may 17/RUN

4.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
61 degrees

Yes! A good run. Felt strong and fast even though I wasn’t going that fast. Listened to headphones and tried to tune out everything. Enjoyed the 10 mph wind keeping me cool. I think I saw the man in black and I think it’s the same guy that I passed twice last week on the other side of the river. No longer in black (black pants, black jacket, black hood) but in dark shorts and a light colored shirt. I don’t remember much else from the run except for noticing the river a few times. Oh–and wanting to stop 2 tenths of a mile early because I was tired. I could feel myself almost stopping but then I didn’t. I kept running up the hill and made it to the top and my goal. A small victory.

Read an article about the poetry of place and encountered this line:

The achievement of oneness with nature in poems (and in life, for that matter) is more often than not, fake. Much more convincing is an honest failure.

The Poetry of Place

In running, I try to lose myself, to become one with the path or the wind or the river. It never works, usually because my body aches somewhere or I start worrying about something. But I do have flashes of forgetting, when I am just breathing and being. These flashes are hard to describe even as I’ve tried. I don’t think I’d like to be that untethered or lost all the time. And I’m not sure I’d call the lack of oneness a failure.

Field Guide to the Chaparral
Leah Naomi Green

The fire beetle only mates
when the chaparral is burning,

and the water beetle
will only mate in the rain.

In the monastery’s kitchen, the nuns
don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am,
that you were married before.

The woman you find attractive
does not believe me when I look at her kindly.

There are candescent people in the world.
It will only be love

that I love you with.
When we get home,

there will be our kitchen, the dishes undone.
There will be our bedroom.

What is it you eventually recognized
in my face that allowed you to believe me?

Beauty that did not come from you—
remember how it did not come from you?

As white sage does not come from the moon
but is found by it and lit.

The Buddhists say
that the front of the paper

cannot exist without the back.
Because there is a there,

there is a here. Chaparral,
the density of growth,

and the tattered chaps
the mappers wore

through it because they had to,
to keep walking without

being hurt. It is OK if we hurt
one another.

Chaparral needs fire.
(The pinecones would not open

otherwise.) Love needs lover,
whose last lover was flood.

The first time I read this poem, I didn’t know if I liked it, but now I know I do. I found it when I was looking for field guides and poetry. (I’m exploring forms for my running route poems/essays.) I love how she weaves in the insects and the chaparral. Speaking of field guides, I found some cool projects to do with younger kids–you can create a field guide of your local park or your backyard. Identifying the birds or trees or types of flowers. I wish my kids were 7 or 8 years younger. I’d create some field guides with them this summer. Maybe I’ll see if RJP’s up for it even though she’s 13 and too cool for stuff like that.

may 14/RUN

3.25 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
66 degrees

A nice morning for a run. Hardly any wind. Clear paths. Today, running south, I noticed the big boulders lining the path. How many? 5 or 6 spread out on the way to the falls. Ran the first half with headphones up above. The second, without down below, on the old path. Didn’t really look at the river much because I was tired and too focused on avoiding potholes and cracks. Heard the water falling (not trickling or gushing) down through the sewer pipe near 42nd street. Stopped at the drinking fountain at 35th street parking lot.

Birds Punctuate the Days
Joyce Clement

apostrophe
the nuthatch inserts itself
between feeder and pole

semicolon
two mallards drifting
one dunks for a snail

ellipses
a mourning dove
lifts off

asterisk
a red-eyed vireo catches
the crane fly midair

comma
a down feather
bobs between waves

exclamation point
wren on the railing
takes notice

colon
mergansers paddle toward
morning trout swirl

em dash
at dusk a wild goose
heading east

question mark
the length of silence
after a loon’s call

period
one blue egg all summer long
now gone

I love these haikus. My favorite? exclamation point/wren on the railing/takes notice

may 9/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.2 miles
basement, bike stand/treadmill
raining and 25 mph wind

Cold and windy today. There was a possibility of snow, but thankfully it never happened. 2.5 hours north in Duluth they got 8.5 inches. Glad to have the treadmill and my bike in the basement. Soon the bike will be liberated and we will travel to lake nokomis–open swim starts in a month!!–but not today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Mississippi River and my running routes along it, wanting to create a collection of poems highlighting landmarks on my run. Here’s a poem about the Mississippi River Gorge for inspiration (I don’t think I’ve posted this before.) Did you know that the Mississippi River Gorge, 4 blocks from my house, is a National Park? So cool.

And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal
Wang Ping, 1957

Do not move. Let me speak of a river in paradise
A turquoise gift from fiery stars that is paradise

How do you measure a river’s weight, color, smell, touch?
How do you feel the veins of sand in a breathing paradise?

Eons of earth story, long before rocks, plants or bones
Bulging with flesh and blood in every corner of paradise

You call me Old Man, 12,000 years old, but really I’m a baby of
River Warren, swollen with glacier water flooding the paradise

My torso sloughed by old ice, two cities on sandstone bluffs
Headwaters of a 2350-mile road towards the gulf of paradise

A walk along the beach, a bag of rocks, fossils and agates
Each tells stories of the river, land & life—a kinship of paradise

Come to me at dawn or dusk, by foot, canoe or a single shell
To greet eagles, cranes, fox, trees…a ten-mile gorge of paradise

Gar, bass, goldeye, redhorse, bowfin, stoneroller, buffalo, drum, sunfish
Sickleback, darter, walleye, dace, mooneye…in the waves of paradise

The St. Anthony Fall that walked up 10 miles from Fort Snelling
Clams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sand
From the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise

From time to time, I take you into the amniotic womb
A reminder of our origin from a black, red, white, blue paradise

Do not dam me. To move freely is to evolve is to live
Lock feeds fear feeds hate feeds violence to the base of paradise

The Mississippi, temple on earth, home of all living things
Would you tread with love, through the heart of paradise?

We are water—H2O—two hands under an open heart
Pulsing, dissolving, bonding the earth to a green paradise

Stop seeking before or after life, for a paradise
Already in us, in each cell of being that is paradise

may 4/RUN

2.25 miles
mississippi river road, north/south/north
71 degrees

Is everyone in Minneapolis out biking today? It seems like it. I’m glad I ran instead. I would have been scared to be on such crowded bike trails with my bad vision today. Not being able to bike as much as I’d like sucks. Did a combination of running and walking because I just ran 6 miles yesterday. So warm and sunny! My legs felt sore. Do I remember much of the run? Big groups of bikes on the road and the path. Not too many runners. Lots of traffic. The river was beautiful. What a day!

some 3 beat phrases:

what a day
it’s so hot
lots of bikes
stopped to walk
sun beats down
not much wind
green abounds
afternoon
legs are sore

eat my shorts
dive right in
shut your mouth
eat your greens
take the steps
on your left
river road

Summer Haibun
Aimee Nezhukumatathil

To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night. Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air

the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light

I’ve talked about it for awhile but I’d finally like to try writing a few haibuns about my running routes. A goal for this month! This example from Aimee Nezhukumatathil is beautiful. I love the line, “There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night.”


may 2/RUN

3.4 miles
mississippi river road path, south/mississippi river trail, north
46 degrees

About half of this run was on the paved path above the Mississippi River. I ran faster, listening to my latest running playlist, looking down at the river, leaning into the wind. The other half, after I turned around and made my way back up the hill and over the double bridge, was on a (mostly) abandoned trail midway above the gorge. First it was dirt, then broken chunks of asphalt mixed with mulching leaves, then slightly cracked asphalt sloping to one side. I put away my headphones and listened to water trickling. I watched the river flowing down to the falls. Studied the trail, trying not to twist my ankle or slip on some wet leaves. The first half was flat and faster, the second undulating mini hills winding around the gorge. I encountered runners and walkers and dogs and their owners. My most memorable interaction was with a chipmunk that darted out in front of me. A first–usually only squirrels cross my path. I can recall one other time a chipmunk darted in front of me. Biking with my daughter on the 5 mile wooded trail to Fort Snelling, a chipmunk scurried across the path and right into my wheel. Did it make it through the spokes or was it hit and then flung to the side? Just talked to my daughter about this story and she says that the chipmunk definitely made it through the spokes.I’m not sure, but it was knocked out or dead, lying on the side of the trail. Sad and strange.

Why are they called chipmunks? Here’s what Merriam Webster has to say: alteration of earlier chitmunk, probably from Ojibwa ačitamo·nʔ red squirrel

I call them chippies and, like squirrels and other rodents, find them to be irritating. They used to live in the garage of our old house and now, at our new one, they like to get trapped in the gutter on the side of the house, chirping and chipping and freaking out the dog.

I love this poem I found on The Rumpus for many reasons, including: the repetition and expansion and the flipping (and critique) of the nature poem about a mountain,

ANOTHER POEM ABOUT A MOUNTAIN/joseph rios

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a Mexican
fertilizing the lawn at a ski resort
at the foot of a mountain.

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a Chicano
attending a holistic retreat
at a ski resort looking out a window
at a Mexican fertilizing the lawn
at the foot of a mountain.

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a boy
who mows lawns with his father
then grows up to be a poet
looking out a window
at a Mexican fertilizing the lawn
at the foot of a mountain.

Another poem about a mountain
that wants to be about a gardener
mowing the lawn outside a hospital
in Fresno, which, like this, sits
between two rows of mountain,
where the boy cried for his father
and his brother, the convicted felon
with dog paws tattooed to his neck,
hugged him for the first time, long before
the boy came to the ski resort to write about
the man fertilizing the foot of the mountain.

april 27/RUN

4.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
45 degrees

A good run. Could feel that my cadence was faster. More flying. Enjoyed listening to music. Not too many people out on the path. In southern Minnesota they’re expected to get 4 to 8 inches of snow but here barely even a drop of rain. Nice. I’m done with snow. Don’t remember much from the run except for enjoying going faster. Did my left thigh feel a little tight towards the end? I think so. Noticed all the green in the gorge. Pretty soon, my view will be covered. Looked at the river but don’t remember anything about it–brown, I think. Counted different layers of clothing left by the side of the path–overdressed runners? A black stocking cap. A black sweatshirt. Anything else?

I love this poem about remembering a dead mother. Such a beautiful capturing of that feeling–a sudden rush of remembering!

Wondrous/sarah frelight

I’m driving home from school when the radio talk
turns to E.B. White, his birthday, and I exit
the here and now of the freeway at rush hour,

travel back into the past, where my mother is reading
to my sister and me the part about Charlotte laying her eggs
and dying, and though this is the fifth time Charlotte

has died, my mother is crying again, and we’re laughing
at her because we know nothing of loss and its sad math,
how every subtraction is exponential, how each grief

multiplies the one preceding it, how the author tried
seventeen times to record the words She died alone
without crying, seventeen takes and a short walk during

which he called himself ridiculous, a grown man crying
for a spider he’d spun out of the silk thread of invention —
wondrous how those words would come back and make

him cry, and, yes, wondrous to hear my mother’s voice
ten years after the day she died — the catch, the rasp,
the gathering up before she could say to us, I’m OK.

This poem is one sentence. What a sentence!

april 23/RUN

5.4 miles
franklin hill turn around
49 degrees

Intended to think about the light (so bright today) or green but didn’t. Listened to my new playlist, including a few songs from Lizzo’s new album, and forgot about almost everything. When I want to get lost in the run and make time meaningless (and nearly measureless), I listen to my headphones–it also usually helps me to experience a superficial runner’s high. I did manage to think about a few things: No green above the forest floor. Greeted the Daily Walker. Felt strong and steady and hot–one too many layers. Can’t remember smelling anything or looking at the river more than once. Noticed two runners ahead of me. One walking, then running, then walking again. The other always running. Both faster than me. Studied the uneven path, making sure not to twist my foot. Encountered one goose, down near the flats, sitting in the grass.

Spending a few more minutes thinking about what I do/don’t remember from this run, I remembered something else. As I listened to Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” I thought about femininity and being bad ass (I sped up a little during this song) and what it means to be “like a girl.” For me, I’m not sure. I identify more as Sara than as a gender, but as a former feminist/queer theorist, I’ve thought a lot about performances of gender–read and taught Iris Marion Young’s iconic essay, “Throwing Like a Girl” and Judith Butler’s line from Gender Trouble (citing Aretha Franklin) about feeling like a natural woman. Lizzo has a line in the chorus: “if you feel like a girl, then you real like a girl.” So packed with meaning, powerful! Then I found a quote from her, which really speaks to why I noticed the line and like it so much:

When we got to the bridge, I realized there was an important piece missing: What if you identify as female but aren’t gender-assigned that at birth? Or what if you’re male but in touch with your feminine side? What about my gay boys? What about my drag queens? So I decided to say, If you feel like like a girl/Then you real like a girl, and that’s my favorite lyric on the whole album.

Lizzo on Apple Music

Found my notes for April 23, 2018 in my running notebook. All about layers and inner and outer weather. I’ve been trying to write about layers for over a year now. Will it ever click? Not sure. At the top of the page, I wrote: attention distraction/ distraction attention/ wandering between/ boundary/ border/ layer Two years ago, wrote a lyric essay about attention and distraction. Maybe I should turn it into a poem?

Discovered this beautiful poem this morning:

The End and the Beginning
BY WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA
TRANSLATED BY JOANNA TRZECIAK

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

april 12/RUN

2 miles
basement, treadmill

Snowing again today. Wet, sloppy paths. But soon the snow will melt and it will turn green. Too green. Time to take up my project of collecting poetry about green and thinking about the Mississippi River Gorge in the spring.

Just found a wonderfully named essay, Green I Love You Green and this fabulous poem:

Inside Out/Bill Yake

trees are our lungs turned inside out
& inhale our visible chilled breath.

our lungs are trees turned inside out
& inhale their clear exhalations.

Love these ideas of trees and breathing and inside/outside!

april 11/RUN

2.8 miles
basement, treadmill

Winter storm warning outside. High winds, heavy snow, falling branches, covered path. School cancelled. So glad we have a treadmill. Although, if it weren’t so windy, I might have enjoyed running outside and hearing the satisfying squeaks and crunches of the heavy, water-logged snow. I’m not happy about this snow, but I also don’t really care. It will melt within a few days.

Ballad in A
BY CATHY PARK HONG

A Kansan plays cards, calls Marshall
a crawdad, that barb lands that rascal a slap;  
that Kansan jackass scats,
camps back at caballada ranch.

Hangs kack, ax, and camp hat.
Kansan’s nag mad and rants can’t bask,
can’t bacchanal and garland a lass,
can’t at last brag can crack Law’s balls,

Kansan’s cantata rang at that ramada ranch,
Mañana, Kansan snarls, I’ll have an armada
and thwart Law’s brawn,
slam Law a damn mass war path.

Marshall’s a marksman, maps Kansan’s track,
calm as a shaman, sharp as a hawk,
Says: That dastard Kansan’s had
and gnaws lamb fatback.

At dawn, Marshall stalks that ranch,
packs a gat and blasts Kansan’s ass
and Kansan gasps, blasts back.
A flag flaps at half-mast.

What a poem! I love writing under constraint, although limiting all vowels to A seems extra hard. (here’s a guide to the poem.) This technique of eliminating all vowels but A is a OuLiPo technique. Here are some others I found on Wikipedia–I’ll have to try them out.

S+7, sometimes called N+7
Replace every noun in a text with the seventh noun after it in a dictionary. For example, “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago…” becomes “Call me islander. Some yeggs ago…”. Results will vary depending upon the dictionary used. This technique can also be performed on other lexical classes, such as verbs.

Snowball
A poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer.

Lipogram
Writing that excludes one or more letters. The previous sentence is a lipogram in B, F, J, K, Q, V, Y, and Z (it does not contain any of those letters).

april 6/RUNBIKE

1.75 miles
basement, treadmill

30 minutes
basement, bike stand

Wanted to run outside this morning but it kept raining. Of course, now that I’m done, it has stopped. Still gloomy and wet. But my back doesn’t hurt and I feel good and I found a new show that I love watching–Father Brown–and I’m in the midst of an exciting writing project and open water swimming is only 2 months away, so I’m fine.

I love my poetry class. Amazingly, I feel totally fine about not being very good at analyzing poems or giving other people feedback about their poems. There is so much I don’t know or I can’t quite get (yet) about line breaks and rhythm and ending lines on strong words or soft words. The trick for me is to study these techniques without having them take over my writing.

Introduction to Poetry
BY BILLY COLLINS

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

april 3/RUN

3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
49 degrees
bare legs!

Took a few days off of running. Partly because my back was sore, partly because we took a mini trip to Duluth. All the snow is melted, all the paths are clear. Listened to my playlist and didn’t think about much. Looked down and noticed the white sand beach way below the path, between the lake street bridge and the greenway. I will have to explore it this spring. Wore shorts and wasn’t too cold. No gloves. No buff. Next Monday the high is supposed to be 71!

Encountered this poem a few weeks ago and wanted to remember it. Love the repetition and the exploration of metaphors and similes.

Neighbor Sweeping His Porch
Keith Leonard

He sweeps, and gray plumes of pollen
cloud waist-high behind him.
My neighbor sweeps the porch as slowly
as a gondolier rows at sunset.
His tie is loose at the neck
but still fastened to his shirt by a clip.
At the edge of the porch, he sweeps
in quick spurts like a telemarketer
before the customer quits.
He sweeps possibly without thinking.
He wears the crown of forgetting.
His kingdom is the name
of that actress in that movie.
He has swept so long
he is last September’s sunlight.
His broom replaces the wet leaves
with order, a second thing like snow.

march 29/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, south/north
43 degrees

Turned right instead of left and ran in the afternoon instead of the morning today. Felt harder. Hotter. A few more people out on the trail. Stopped at the halfway point to take off my sweatshirt then spent the second half of the run fiddling with the sleeves tied around my waist. Listened to headphones so I didn’t hear my shuffling feet or trickling water or barking dogs, chirping birds, whirring wheels or anything else.


march 20/RUN

4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
38 degrees
99% clear path

The first day of spring! The snow continues to melt, the path continues to get clearer. Listened to my playlist so I didn’t hear any birds or melting snow or gabbing geese. Ran faster. Smiled more. Felt overheated–too many layers. Sometimes the sun was out, sometimes it wasn’t. Never enough for me to see my shadow. Everything is still brown. No green yet. Definitely no flowers. Hopefully no more snow.

Before going out for my run, worked on a poem I’m doing about vision and my inability to see when/if people are trying to make contact with me. Mostly I can see people’s eyes–at least that they have them and the whites and the pupils. But I can’t see when the pupils move, when they shift, expand, contract. So I can’t always tell when people are looking at me. It makes reading people difficult.

As I’ve been think/write/research more on vision, I’ve encountered some interesting stuff, including a few articles about Emily Dickinson and how her temporary vision problems influenced some of her poetry, like this poem:

Before I got my eye put out – (336)
BY EMILY DICKINSON

Before I got my eye put out –
I liked as well to see
As other creatures, that have eyes –
And know no other way –

But were it told to me, Today,
That I might have the Sky
For mine, I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me –

The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take –
Between my finite eyes –

The Motions of the Dipping Birds –
The Morning’s Amber Road –
For mine – to look at when I liked,
The news would strike me dead –

So safer – guess – with just my soul
Opon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes –
Incautious – of the Sun –

march 15/RUN

2.75 miles
basement, treadmill
100% icy sidewalks outside

Back to the treadmill today. After the Great Melt of 2019–9 inches of snow gone in just 2 days!–it got cold again. Too icy on the sidewalks for me. Maybe someday the treadmill will inspire great thoughts or provide awesome runner’s highs, but not today. That’s okay. I’m just happy to be moving.

Last night I had my first advanced poetry class. The best! I am so excited to be taking it and to get to be with other writers. In our first session, we read and discussed Naomi Shihab Nye’s prose poem Yellow Glove about a girl who loses one of her yellow gloves. I was reminded of a little poem I wrote about a black glove that I used to see running south on the river road:

black glove

for the past month
every time I run south
on the river road I greet
one black glove
fitted over a branch
upright and open
waving hello.
where did the runner go
who left this here?
don’t they miss it? and
why not leave the pair
together to keep each other company?
maybe the glove isn’t saying hello
but pleading with me to stop
to listen to its lament
to look for its partner.
someday I’d like to find the trail
with the right one—
the one that isn’t left
on the path I run regularly—
and rescue it
reuniting it with its twin.

I’d like to do more with this idea of abandoned gloves and other items of clothing on the trail. What might they be doing when we’re not looking?

Here’s a poem I encountered this morning. What a poem. I love her use of the abecedarian form. So many wonderful lines: “wherever he stops, kids grow like gourds from women’s bellies””some white god came floating across the ocean” and “You better hope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they’ll be marching you off to
Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they’ve mapped out for us.”

Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation
BY NATALIE DIAZ

Angels don’t come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.
Coyotes, too. They all mean the same thing—
death. And death
eats angels, I guess, because I haven’t seen an angel
fly through this valley ever.
Gabriel? Never heard of him. Know a guy named Gabe though—
he came through here one powwow and stayed, typical
Indian. Sure he had wings,
jailbird that he was. He flies around in stolen cars. Wherever he stops,
kids grow like gourds from women’s bellies.
Like I said, no Indian I’ve ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel.
Maybe in a Christmas pageant or something—
Nazarene church holds one every December,
organized by Pastor John’s wife. It’s no wonder
Pastor John’s son is the angel—everyone knows angels are white.
Quit bothering with angels, I say. They’re no good for Indians.
Remember what happened last time
some white god came floating across the ocean?
Truth is, there may be angels, but if there are angels
up there, living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearing
velvet robes and golden rings, drinking whiskey from silver cups,
we’re better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and
’xactly where they are—in their own distant heavens.
You better hope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they’ll be marching you off to
Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they’ve mapped out for us.

march 13/RUN

2.5 miles
basement, treadmill
100% huge puddles hiding invisible slick spots outside

Happy to have the treadmill again today but disappointed in the weather. As Scott pointed out when I complained, it could be worse. Farther west today in the Plains and Denver winter storm Ulmer–yes, that’s what they’ve named it–is hitting. A nasty blizzard. Even so, the conditions here suck. We have flood warnings. Rain + melting snow + clogged sewer drains = yuck. So dreary to look out of my upstairs window and see a grayish brownish sludgy soup on the street. Managed to walk the dog for one block and almost fell at least 3 times. Deep puddles hiding sneaky slick spots. Didn’t think about much on the treadmill. Just stared at the letters on a box on a ledge in front of me and listened to my running playlist. Well, I did think about how much faster I thought I was running than the treadmill or my watch say. Also wondered how the gorge was doing today.

My poem for today comes from Didi Jackson. I heard it on Tracy K. Smith’s wonderful podcast, The Slowdown. It’s called Listen, which is something I’ve been working on doing ever since I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease in 2016. It’s even more important now since I found out from my eye doctor on Monday that my central vision has gotten worse. In my left eye, my central vision is 98% gone. The 2% remaining is in the very center and is almost gone too. I saw it on a scan of my retina–a pale yellow dot in a sea of darkish grayish black. My right eye is a little better. Only 70% totally gone. My doctor’s prediction: My central vision will be totally destroyed within the next 5 years. His suggestion: “Get your hearing checked. You’re going to need it.” So, I will listen. I read a tip on a low vision site for how not to spill when you’re filling up a cup: Listen. You can hear when the cup is full. I’ll have to practice that.

Listen
by Didi Jackson

Like a hundred gray ears
the river stones are layered

in a pile near the shed where mourning
doves slow their peck and bobble to listen

to a chorus of listening.
Small buds on the lilac perk up.

A cardinal’s torpedoed call comes
in slow waves of four,

round after round. It’s a love call;
a call to make him known to himself.

The stones listen harder,
decipher the song; attempt

to offer back its echo.
But fail.

This is not a poem of coming Spring.
This is a poem well aware

that gray flesh is dead flesh.
All of the ripe listening

comes at a cost. The first
sky is in all skies.

The first song
is in all songs.

march 12/RUN

2.5 miles
basement, treadmill
100% cold, gloomy, icy rain outside

Scott finally decided he was over this winter. So he bought a treadmill. I hope I don’t have to use it very often, but it was nice today. Give me 15 below and blowing snow. I’ll go running. But freezing drizzle, blustery wind, jagged ice rutted paths, and slippery sidewalks? Nope. Too dangerous. And miserable. What a mess outside! And so dreary.

Cell
BY NAOMI COHN

The blood of language moves through the word cell from monk’s cell to prison cell to biological cell. I don’t know why a Braille cell is called a cell. I don’t know how many blood cells Louis Braille lost when the awl he was playing with as a small child slipped and injured his eye.

Red blood cells live some hundred days before they are worn out by their silent hustle—looping and looping, pounded through the heart’s chambered cathedral, rushing out to the farthest reaches of the body with the good news of oxygen, squeezing single file along capillaries, like anxious deer probing their tracks through the woods. Rushing, silent, looping the circuits of the body. Again, again, again. Load iron. Dump iron. Load dump squeeze hustle.

Red blood cells pushed through the capillaries that pushed through my 
retinas. They broke loose to run a green swarm in the corral of my eye. But that is history. Today cells still push through the capillaries fenced off by my calloused fingerprint. This one that I run over the Braille cell, the pattern of bumps.

A red blood cell is measured in microns. A solitary prison cell is measured in feet. Six feet by nine feet or less. I don’t know what the unit of measure is for how living in solitary changes a person. We know that living in a confined space, without access to the long view or landscape, changes the eye. The eye, for lack of practice, loses its ability to make out what lies in the distance. I don’t have a unit of measure for what this does to the heart.

A Braille cell is measured in spaces in a grid—two across by three down—that can be filled with a raised dot or bump. Different combinations of dots represent different letters, punctuation, symbols, shorthand.

The oldest cell I find in the dictionary is the monastic cell, a place for contemplation. From the concealed place where wine was stored. As in cellar. I find Braille contemplative. I touch my index finger to a bumpy piece of paper. My hand advances slowly left to right, the touch receptors in my finger triggered by the uneven contact of paper and skin. Messages run along nerves, finger-to-brain, brain-to-finger. Cognition sizzles. Mind notices this feels different than the pathway of sound in ear to auditory processing. Listening pulls me out into the world in an infinity of directions. Touching my reading educates me on my exact location in the world, feet in shoes, weight of foot on ground, weight of bones and flesh in chair.



march 7/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
95% snow-covered
16 degrees/feels like 16

Wow, the birds really think it’s spring. So chatty! I guess nobody told them we’re getting a foot of snow this weekend. Didn’t wear my yaktrax, which was a big mistake. The path was extra snowy because the plows had come through again, moving out more snow and making little mountains in the process. Greeted the Daily Walker and a few other runners. The soft, small mounds of snow all over the path made it much harder to move my legs. Listened to a playlist and felt a happy buzz around mile 2. Jamie Quatro’s first layer of the runner’s high (from “Running as Prayer”). I think I only get these highs when I’m listening to music–the ones where I feel intensely euphoric, invincible. Glanced at the river but I can’t remember what it looked like–was it open? I think I heard the geese honking at some point, but it was hard to tell with Fleetwood Mac singing about mountains and getting older and needing to change and snow-covered hills.

clothing layers: black shirt, orange shirt, vest, buff, gloves, visor. A rare occasion of wearing just the right amount of layers.

path layers: the smallest sliver of bare pavement near the lake street bridge, slick ice, hard packed snow, soft not quite settled or compressed snow, snow ledges on the edges of the path, big chunks of old snow, little mounds of snow scattered all around

I’ve been mentioning hearing geese honking a lot lately. Here are 2 very different poems that feature geese:

Wild Geese/mary oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Seasons/John Haag

1

Clouds so thick
they put down
roots

Young aspen
practising
quakers

Incoming geese
Periwinkle sign passports
brings remission with a V
of the blues

Feel the sun
butting the buds
open

Blossoms
Trout lilies nod expand
they know the sky
they know

Lilac
a scent by which
we mark the calendar

Weather report
May? showers
By all means and fresh rainbows
Yes. You May

2

Crickets
ventriloquists
of summer

Loon cries
increase the loneliness
of lakes

It’s untrue
They leave that that bats
to the silence make it darker
of owls

Morning warblers
refresh
the joy of hearing

Comes the hedgehog
And the bumblebee who lives on pins
non-aerodynamic and needles
existentialist

Horses stand
awash
in the setting sun

Anticipate
Nighthawks if you can
swoop the firefly’s flash
gathering the evening

3

Prophetic winds fill
the graveyard
with signposts

Then a scurry
of stormspurred
sparrows

A lamentation of geese
Hummingbird leaves in the early
to cruise dusk
the Carribean

Squirrels
pad
their acorn accounts

Cedar waxwing
Blue jay insists feathered scholar
it’s never too late knows his berries
to scold

Grackle
predicts a turn
for the worse

Flies buzz
in this cast-iron against the chill
autumn pane
stained with rust

4

Fly husks on sills
reflect
the year’s demise

Ptarmigan advises
“kuk-kuk-kuk
go back-goback”

Deer bundle
Coyote lingers in the laurel
to school us thickets
in survival

Fashionable spruce
knows how
to wear snow

Strange angels
Frostfeathers leave their three-D
lace shadows
the cabin glass

Cabin Fever
medicine
runs low

As
Days does
begin the woodpile

Oliver’s “Wild Geese” was one of the first poems I memorized while I was injured 2 summers ago. I still love it. Today is my introduction to John Haag–I did a search on poetry foundation for “geese.” So much fun. They only had one other poem of his online. It’s great too.

feb 26/RUN

3.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
2 degrees/feels like -8
100% snow-covered

Snow again. All set to go, heading out the door, looked down at the sidewalk and it was white. What? Looked up at the sky: falling snow. Wasn’t expecting that. Oh well, went out for a run anyway, wondering what the people in the cars driving by were thinking about me running and slipping on the icy sidewalks, scaling tall, misshapen mounds of snow created by the snow plow. Listened to my playlist today, which was a nice distraction from the wet, sharp shards of snow hitting my face and settling on my eyelashes. Didn’t feel much wind, but the light snow was always in my face, coating the slightly unzipped part of my jacket and the tops of my gloves. Greeted the Daily Walker and a few other runners. Encountered at least 2 fat tires. Quickly glanced at the river. All I could see was grayish white, whiteish gray. Devoted a lot of attention to watching the path and avoiding big ice chunks or slick spots. Wanted to think about the cold today and how it feels but it was hard because I didn’t really feel that cold. Maybe because of all of the layers?

layers: green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket, gray jacket, 2 pairs of running tight, extra long light weight fish scale socks, shorter heavier dog paw socks, a buff, a hood, a visor, gloves, mittens, headphones

I don’t remember breathing in the cold deeply. And it wasn’t cold enough for the snot to freeze in my nose. My face burned a bit but my fingers were fine. So were my toes. I guess the thing I remember most about the cold is how it lingers. Taking off my running layers when I got home, my torso was very cold, so were my legs. Now, an hour later, I still feel cold.

Listening to a poem about winter by Mark Strand (Lines for Winter), I wrote a few phrases in my journal that I liked:

“gray falls from the air” “the dome of dark” “the tune your bones play” What tune do my bones play?

Yesterday I mentioned the rhythms I started chanting at the end of my run: 1 2 3/45 or 54/321. I wrote them in my journal and translated them into meter: 1 2 3/45 becomes an anapest/troche or unstressed unstressed stressed/stressed unstressed. This afternoon, as I look out my upstairs window–the half of it that isn’t yet blocked by packed snow on the porch roof–at the snow, I’ll try adding words to the beats.

My poem for today is a wonderful Ars Poetica (a poem about the art of poetry):

To the New Journal
Susan Rich

after W. S. Merwin

Let’s just listen—

before the spent words and the hidden nests
of sentences begin, before the musical count

of vowels and consonants, the ink

not yet slippery with wild grief
or souped-up grandeur.

I wish to arrange you—

with a few half-formed couplets—
inquiries without answers.

But what can we do? These mountains are still

young and rising, I write. Yet,
even the fields call to an orchestra of stars.

Even the birds sing to-do lists.

Even the birds sing to-do lists. Love this line.

feb 14/RUN

3.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
23 degrees
99% snow-covered

Ran with a playlist today so I didn’t hear anything but Beck, Lizzo, Ke$ha, Queen and Justin Timberlake. The path continues to be covered with snow and is slick. Very tiring on the legs. Not much traction. The wind was blowing in my face as I ran north so I knew it would be at my back running south, which made me smile. It was almost too bright when I started but by halfway, a few clouds had moved in and it was overcast. With quick glances, I noticed: the trail of open water in the Mississippi and the snow-laden branches of the oaks and maples and cottonwood in the floodplain forest. Anything else? I can’t remember.

Yesterday I started reading Linda Barry’s What It Is. I was struck by her mention of inside and outside. “Images are found in by through the action between inside and outside. I’ve been thinking a lot about inside and outside lately. What is inside? What is outside? What is it that separates them? Skin? The self? The body? Layers of clothing? A window? Door? The gorge? The leaves of the trees?

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Inside and Outside. Linda Barry/ What It Is

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Inner and Outer Weather

Ever since encountering Edward Hirsch’s great line about inner and outer weather–“Wandering, reading, writing–these three adventures are for me intimately linked. They are all ways of observing both the inner and outer weather, of being carried away, of getting lost and returning.”–I’ve been thinking about weather and the relationship between things like wind or humidity and my thoughts, feelings, writing. I’ve been thinking about making it the focus of another chapbook. The phrase, “inner and outer weather” was originally in a Robert Frost poem.

Tree at My Window

Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.

Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.

But, tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.

That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

Robert Frost, West-Running Brook (1928).

jan 27/RUN

3.25 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
4 degrees/feels like -14
100% snow-covered

Today it was cold. I have run in colder weather at least once (jan 2, 2018) when it was 0 and felt like 20 below, but today’s feels like 14 below has to rank as one of the coldest runs. Mostly, I enjoyed it. I didn’t feel too cold. Started loosening my layers about a mile in. Was fine with only one pair of gloves. Listened to headphones and felt disconnected. Also felt distracted by layers covering my ears–headphones, music, a buff, a hood, a thick hat–and layers of concern clouding my mood–was my knee okay or was it a mistake to run today? I think my left knee is okay but I’m planning to take a few days off from running. Conveniently, we are expecting a big winter storm and dangerous wind chills until Thursday so even if I wanted to run, I couldn’t.  The path was totally covered with snow and a little slick. I didn’t slip but it was harder to get traction. Encountered a few runners, walkers and dogs. No fat tires. No squirrels. No sleds or skis. Don’t think I looked at the river even once. Too busy trying to stay warm and upright. When I started running, there were patches of blue sky but by the time I was done, it was all gray. A snow storm moving in. Barely noticed the snow crunching under my feet. Instead I heard Beck and Lizzo and Ke$ha.

Speaking of layers, which I’m doing a lot these days, I found a great poem about onions:

Monologue for an Onion
Suji Kwock Kim

I don’t mean to make you cry.
I mean nothing, but this has not kept you
From peeling away my body, layer by layer,

The tears clouding your eyes as the table fills
With husks, cut flesh, all the debris of pursuit.
Poor deluded human: you seek my heart.

Hunt all you want. Beneath each skin of mine
Lies another skin: I am pure onion–pure union
Of outside and in, surface and secret core.

Look at you, chopping and weeping. Idiot.
Is this the way you go through life, your mind
A stopless knife, driven by your fantasy of truth,

Of lasting union–slashing away skin after skin
From things, ruin and tears your only signs
Of progress? Enough is enough.

You must not grieve that the world is glimpsed
Through veils. How else can it be seen?
How will you rip away the veil of the eye, the veil

That you are, you who want to grasp the heart
Of things, hungry to know where meaning
Lies. Taste what you hold in your hands: onion-juice,

Yellow peels, my stinging shreds. You are the one
In pieces. Whatever you meant to love, in meaning to
You changed yourself: you are not who you are,

Your soul cut moment to moment by a blade
Of fresh desire, the ground sown with abandoned skins.
And at your inmost circle, what? A core that is

Not one. Poor fool, you are divided at the heart,
Lost in its maze of chambers, blood, and love,
A heart that will one day beat you to death