may 28/RUN

3.15 miles
marshall loop (short)
65 degrees

Ran a shorter version of the Marshall loop with Scott. We ran for 10 minutes, then walked for 1 minute, 3 times. I liked it as a way to keep everything more relaxed. My heart rate stayed lower too. No rowers on the river, no waffle smells coming out of Black. What else do I remember? Looked for the eagle perched on the dead tree below the lake street bridge. Nothing. Felt the soft salty sand on the edge of the sidewalk on the bridge. Got scratched by some dead branches poking out of a hedge.

Wound is the Origin of Wonder/ Maya C. Popa

A cross-breeze between this life
and the imagined one.

I am stuck in an almost life,
in an almost time. If I could say,

but I cannot, and so on. Sunlight
dizzies through the barren trees,

the skyline, a blue fog against
a yellow light, and on the highway

every Westward car blinds me.
Every surface reflects

that quiet understanding: decisions
have been made, irreversible decisions

to upend beauty for something
approximate—the airport hotel,

its Eiffel Tower on the roof,
a playground near the public storage.

Beyond, bridges like monuments
to fracture, and a sign for Pain Law:

not metaphor, but litigation.
Who would not, given acreage

in another’s mind, lie there
for a while to watch the sky be sky?

I was drawn to this poem because of its discussion of the almost. I need to spend more time with it to understand, but I feel like Popa thinks of the almost life as a negative, as preventing access to the real (sky as sky). I think of the almost in more positive ways.

Also: Beyond, bridges like monuments
to fracture, and a sign for Pain Law:

not metaphor, but litigation.

What does that mean — not metaphor, but litigation?

may 7/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall to dogwood loop
57 degrees

Scott and I ran a slightly shorter version of the marshall loop that ended at dogwood coffee. No coffee today, too crowded. Everything is getting green. No fuchsia funnels yet, but some white blossoms, violets (are they violets, or just violet flowers?), tulips. Chirping birds. A downy woodpecker squawking in a tree. I was just about to write that I didn’t remember looking at the river, but then I remembered: lots of white foam everywhere — swirling in the center, collecting on the edges. No rowers again. Anything else? Muddy, wet, humid, hot when the sun was out, very little breeze.

I told Scott a boring story about noticing runners sprinting on the other side of the road as we ran down cretin. He told me that he felt like he was plodding along, that his legs were like logs thumping down on the ground. Then I imagined his legs as logs, which was fun to do — his legs started as thick logs with rough bark, then after a 1/2 block of awkward steps, they peeled off and his human legs appeared.

Another strange story: running down the hill on the east river trail, beside shadow falls, I saw something up ahead. What it actually was was a big white, fluffy dog. What I saw was the bottom half of very broad hipped person walking towards us. This is an example of how my brain tries (and sometimes fails terribly) to guess what my eyes are actually seeing. After telling Scott what I thought I saw, I said, headless and torsoless hips walking towards me? that’s not even a real thing. Come on, brain!

Mary Ruefle

No time to read from My Private Property or Madness, Rack, and Honey, so here’s one of her poems. I remember reading it sometime in the last few years, but not why or when.

The Bench/ Mary Ruefle

My husband and I were arguing about a bench we wanted to buy and put in part of our backyard, a part which is actually a meadow of sorts, a half acre with tall grasses and weeds and the occasional wild flower because we do not mow it but leave it scrubby and unkempt.  This bench would hardly ever be used and in summer when the grasses were high would remain partially hidden from view.  We both knew we wanted the bench to be made of teak so that it would last a long time in the harsh weather and so that we would never have to paint it.  Teak weathers to a soft silver that might, in November or March, disappear into the gray hills that are the backdrop of our lives.  My husband wanted a four foot bench and I wanted a five foot bench.  This is what we argued about.  My husband insisted that a four foot bench was all we needed, since no more than two people (presumably ourselves) would ever sit on it at the same time.  I felt his reasoning was not only beside the point but missed it entirely; I said what mattered most to me was the idea of the bench, the look of it there, to be gazed at with only the vaguest notion it could hold more people than would ever actually sit down.  The life of the bench in my imagination was more important than any practical function the bench might serve.  After all, I argued, we wanted a bench so that we could look at it, so that we could imagine sitting on it, so that, unexpectedly, a bird might sit on it, or fallen leaves, or inches of snow, and the longer the bench, the greater the expanse of that plank, the more it matched its true function, which was imaginary.  My husband mentioned money and I said that I was happier to have no bench at all, which would cost nothing, than to have a four foot bench, which would be expensive.  I said that having no bench at all was closer to the five foot bench than the four foot bench because having no bench served the imagination in similar ways, and so not having a bench became an option in our argument, became a third bench. We grew very tired of discussing the three benches and for a day we rested from our argument.  During this day I had many things to do and many of them involved my driving past other houses, none of which had benches, that is they each had the third bench, and as I drove past the other houses I could see a bench here and a bench there; sometimes I saw the bench very close to the house, against a wall or on a porch, and sometimes I saw the bench under a tree or in the open grass, cut or uncut, and once I saw the bench at the end of the driveway, blocking the road.  Always it was a five foot bench that I saw, a long sleek bench or a broken down bench, a bench with a slatted back or a bench with a solid, carved back, and always the bench was empty. But I knew that for my husband the third bench was only four feet long and he saw always two people sitting on it, two happy or tired people, two people who were happy to be alive or two people tired from having worked hard enough to buy the bench they were sitting on.  Or they were happy and tired, happy to have reached the end of some argument, tired from having had it.  For these people, the bench was an emblem of their days, which were fruitful because their suffering had come to an end. On my bench, which was always empty, nothing had come to an end because nothing had begun, no one had sat down, though the bench was always there waiting for exactly that to happen.  And the bench was always long enough so that someone, if he desired to, could lie all the way down.  That day passed.  Another day followed it and my husband and I began, once more, to discuss the bench.  The sound of our voices revealed a renewed interest and vigor.  I thought I sensed in him a coming around to my view of the bench and I know he sensed in me a coming around to his view of the bench, because at one point I said that a four foot bench reminded me of rough notes towards a real bench while a five foot bench was like a fragment of an even longer bench and I admitted it was at times hard to tell the difference.  He said he didn’t know anything about the difference between rough notes and fragments but he agreed that between the two benches there was, possibly, just perhaps—he could imagine it—very little difference.  It was, after all, only a foot we were talking about.  And I think it was then, in both of our minds, that a fourth bench came into being, a bench that was only a foot long, a miniature bench, a bench we could build ourselves, though of course we did not.  This seemed to be, essentially, the bench we were talking about.  Much later, when the birds came back, or the leaves drifted downwards, or the snow fell, slowly and lightly at first, then heavier and faster, it was this bench that we both saw when we looked out the window at the bench we eventually placed in the meadow which continued to grow as if there were no bench at all.

april 23/RUN

2.5 miles
down franklin hill and back
32 degrees

Cold, but it felt like spring with the sun and the birds and the buds on the trees almost open. Ran with Scott. Started near Lake Street to the franklin hill to check out the flooding in the flats. The river is high and moving fast, but not much worse than it was earlier in the week. Scott took a video with my phone:

We ran back up the hill — the entire 1/2 mile back to the very top, then kept on going until we reached the trestle and 2.5 miles. A nice run.

The thing I remember most about looking down at the river from high up on the gorge was the fast moving foam. And the thing I remember most about running beside it was the way the water (almost) roared as it gathered itself under the I-95 bridge.


one walker to another at the top of the franklin hill: That’s the problem with late capitalism, it doesn’t encourage community.

I love our neighborhood where people walk around critiquing capitalism. As we ran down the hill, I asked Scott: Is that just a problem with late capitalism? Then I mentioned how it seems that community is often defined too narrowly and only as a response to the limits of capitalism. And, right before reaching the flooding, we discussed Go Fund Me.

Author Bio

Inspired by a bio request I encountered on the submissions page of a journal — don’t tell us how many degrees you have or where you’ve been published; in 3 sentences tell us about the real you and what spurs you on — I decided to have some fun. Here are a few I came up with:

Since the start of the pandemic, Sara Lynne Puotinen has been keeping a series of commonplace books that she has named the Plague Notebooks. The 15 of them she has completed so far are not about the pandemic, but include interesting words she’s encountered or ideas for poems. Occasionally she uses them to practice drawing the perfect block-numbered 6, which is surprisingly harder than she imagined. 

When Sara Lynne Puotinen wakes up, she usually has one of three songs stuck in her head: the theme from the TV show Alice, the sunrise service hymn “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” or “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma

Even though she’s way too old to think this and knows it’s impossible, Sara Lynne Puotinen still glances down at the bottom of the pool when she’s swimming laps to make sure Jaws isn’t popping out of one of the drains. Swimming in the lake, she can’t see what’s below her, but she wonders if Jaws might be down there too.

Sara Lynne Puotinen wants to know which one of her parents decided her first name didn’t need an h but her middle name did need an e. She’d like to thank them. Also, she just learned that Lynne means lake in Welsh and wonders if said parent knew this too.

Here are three things that Sara Lynne Puotinen has decided will make for a good day: a wild turkey running through a field, its head bobbling awkwardly; the ski poles of a roller skier clicking rhythmically on the asphalt; the very rare rumbling of a train crossing over the trestle above the mississippi river gorge.

After reading the line, the tree outside my window, in too many poems, Sara Lynne Puotinen can’t help but notice the tree outside her window. She thinks, but is not sure, that it is a pussy willow tree. When she looks out at it, she thinks of her mother-in-law who died last year because she loved pussy willows.  

Sara Lynne Puotinen has decided she likes the wisdom that comes with getting older but not the aches or pain or fear. Or all the people dying from cancer.

Sara Lynne Puotinen enjoys composing poems while running up hills. She also enjoys composing them while running down hills. In other words, she likes making things that are hard even more difficult, and things that are easy less so.

Love this poem I found the other day on Have Has Had:


The facts of this case are murky at best so let the record show
the Church was riding the coattails of Saturnalia and
December 25 proxied for the solstice well enough. The water
into wine thing: grandstanding if I ever saw it. Show me
a Capricorn and I’ll show you the guy rowing the boat,
not the spectacle walking on water. I’d also like
to submit into evidence the carpenter to superstar glow
up. It’s textbook Leo—just ask his siblings. Oh,
you haven’t heard of them? Your honor, the state rests.

april 13/RUN

2.5 miles
lake nokomis
62 degrees

After walking around Lake Nokomis yesterday afternoon and hearing the ice shattering and melting, then seeing some loons bobbing in the water, Scott and I decided to return this morning for a run. We started running before 8 am, which is early for me these days. It was windy and sunny and beautiful. The water was an intense blue and getting close to being iced out. Someone already had their canoe out. I wonder what the water temperature is? Open swim begins in 2 months!

When we finished the run, we walked up the hill to Nokomis Beach coffee. I used to get coffee here a lot when we lived closer to the lake, but it’s been years. When was the last time I was in here? Everything looked almost exactly the same. A strange feeling of time not passing.

On the way, we encountered a wonderful display of yard weirdness. Scott took a picture:

dozens of figurines displayed at the edge of a yard, including an owl, a gnome, several mushrooms, and the helm of a ship hanging from a tree.

A. R. Ammons’ garbage


at the end of section 10 (68):

oh, well: argument is like dining:
mess with a nice dinner long enough, it’s garbage.


in section 11 (70-71):

this is

we at our best, not killing, scheming, abusing,
running over, tearing down, burning up: why

did invention ever bother with all this, why
does the huge beech by the water come back every

year: oh, the sweet pleasures, the kiss, the letter from

someone, the word of sympathy or praise, or just
the shared settled look between us, that here

we are together, such as it is, cautious and
courageous, wily with genuine desire, policed

by how we behave, all out of eternity, into
eternity, but here now, where we make the most

of it:


at the end of section 11 (73):

I don’t
care whether anybody believes me or not: I

don’t know anything I want anybody to believe or
in: but if you will sit with me in the light

of speech, I will sit with you: I would rather
do this than eat your ice cream

colorblind plates

I continue to work on my colorblind poems. Inspired by some words in a section of garbage, I finished a solid draft of another one yesterday. Here’s a bit of it:

I look at the plate
and see nothing but a mass of
different size dots. No hidden numbers
or hand-painted hiragana. I stare harder and
the dots turn into loops able to map new routes
for making meaning out of electrical impulses.

april 9/RUN

2 miles
dogwood run
50 degrees

Spring! Ran with Scott this morning. Heard lots of different birds — woodpeckers, crows, bluejays, cardinals. Forgot to look down at the river. Talked about being colorblind and an article he sent me the other day, Designing for Colorblindness. Ran on more of the walking path. Greeted Mr. Morning! Anything else? I’m writing this at the end of the day (after driving to St. Peter to bring FWA back to school), so I can’t remember.

A. R. Ammons’ garbage

Yesterday afternoon, I kept reading and got through a few more sections (4 – most of 7). With Schuyler’s Hymn to Life, I focused on each section at a time. For Ammons, I think I’ll be jumping around more. Here’s something from section 3 I’d like to think about on my run:

note: after writing this sentence above, I asked Scott if he wanted to run together. He said yes and I forgot about Ammons as we ran and talked.

scientific and materialistic notion of the
spindle of energy: when energy is gross,

rocklike, it resembles the gross, and when
fine it mists away into mystical refinements,

sometimes passes right out of material
recognizability and becomes, what?, motion,

spirit, all forms translate into energy, as at
the bottom of Dante’s hell all motion is

translated into form: so, in value systems,
physical systems, artistic systems, always this

same disposition from the heavy to the light,
and then the returns form the light downward

to the staid gross: stone to wind, wind to
stone, there is no need for “outside,” hegemonic

derivations of value: nothing need be invented
or imposed: the aesthetic, scentific, moral

are organized like a muff along this spindle,
might as well relax: thus, the job done, the

mind having found its way through and marked
out the course, the intellect can be put by:

one can turn to tongue, crotch, boob, navel,
armpit, rock, slit, roseate rearend

I’m thinking about the relationship between mind, body, and spirit here, and then where I see motion fitting in. The idea of motion as spirit is interesting to me. Because I rely on peripheral vision, I’ve been thinking a lot about motion (which is detected in your peripheral). In terms of motion, I’m also thinking about my restlessness and my inability to sit still for too long, especially at night. Waking up every few hours to move around before going back to sleep. And I’m thinking about motion is relation to color, especially with my study of the ancient greeks and their ideas about color and the idea of “the glitter effect” (See The Sea Was Never Blue).

march 26/RUN

2.5 miles
dogwood run!
29 degrees

Finished up a 20+ mile week with a shorter run with Scott to Dogwood. According to my log, the last time we ran to Dogwood together was August 1st. Wow. A wonderful morning for a run. Bright sun, low wind, chirping birds, a clear path. So nice to be outside moving! Even though it was below freezing and I was wearing winter layers, it felt like spring. Noticed the open river, heard and felt the grit under my feet, admired the clear view to the other side. Running up the short hill to the greenway trail I heard a goose honking. When Scott didn’t hear it, I wondered (out loud), was it a honking goose or a bike’s bad brakes? Funny what other things honking geese sound like to me. A few months ago I recall comparing a goose honk to a dying car (what my sister would call h-for-c — hurting for certain) that grumbled to a stop near the trestle.

Anything else? Greeted both Mr. Morning and Dave, the Daily Walker, but in both cases I didn’t realize it was them until right as we were passing each other. Noticed Scott’s and my shadow running side by side. Saw a few runners in shorts, including one women in shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt. Scott mentioned that she had bright pink legs. Passed orange signs for yesterday’s Hot Dash race. Wondered when the walking paths would be fully cleared of snow and mud.

Here’s a random poem found on my reading list that I’d like to gather before the poetry person who tweeted it leaves twitter, or before twitter is finally killed off:

Words/ Franz Wright

Words I don’t know where they come from.
I can summon them
(sometimes I can)
into my mind, into my fingers,
I don’t know why.
Or I’ll suddenly hear them
walking, sometimes
they don’t often come when I need them.
When I need them most terribly,

oct 20/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop
61 degrees!

Ran with Scott in the late afternoon. Wore shorts and my bright yellow 10 mile race shirt that I’ve been looking for this whole month. Finally found it. Excellent. A nice, relaxed run. Well, mostly relaxed. I was worried about my knees throughout the run because they were complaining a little, but they weren’t sliding so no worries. The thing I remember most about the run is the river. Running across the lake street bridge, heading east, the water was blue and dark and calm, with only very small ripples. Running back, heading west, it looked much rougher, brighter, and the sun was spread across half of it. What a contrast! Same river, different angle, much different view.

Threshold Gods/ Jenny George

I saw a bat in a dream and then later that week
I saw a real bat, crawling on its elbows
across the porch like a goblin.
It was early evening. I want to ask about death.
But first I want to ask about flying.

The swimmers talk quietly, standing waist-deep in the dark lake.
It’s time to come in but they keep talking quietly.
Above them, early bats driving low over the water.
From here the voices are undifferentiated.
The dark is full of purring moths,

Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty
of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.
The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.
They capture the moths in their teeth.

Summer is ending. The orchard is carved with the names of girls.
Wind fingers the leaves softly, like torn clothes.
Remember, desire was the first creature
that few from the crevice
back when the earth and the sky were pinned together
like two rocks.

Now, I open the screen door and there it is-
a leather change purse
moving across the floorboards.

But in the dream you were large and you opened
the translucent hide of your body
and you folded me
in your long arms. And held me for a while.
As a bat might hold a small, dying bat. As

Found this poem on twitter the other day. I don’t totally understand it, but that’s okay. I might get there after a few more readings of it. I picked it for the threshold, the bats, the swimmers in the lake, and these lines, which fit with my current vision project on adjusting and growing accustomed to new ways of seeing/not seeing:

Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty
of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.
The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.
They capture the moths in their teeth.

Adjustments. Shifts and echoes. Always moving — veering and diving. All of this fits so well with my thoughts on seeing and peripheral vision right now!

august 4/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop (short)
62 degrees
8:00 am

Ran the marshall loop with Scott. The plan was to end at Dogwood and get some coffee, but Dogwood was too busy, so we skipped it (and saved $20 which makes the frugal me happy).

The river was a beautiful blue. Calm. On the way back over it, I heard the distant voice of the coxswain. The rowers! Also noticed the shadows of the trees on the water — on the far side, turning the water a dark green, on the near side, reflecting fuzzy outlines of the tops of the trees.

No sound of water trickling as we ran above shadow falls. It’s very dry here.

august 1/RUN

dogwood loop (marshall)*
69 degrees
9:00 am

*43rd ave, north/31st, east/up to lake street bridge/marshall hill/cretin/river road/lake street to dogwood

Ran with Scott this morning. Ended at Dogwood Coffee. Didn’t notice as much becasue we were talking the whole time. Can I remember 10 things? I’ll try.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: blue, empty except for a few glittering spots
  2. road work just the end of the lake/marshall bridge: the beep beep beep of a truck backing up and the clunk of some big machine pounding the pavement
  3. graffitti on the backs of some signs — where was that? I can’t recall — probably on marshall
  4. passing a man with a tight hold on the leash of a big dog — he stepped onto the grass to let us pass
  5. a runner who ran in the grass as he approached us
  6. a car in a driveway waiting for a break in the traffic
  7. a little kid on a scooter, about to cross the street with an adult
  8. no one near Black Coffee
  9. stepping into the street to avoid a sprinkler
  10. hot sun but cool shade

Wow, that was difficult. It took a few minutes to come up with this list of 10!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned collective nouns in my class. Here’s a great poem I just found with some collective nouns for humans:

Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild/ Kathy Fish

A group of grandmothers is a tapestry. A group of toddlers, a jubilance (see also: a bewailing). A group of librarians is an enlightenment. A group of visual artists is a bioluminescence. A group of short story writers is a Flannery. A group of musicians is — a band.

A resplendence of poets.

A beacon of scientists.

A raft of social workers.

A group of first responders is a valiance. A group of peaceful protestors is a dream. A group of special education teachers is a transcendence. A group of neonatal ICU nurses is a divinity. A group of hospice workers, a grace.

Humans in the wild, gathered and feeling good, previously an exhilaration, now: a target.

A target of concert-goers.

A target of movie-goers.

A target of dancers.

A group of schoolchildren is a target.

july 22/SWIMRUN

swim: 1 loop
lake nokomis open swim
75 degrees
9:30 am

FWA did it! Today, he swam across the lake and back again. 1200 yards. It was fun to stop at the little beach and talk with other swimmers, while we took a break. We met an older woman, who loves to swim around the lake, even when it’s not open swim. She said her kids told her she better stop because the fine is big if you are caught. (I think it might be $2500!) One of her responses, Technically I’m not swimming across the lake, but around it. I like her.

The water was great for the swim: smooth, and not choppy at all. Much easier than when it’s windy. It has been fun training with FWA. I’m hoping he’ll swim some in August. What a gift to spend this time with my wonderful son!

run: 3 miles
marshall loop, shortened
80 degrees
11 am

A little while later, I ran with Scott. It was hot. We walked a lot, which was fine with me. A memorable sighting: an eagle circling around, high above us, riding a thermal. It took a while for me to be able to see it in my central vision, but finally I could. What a wing span!

The other day, searching for something else, I found this beautiful interview with Marie Howe from 2013 for Tricycle. She’s talking about losing her beloved brother Johnny and the space she had for grieving. These words fit with other words of her that I’ve read and loved and just used in my class. Putting them in the context of her grief makes them glow even brighter for me:

MH: That was really a big deal. I was given this place to be without any expectations really. And everything changed so that the particulars of life—this white dish, the shadow of the bottle on it—everything mattered so much more to me. And I saw what happened in these spaces. You can never even say what happened, because what happened is rarely said, but it occurs among the glasses with water and lemon in them. And so you can’t say what happened but you can talk about the glasses or the lemon. And that something is in between all that.

KPE: It’s like the Japanese esthetic word of ma. It’s so wonderful. The space between….

MH: This is the space I love more than anything. And this became very important, but there’s no way to describe that, except to describe “you and me.” And there’s the space. I make my students write 10 observations a week—really simple. Like, this morning I saw. . . , this morning I saw. . . , this morning I saw. . . —and they hate it. They always say, “This morning I saw ten lucky people.” And I say, “No. You didn’t see ten lucky people. What did you see?” And then they try to find something spectacular to see. And I say, “No.” It’s just, “What did you see?” “I saw the white towel crumpled on the blue tiles of the bathroom.” That’s all. No big deal. And then, finally, they begin to do it. It takes weeks. And then the white towels pour in and the blue tiles on the bathroom, and it’s so thrilling. It’s like, “Ding-a-ling, da-ding!” And some people never really take to it. But I insist on it. What you saw. What you heard. Just the facts, ma’am. The world begins to clank in the room, drop and fall, and clutter it up, and it’s so thrilling.

KPE: Because it clanks and falls?

MH: Yes! It does. It’s like, “Did you see it? Did you see it?” Everybody goes “Whoa!”

Marie Howe: The Space Between

It is thrilling to notice the world! To hear it clank and drop, watch it create clutter. This reminds me of 2 other things I have recently encountered, one for the first time, one again, after a few years.

First, this poem was posted on twitter the other day:

Do Not Ask Your Children To Strive for Extraordinary Things/ William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

The space between us, reminds me of Juliana Spahr’s amazing post 9-11 poem: This Connection of Everyone With Lungs

as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.