april 8/RUN

3.25 miles
river road path, south/river road, path, north/edmund, south
50 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 39 (MN)/ 12, 912 (US)

Yesterday in the late afternoon it was almost 70 degrees! Today, at 8:45 am, 50! Wow. It’s warming up. Having windows open, hearing more birds, feeling the sun on bare arms. It all helps me to endure this terrible pandemic. Ran on the river road path heading towards the falls. Not too many people. Ran back on the part of the road that has been temporarily turned into a pedestrian path. More people out today, but still not bad. 6+ feet of distance the whole way! I liked running above the river although I can’t remember what I saw or heard below. Too busy listening to a playlist, I guess. Ran my second mile faster then took a quick walk break before running by the ravine and the welcoming oaks. Saw a few runners, walkers, dogs, bikers. No roller skiers. No Dave, the Daily Walker. No shadows–mine, or planes, or big birds. Usually, there is a constant buzz or hum or rumble of a plane somewhere overhead. How many planes are flying out of Minneapolis right now? (Looked it up: about 100 flights listed for the day, 47 of them cancelled. Not sure how that compares to a “normal” day. Still seems like too many flights to me. )

Update on planes: Sitting at my desk with the window open, writing this, I am hearing a plane roaring above me. It’s the first one I’ve noticed in a while.


I like the idea of this poem–reflecting on what you didn’t know you loved until finally you did. I like how it’s a list–a long list. I’m thinking that this poem could be an inspiration for a poem about what I didn’t see. Maybe what I’m not seeing during this pandemic? Things I don’t realize I’m missing until suddenly I do? Perhaps this is a variation on a writing prompt I created: #61 Run beside the gorge. Afterwards, think about your run in terms of what wasn’t there, but usually is. Make a list of what you missed. Write a poem that creates something out of that lack.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved/ Nazim Hikmet – 1902-1963

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain 
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it 
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                         and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before 
                         and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky 
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish 
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard 
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest 
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish 
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
                         lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief 
                                        to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads 
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea 
                                                          Koktebele
                               formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish 
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute 
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
                                        when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take 
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play 
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
                                       going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand 
   his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
      with a sable collar over his robe
   and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
   and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason 
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika 
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky 
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars 
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below 
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts 
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
                             or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t 
   be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract 
   well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to 
   say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them 
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad 
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind 
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors 
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
                             except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois 
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my 
   heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop 
   and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved 
   rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting 
   by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette 
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty 
   to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
   watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

                                                     19 April 1962
                                                     Moscow

march 30/RUN

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

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

Run with/without headphones, an experiment

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

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

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

without headphones

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

With Headphones, Listening to Playlist

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

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

excerpt from I’m So Free/ Beck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later, during a deck do-nothing

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

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

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

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

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

march 23/RUN

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

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

the birds aren’t coming back, they never left

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

some delightful sounds

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

1

Dripping in the gutters, 2 ways

2

water bubbling near a neighbor’s foundation

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

Goodbye to Tolerance/ Denise Levertov

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

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

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

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

march 18/RUN

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

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

the woodpecker

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


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

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

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


corona virus update

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

march 3/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
39 degrees
clear path

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

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

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

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

before we came to believe humans were so important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Joy/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

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

How wonderful it is to move!

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

feb 27/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
26 degrees
100% clear!

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow and Tomorrow Again/ Craig Morgan Teicher

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

Eye Contact/ Craig Morgan Teicher

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

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

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

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


2

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

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

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

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


3

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

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

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

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


4

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

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

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

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


freeze-thaw, a different perspective

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

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

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

feb 25/RUN

3.3 miles
ford bridge turn around
40 degrees

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

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

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

Oh my god, this poem!

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

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

A Skull/ Dana Levin

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

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

                      with a pin—

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

feb 6/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
27 degrees
100% clear

1

Sun! Sun! Sun! Didn’t realize how much I was missing the sun until it came back and I was able to see shadows everywhere.

2

Heard the birds as I was heading to the river and thought about how clichéd it seems to mention chirping birds and then that I still like mentioning them and then how I wish I could identify birds better or had better words for describing their sound and then that the simple word, “bird” and the sound description “chirp” still give me a thrill so I’m fine not searching for fancier words right now. I’ll spend my time enjoying the sound of birds chirping. Of course, now that I have made this declaration I had to look up synonyms for chirp: cheep, peep, trill, warble, and purl. Purl fascinates me. So many definitions and room for synonyms! I always thought of it in terms of knitting, but it also can be defined as:

  1. a purling, swirling stream or rill (a gentle brook)
  2. a gentle murmur or movement (purling water)
  3. to make the soft, murmuring sound like that of a purling stream

3

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. Admired the floodplain forest. No snow on the trees today, just carpeting the floor. The river had a few ice floes but was mostly open. Ran into the wind. It felt hard. Heard my breathing and my feet shuffling on the grit. Stopped for a almost a minute to put my headphones in at the turn around. Ran back a little faster. Sprinted up the final hill. Did I look foolish to the drivers? Why do I care? Forgot to look down at the ravine at the end of my run.

4

Trying to remember some deep and helpful thought I had as I was starting out. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s good. I should remember that.” Now I can’t remember it.

5

Last night, driving on the river road in the winter dark of early evening, I noticed runners on the path, some running in packs, others alone. Some with headlamps, others with super bright reflective shirts. I said to Scott and my daughter, “I always say I would never want to run at night, that it would be miserable, but I also used to say that about cold winter running and I love it now. Maybe if I tried running at night, I’d love it too?” Then, Scott said, “But how can you run in the dark with your vision?” And my daughter added, “and because you’re a woman?” Sigh. A sad truth. My failing vision is a bummer, but I see my fear as a woman running in the dark by herself as much more of a burden/hindrance.

6

Randomly found this poem and I love it. I was drawn to the title, wondering what the hell it meant. Then the first stanza sucked me in.

I Heart Your Dog’s Head/ Erin Belieu

I’m watching football, which is odd as
I hate football
in a hyperbolic and clinically revealing way,
but I hate Bill Parcells more,
because he is the illuminated manuscript
of cruel, successful men, those with the slitty eyes of ancient reptiles,
who wear their smugness like a tight white turtleneck,
and revel in their lack of empathy
for any living thing.
So I’m watching football, staying up late to watch football,
hoping to witness (as I think of it)
The Humiliation of the Tuna
(as he is called),
which is rightly Parcells’s first time back in the Meadowlands
since taking up with the Cowboys,
who are, as we all know,
thugs, even by the NFL’s standards. The reasons

I hate football are clear and complicated and were born,
as I was, in Nebraska,
where football is to life what sleep deprivation is
to Amnesty International, that is,
the best researched and most effective method
of breaking a soul. Yes,
there’s the glorification of violence, the weird nexus
knitting the homo, both phobic and erotic,
but also, and worse, my parents in 1971, drunk as
Australian parrots in a bottlebush, screeching
WE’RE #1, WE’RE #1!
when the Huskers finally clinched the Orange Bowl,
the two of them
bouncing up and down crazily on the couch, their index
fingers jutting holes through the ubiquitous trail of smoke rings
that was the weather in our house,
until the whole deranged mess that was them,
my parents, the couch, their lit cigarettes,
flipped over backward onto my brother and me. My husband
thinks that’s a funny story and, in an effort to be a “good sport,”
I say I think it is, too.

Which leads me to recall the three Chihuahuas
who’ve spent the fullness of their agitated lives penned
in the back of my neighbor’s yard.
Today they barked continuously for 12 minutes (I timed it) as
the UPS guy made his daily round.
They bark so piercingly, they tremble with such exquisite outrage,
that I’ve begun to root for them, though it’s fashionable
to hate them and increasingly dark threats
against their tiny persons move between the houses on our block.
But isn’t that what’s wrong with this version of America:
the jittering, small-skulled, inbred-by-no-choice-
of-their-own are despised? And Bill Parcells—
the truth is he’ll win
this game. I know it and you know it and, sadly,
did it ever seem there was another possible outcome?

It’s a small deposit,
but I’m putting my faith in reincarnation. I need to believe
in the sweetness of one righteous image,
in Bill Parcells trapped in the body of a teacup poodle,
as any despised thing,
forced to yap away his next life staked to
a clothesline pole or doing hard time on a rich old matron’s lap,
dyed lilac to match her outfit.

I love the way the final stanza brings it all together. And I love the small deposit of faith and “doing hard time on a rich old matron’s lap, dyed lilac to match her outfit” and “But isn’t that what’s wrong with this version of America:/ jittering, small-mulled, inbred-by-no-choice-/ of-their-own are despised?”

jan 25/RUN

5.2 miles
franklin hill turn around
31 degrees
30-40% snow and ice covered

Hooray for great runs! Hooray for clearer paths! Hooray for strong legs and adequate knees and functioning feet! I wasn’t planning to run to the bottom of the franklin hill but I did. The path was not perfect–icy and slushy spots, but I didn’t fall or get too tired. Ran straight into the wind heading north. Had it at my back on the return trip. Encountered many other runners, a few fat tires. No skiers. A dog or two. Heard a few birds–no geese or crows. Glanced at the river at least once. Dark brown, then half white. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker near the end of my run. I called out, “What a great day to be out!” Anything else? Forgot to look at the river when I reached the bottom of the hill, so I have no idea if it was moving and how fast.

One of my sisters posted a link to a gigantic list of collective nouns for animals. So cool! My favorite from the Sea Animal list: a shiver of sharks, a glint of goldfish, and a squad of squid, or a squid squad.

This has me wondering what a group of Saras might be called.

  • a satchel of Saras
  • a sink of Saras
  • a swarm of Saras
  • a swath of Saras
  • a swirl of Saras
  • a shiver of Saras
  • a nest of Saras
  • a charm of Saras
  • a stand of Saras
  • a squad of Saras
  • a sedge of Saras
  • a stable of Saras
  • a surfeit of Saras
  • a string of Saras
  • a school of Saras

Maybe I’ll try to work this into my poem-in-progress, the Saras?

jan 21/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
15 degrees/ feels like 0
50% snow-covered

14 mph wind straight in my face, running south. Wasn’t expecting it to feel so cold today, so I underdressed. No hat, only a bright pink headband that covered my ears. Felt sore and a little tired, but better after having spent some time outside by the gorge. The river was open and flowing. The path was mostly clear. Noticed at least 2 dogs and their humans walking the lower path–the one that I like to run in the summer. Encountered a few other runners, no skiers or bikers. No geese. One spazzy squirrel.

I love this poem. I love how listing what you love makes you want to love harder and more expansively, and so does reading someone else’s love list.

Love/ Alex Dimitrov

I love you early in the morning and it’s difficult to love you.

I love the January sky and knowing it will change although unlike us.

I love watching people read.

I love photo booths.

I love midnight.

I love writing letters and this is my letter. To the world that never wrote to me.

I love snow and briefly.

I love the first minutes in a warm room after stepping out of the cold.

I love my twenties and want them back every day.

I love time.

I love people.

I love people and my time away from them the most.

I love the part of my desk that’s darkened by my elbows.

I love feeling nothing but relief during the chorus of a song.

I love space.

I love every planet.

I love the big unknowns but need to know who called or wrote, who’s coming—if they want the same things I do, if they want much less.

I love not loving Valentine’s Day.

I love how February is the shortest month.

I love that Barack Obama was president.

I love the quick, charged time between two people smoking a cigarette outside a bar.

I love everyone on Friday night.

I love New York City.

I love New York City a lot.

I love that day in childhood when I thought I was someone else.

I love wondering how animals perceive our daily failures.

I love the lines in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof when Brick’s father says “Life is important. There’s nothing else to hold onto.”

I love Brick.

I love that we can fail at love and continue to live.

I love writing this and not knowing what I’ll love next.

I love looking at paintings and being reminded I am alive.

I love Turner’s paintings and the sublime.

I love the coming of spring even in the most withholding March.

I love skipping anything casual—“hi, how are you, it’s been forever”—and getting straight to the center of pain. Or happiness.

I love opening a window in a room.

I love the feeling of possibility by the end of the first cup of coffee.

I love hearing anyone listen to Nina Simone.

I love Nina Simone.

I love how we can choose our own families.

I love when no one knows where I am but feel terrified to be forgotten.

I love Saturdays.

I love that despite our mistakes this will end.

I love how people get on planes to New York and California.

I love the hour after rain and the beginning of the cruelest month.

I love imagining Weldon Kees on a secret island.

I love the beach on a cloudy day.

I love never being disappointed by chocolate.

I love that morning when I was twenty and had just met someone very important (though I didn’t know it) and I walked down an almost empty State Street because it was still early and not at all late—and of course I could change everything (though I also didn’t know it)—I could find anyone, go anywhere, I wasn’t sorry for who I was.

I love the impulse to change.

I love seeing what we do with what we can’t change.

I love the moon’s independent indifference.

I love walking the same streets as Warhol.

I love what losing something does but I don’t love losing it.

I love how the past shifts when there’s more.

I love kissing.

I love hailing a cab and going home alone.

I love being surprised by May although it happens every year.

I love closing down anything—a bar, restaurant, party—and that time between late night and dawn when one lamp goes on wherever you are and you know. You know what you know even if it’s hard to know it.

I love being a poet.

I love all poets.

I love Jim Morrison for saying, “I’d like to do a song or a piece of music that’s just a pure expression of joy, like a celebration of existence, like the coming of spring or the sun rising, just pure unbounded joy. I don’t think we’ve really done that yet.”

I love everything I haven’t done.

I love looking at someone without need or panic.

I love the quiet of the trees in a new city.

I love how the sky is connected to a part of us that understands something big and knows nothing about it too.

I love the minutes before you’re about to see someone you love.

I love any film that delays resolution.

I love being in a cemetery because judgment can’t live there.

I love being on a highway in June or anytime at all.

I love magic.

I love the zodiac.

I love all of my past lives.

I love that hour of the party when everyone’s settled into their discomfort and someone tells you something really important—in passing—because it’s too painful any other way.

I love the last moments before sleep.

I love the promise of summer.

I love going to the theater and seeing who we are.

I love glamour—shamelessly—and all glamour. Which is not needed to live but shows people love life. What else is it there for? Why not ask for more?

I love red shoes.

I love black leather.

I love the grotesque ways in which people eat ice cream—on sidewalks, alone—however they need it, whenever they feel free enough.

I love being in the middle of a novel.

I love how mostly everyone in Jane Austen is looking for love.

I love July and its slowness.

I love the idea of liberation and think about it all the time.

I love imagining a world without money.

I love imagining a life with enough money to write when I want.

I love standing in front of the ocean.

I love that sooner or later we forget even “the important things.”

I love how people write in the sand, on buildings, on paper. Their own bodies. Fogged mirrors. Texts they’ll draft but never send.

I love silence.

I love owning a velvet cape and not knowing how to cook.

I love that instant when an arc of light passes through a room and I’m reminded that everything really is moving.

I love August and its sadness.

I love Sunday for that too.

I love jumping in a pool and how somewhere on the way up your body relaxes and accepts the shock of the water.

I love Paris for being Paris.

I love Godard’s films.

I love anyplace that makes room for loneliness.

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

I love bookstores and the autonomy when I’m in one.

I love that despite my distrust in politics I am able to vote.

I love wherever my friends are.

I love voting though know art and not power is what changes human character.

I love what seems to me the discerning indifference of cats.

I love the often uncomplicated joy of dogs.

I love Robert Lax for living alone.

I love the extra glass of wine happening somewhere, right now.

I love schools and teachers.

I love September and how we see it as a way to begin.

I love knowledge. Even the fatal kind. Even the one without “use value.”

I love getting dressed more than getting undressed.

I love mystery.

I love lighting candles.

I love religious spaces though I’m sometimes lost there.

I love the sun for worshipping no one.

I love the sun for showing up every day.

I love the felt order after a morning of errands.

I love walking toward nowhere in particular and the short-lived chance of finding something new.

I love people who smile only when moved to.

I love that a day on Venus lasts longer than a year.

I love Whitman for writing, “the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events; / These come to me days and nights and go from me again, / But they are not the Me myself.”

I love October when the veil between worlds is thinnest.

I love how at any moment I could forgive someone from the past.

I love the wind and how we never see it.

I love the performed sincerity in pornography and wonder if its embarrassing transparency is worth adopting in other parts of life.

I love how magnified emotions are at airports.

I love dreams. Conscious and unconscious. Lived and not yet.

I love anyone who risks their life for their ideal one.

I love Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

I love how people make art even in times of impossible pain.

I love all animals.

I love ghosts.

I love that we continue to invent meaning.

I love the blue hours between three and five when Plath wrote Ariel.

I love that despite having one body there are many ways to live.

I love November because I was born there.

I love people who teach children that most holidays are a product of capitalism and have little to do with love—which would never celebrate massacre—which would never care about money or greed.

I love people who’ve quit their jobs to be artists.

I love you for reading this as opposed to anything else.

I love the nostalgia of the future.

I love that the tallest mountain in our solar system is safe and on Mars.

I love dancing.

I love being in love with the wrong people.

I love that on November 23, 1920, Virginia Woolf wrote, “We have bitten off a large piece of life—but why not? Did I not make out a philosophy some time ago which comes to this—that one must always be on the move?”

I love how athletes believe in the body and know it will fail them.

I love dessert for breakfast.

I love all of the dead.

I love gardens.

I love holding my breath under water.

I love whoever it is untying our shoes.

I love that December is summer in Australia.

I love statues in a downpour.

I love how no matter where on the island, at any hour, there’s at least one lit square at the top or bottom of a building in Manhattan.

I love diners.

I love that the stars can’t be touched.

I love getting in a car and turning the keys just to hear music.

I love ritual.

I love chance too.

I love people who have quietly survived being misunderstood yet remain kids.

And yes, I love that Marilyn Monroe requested Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” to be played at her funeral. And her casket was lined in champagne satin. And Lee Strasberg ended his eulogy by saying, “I cannot say goodbye. Marilyn never liked goodbyes, but in the peculiar way she had of turning things around so that they faced reality, I will say au revoir.”

I love the different ways we have of saying the same thing.

I love anyone who cannot say goodbye.

jan 20/RUN

4.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back
10 degrees
100% snow-covered

What a wonderful day for a run! Hardly any wind. The feels like temperature is the same as the actual temperature. The path isn’t too slippery or sloppy or soft. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue, the path isn’t crowded.

Reached the river and turned right today. Briefly glanced at the oak savanna. Looked at the open water on the river. Noticed a big hulking mound of snow near a bench. A mutated snowman? Not sure. Listened to my feet crunching on the path, scratching more than usual because of my yaktrax.

The falls are mostly frozen with only a small stream of water still falling. A handful of people came to look, most up above by me, some down below, exploring the ice columns in the off-limits area. Heard the creek still moving–not quite rushing–towards the edge.

Heading back, I put in my headphones and listened to a playlist. Admired my shadow as she led me home. Looked up and saw a big bird or a plane–can’t remember which now–in the sky. Heard some geese.

Anything else? This run made me happy. I smiled a lot at the passing cars and the snow-covered trees. Also, I stopped at the double bridge and walked in the deeper snow of the walking path. Looked down at the ravine, then at the snow on the path which was so bright and white that it seemed blue.

Smells and Poetry, a few recent and one not so recent encounter

1. Pungency

Of course, I don’t want my children to have exactly the same childhood as I did: that would almost be a definition of conservatism. But I would like them to be assaulted by the pungency, by the vivid strength and strangeness of detail, as I was as a child; and I want them to notice and remember. (I’m also aware that worrying about lack of pungency is a peculiarly middle-class, Western affliction; much of the world is full of people suffering from a surfeit of bloody pungency.) from The Nearest Thing to Life/ James Wood

2. The Smell of a Thought

one thing i love about poetry is how thinking and feeling don’t need to be distinguished. a thought that is a strange passion, yes. a feeling that is a philosophical argument, yes. and both physical, sensory too. the taste of a feeling. the smell of a thought. a tweet from @chenchenwrites

3. Smells and Memory, an Exercise

Jot down some smells that are appealing to you. For each one, describe the memory or experience associated with that smell, making sure you bring in the other sense in your description. Write a poem for each smell. Do the same with smells you don’t like. from The Poetry Companion/ Kim Addonizio

4. Smelling the Entrails of a Failed Soul

What Nietzsche writes about bad air in On the Genealogy of Morals: “What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul!”

jan 15/RUN

run 1: 2.5 miles
river road, south/north
21 degrees
50% snow-covered

Such a beautiful morning for a run! Not too cold or too windy. A few flurries in the air. I’m planning to go to stadium running tonight with Scott, but I couldn’t resist getting out by the gorge this morning. It’s supposed to be ridiculously cold tomorrow morning and then lots of snow on Friday. I need to enjoy the clear path while I can. Running south today, I was able to admire the oak savanna from above. Don’t remember the trees, just the bare white stretching out. Oh–and the sound of a kid laughing and an empty stroller parked at the top of the trail that leads down into the savanna. Looked down at the river and noticed the variation in color–a pale blue then brown. Realized the blue was a thin layer of ice, the brown open water. Is that right? I’m pretty sure, but I debated it for a minute in my head. I was too far away and moving too fast to be sure. Admired the beautiful curve of the retaining wall above the ravine near the 44th street parking lot. Thought about trying out a bit of the Winchell Trail but wimped out. Too much snow. Heard groups of kids out on the playgrounds of the 2 schools I passed, out for recess.

run 2: 3.25 miles
us bank stadium

Ran at the stadium with Scott. Again, not together, but at the same time and in the same place. Encountered a wonderful human in the elevator on the way upstairs. Long white hair, a ice skating/ roller skating skirt, cool rollerblades, a mustache maybe? Scott said he’s seen them roller blading by the river a lot in green tights. Not sure if I have. They got off the elevator before us, planning to roller blade instead of run. My younger self would have loved to roller blade (or roller skate) there. In 4th grade, way back in 1984, I was the roller skating queen of Salem, VA (at least in my own head). Went to the rink as many Saturdays as I could.

They were playing much better music today–“rock and roll ain’t noise pollution” RUSH, the Police–but I still ran with my headphones. Made sure to look down at the field, which was being prepared for an upcoming monster truck rally, and out the window at downtown. Realized why I hadn’t looked out these windows on Monday. It’s at the narrowest part of the route and I was too busy paying attention to not running into carts or other runners.

Not sure what the floor of the concourse is made of–concrete?–but it’s harder on the legs. The first mile felt awkward as I tried to adjust to the increased pounding my calves were experiencing.

Yesterday, I was skimming through Theodore Roethke’s book on poetry and craft and found these:

To day there’s no time for the
mistakes of a long and slow
development: dazzle or die.

Dazzle or die.

Are there dangers? Of course.
There are dangers every time I
open my mouth, hence at
times when I keep it shut, I try
to teach by grunts, sighs,
shrugs.

jan 14/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
27 degrees
100% slushy loose snow-covered

It snowed a few inches on Sunday, a few more last night. Not enough to plow but enough to cause problems on the path. Wore my yak trax and that helped. Except for the bad stretch between the lake street bridge and the trestle. It’s always windy and the path is always covered. Nearing the trestle, my legs felt really tired from all of the sliding around I was doing. I stopped to take a break and put my headphones in. This seems to be a trend: running one way with no headphones, the other with them in. Not sure if I like this habit. It’s harder to listen to the gorge with headphones in.

the daily delight

Just after I reached the river, running on the bike path near the road, I heard a shimmering shaking sound as the wind blew roughly through some dead leaves on the trees closer to the gorge. It was my friends, the Welcoming Oaks! I imagined that they were calling out to me, “Hi friend, we miss you. When will you run on the walking path near us again?”

a strange image

With a quick glance down, the river looked like a brown wall to me. Flat and vertical instead of horizontal. So strange. Looking again, for longer, it stopped being a wall.

the daily walker

Perhaps the biggest reason I take note of and remember the Daily Walker is that he is always by the gorge walking. No matter what the weather. Usually wearing 2 long sleeved shirts and no coat. Rarely a hat. Since I started writing in this log, I’ve seen him almost every time I’ve ran. I admire his consistency and aspire to be him in a few decades. But there is another reason I take note of him: his gait. I’m not sure what happened to him–maybe he had a stroke?–but his arm swing–I think his left arm–is very exaggerated. It swings out wide. This swinging motion is how I can see that it is him. Without it, I’m not sure I would remember him. Even after passing him hundreds of times. I hardly ever remember faces anymore because I can’t see them clearly. I rely on other features–hair, clothes, how a body moves. As I near someone on the path, I always look for the tell-tale swing and I know it is him. Today he was there and we greeted each other.

A few days ago, I watched the short documentary, Notes on Blindness. Wow! Discovered that it’s been turned into a longer documentary and that it’s on Netflix. Cool. I’ll need to watch that soon. At some point in the film while discussing how we can’t see or remember his wife’s or kids’ faces, Hull asks,

To what extent is the loss of the image of the face tied up with the loss of the image of the self and with the consequent feeling of being a ghost or a mere spirit?

I can still see the outline of faces and haven’t lost my memory of ones important to me, but this idea of losing a sense of the self–at least a self beside other selves–because I can’t see faces, resonates for me. When I don’t recognize family members’ and friends’ faces, I feel less human, more spectral.

jan 13/RUN

3.3 miles
U.S. Bank Stadium

Did another stadium run with Scott. We didn’t run together, but ran at the same time, in the same place. There weren’t too many people there. Mostly groups of runners. What do I remember? At the start, it felt awkward, like my legs weren’t moving quite right. Slowly it got better. There is a beautiful view of downtown Minneapolis from all of the big windows. Pretty sure I didn’t look at it even once. Also didn’t look down at the field while I was running. Didn’t really look at anything. I do remember feeling strange and dreamy, running around an almost empty stadium. And like I was running a bit too fast around mile 2. Following (20ft behind) a woman in gray who was running slightly faster than me. Passing another woman in gray multiple times who was running way slower than me.

This weekend I got some great recommendations from twitter about vision loss, including Eye Trouble by Alice Mattison. She has macular dystrophy, while I have cone dystrophy. I appreciate how she writes concretely about her specific vision quirks and her feelings around them. I’d like to do this too.

Also, randomly on twitter:

A tweet about the relationship between wonder and urgency in socially conscious art. Does it have too much wonder, no urgency, no bite? Does it have too much urgency and no wonder?

And a recommendation for a podcast about noise called Field Noise: “Field Noise is a show about the role of sound in our everyday lives. It’s a show about people who make sounds and people who listen to them. It’s a show about music and noise and silence and the politics of those categories. It’s a show about how disability, gender, race, and class are central to what we think about as “technology.” And it’s a show that is very much still finding its voice.”

I love twitter for recommendations on essays, poems, documentaries. I dislike it for almost everything else–well, I also like the random threads when people share stories about their childhood. 10 years ago, I taught students how to use twitter and wrote/taught about its ethical possibilities. Now, I mostly think it’s broken and confusing. Why is it no longer in real time? Why does responding to a thread seem so difficult? Why is it the word count gone? And, of course, why is Trump not banned yet?

jan 12/RUN

4.2 miles
to the falls and back
17 degrees/ feels like 5
25% ice and snow covered

Reached the river and turned right instead of left and headed to the falls. Today the river was blue. Grayish blue. Steel blue. Maybe Copenhagen blue? I can’t trust my color sense these days. Sometimes bright pink looks yellow or green looks gold. Regardless of what color you would call it, I’ll stick with steel blue. Beautiful. A few less ice floes down here, south of the lake street bridge. The path was stained a chalky white, the hard frozen snow brown. Sometimes it was difficult to see what was clear and what was not.

The falls were wonderful. Reaching the far end of the park, by the benches and fountain with Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” etched on them, I heard the dim roar of the falls still flowing. Rounding the corner, the roar suddenly became louder. I stopped at the stone edge for a minute and marveled at the frozen columns of ice and the water falling beside them. Put it my headphones, turned around, and ran home. Felt strong and happy to be outside on a clear path.

Did Rise/ Jessica Rae Bergamino

Did tear along. 
Did carry the sour heave 
of memory. Did fold my body 
upon the pillow’s curve, 
did teach myself to pray. 
Did pray. Did sleep. Did choir 
an echo to swell through time. 
Did pocket watch, did compass. 
Did whisper a girl from the silence 
of ghost. Did travel on the folded map 
to the roaring inside. Did see myself 
smaller, at least, stranger, 
where the hinge of losing had not yet 
become loss. Did vein, did hollow 
in light, did hold my own chapped hand. 
Did hair, did makeup, did press 
the pigment on my broken lip. 
Did stutter. Did slur. Did shush 
my open mouth, the empty glove. 
Did grace, did dare, did learn the way 
forgiveness is the heaviest thing to bare. 
Did grieve. Did grief. Did check the weather, 
choose the sweater, did patch the jeans 
worn out along the seam. Did purchase, 
did pressure, did put the safety on the scissors. 
Did shuttle myself away, did haunt, did swallow 
a tongue of sweat formed on the belly 
of a day-old glass. Did ice, did block, 
did measure the doing. Did carry. 
Did return. Did slumber, did speak. 
Did wash blood from the bitten nail, 
the thumb that bruised. Did wash 
the dirt-stained face, the dirt-stained 
sheets. Did take the pills. Did not 
take the pills. Cut the knots 
from my own matted hair.

Love the repetition of this poem and the relentless “did” only stopped on the second to last line. Love the telling of a story and the expressing of feelings through the mundane listing of what she did.

jan 10/ BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

The weather isn’t too cold (at least for me) this morning or too blustery, but I decided to stay inside and do more biking, less running to rest my sore legs. Now as I write this I feel a little regret. Winter runs in the cold are the best. Why didn’t I run outside?

While biking, I watched part of the first episode of the netflix doc series: Cheer. It’s fascinating and freaking me out. They take so many risks with their bodies. I wonder what the long term effects of these risks and the injuries they get are? Will the series address this at some point?

When I was younger, I never thought about my body. But after I had 2 kids, my mom died too young, and I started running and open water swimming, I became more aware of its fragility and developed a need to protect it and be careful with it.

Living in the Body/ Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

I’m mostly okay with my body. Together we’ve done some great things. I guess sometimes I wish my kneecaps would stay in their grooves and not temporarily displace or my central vision wasn’t almost completely destroyed or my legs didn’t get unbearably restless when I wake up in the middle of the night, which happens a lot. But I think I feel less like Joyce Sutphen and her body as (treasured) burden, and more like Linda Hogan in Rapture: “Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.”

jan 9/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill turn around
29 degrees/ feels like 20
50% ice and snow-covered

Love these outdoor runs when the path is not completely ice-covered and I get to run for almost an hour! Just past the welcoming oaks stopped for a minute to let the parks mini-truck drive by on the path. Noticed later that they had put some dirt down on the path. Hooray! Hopefully that will make it easier to run on. For much of the run north, felt like I was in a dream, floating along on the path.

What I remember about today? The River

Wasn’t sure how long I would run but decided to go all the way to the bottom of the Franklin hill to get a closer look at the river and all the ice on it. So desolate and other-worldly looking! Studded with chunks of ice and thick water that wasn’t moving or barely moving. Moving at a glacial pace? Thought about this phrase and how (sadly, disturbingly) it’s losing its potency as a metaphor now that glaciers are melting (and melting so much faster than expected).

Did a quick google search and found this article: Slang is changing at a glacial pace

The thick water reminded me of simple syrup–clear but thick and barely flowing. Or maybe like a partly melted slushie? Still very cold and a little frozen but more liquid than ice. I’ll have to keep looking closer at the river to see when/if it completely freezes over.

After turning around at the bottom of the Franklin hill, I ran back up the hill, stopping at 3 miles for a minute to turn on a playlist. Encountered several dogs and their humans, some walking, some running. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. After I finished running, stopped at the split rail fence above the ravine to stretch. With the temperature almost at freezing, the water dripping out of the sewer pipe smelled rotten.

dead metaphors

Yesterday I posted something about metaphors, their (sometimes) entrenched political meanings, and how they can limit instead of expand our imagination. Today, I’m thinking about metaphors again as I read the “Slang is Changing” article I mentioned above.

During the Little Ice Age, which stretched from the 14th to the 19th century, the median Northern Hemisphere winter was significantly colder than it is today. Glaciers more often advanced than retreated, sometimes wiping out communities as they moved. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem ‘Mont Blanc’ (1817) captures the menacing aura that adhered to those frozen rivers of ice:

… The glaciers creep
Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountains,
Slow rolling on …
in scorn of mortal power

Shelley saw glaciers as predatory, immortal forces, eternal beings, before whose might mere humans quaked. But global warming has flipped that perception. We are now more likely to view glaciers as casualties of humanity’s outsize, planet-altering powers.

In “Politics and the English Language” (1946), Orwell laid out six rules for writers, the first of which declares: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” An inert metaphor such as “hotbed of radicalism” conveys very little: We can no longer feel the blazing temperature between the bed sheets, just as—prior to public awareness of global warming—we’d stopped noticing the icy fossil poetry in “glacial pace.”

We speak routinely of carbon footprints, of wiping species off the face of the Earth, and of greenhouse gases, but we no longer see the feet, the hands, and the backyard sheds. As consciousness of climate change has grown, a new class of dead metaphors has entered the English language. We speak routinely of carbon footprints, of wiping species off the face of the Earth, and of greenhouse gases, but we no longer see the feet, the hands, the faces and the backyard sheds that were once vivid when those phrases were newly coined.

jan 8/ RUN

3.75 miles
us bank stadium

Ran with Scott downtown at the stadium. Listened to my playlist because the music they play there is annoying. What do I remember from the run? It felt effortless, like I was flying for the first few laps. Got a little harder towards the end. Lots of runners and walkers. Some person working there who kept adjusting the posts they had up to separate the lanes. Dim lights, difficult to see. Successfully did not run into anyone. No interesting thoughts or encounters.

Really appreciate this discussion of metaphors and the political from Heather Christle’s discussion of her writing/revising process on Guernica’s Back Draft.

on metaphors and the political

Heather Christle: It’s dangerous. It can be fantastic to see the illumination of one thing in another, but it can be misleading as well. There are times when the metaphors that I’m thinking about aren’t coming from a strangeness but are coming from systems that take strict limits to the imagination. They might present themselves as acts of imagination, but they’re strict and limited. I’m trying to learn to see them for what they are. Writing this crying book has taught me, again, the joy of the connection between things, but also the danger of always seeing one thing in terms of another.

Guernica: It sounds like your answer is gesturing toward the political.

Heather Christle: Well, I think that metaphor and politics are deeply intertwined, and I think that the most dangerous metaphors are the ones that are invisible for us—the ones that people do constant political work to make visible. And I think that part of the work that I’ve been trying to do recently is to see where the imaginative life and the political life intersect, and how they might provide a way for us to live other than as we are.

jan 6/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
27 degrees
50% slick ice-covered

Ugh! The temperature was great, so was the wind, but the path was terrible. So slippery–not all of it, but enough to make it very difficult to run on. I’ve been wondering why the paths are so awful this year and I think it is because they must not be treating the asphalt at all. Not sure what they used to put on it, but nothing this year. This is a bummer, but I’m sure whatever they were treating it with was not good for the river so I’m glad they’ve stopped.

Paused at the trestle to put in my headphones and admire the beautiful, brown river. Very peaceful today. Don’t remember much else except for the walk before the run: I heard lots of birds, an airplane, the hum of far off traffic, a chainsaw trimming a tree. Oh–and how the slick ice on the path was shining in the sun.

The Spider/ Heather Christle

The spider he is confused
b/c I am not killing him
only moving him outdoors
When I die I do not want
to feel confused
No I would rather feel clarity
like I am a pool
and death a chlorine tablet
I want it to feel
not like I am dying
but am being transferred
to the outside
And I hope I do not drown
as I have seen happen
to hundreds of spiders
b/c I love to swim
and to drown would
wreck swimming
for a long time
But death is like none of this
I know that death is a tower
standing in the middle of the town
And the tower receives
many visits
And there’s no one
but spiders inside

Heather Christle is wonderful. Favorite line: “I hope I do not drown/as I have seen happen/ to hundreds of spiders/ b/c I love to swim/and to drown would/wreck swimming/ for a long time”

This poem is part of a series called Back Draft in which poets show two versions of a poem and then discuss their revision process. Very interesting.

on revision

With me, I can pretty quickly hear whether there is a thing that is alive inside the poem. But for me, if that thing that’s alive in some poems isn’t there, there’s nothing I can do to make it come forward, you know? Some poems have life, and some just don’t. Sometimes it’s an ostrich, and sometimes it’s a cinder block, and no matter what I do I can’t make a cinder block be an ostrich (Heather Christle)

the process of writing poetry

an enormous part of what I’m doing is listening, that I’m listening to the strangeness that is within us, and within our world, and within our ways of speaking to one another. And I’m listening to the energies and desires of the words themselves, which isn’t to say that I think that I’m actually listening to Martians, to borrow Jack Spicer’s metaphor, you know? I don’t think that I’m catching the voices of ghosts or something. I don’t know what is on the other side of what I’m listening to, but I do know that it, for me, has to be heard right away, that I can’t slowly revise my way towards it. If I missed it the first time, it’s not going to become present.

jan 4/ RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
28 degrees
90% sharp, crusty snow and ice

Should have worn my yaktrax today. So slick and uneven. What a bummer. The river was open and beautiful, the sun glowing through the gray gloom, the air not too cold. But the path was terrible–too rough and uneven and dangerous.

Walking earlier this morning with the dog, my left kneecap couldn’t find its groove. It wasn’t completely sliding out, but it was rubbing. Not sure why, but running helps it get back into place. Oh, the body is such a strange thing.

Encountered lots of runners. A few bikers. Some walkers. No Daily Walker. Turned around at the double-bridge parking lot and put on a playlist. Started with my new favorite song: Black Wizard Wave by Nur-d. I would have been flying down the path if it hadn’t been so icy.

Still playing around with my favorite lines of poetry from all the poems I gathered in 2019. So much fun.

Cento/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

VI.

I’m sorry for the rabbits.
And I’m sorry for us
To know this.
Suffice it to say I am sorry all the time.

VII.

All that trees can ever learn they know now
clear cut and certain, they rise, telling me
Go forth to the forests and grow wise
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?

VIII.

Meanwhile, even the birds sing
to-do lists and quietly
the doe does what does do.

VIX.

for no reason
the windowed ones in their windowed world
lock the door

jan 3/RUN

3.75 miles
up on the ford bridge and back
33 degrees
75% snow-iced covered

Took Delia the dog out for a walk and was worried that it would be too slippery but it was so calm and warmish and wonderful that I couldn’t resist trying. Wore my yaktrax and struggled for the first few minutes on the sidewalk. Turned right instead of left and headed towards the falls. There was a strip of clear path almost the entire way. The river was beautiful. Ran south to the ford bridge and decided to climb up the short hill and run across it. What a view of the river! And what noisy traffic zooming by!

Observations

  • Even though the sky was whiteish gray (or grayish white), it was bright enough for the river to be reflecting the bluff on the st. paul side. Looking down at the water, I saw the white from the bluff and some trees.
  • Looking down at the Winchell Trail near 42nd street, I could see the graceful curve of the retaining wall above a ravine.
  • Saw–or maybe sensed?–2 birds flying above me. One was black, most likely a crow. The other, white–probably a seagull? I like this idea of distinguishing between seeing and sensing. I do a lot of sensing–but how to describe that?

Disclosure/ Camisha L. Jones

I’m sorry, could you repeat that. I’m hard of hearing.
To the cashier 
To the receptionist 
To the insistent man asking directions on the street 

I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?
At the business meeting 
In the writing workshop 
On the phone to make a doctor’s appointment 

I’m-sorry-I’m-sorry-I’m-so-sorry-I’m-hard-for-the-hearing

Repeat. 

           Repeat. 

Hello, my name is Sorry
To full rooms of strangers 
I’m hard to hear 

I vomit apologies everywhere 
They fly on bat wings 
towards whatever sound beckons 

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry
           and repeating
                       and not hearing

Dear (again) 
I regret to inform you 

I       am

here

I love this poem and how the author communicates her frustrations with being hard of hearing. I love how she twists it a little by writing hard-for-the-hearing. And I love her reading of it, which you can listen to on the site. I want to spend some more time with this poem and think about how to translate it into my experiences being hard of seeing.

jan 2/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill turn around
36 degrees
95% snow-covered

Oh, I needed this run! Started out rough, walking to the river, slipping on the sidewalk. The path was covered in slick, unsettled snow. But somewhere after the lake street bridge something happened and I started to feel that joy of being outside and breathing in the cold air and feeling my muscles working. Was it around the time I noticed the river? Not white, but brownish gray, free of ice and snow. Or after I passed the unleashed dog and its human near the trestle? While I was running down the franklin hill, my arms swinging rhythmically? Or after I turned on my running playlist as I started running up the hill? Now I remember. It was when ACDC’s Back in Black came on and I picked up the pace between franklin and the trestle. Today I got to fly and it was amazing.

Listened to the Current yesterday for their end of the year/decade (or as Mark Wheat liked to pronounce it: duhCade) wrap-up and discovered Nur-D and “Black Wizard Wave.” Favorite lines: “I’m currently feeling myself” and “I’m so high. Levio Levio Leviosa”

This is the first poem I read in 2020. I found it yesterday morning while scrolling through twitter. Beautiful.

Abstract/ Todd Dillard

A hummingbird has died in my driveway.
My neighbor, mowing his lawn, glimpsed it falling,

and now he holds the body careful as a soap bubble
in the chalice of his broad hands. The summer 

this year is sending our street hate mail: FUCK YOUs and
I HOPE YOU DIEs written in sidewalk worms and mosquito bites,

every shirt darkened by Pangaea damp, every kiss salt
lick and dog pant. And it’s ridiculous, really, how no one

has researched why every body gets smaller when held,
how a pocket-sized grief can become a particular tininess: lost

picture, forgotten phone number, memory of an old coworker
who would sing as he mopped the bookstore café, his tenor

rolling through air like rainwater down subway stairs. We hang,
my neighbor and I, suspended in June’s sewer breath,

inventing the kind of time travel where our minds age
backward, turning us into children again, asking:

What should we do? What happens next? Our dead
mothers call from porch steps—dinner’s ready, come

eat these decades while they’re still fresh! And then—
pop—we’re our old selves again, we head to our houses,

him to toss the bird into his garbage bin, then maybe do the dishes,
me to get dinner started, to stand before the open fridge

and wonder what it is I am hungry for
listening to the hum of its engine.

Favorite lines right now: we hang,/ my neighbor and I, suspended in June’s sewer breath,/ and Our dead/mothers call from porch steps

This poem was published in the journal, BOOTH. I looked at their submission policy and found these scary statistics:

  • Our acceptance rate is typically around 1% or lower.
  • From September to March, we typically receive around 3,500 submissions, or between 15-20 per day.

Wow. I imagine this is pretty typical for most journals. I’m glad I don’t write poetry to get published.

jan 1/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
basement, bike stand
run: 1.25 miles
basement, treadmill

Decided to take it easy today, the first day of 2020. Yesterday my muscles took a beating on the rough path. Working out in the basement is never as inspiring or interesting as being outside but it does make me less restless and helped me fill my 3 rings for the 218th day.

Before and after my workout, continued working on my poetry line project. Managed to pick out lines from the 12 months of poems I gathered in 2019. Cut the list way down from 38 pages! to 14. Took out all the line breaks and cut it down even further to 6 pages. Then started crafting a cento from the lines. So much fun–even if this has been a very time consuming process. Rereading all the poems and picking out lines, then trying to arrange them in a new form has taken a few weeks at least. Here’s a first draft:

Listen/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

I.

The world is filled with music, and in between the music,
silence and varying the silence
all sorts of sounds coming into tune.

Knuckles of the rain on the roof,
chuckles into the drain-pipe,
spatters on the leaves that litter the grass,

gnats, frogs, dandelion pollen,
the pebbles & leaves & the whole
world of us, our names whispered
through an intercom in the evergreens,
our calls like an echo of lake, or what makes lake lake.

II.

I can hear a hum inside me,
an appliance left running.
I’ve started calling the hum the soul.
The soul sings at the top of her lungs,
laughs at her little jokes,
begins to kick up her heels,
jazz out her hands,
thrust out her hipbones,
and bellow forth—
like the thrashing of a lemon in the garbage disposal,
a clatter of jackhammers, an earful of leaf  blowers,
the hissing of trees so loud the air is stunned—
the chant, I’m great! I’m great!

III.

I’m not asking for much.
A white, indifferent morning sky.
Unsentimental sleet
A lamentation of geese
less hatred strutting the streets
to feel a little less, know a little more
enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night
a way out, the one dappled way, back
Paradise, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold
The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take
gorged, engorging, and gorgeous

IV.

When sorrows come—fast, without warning—
whipping their wings down the sky,
stop seeking before or after life.
If anyone asks say
some of us don’t need hell to be good.

V.

Empty your mind
drift for a minute or an hour
blinking off old eyelids for a new way of seeing.
Remember this is not your land
You don’t get to be the grass
Grow wise with such teachings—
Bees in the lilac tree have something
to say and say it
without giving away the ending
the day knows exactly what it’s doing

VI.

What I love is one foot in front of another
Poets and walkers look up more
often than other people.
Go forth to the forests
Raise your heads, pals, look high,
see more than you ever thought possible
trees tossed like coins against the sky.
Stunned gold and bronze,
oaks, maples stand in twos and threes

dec 28/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 37 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.3 miles
treadmill, basement
outside: sleet, ice, weather advisory

So glad to have a bike stand for my bike and a treadmill in the basement. The sidewalks, roads, paths are pure ice. Saw a video on twitter of a kid skating on the sidewalk with ice skates. What? Re-watched the Track and Field World Championships while I biked and managed to forget about all of the ideas about writing/creative projects I had swimming around in my head. Too many ideas! Listened to an old playlist while I ran. What a dreary, trapped-in-the-house-kinda-day. Gray, dark, wet. Now it’s raining. At the end of December. Strange.

This morning I watched the wonderful America Ferrera read Denise Levertov’s Sojourns in the Parallel World on Brain Pickings.

SOJOURNS IN THE PARALLEL WORLD
by Denise Levertov

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension—though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it “Nature”; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be “Nature” too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal—then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we’ve been, when we’re caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
—but we have changed, a little.

I love the idea of nature not caring about our preoccupations and of living in and beside it and of a moment or an hour in which we can drift and lose track of ourselves as we respond to nature–which is, by the way, what running enables me to do by the gorge for at least a few seconds every time I run. I also love how she describes nature in such simple forms: cloud, bird, fox. With my vision and how it makes objects fuzzy, sometimes all I can recognize is the basic form: person, tree, boulder, river, bird

This valuing of losing track of ourselves is central to my own goals and has me thinking that it is just as or more important than the constant refrain to find ourselves.

What would it look like to center/prioritize losing instead of finding ourselves?

dec 27/ RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
29 degrees
0% snow-covered!

Back home in Minneapolis. Clear paths and sunshine. Feels harder to run in the afternoon today. Ran to the trestle with no headphones, returned with a playlist. Most memorable thing observed: a car honked its horn for at least 15 seconds when a slower car pulled out in front of it. What an asshole (the honker, not the honked-at). Don’t remember much else from the run other than I was tired–probably because I ran the final mile a minute faster than mile 2. Why? Not sure. I think I’m too tired to have any “brilliant” revelations about my run or life or the gorge.

A few nights ago, unable to sleep, I found a great book by a poet I happen to like a lot. So I checked it on my Libby app (this app is awesome): Theodore Roethke/ On Poetry and Craft

dec 26/RUN

3.3 miles
Austin, Mn
34 degrees

Ran 3/4 of a mile to a elementary school then ran the block around it 4 or 5 times. Ran back to Scott’s parent’s house, into the wind. Sorta-sprinted up the final hill. The sidewalk had a lot of slick spots so I ran on the road. Not too bad. Happy to be able to get outside. Felt good to run and breathe coldish, fresh air. Heard lots of water whooshing under car wheels. Also heard some loud crows. Encountered 2 other runners.

dec 23/RUN

3.4 miles
river road, south/north
25 degrees
10% snow-covered, a few ice patches

Ah, winter running! A great morning with a clear path. Only encountered a few runners and walkers.

Observations

  1. The cloud-covered sun, glowing quietly beneath the grayish white
  2. Wide, open white sky blending in with the white gorge, seeming endless and airy and like I was floating
  3. 2 walkers/hikers below me on the stretch of the Winchell Trail that hugs the steep slope of the gorge, between 42nd and 44th. Noticing them first when their bright blue jacket entered my peripheral vision
  4. The sudden, unexpected crunch of snow under my foot as I stepped down on a clump of snow that I hadn’t seen
  5. A little old lady with ski poles (the same little old lady? not sure) walking near the double bridge
  6. Tiny clumps of snow littered the path on the side closest to the street–how did that happen? Little pellets of white

dec 20/RUN

4.3 miles
top of franklin hill turn around
31 degrees
75% snow-covered

Great weather, (still) rotten path. Lots of loose, ankle twisting snow. At least it’s a little better than Tuesday–a bare strip of pavement for most of the way! Even with the rough path, felt good and strong and happy. Looked down at the river and thought about how un-riverlike it looks right now. Just a broad, flat plain of white. As usual, don’t remember much from the run. One thing: the squirrel that darted across traffic and then the path ahead of me. Not sure why it seemed strange–maybe I thought the squirrel was a leaf blowing in the wind? Put my headphones in on the trip back south and felt great. Greeted the Dave, the Daily Walker and then charged up the final hill–the biking path near the road on the other side of the split rail fence, retaining wall, and the walking path that winds through the tunnel of trees. Maybe I should write about this part of the path?

note: For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been reading through and summarizing the last year on this blog. First, I put all the poems I’ve posted on one page (in year 3). Then I started systematically reading through each month online and in my physical notebook and picking out bits I want to keep–I’m on July right now–and creating pages for each month. Yesterday, I finalized a redesign of the site inspired by how I’ve been using lots of colored pencils in my notebook. It’s good coding practice–I customized it myself with my basic css knowledge.

What Big Eyes You Have
Heather Christle

Only today did I notice the abyss
in abysmal and only because my mind
was generating rhymes for dismal,
and it made of the two a pair,
to which much later it joined
baptismal, as—I think—a joke.
I decided to do nothing with
the rhymes, treating them as one does
the unfortunately frequent appearance
of the “crafts” adults require children
to fashion from pipe cleaners
and plastic beads. One is not permitted
to simply throw them away,
but can designate a drawer
that serves as a kind of trash can
never emptied. I suppose one day
it will be full, and then I will know
it is time to set my child free.
The difficulty is my mind leaks
and so it will never fill, despite
the clumps of language I drop in,
and this means my mind can never
be abandoned in the woods
with a kiss and a wave
and a little red kerchief
tied under its chin.

Wow. I can’t decide which I love more, this poem–with its trash can drawer half filled with clumps of language–or her explanation of it on poets.org .

This is one of many poems I wrote in a short period of time early last year, when I stepped away from writing The Crying Book-—my first work of nonfiction—to return to my home form. I was seeking all sorts of wisdom from Merriam-Webster, trying to understand what layers there are to the words I think and speak, finding shiny edges I hadn’t known before: new to me, but long-known to the words themselves. Then, as one does, I followed the words into a figurative space, where they invited me to get lost. I’m never able to get quite as lost as I want to, but with each poem I get a little closer.

what layers there are to the words, what shiny new edges
words leading to a figurative space, inviting her to get lost

dec 19/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
basement, bike stand
run: 1.2 miles
basement, treadmill

Mostly biked today. Giving my legs a rest from running hard last night on the us bank stadium concrete. Watched a Superleague Triathlon race on the bike, listened to a playlist on the treadmill. Wore a pair of ridiculously patterned leggings that I bought for my daughter a few years ago that she has never worn. Wow–blue and white tie-dyed with bright blue patches on the back of the knees.

We Are Monica (Acrostic)/ Victoria Chang

What if it were true? That in the
End, no matter what dress we look for,
All we have in our closets are blue ones?
Remember the surface area of the body?
Each one inch square can be bruised blue.
Maybe we know how to betray cloth, its
Old downy fibers are really our skin,
Nightmare after nightmare, it grows back,
It desires to be touched, and nerved, and
Caught. Maybe it is meant to be put on
And taken off, then put on and taken off.

*

What happened to the blue girl who
Entered into the meadow, the one we
Accused, then asked how it felt,
Rubbing our ears against her mouth for
Everything she would give, for what didn’t
Matter—did his hand touch you there
Or there, did he control or tendril?
Nothing, she was to us, but how
I would still look if she rose one night,
Covet the night, listen for their lies,
And take joy in hearing her cries.

*

Who are we to say who belongs on
Earth? We hate the cold mornings
And the warm mornings. What we
Require we never get. We have the hots for
Everything. We aspire to be aspirers.
Maybe we were meant to fancy everything,
Or at least think each vowel in a word
Needs to exist. How many ways can we
Inch forward? We can walk towards, even
Crawl towards with no legs. But even then, we
Are still dependent on dirt and its filth.

*

Why did we spend our lives looking
Everywhere for what we have now, if
All we want is travel? The red leaves,
Regioning off our yards, not the responsible
Envelopes that stay on the trees, but
Maple leaves, the ones that giddily
Opt to follow rain, those opportunists,
Never accepting stasis. Maybe we all
Itch for twice, life. Watch a new
Checker who opens a line at a store,
And how fast we leave each other to get there.

*

We are done for then, or are we just
Erratic, like a tack, constantly moved
Around from paper to paper. A tack never
Reflects, a tack doesn’t die for truth,
Expressing crisis at every new job.
Maybe we are all like tacks, one side sharp,
One side dark. And maybe we are all
Narrow, only truly visible in the night,
In the line of a troubled light.
Could our fingerprints exist because
We know we can’t be trusted?

*

What if, in the end, the want for
Everything, a drink of water, a mother,
A new face, is not a waste, or even
Rare, but what keeps us alive?
East me then, I say to the wind, song me,
Move me where you will, to edge, to roots.
O compass in my mouth, take me to
Noon, the summer, and send the warmth
Into my veins. I will follow it, let it
Carry me through the squares in the screen,
And let me not get stuck.

*

When we are done looking for the
Ex-wife, the ex-lover, the ex-girlfriend,
And finished looking through telescopes, we
Remember how we used to look into
Each round hole for something larger,
Meant to test our vision, not turn it
Onto our hearts and mine its every
Nook, see the heart’s shape as love,
Its arteries as desire. Call me half-hearted,
Cull me from the cold, turn me back to
August, those nights I studied the celestial.

*

Why is writing about her odd?
Evening comes constantly and poets
Ask too much of the moon, too much of
Reeds that always seem to sway.
Everything I know is in a house,
Measured by hands of men that nailed
Over the reeds and tried to roof me from
Night and its eye. This is what
I know but will never understand, this
Capsule, body, this thing that loves others
And lies to us, that doesn’t last.

I love acrostic poems with (not so) hidden messages. I’d like to spend some more time with this poem to read it closely.