7 degrees / feels like 0

It’s supposed to be getting warmer, starting today and into next week, but it was cold this morning. Sunny, not too much wind, but cold. No frozen fingers or toes, but I felt the burn of cold air, especially after I was done. A harder run. As I’ve heard some runners say, the wheels came off in the second half. I wondered why and then I remembered I didn’t have any water this morning, just coffee. That might have been a big part of the problem. I stopped to walk at least twice, on the walking path, closer to the river but also covered in uneven snow. I noticed the river had a thin sheet of ice on it again. That should melt this afternoon or tomorrow.

Heard some black capped chickadees and the fee bee song, some cardinals too. Encountered two large (10+ runners) groups on the trails — the first one, just as I entered the river road trail, the second, not too long after the lake street bridge. The first group was all men, the second all women with 2 dogs. Right before I reached them, the women stopped to walk. After I passed them, I could hear cackling and an occasional sharp ruff. For some time, they seemed close, then they disappeared. Near the end, I saw some sledders about to go down the Edmund hill. I wonder how crusty and hard that snow is?

Practiced reciting (almost always in my head) some lines from Emily Dickinson and Richard Siken. First, from Siken, the opening words of his great poem, “Love Song of the Square Root of Negative One”:

I am the wind
and the wind is

All the leaves trem
ble but I am

(in the actual poem, the line is broken like this: “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/tremble but I am invisible”)

I like reciting this when I’m running into the wind. Then, I returned to ED’s “Life is but life/and breath but breath/Bliss is but bliss/and breath, but breath.” Yesterday I had chanted it with slightly wrong words: “Life is but life/death is but death…” It was difficult to train my brain out of reciting it that way. I played around with different ways of saying it, including:

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

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

Just thought about this as I was writing this entry:

Life is but death
and breath but bliss
Death is but life
and bliss but breath

Here’s a recording I made after I finished my run and was walking back. You can really hear the wind!

Dickinson chant after run / 12 march

Speaking of the wind, here’s a poem I found yesterday from Alice Oswald that I love (like all her poetry):

PLEA TO THE WIND/ Alice Oswald

Describe the Wind,
Say something marked by discomfort
That wanders many cities and harbours,
Not knowing the language.
Be much travelled.
Start with nothing but the hair blown sideways
And say:
                                With Rain.
Say: Downdraught.

Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up
And speak disparagingly of leaves.
Be an old man blowing a shell.
Blow over the glumness of a girl
Looking up at the air in her red hood
And say:
Then come down glittering
With a pair of ducks to rooftop.

Go on. Be North-easterly.
Be enough chill to ripple a pool.
Be a rumour of  winter.
Whip the green cloth off the hills
And keep on quietly
Lifting the skirts of women not wanting to be startled
And pushing the clouds like towers of clean linen
Till you get to the
                      On seas.

Ignore it.

Say Snow.

Say Ditto.

Wait for five days
In which everything fades except aging.

Then try to describe being followed by heavy rain.
Describe voices and silverings,
From December to March.

Describe everything leaning.
Bring a tray of cool air to the back door.
Speak increasingly rustlingly.
Say something winged
On the branch of the heart.
Because you know these things.
You are both Breath
                And Breath
And your mouth mentions me
Just at the point where I end. 

So much in this poem to discuss, but what jumped out at me right away was: “Describe everything leaning”. For the past few days, but especially yesterday, I’ve been noticing the bare trees and how some of them lean in one direction, both their trunks and their branches. Usually leaning towards, sometimes away. These leanings can look menacing or graceful, threatening or like surrender. I love straight trees, but i think I love leaning ones more. It would be a fun exercise to go out for a run with the task, “describe everything leaning.” I think I’ll do that tomorrow!

march 10/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge and back
17 degrees / feels like 7

What a gift this winter-almost-spring run is this morning! A reminder of why I love winter runner with its cold, crisp air and quiet calm. It was a little difficult to breathe, with my nose closing up on me (hooray for sinuses), and it didn’t always feel effortless. Still, I was happy to be outside with the world — the birds (pileated woodpeckers, geese, cardinals), the Regulars (Dave, the Daily Walker and Daddy Long Legs), and the river, sometimes brown, sometimes blue.

Before I went out for my run, I read a lot of different poems and essays about poetry and breath. Decided I would think about rhythmic breathing, running rhythms, and chants. I started by counting my foot strikes, them matching it up with my breathing of In 2 3/ Out 2 or Out 2/ In 2 3: 123/45, 123/45 then 54/321, 54/321. A few miles later, I thought about a verse from Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘Tis so much joy! Tis so much joy!” that I imagine to be a prayer or a spell or reminder-as-chant. I started repeating it in my head:

Life is but Life! And Death, but Death!
Bliss is, but Bliss, and Breath but Breath!

With this prayer/chant, I matched the words up to my foot strikes in several different ways, none of which were 123/45 or 54/321.

Equal stress on each syllable/word, and the altering of the poem slightly:

Life Is But Life
Death Is But Death
Bliss Is But Bliss
Breath Is But Breath

Then in ballad form (I think?), with alternating lines of: stressed un un stressed / 3 stressed but silent beats (or not silent, but voiced by my feet, striking the ground):

Life is but Life
x x x
Death is but Death
x x x
Bliss is but Bliss
x x x
Breath is but Breath
x x x

Then in 6, with 2 feet of stressed, unstressed, unstressed (a dactyl):

Life is but Life is but
Life is but Life is but
Death is but Death is but
Death is but Death is but
Bliss is but Bliss is but
Bliss is but Bliss is but
Breath is but Breath is but
Breath is but Breath is but

Then in 4 again, one spoken beat, three silent:

Life xxx
Life xxx
Life xxx
Life xxx

Or, like “The Safety Dance”:

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

These were so much fun to do, and helpful in keeping me going as I grew tired. When I chanted them, my pace was about 8:40 and my heart rate was in the upper 170s (pretty standard for me). At one point, I pulled out my phone and recorded myself mid-run. Later, when I stopped running and was walking back, I recorded myself again.

Dickinson chant during run
Dickinson chant after run

It’s interesting to check back with the poem now and see that I had added words to make the rhythm more steady and even. Seeing how Dickinson wrote it, I want to try these chants on another run with the right words. How will I fit “And Death, but Death!” with my feet? Is this part of Dickinson’s disruption of rhythm?

I like the repetition of these chants and how, if you repeat them enough, they lose their meaning, or change meaning, or change the space you’re running through, or change you. It reminds me of some lines from a poem I recently wrote about running by the gorge and rhythmic breathing. It’s in 3/2, In 2 3/Out 2:


settle in-
to a

rhythm: 3
then 2.

First counting
foot strikes,

then chanting
small prayers.

I beat out

until what’s
left are

then sounds,

then something
new, or

old, returned.

Wow, this is so much fun for me, thinking through how my running, and breath, and poetry, and body, and the words work (and sometimes don’t work) together. Very cool.

And, here’s a poem that doesn’t fit neatly with my running rhythm/chants, but fits with the idea of getting outside to move by the river:

How to Begin/ Catherine Abbey Hodges

Wipe the crumbs off the counter.
Find the foxtail in the ear of the old cat.
Work it free. Step into your ribcage.

Feel the draft of your heart’s doors
as they open and close. Hidden latches
cool in your hand.

Hear your marrow keep silence,
your blood sing. Finch-talk
in the bush outside the window.

You’re a small feather, winged seed, wisp
of cotton. Thread yourself
through a hole in the button on the sill.

You’re a strand of dark thread
stitching a word to a river. Then another.

jan 30/RUN

2 miles
43rd north/32nd east/edmund south/37th west/43rd north
22 degrees

A quick run to get the last miles I need for my weekly goal (20 miles), to enjoy the “mild” weather and mostly clear pavement, and to recite the poem I’m re-memorizing today, “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.” I ran through the neighborhood, which I don’t do as much this year now that I’m vaccinated and not as nervous about encountering people. Ran by Cooper School, then the abandoned house that has stood almost, but not quite, finished for at least 3 years now. It’s sealed, with a door and windows, so it’s safe from the elements. I can’t remember if it has siding. If this house were finished, it would probably be worth at least 1/2 million (update, 7 dec 2022: finally someone fixed this house up! I found it on zillow last night during one of my many bout of restless legs. Listing price: $795,000). Strange to see it still here, still not done. Did the builder go bankrupt? When I almost reached the river, staying on edmund instead of crossing the river road, I saw lots of cars — Sunday drivers, I guess.

I recited my poem a few times. Probably because of the cold, I didn’t stop and record myself reciting it at the end. I should start doing that again, to make sure I’m getting all of the words. I noticed how certain bits of the poem worked very well with the steady rhythm of my running: “the trace of the thicket, the key in the lock, as root breaks/ rock, from seed to flower to fruit to rot”. Others did not, like “dark boat in the dark night”.

Scrolling through some of my running instagram (I use twitter for poetry; instagram for running; facebook for family/IRL friends), I discovered the Quadratus Lumborum muscle, which causes lots of problems for runners, and might be why my lower back often hurts. Nice. Never heard of this muscle before. It’s located in the lower back and involves the iliac crest, the lumbar vertebrae, and the 12th rib. Here are some stretches I’m planning to try: Top 5 QL Stretches

jan 29/RUN

4.45 miles
top of Franklin and back
19 degrees / feels like 10
50% snow-covered

Yes! What a difference it makes to run outside! It was cold, and I wore a lot of layers, but not nearly as cold as I thought it was going to be. According to the experts, an arctic hellscape blast is headed our way for 7-10 days in the beginning of February. Possibly -20. I wonder what the feels like temp will be? More treadmill, I guess. But, that also means more Dickinson, so it’s not all bad. The run felt good. My hands and feet weren’t too cold. I didn’t have my headphones on as I ran north, but when I turned around, I decided to put them in. One problem: it was so bright, I couldn’t see the screen to find a playlist. After trying for a few minutes without success, I just pushed a few random buttons and listened to whatever came on. I’m not sure what kind of playlist/shuffle it was on, but it started with Gerry Mulligan’s “Israel,” and I was really enjoying it. I like reading and writing while listening to jazz, but I’ve never tried running to it! A new experiment? Seeing how my run changes with different rhythms? That sounds like fun!


  • 1 pair of socks
  • 2 pairs of running tights
  • 1 long tank top
  • 1 green base layer shirt
  • 1 black 3/4 zip black pull-over
  • 1 pink jacket with hood
  • black vest
  • buff
  • 2 pairs of gloves
  • cap with ear flaps

I’ve decided to refresh my memory on past poems that I’ve memorized in the past. My tentative goal for the year? 100 memorized poems. I’m about halfway there, if I can remember all the ones I’ve already memorized. Today, I revisited Dickinson’s “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark.” I love this poem and how it gives me words for my experiences with vision loss. Throughout the run, I recited it in my head. Favorite verse today:

Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight
And Life steps almost straight.

In terms of (re)memorizing poems, I think I’ll start with the vision ones first. They might inspire me in my own writing. I’ve decided on this project because memorizing poems makes me feel good, and it’s one of the more effective ways for me to study poetry as craft. Plus, I’ve been working for months on my own poems, and I’d like to devote some attention to other peoples’ words.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the classic: a lone black glove, abandoned on the middle of the path
  2. the river: all white, covered with snow
  3. some kids sledding down the hill between edmund and the river road
  4. cigarette smoke invading my nose, escaped from a truck
  5. Dave the Daily walker (who I good morninged) was in more than his standard short-sleeved t-shirt. He had on a stocking cap, gloves, and something long-sleeved — a shirt, or a coat? I can’t remember
  6. a chipper was set up in the grass between edmund and the river road, near minnehaha academy, rumbling and grinding and buzzing
  7. a group of 4 or 5 fat tires
  8. a biker approaching with their bike light on
  9. the floodplain forest was white with tall, brown, slender trunks
  10. someone in bright orange, sitting on a bench above the river, almost to franklin


bike: 16 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.6 miles
-5 degrees / feels like -20

Brr. Earlier in the week, I ran when it felt like 20 below, but today that felt too cold, and I’ve run everyday this week, so I decided to run less, and downstairs in the basement. Watched a replay of some Olympic track races while I biked, listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation while I ran. I wore my new running shoes, the ones that have been redesigned with a much tighter toe box and that made my toe sore earlier this fall. I’m trying to break them in/stretch them out slowly this winter.

In this first week of January, I’m rereading all of my entries from 2021 and putting together a summary. It’s fun (mostly, but a little tedious too) to review them and remember the year. Today I did August and read about swimming and swells and droughts and wildfires and sweating and running on the Winchell Trail.

Hardly any mention of COVID — there was definitely a lull with the pandemic this summer and fall. But…that’s not quite true in Minnesota. Delta hit hard, and even before Omicron hospitals were almost at capacity. In November or early December, the hospitals put out an ad pleading with people to be careful, and that hospitals/ staff were reaching the breaking point. Now, Omicron has hit. I don’t think our numbers are as bad as other places, but here are some thing I’d like future Sara to know about this time:

  • It looks like Omicron is less severe, which is great, but hospitals are still filling up and mild cases range from almost nothing to being knocked out and miserable for a week.
  • the mild designation has to do with your oxygen levels. As long as you can breathe and your oxygen rating is in in the upper 90s, and you don’t have to be admitted to the hospital, it’s a mild case. From what I’ve read anecdotally, mild cases can be awful: headaches, fatigue, chills. And then, there’s long covid
  • full hospitals mean there are no beds/care for people with other emergencies. Just skimmed an article that mentioned wait times at metro area emergency rooms are anywhere from 8 to 24 hours
  • schools are in-person and one of the main ways they’re trying to manage keeping kids safe is for them to get tested regularly. The problems: rapid at-home test are all sold out everywhere — stores and online; testing sites are booked up for weeks; even if you are able to get tested, results can take more than 72 hours. It is impossible to contain the spread of omicron this way (note: just found out you can pick rapid tests up at school so RJP will get some for us)
  • schools are running out of staff + substitutes because teachers are getting infected and have to quarantine whether they experience symptoms or not
  • I am not nearly as stressed out about this wave as I have been for the last (almost) 2 years. My jaw is not tightening, and neither is my chest. Still, this is a drag and I worry about RJP, who wants to go to school and see her friends

reciting while running

After running for about 10 minutes, I decided to record myself reciting my haunt poem again.

I go to the gorge / 6 jan 2022


bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.35 miles
treadmill, basement
10 degrees outside / feels like -6

Biked and ran inside, partly because it felt like 6 below, partly because it’s snowing and there was already a few inches of loosely packed snow on the road, but mostly because I ran outside yesterday and Sunday. Watched a year wrap-up video for the awesome triathlete, Lucy Charles-Barclay while I biked. My left knee did the weird thing it sometimes did this summer after a few minutes of biking: it hurt–a somewhat sharp, hot pain, making it harder to do a fully rotation of the pedal. Stiff, out of place, not displaced, but feeling like it was rubbing or doing something not quite right. I stopped, and when I started again, it was better. Strange. I thought biking was supposed to help, not hurt.

Listened to the first three songs on Taylor Swift’s Reputation. The third song, “I Did Something Bad,” had a good beat for my cadence. After running a little more than a mile and getting my heart rate up to 160, I took out my phone and recorded myself reciting a poem I just wrote for my haunts sequence. I was curious how the 3/2 syllable count would sound.

I go to the gorge / 160 bpm

Yesterday, I recorded myself reciting my haunts poems. Scott’s going to use my recording to make a video of the poems. In discussing how this might look, I mentioned the trails by the gorge, and the trails I’m making with my words, somewhat resemble a palimpsest. I wondered if there was any way to visually represent that in the video. We’re still trying to figure it out. Inspired by this, I decided to make palimpsests the theme for this month. Here’s a poem that fits with this theme:

Palimpsest/ Jared Carter – 1939-

The walk that led out through the apple trees –
the narrow, crumbling path of brick embossed
among the clumps of grass, the scattered leaves –

has vanished now. Each spring the peonies
come back, to drape their heavy bolls across
the walk that led out through the apple trees,

as if to show the way – until the breeze
dismantles them, and petals drift and toss
among the clumps of grass. The scattered leaves

half fill a plaited basket left to freeze
and thaw, and gradually darken into moss.
The walk that led out through the apple trees

has disappeared – unless, down on your knees,
searching beneath the vines that twist and cross
among the clumps of grass, the scattered leaves,

you scrape, and find – simplest of mysteries,
forgotten all this time, but not quite lost –
the walk that led out through the apple trees
among the clumps of grass, the scattered leaves.

Here’s a definition of a palimpsest:

A palimpsest is “a parchment or other writing surface on which the original text has been effaced or partially erased, and then overwritten by another; a manuscript in which later writing has been superimposed on earlier (effaced) writing.” In other words, a palimpsest is a “multi-layered record.”


I first encountered the word, palimpsest, back in October, when I read an essay by Wendell Berry:

comings and goings of people, the erasure of time already in process even as the marks of passage are put down. There are the ritual marks of neighborhood — roads, paths between houses. There are the domestic paths from house to barns and outbuildings and gardens, farm roads threading the pasture gates. There are the wanderings of hunters and searchers after lost stock, and the speculative or meditative or inquisitive ‘walking around’ of farmers on wet days and Sundays. There is the sprawling geometry of the rounds of implements in fields, and the passing and returning scratches of plows across croplands. Often these have filled an interval, an opening, between the retreat of the forest from the virgin ground and the forest’s return to ground that has been worn out and give up. In the woods here one often finds cairns of stones picked up out of furrows, gullies left by bad framing, forgotten roads, stone chimneys of houses long rotted away or burned.

A Native Hill / Wendell Berry

dec 30/RUN

4.7 miles*
minnehaha falls and back
16 degrees / feels like 6
100% snow-covered

*2021 running goal accomplished: 850.5

Hooray for wonderful winter runs! I thought I might feel really cold out there this morning, but I didn’t. Was it the humidity (78%) that made me feel warmer? I wasn’t overheated, but I probably could have skipped one of my layers: the black zip-up. For much of the run, I was alone. On the way to the falls, I think I passed one or two walkers, and no bikers or other runners. There were at least a dozen people at the falls and many more walkers and runners on my way back home. It was never crowded, which was nice. I wore my Yak trax, which helped a lot. On the way back, I recited Longfellow’s “Snow-flake” a few times. Some of the lines were difficult to chant as I ran; they never quite matched my feet.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: completely covered in white snow
  2. a tree trunk far ahead of me on the river road trail: roughly covered in snow, as if a plow had come through and splattered snow on the tree
  3. the other side: some vague construction sounds driftng over the gorge from the st. paul side
  4. an approaching walker: at first, walking on the far side, then partly crossing over, then back again. As we neared each other, they muttered something and I wondered if it was a greeting, they were talking to themselves, or they were annoyed by me
  5. the falls: huge columns of grayish-white ice descending from the top. I could hear some water rushing, almost sizzling, and I think, when I stared hard enough, I could see some steam coming up from the water at the bottom
  6. minnehaha regional park: a family emerging from a park car, laughing and tromping through the snow, which is only 3 or 4 inches deep
  7. no coyotes or dogs or fat tires or birds
  8. my feet: the crunch of a spiked shoe is sharper and quicker than an unspiked shoe
  9. the walking trail: all of the walking trails were blocked at their entrances and exits by plowed snow
  10. grafitti: big bubble letters in orange (I think?) and some other color on the bike side of the double bridge

I’m thinking of turning my haunts poem into a digital chapbook, or animating it, and/or recording myself reading it. Lots of ideas. Time to figure out what’s actually possible to achieve.

oct 28/RUN

4.5 miles
John Stevens House loop
46 degrees
light rain / humidity: 94%

The forecast predicted light rain all day. Decided I wouldn’t mind running in the rain. Wore my vest, which is waterproof or at least water resistant, a baseball cap, bright pink headband, bright yellow shirt, tights, shorts, gloves, and my older running shoes. Ran south to the falls then around the John Stevens House. Ran north until I reached the entrance to the Winchell Trail then took that the rest of the way. Not much wind, not too cold, not too crowded.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A glowing tree at the falls that, at first, looked all orange, but slowly seemed almost pink: a mix of some red, yellow, green leaves
  2. A rush of noise — leaves blowing in the wind? No. The falls, rushing in the light rain
  3. Water coming out of the sewer at 42nd street — not rushing or gushing or roaring but some other sound that indicates an abundance of flowing water
  4. Running near the river, noticing how the water closer to me was a blue so pale it looked light gray, the water closer to the st. paul shore was deep and dark, reflecting the evergreens
  5. The spot on the Winchell Trail right climbing up to 42nd no longer concealed by leaves, lined with tall, slender tree trunks and a clear view of river gorge st. paul
  6. A few honks, some kids yelling out, a line-up of cars: the beginning of the day at a local elementary school across the grassy boulevard
  7. A very short person walking around Minnehaha Regional Park. Wearing jeans and a dark sweatshirt with the hood up. Walking with a hunched gait
  8. A runner (or walker?) stopped beside the path, taking off a bright pink jacket and tying it around their waist
  9. A strange scraping metallic sound up ahead of me on the Winchell Trail. Then running by a man hunched over a fence post near the curved retaining wall with a hacksaw, sawing. After I passed, he stopped
  10. Squirrel after squirrel darting across the path and into the woods, never circling back to run in front of me

Earlier this morning, right after I woke up and made my coffee, I memorized the second half of one of my favorite Halloween poems: A Rhyme for Halloween. Here’s the bit I memorized:

Our clock is blind, our clock is dumb.
Its hands are broken, its fingers numb.
No time for the martyr of our fair town
Who wasn’t a witch because she could drown.

Now the dogs of the cemetery are starting to bark
At the vision of her bobbing up through the dark.
When she opens her mouth to gasp for air,
A moth flies out and lands in her hair.

The apples are thumping, winter is coming.
The lips of the pumpkin soon will be humming.
By the caw of the crow on the first of the year,
Something will die, something appear.

I recited it in my head throughout my run. I love this poem and its haunting feel (tone? mood?). As I recited the lines, I struggled with the second verse — was it bobbing or bob? gasping or gasp? Why was it difficult for me? I can’t remember now. I like stumbling with the lines; it gives me the chance to reflect on word choice and rhythm. And it helps me to think about what makes some poetry sing, some fall flat.

Favorite lines/images: the blind, dumb clock; the martyr who wasn’t a witch because she could drown; the vision of her bobbing through the dark and gasping for air; the apples thumping — I imagine them falling on the ground; the lips of the pumpkin humming; something dying and something appearing.

Why is this haunting? One obvious reason: it takes up Halloween (spooky) images. But also: the rhymes. They aren’t sing-song-y. Instead, they echo. The rhyming reminds me of part of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells:

monody: a poem lamenting a person’s death
paean: a song of praise or triumph
rune: letters from an alphabet that was used by people in Northern Europe in former times. They were carved on wood or stone and were believed to have magical powers (source).
knell: the sound of a bell, especially when rung solemnly for a death or funeral


          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Reading through this again, I’m thinking about how the bells in this verse are not clock bells, tracking the precise, steady passing of time (which reminds me of the lines about the blind, dumb clocks and no time for the martyr). These bells toll, groan, moan, roll, throb, sob, knell. The sound of the bells floats from rusty throats, is muffled, melancholy. When it is mentioned that they keep time, it is not the time of life, but of death.

oct 26/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
42 degrees
humidity: 72%

Damp. Cool, but not cold. A nice, relaxed run. Overcast, windy. Ran north through the welcoming oaks, the tunnel of trees, past the old stone steps, above the winchell trail that steeply climbs out of the gorge, up to the lake street bridge. Over the bridge, down the steps, up the hill — past one of my favorite, uncluttered views, on the st. paul side; past the bench perched above the river; above shadow falls — to the top. Then down the other side of the deep ravine. Around the World War Monument, beside the river on one side, fancy houses the other. A brief stop at the overview, around another ravine, over to the ford bridge. Through the smaller tunnel of trees above the locks and dam, north on the river road, and then, another brief tunnel of trees just before reaching the double bridge and the start of the Winchell Trail. Through the woods, up and down and up and down the undulating path, then finishing on the upper trail near the 35th st parking lot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Almost all of the welcoming oaks are bare limbed, the ground covered in crunchy, crispy leaves
  2. The river a pleasing pale blue, not smooth but slightly rippled, except for at one spot where it’s smooth
  3. The trees along the shore have all changed color
  4. The ravine near Shadow Falls, looking very fall-ish, so many yellow leaves
  5. Running up the long hill, hearing the bell at St. Thomas singing the clock song: ding dong ding dong/ding dong ding dong/ ding dong ding dong — stopping short because it was 9:45, not 10
  6. Running beside the fancy houses on east river parkway, hearing a women’s voice call out to someone else, “what a beautiful day!” Immediate thoughts: It’s windy and cool. Is it a beautiful day? (then thinking: yes, it is. I love this end of fall weather.) Also: actual people who notice and enjoy the weather, really live in this impossibly large and pretentious house?
  7. At the overlook near the entrance to the winchell trail, noticing the river. Farther away, it looked white, almost like snow or ice. Closer, and at a different spot, it sparkled and burned bright and white
  8. 2 squirrels crossing my path, managing to not double back and trip me
  9. So many dirt trails and breaks in the trees leading into the woods on the edge of the bluff on the st. paul side
  10. After ascending the steps of the overlook on the st. paul side, stopping at a bench and seeing a plaque embedded in the sidewalk for Brian Bates, who died in 2008, about a year before my mom did
seen on the St. Paul side of the river, near an overlook

I was curious, so I looked him up:

Age 60 Died June 12th of Cancer Brian was born July 14, 1947 in St. Paul and was a graduate of Notre Dame University. He spent his early business career in San Francisco. After returning to St. Paul in the early 1980’s, Brian received his law degree from Hamline University. He was active on the Mac/Groveland City Council, Scenic Minnesota, Scenic St. Paul, Clean Air MN, the DFL and other political and environmental endeavors. Brian’s work on environmental issues led him to become well-known in the St. Paul area. He was instrumental in the fight against billboards calling them “litter on a stick”.

Obituary (2008)

Not too long after hearing the bells of St. Thomas (as I climbed the Summit Hill), I decided to take out my phone and record myself mid-run. At the point of recording, I was probably running a 9 minute pace, with my heart rate at 170 (which seems to be my standard heart rate for running):


Running up
summit hill
I heard
at st. thomas chime.
Was it 10 o’clock or
in 9?

reciting 9:45

I’ll have to keep working on these. It’s difficult to overcome my self-consciousness over other people see me do this, and my reluctance to slow down enough to get out my phone.

One more thing I almost forgot: Running north on the west river road through the small tunnel of trees before the double bridge, I suddenly noticed the faintest trace of my shadow ahead of me. At first, I wasn’t sure. Had I really seen my shadow or just imagined it? Then, it appeared again, and I noticed the sun had come out. I glimpsed it a few more times, always faint, casting itself on the thick-littered trail. Writing this paragraph, I suddenly wonder about how many times we think we’ve seen something but then discount it with, “it was just my imagination.” More often than not, we are seeing something and it is not being imagined; we just don’t have the right words to describe it, and we don’t trust how our brains see so much more than we realize (or fully process).

Periodically throughout my run, I recited Emily Dickinson’s We grow accustomed to the Dark –, which I re-memorized and then wrote about this morning. At one point, for a few minutes, I stumbled over the 3rd verse. I had no problem with:

And so of larger – Darkness –

But, I couldn’t quite remember the next line: I knew it wasn’t, The Darkness of the Brain or The dimming of the Brain, but the word wasn’t coming to me. Suddenly, it did: evenings:

Those Evenings of the Brain –

Yes. Such a brilliant line, and so helpful and rewarding to spend time thinking about word choice — the right word, so precise and effective, matters.