sept 23/RUN

2.05 miles
edmund, south/north
67 degrees
humidity: 87% / dew point: 63

a quick note before describing my run: For some reason, I felt compelled to rhyme things today. Most of it was unintentional, but a few times it was deliberate. Was I somehow inspired by a line from the song, “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”? I watched a video of Gwen Verdon singing this song — and dancing too — last night. Here’s the line:

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?

Sticky. Uncomfortable. Thick. Lots of sweating. Flushed face. Heavy legs. Dark with hazy, humid air. I had intended to cross over to the Winchell Trail, but it looked crowded near the river. So I just turned around and went back north on Edmund. A chance to check the house that posts poems in their front window. Was there a new one? Unfortunately, in this bad light and with my bad vision, I couldn’t tell. Oh well.

before the run

A few more stanzas from Forrest Gander’s “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas”:

Cardiac Hill’s granite boulders appear
freshly sheared Look, you say,
I can see the Farallon Islands there
to the south over those long-backed hills
one behind another a crow honks

Running above the river on the paved trail it’s difficult, even in the winter, to see the terrain below — the limestone ledges, the steep slopes. Often, it’s all leaves (on the trees or the ground) and brambles and bushes.

Do crows honk?

the moon still up over Douglas
firs on the climb to Rock Spring yellow
jackets and Painted Lady butterflies
settle on the path where some under-
ground trickle moistens the soil

It doesn’t happen that often — because of my vision, pollution, the bright light during the day — but I like being able to see the faint outline of the moon in the morning or the middle of the day.

Throughout the gorge and on the Winchell Trail, there are springs and seeps. They are especially visible in the winter when they freeze over and turn into strangely shaped columns of ice.

A plan for the run? Not much of one: to take the Winchell Trail instead of the paved path.

during the run

Nope. I didn’t take the trail so no chance to get a view of the river or the bluff or any limestone ledges. Instead I listened to Taylor Swift and tried to keep my cadence steady and quick(er). Between 170 and 180.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. kids laughter drifting over the fence of my neighbor’s yard — a birthday party for her 3 year-old
  2. a big backhoe parked on the street — no digging today, hooray!
  3. a plastic orange slide, spied through the slats of another neighbor’s fence
  4. a dusty dirt trail, so dry it was slippery and uneven
  5. yellow leaves all around
  6. lots of red on the groundaa
  7. a biker’s bright headlight over on the river road
  8. a mountain bike — don’t think it had fat tires — on the dirt trail, approaching me
  9. 2 people in bright yellow construction vests, walking on Edmund
  10. a biker stalking me — approaching from behind. Not really staking, just unable to pass me before we crossed an intersection

Don’t remember any birds or swirling leaves or bugs or roller skiers or music being blasted from car radios or leaf blowers or falling acorns.

after the run

I’ll have to think about Forrest Gander’s words some other day. For now, I’ll post something else I’d like to remember because I’m always looking for poems about erosion:

Erosion/ David Hanlon

You’re eight hours of sleep & careful folding;
I’m a mouthful of ulcers & grasping at hours
lost to obligation,
lost to obsession.

You’re made of granite & marble,
made for building;
you make

sheet music of my skin,
exhume a melody in me.

I’m chalk & sandstone,
used in paint;

I’m weak
because life runs through me.

I’ll move, I’ll go
wherever it takes me—

I’ll still
hold your hand,

sing my song,

our existence.

sept 21/RUN

3.1 miles
2 trails
70 degrees / dew point: 59

Another warm morning. Sunny, too. Not much wind. Almost a mile into the run my back on the right side, just under the shoulder blade, started to hurt. Enough that I needed to stop and walk for a few steps. When I started again, and ran more upright, it felt better, and didn’t hurt for the rest of the run. I wondered what it was, then suddenly realized: yesterday Scott and I cleaned out a lot of crap in the garage, some of it heavy; I must have pulled something.

Running south, I listened to cars, construction, kids arriving for school at Dowling Elementary, screeching blue jays, trickling water out of the sewer pipe. For the last mile, I put in my headphones and listened to more Olivia Rodrigo.

before the run

Thinking about Gary Snyder and circumambulation and Forrest Gander’s poem, “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas.” I listened to him reading the first stanza:

from Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais/ Forrest Gander

maculas of light fallen weightless from
pores in the canopy our senses
part of the wheeling life around us and through
an undergrowth stoked with the unseen
go the reverberations of our steps

my notes: I was immediately drawn in with his use of maculas. I think a lot about maculas because the macula (in the center of the retina in the back of our eyes) is where all the cones reside in your central vision and my cones are almost all dead. I looked up macula and it can also mean, more generally, spot or blotch. Here I like how his use of macula and pores reminds me that the canopy is a living thing, and living in ways that are similar to humans. “the undergrowth stoked with the unseen” — I’m thinking of how thick the trees are beside the path, how much goes unseen — but always felt — above the gorge.

During my run, I want to think about and notice the maculas of light falling weightless, the pores in the canopy, wheeling life (cars? bikes?), the undergrowth, the unseen, and the reverberations of our steps. That’s a lot!

during the run

I did it! I thought about most of these things and it made the run more interesting and meaningful. At the 38th street steps, before I ascend to the river road trail, I stopped to record what I thought about and noticed:

running notes, 21 sept 2023

transcript: September 21st, 2 miles into my run, at 38th street steps. Thinking about the Forest Gander poem and first, the idea of the maculas weightless. Then I was thinking of dappling light but the light today is not weightless, but thick. It must be humid, feels warm, and it’s pouring through, which makes me think of pores and difficult breathing. My nose, hard to breathe through my nose, and my back behind the rib cage, it hurt. And then I was thinking of the wheeling life and taking that literally: the wheeling of cars, whooshing off to work. And then I saw 2 different sets of bicycles: an adult on one bicycle, a young kid on the other, biking to school at Dowling. And then I was thinking of the wheeling life and the changing of seasons and transformations and the idea of life continuing to move, not necessarily forward (although it does that too), but also just a constant motion, even when you might want it to stand still for awhile. Then I was thinking of the wheeling life as the hamster wheel [I thought about the hamster because I heard the rustling of a squirrel or chipmunk in the dry brush] and repetitions and routines and continuing to do the same thing over and over again — the loops, the way it’s warm every year at this time in September: too hot, too humid, too sunny.

Wow, when I’m talking into the phone about my ideas mid-run, I have a lot of run-on sentences!

after the run

 I love Forrest Gander’s poetry. And I love how packed with meaning his words are, like “wheeling life.”

the wheeling life: 10 things

  1. car wheels, near the road — relentless, too fast, noisy
  2. car wheels, below, on the winchell trail — a gentle hum, quiet, distant
  3. bike wheels, approaching from behind very slowly — a little kid biking to school with his mom who had a carrier with another kid behind her seat
  4. bike wheels, nearby, another kid and adult on the way to school
  5. the wheel of life as a loop: a favorite route, running south, looping back north, first on edmund, then on the winchell trail
  6. the wheel of life as transformation: red leaves decorate a tree halfway to the river
  7. the wheel of life as cycles: not the end of the year, but the beginning — school time: kids at the elementary school
  8. the wheel of life as constant motion: on the trail, below the road and above the river, everything is active: birds calling, squirrels rustling, wheels traveling, river flowing, feet moving, leaves and lungs breathing
  9. the wheels of life as cycle: always in late september, hot and humid and too sunny
  10. the wheels of life as transformation: thinning leaves, falling acorns, a small view of the river
Thinning leaves, some yellow, some green. Straight and slender brown trunks. A view of the river -- blue? gray? a few ripples
a picture of my view wile recording my notes, near the 38th street steps

sept 19/RUN

3.6 miles
trestle turn around (+ extra)
65 degrees / 72% humidity

Out near the gorge, everything is busy today — wheels whooshing, hammers pounding, bobcats speeding by. All the sounds felt electric. I’ve wondered this before (and looked it up, but forgot the answer): is the moisture in the air causing everything to sound different — louder, more intense?

Having just written something about triple berry chants for my class, I decided to do them today. Strawberry / raspberry / blueberry. I think I chanted them for at least a mile. They helped keep my cadence up. Did they do anything else?

10 Things I Noticed While Chanting Triple Berries

  1. Dave the Daily Walker had on bright blue running shoes — nice!
  2. a rollerblader passed me from behind — no clicking and clacking ski poles to alert me to their approach
  3. minneapolis parks has trimmed back the bushes and wildflowers that were blocking part of the already narrow path that splits from the biking path and dips below the road
  4. a runner, only a little faster than me, entered the path in front of me at 32nd. Very gradually, he inched away, then turned off the trail again
  5. more yellow leaves, a few slashes of red, no orange
  6. human voices and the clanging of a dog collar down below on the Winchell Trail
  7. several openings in the otherwise thick trees — dirt trails descending to the Winchell Trail
  8. a noisy runner with an awkward gait — did he swing his arms awkwardly too?
  9. another runner, speeding fast. Almost a blur with feet thumping the ground
  10. at least one loud thud as an acorn fell

Running north, I listened to feet striking the ground, an acorn falling, runners joking. I stopped at the turn around put it Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS then ran south.

At the halfway point, I took this picture. The river and the gorge are behind those leaves. In a month, I’ll get to see them again!

fall leaves, mostly yellow, several straight brown trunks, no view of the river
no view of the river, near franklin

sept 18/RUN

2.5 miles
2 trails
75 degrees

Recorded the lecture for my class this morning, so I had to run in the afternoon, when it’s warmer. Hot! Sunny! Everything dry and dusty, thirsty — the dirt trail, the dead leaves, me.

Listened to a playlist until I reached the south entrance to the Winchell Trail, then to the gorge. Dripping pipes, striking feet, my breathing, falling acorns.

10 Peripheral Things — above, below, and beside

  1. dirt flying up on my ankles as I ran on the dusty trail
  2. brittle red leaves, crunching underfoot
  3. the shadow of a bird flying overhead
  4. frantic rustling in the bushes — I flinched in anticipation of a darting squirrel that never arrived
  5. a walker moving over to the edge of the path for me to pass — thank you! / you’re welcome
  6. a slash of red just below — a changing leaf
  7. flashes of orange all around — construction signs
  8. to my right and below: dribble dribble dribble — water falling down a limestone ledge in the ravine
  9. shrill squeaking under the metal grate in the ravine as I crossed over it — a chipmunk?
  10. is this peripheral? breaking through several spider webs on the winchell trail, about chest height

For the second week of my class, which starts this Wednesday!, I’m offering alliteration as one way into the words for describing/conjuring/communicating wonder (along with abecedarians and triple berry chants). This poem-of-the-day on (Poetry Daily), is a great example of what’s possible when you write only words starting with one letter — in this case, a:

Autobiography/ Michael Dumanis

Attempted avoiding abysses, assorted
abrasions and apertures, abscesses.

At adolescence, acted absurd: acid,
amphetamines. Amorously aching

after an arguably arbitrary Abigail,
authored an awful aubade.

Am always arabesquing after Abigails.
Am always afraid: an affliction?

Animals augur an avalanche. Animals
apprehend abattoirs. Am, as an animal,

anxious. Appendages always aflutter,
am an amazing accident: alive.

Attired as an apprentice aerialist,
addressed acrophobic audiences.

Aspiring, as an adult, after applause,
attracted an angelic acolyte.

After an affirming affair, an abortion.
After an asinine affair, Avowed Agnostic
approached, alone, an abbey’s altarpiece,

asking Alleged Almighty about afterlife.
Ambled, adagio, around an arena.
Admired an ancient aqueduct. Ate aspic.
Adored and ate assorted animals.
Ascended an alp. Affected an accent.
Acquired an accountant, an abacus, assets.
Attempted atonal arpeggios

There’s also an essay about how Dumanis wrote this poem, which I haven’t had time to read yet. Very excited to check it out! Okay, I just skimmed it. Here are some resources from the end that I might want to explore:

A few terrific examples of letter-constraint-based contemporary poems include Phillip B. Williams’s tour de force “Mush-mouf’s Maybe Crown,” where all the words begin with M (or, occasionally, “em” or “im”); Izzy Casey’s univocalic “I’m Piss Witch”; several terrific single-vowel lyrics in Cathy Park Hong’s collection Engine Empire including “Ballad in A”; Harryette Mullen’s linguistic experiments, such as “Any Lit,” in her collection Sleeping with the Dictionary, and, of course, Christian Bök’s virtuosic book-length project Eunoia, in which, among other idiosyncratic constraints, every chapter can only use a single vowel. All such projects derive at least some of their inspiration from the mid-20th century French avant-garde collective Oulipo, or Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, a “workshop of potential literature,” which encouraged systematic, sometimes arbitrary, language-based constraint in the composition of texts. For my Oulipian autobiography, it was especially important to me that every individual narrative moment made clear semantic sense despite the constraint, that the alliteration did not overly affect the speaker’s syntax or natural cadence, that taken together they told the story of a life.

sept 13/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill
55 degrees

What a wonderful morning for a run! 55 degrees! Low wind, bright sun. Wore my pink jacket until I warmed up, faded black shorts, gray t-shirt, raspberry red shoes, my mostly purple with pink splotches lightweight baseball cap that I found in my mother-in-law’s closet after she died, with the tag still on, and white socks (also found with tags on in her closet).

Running south, then back up to under the Franklin bridge, I listened to chainsaws, workers yelling about trees falling, bluejays screeching, Dave the Daily Walker saying good morning, and Daddy Long Legs calling out hello. For the last 2 miles of the run I listened to Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS.

10 Things

  1. the deep voice of the coxswain calling out instructions
  2. the blue, empty river
  3. graffiti on a post under the lake street bridge — block letters outlined in black — was there blue too? I can’t remember
  4. an old convertible sports car parked under the bridge, white or cream
  5. a photographer with a telephoto lens on their camera, standing under the trestle, probably taking pictures of the river
  6. Daddy long legs stretched out on a bench
  7. some guy talking (to the gorge? on the phone? to some other person I couldn’t see?) halfway up a column under the bridge — was I seeing this right?
  8. a line of bikers in bright yellow and orange vests heading south when I was heading north
  9. someone running in a bright pink shirt, another in orange, and one without a shirt
  10. my shadow — sharp and dark in the sun, running alongside me

Found June Jordan’s Guidelines for Critiquing a Poem in one of my files. Right now, I’m especially interested in these bits:

2. Is it a poem? 

a. Poetry: A medium for telling the truth. 
b. Poetry: The achievement of maximum impact with minimal number of words. 
c. Poetry: Utmost precision in use of language, hence, density and intensity of expression. 

Technical Checklist: 

a. Strong, descriptive verbs. Eliminate all forms of the verb “to be.” 
b. Singularity and vividness of diction (choice of words) 
c. Specificity / resonant and representative details 
d. Avoidance of abstractions and generalities 
e. Defensible line breaks 
f. Compelling / appropriate horizontal and / or vertical rhythm and / or vertical line breaks. 
g. Alliteration / Assonance / Dissonance 
h. Rhyme 
i. Consistency of voice / distance from the reader / diction 
j. Dramatic inconsistencies 
k. Punctuation (Punctuation is not word choice. Poems fly or falter according to the words composing them. Therefore, omit punctuation and concentrate on every single word. E.g., if you think you need a question mark then you need to rewrite so that your syntax makes clear the interrogative nature of your thoughts. And as for commas and dashes and dots? Leave them out!)

sept 8/RUN

1.75 miles
68 degrees

A quick run just after noon. Warmer than I realized, harder to move my legs too. Ran past 7 Oaks to the dirt path next to Edmund, past Minnehaha Academy, around Cooper school then back home. Construction trucks everywhere. They’re still working on the sewers, busting up the pavement, digging deep hole. Started in late May. Can’t wait until they’re done!

Today, instead of listening to the gorge or the neighborhood birds, I put in Olivia Rodrigo’s new album, GUTS. I like it. At the end of the run, “Making the Bed” came on. I liked how the whole song was about her regrets and taking responsibility for them and that she referenced the idiom you made your bed, now you must lie in it without ever explicitly singing those words, instead only singing, Me whose been making the bed. I’d like to play around with some idioms in a poem, experimenting with how to point to them without ever using them. I’d also love to find some examples from other poets.

Even as I listened to GUTS, I couldn’t block out all of the construction noise. So many construction things forcing me to notice them!

10 Construction Things

  1. the flash of bright yellow vests and hard hats
  2. a low constant rumble a few blocks away
  3. the loud roar of the big wheels of a dump truck rushing by
  4. the only slightly quieter roar of the smaller wheels of a bobcat following behind
  5. beep beep beep a truck backing up
  6. loose gravel and sand piled up to cover the pipes spread across the street, crunching under car wheels
  7. orange construction cones
  8. temporary stop signs
  9. big, city buses taking alternative routes on too narrow streets
  10. dusty, smoky clouds low in the air, breathed in through lungs

Yesterday I mentioned my discovery of some wonderful poems by Luisa A. Igloria. Here’s another. Wow!

Hog Island/ Luisa A. Igloria

The sun dips beneath a horizon of barrier
islands, marshes filled with traces
of the winged and wild-footed.

Skimmers in spring, migrants
wheeling toward the salt of other seasons.

On one side, the water; on the other,
the land—acres that yielded corn, tobacco,
barley, cotton. And where

are the quail that loved
fields of castor bean, that thrashed

in the wake of rifle fire? This
time of year, everything in the landscape tints
to the color of bronze and rust, registry pages

inked in sepia with names and weights;
the worth of indentured bodies. Palimpsest

means the canvas we see
floats on a geology of other layers—
sedimenting until the sea works loose

what it petrifies in salts and lye, what it
preserves for an afterhistory with no guarantee.

added a few hours later: Catching up on old New Yorker issues, I read this delightfully gross and somewhat horrifying opening paragraph from a section in talk of the town titled, “In the Water A Staten Island Lap”:

A swimmer freestyling through a shipping lane is a bit like a snail crossing the freeway. The situation is just as glamorous, and there tend to be few spectators. But when Leslie Hamilton, a thirty-one-year-old accountant swan a record-breaking clockwise lap around Staten Island last month, the biggest challenge wasn’t dodging garbage barges or intractable tankers with staunch, Soviet names like Salacgriva and Yasa Madur. It was lice. And she was saved by her bikini.

Sea lice. And her skin was crawling with them the entire time. The lice, which come from thimble jellyfish, lay tiny stinging cells on swimming suits. So Hamilton switched out her one piece for a bikini bottom and swam topless through the night. Wow.

Why did she do this? Here’s one reason she gave, as paraphrased by Daniel Shailer: Being uncomfortable makes everyday comforts exceptional.

sept 1/RUN

3.05 miles
2 trails
67 degrees

It’s warming up again, which always seems to happen in early September just as school is starting. 90s this week. Not too bad this morning. Sunny and breezy. Ran the first 2 miles listening to garbage trucks and trickling sewers and the clicking and clacking of ski poles, then the last mile listening to The Wiz.

10 Things

  1. avoiding exposed roots on the hard-packed and very dry dirt trail at 36th and edmund
  2. later, keeping my balance in the soft, loose dirt near 38th
  3. encountering several runners and walkers in the grass, most with dogs
  4. one quick flash of the river: blue
  5. good morning!good morning!good morning! (greeting the people I passed on winchell)
  6. briefly running parallel to someone else near folwell — I was on the dirt trail, they were on the paved path — then descending the hill and losing track of them
  7. stacked stones
  8. mistaking the black fence in the tunnel of trees for a person (as usual)
  9. sprinting to Michael Jackson and Diana Ross singing “Ease on the Down the Road” — don’t you carry nothing that might be a load
  10. more buzzing cicadas

Scott’s dad died sometime in the early morning. We woke up to the buzz of the phone, then a message from the hospice nurse. Yesterday, knowing it was coming, I felt some relief — his long years of suffering finally coming to an end; no lingering almost dead for a year like my mom. Now, I feel tired and sad and tender. He was such a loving, wonderful human.

august 27/RUN

4.6 miles
franklin hill turn around
56! degrees

What a beautiful morning. Feels like fall and that’s fine with me. I’m ready for cooler mornings, softer light, crackling leaves. I felt good on my run. Relaxed, not sore, happy. Didn’t see the river much because of the thick leaves.

Ran north listening to my footfalls, the birds, a dog barking down below on the trail that winds right beside the river, the clicking and clacking of ski pools, someone talking on the phone in a language other than english. Turned around at the bottom of the hill and kept running until I reached the franklin bridge. Then I put in my headphones and listened to The Wiz as I ran back.

Before I started running again, an older woman stopped me and said:

You run just like this guy that I see near 40th. Same high arm carriage and erect posture. Looks like you run about the same pace too. He’s cute.


10 Things

  1. Mr. Morning!
  2. 2 roller skiers climbing the franklin hill — click clack click clack
  3. 2 piles of stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  4. a barking dog below the tunnel of trees
  5. one runner ahead of me wearing a bright yellowish-green shirt
  6. another runner approaching me in bright yellowish-green shorts
  7. overheard from a biker: riding in a junior peloton…they can’t control themselves
  8. shshsh — sandy grit under my feet
  9. goldenrod along the side of the trail
  10. a runner with a slow, shuffling step, carrying a CamelBak — marathon training?

august 24/RUNSWIM

run: 5K
2 trails
72 degrees
dew point: 68

Cooler this morning than yesterday, but that dew point. Ugh! It felt good to run again after taking a short break. My last run was this past Saturday. I started at 7:30. I Listened to the gorge for 2 miles of the run, the put in headphones and started with Swift’s 1989, ended with The Wiz.

Another white-sky morning. I suppose the lack of sun made it feel a little coole, but it also made it feel gloomier.

Quiet. The river road was crowded with cars, their wheels whispering.

I ran on the dirt path between edmund and the river road. Heard some runners chatting across the road. After a few minutes, their voices drifted away behind me.

I don’t remember hearing any birds or acorns dropping, but I do remember the trickling of water through the sewer pipe near 42nd and the buzzy roar of a parks’ riding lawn mower above me as I ran below on the Winchell Trail.

I briefly glanced down at the river and thought: steamy, stagnant.

Haze in the air, hovering. Thoughts about my dying father-in-law hovering too. We went to visit him yesterday afternoon and he was asleep in a hospital bed in his bedroom. Quiet, dark, the only sounds the steady pulse of his oxygen and CPAP machines and Scott gently trying to wake him — Dad Dad Dad Dad. He had slept all day. This is it; we’ve entered the final stage. Another tender September is nearing.

Earlier this morning as I finished my coffee, I refreshed my memory on a poem I memorized a few years ago: Push the button, hear the sound by Helen Mort:

Listen to the lorikeet’s whistling song.
Can you hear the call of the mynah bird?
Can you hear the flamingos in the water?
Can you hear your small heart next to mine
and the house breathing as it holds us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the bones
our neighbor’s eucalyptus breaking?
It’s summer, high, emptied. Listen to the ground,
giddy with thirst. Listen to the dog shit
on the lawns, the murderous waterboatmen
skimming the green pond. Can you hear
the roses rioting on the trellis? Can you
make a noise like a cheeky monkey? There are
sounds your book lacks names for.

I recited it in my head a few times as I ran, recited it to my phone after I was done. I love how Mort moves back and forth from the command, Listen, to the question, Can you hear? In 2020, I made a list of her “listens” and “can you hears?” and then came up with some of my own: August 9, 2020

And finally, the Turkeys. I almost forget them — how I could forget the turkeys? Running the narrow dirt path between Minnehaha Academy and Becketwood (the gauntlet), I had to veer wide to avoid 3 turkeys chilling out in the grass. As I approached, the closest one trotted away, its wings flapping.

seen and read

Day two of the view of my window — not the view from, but the view of. Decided to go outside and inspect the spider web from the yard, looking through the window from the outside in. The web is still there and this spider looks even bigger up close. Wow, this spider! So big, especially the abdomen. Could she be pregnant? If I keep watching every day, will I be able to see her egg sac explode? How does that work? (Here’s a picture Scott took of the spider and posted on Instagram.)

Late morning, sitting on the HOT (feels like 99 degrees) deck, reading A Good House for Children, an excellent gothic novel featuring two of my favorites: a creepy house and the Dorset coast! One of the moms, Orla, has just taken a few polaroid pictures of her young, mute son:

Orla stood along by the window and watched the Polaroids develop in their enigmatic way, the images appearing as if through a clearing mist. Digital may have been sharper, but she generally preferred the texture of Polaroid, how it make everything look both blurred and hyper-real.

About this description, I wrote in my plague notebook (almost done with vol. 16!): digital photos, sharp images — illusion, saccadic masking, no movement, frozen.
Polaroids, the feel of things, a vague sense of movement everywhere, the illusion of vision made visible.

for my fall class

I’m teaching another addition of my “Finding Wonder in the World and the Words While Outside and in Motion” this fall and I might use this poem and Shira Erlichman’s introduction of it for thinking about the value of, and the problems with, naming:

I’ve recently fallen in love. She is fifty-five feet tall and her body is a hive of leaves where little birds zip and hide. She’s a tree. Whenever I round the particular corner toward her emerald and chirping body, I can’t help but give Esperanza a little wave. I didn’t realize I’d named her until, one day while walking our dog, I mentioned to Angel, “Oh look, Esperanza!” Her head up in the sky, she is way too cool to notice me. I admit, when passing her staggering height and chattering trunk, her ivy coat permeating that endless confidence, I get giddy. Like I’ve spotted a celebrity.

Then there’s Bernadette, another celebrity of my block. The little Dachshund-Terrier mix belongs to an older gentleman who dons coke-bottle glasses. When I see her golden-brown body wiggling down the block I actually shout, like paparazzi, “Bernadette! Bernadette––over here!” Her kind owner is used to this by now. Bernadette throws me the look of a seasoned starlet on the red carpet, then flops onto the ground and offers up her belly.

There are more neighborhood stars that catch me swooning. On one Wednesday night per month, my closed windows can’t keep out the raucous karaoke flowing from a nearby bar. At the first hint of a wild note, my heart’s flashbulb pings. “Zo-om-bie, Zo-om-bie,” spills into my living room, poorly, enthusiastically. An auditorium of cheers and laughs trails behind. “You guys,” I mutter to the disembodied voices of strangers entering my living room, “You’re crushing it.” Someone with an extra heap of chutzpah careens screechingly through Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ and my heart flutters.

What makes someone famous? The dictionary says it’s the “state of being known or talked about by many people.” But Esperanza, Bernadette, and a boisterous Wednesday night karaoke choir all feel like celebrity sightings. Did I mention the daffodils? When they all of a sudden poked their heads out this spring I could hear my neighbors gossiping, “Did you see them? Did you see?” It’s not fame that made them famous. Today’s poet resituates our cultural obsession with stardom and flips on its head who gets to be fanatically revered.

Episode 947 of The Slowdown Show

Famous / Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Maybe think about this poem in relation to my poem, “The Regulars,” and Emily Dickinson’s “Nobody”?

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
86 degrees

The last open swim of the season. Not enough lifeguards for a full course, so it was another there and back with 2 orange buoys and one green. Swimming the course, I realized 3 things: I can see the green buoys much better than the orange ones; I am much less likely to encounter off-course swimmers almost swimming into me when the course is a wide loop, than when it’s a there and back (several near misses last night); and because of the shortened course, I’ve missed out experiencing my favorite stretch one more time. It’s the stretch between the final green buoy at one end of the big beach and the first orange buoy past the other end. There’s something strange and dreamy about this wide stretch: it seems longer than other stretches; it’s the one stretch where I am usually able to see the orange buoy looming ahead of me; often, when the water’s choppy, the waves are behind me here, pushing me along, almost as if I were on a people mover; and it’s comes at the end of the loop, so I’m in a state of relief (another loop done!) and recovery (preparing for the next loop or slowing down for the shore).

I would love to craft a poem that might capture a little of the strange dreaminess of these moments — probably around 10 minutes?: vast, wide, open — not endless because I can see the orange buoy end, serene. This moment comes right after the intensity of rounding the final green buoy: the traffic jam of swimmers, the way the current pushes me forward, the changing of views from shore to water, water, everywhere. Yes! Maybe I’ll try.

august 15/RUNSWIM

4.35 miles
marshall loop (cleveland)
60 degrees

Started re-memorizing “Babel” by Kimberly Johnson and was reminded of the first sentence, My God, it’s loud down here, so loud the air/is rattled, as I ran. So loud! The air buzzing, my footsteps amplified. Ran north through the neighborhood, across the lake street bridge, up Marshall hill. I enjoyed passing all the cars waiting for the light to change, wondering if they wished they were me, out in the air, not stuck in a car. Lots of sun, some shade, no shadow. My left hip is a little tight — I think it’s my IT band, which is irritating but not a cause for alarm.

My God, it’s loud: 10 Gorge Things

  1. the electric hiss of cicadas
  2. my footsteps on the asphalt — not a soft strike or a hard thud but something in-between, something loud, almost echoing
  3. deeper breaths
  4. a black-capped chickadee — fee bee fee bee, a blue jay trying to answer back screech screech
  5. water rushing or gushing or just falling at shadow falls
  6. dong dong dong dong dong dong dong dong dong (the bells at St. Thomas)
  7. crunch thwak — an acorn popping then flying out from under a car’s wheel
  8. walk walk walk walk — the crosswalk sign at summit and cretin letting me know that I could walk
  9. we’re almost to the bike trail! — a woman biker to the passenger in her bike trailer
  10. He’s the Wiz and he lives in Oz — the refrain from the first song I listened to when my put my headphones in on the bridge

Since I mentioned my IT band, it’s time for another round of fun with injury terms:

I T stands for iliotibial band, but why couldn’t it stand for…

  • ink tents
  • impish tattlers
  • iffy tables
  • incomplete tarantulas
  • illuminated truths
  • ill turtles
  • Icarus trend
  • implied tantrum
  • itemized tally
  • Italian treat
  • implacable tree
  • idiotic toadstool

3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
79 degrees

A somewhat chaotic swim. Choppy water with swells. On the way to the little beach, it felt like the water was both pulling me down and washing over me, making it hard to stroke and to breathe. On the way back to the big beach, the swells were bigger — more punching walls of water — and with the sun, it was almost impossible to see any of my landmarks. Also, several kayaks and one swan boat got pretty close to me. And the first green buoy was placed so far to the right that it wasn’t until the third loop that I figured out the right trajectory for swimming past it without needing to correct my course. Even with all that, I enjoyed the swim. It’s always great to be out in the middle of the lake!

My God, it’s loud: 9 lake things

  1. a woman near the lifeguard stand where swimmers leave their bags, talking VERY loudly about her kid and what they were doing at the playground
  2. 3 loops and an hour later, that same women still talking VERY loudly near the lifeguard stand
  3. a flock of seagulls, calling out as they flew above the water
  4. a flock of teenage boys, yelling as they played some game at the edge of the swimming area that involved touching something gross at the bottom of the lake
  5. kids playing in the water near the little beach
  6. water sloshing over my head as a wave hit me
  7. water spraying as my hand entered the water and I hit the wave
  8. the lifeguard to the flock of boys: please do not play on the rope!
  9. a general din on the beach from people talking, eating, playing music, laughing