may 19/RUN

3 miles
river road, south/north
60 degrees

Ran a littler earlier, so it was cooler, quieter, calmer. Everything green. Everywhere orange cones from yesterday’s race. Encountered a strange squirrel that panicked as I approached — it spun around a few times, then hesitated before darting past me. Saw 4 roller skiers. Kept thinking the bag protecing the base of a new tree was a turkey. Noticed the faint shadows cast by the welcoming oaks. Faint because of the thick air, I think.

Listened to the birds as I ran south, my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist on the way back north.

Just after I finished my run, as I walked back, I could hear a man across the street talking on this phone, his voice loud and a little agitated. Was he mad, or was this just how he talked to people on the phone? At one point he paused then said, Hello? Are you still there? Silence. But someone must have still been there because he started talking again.

Almost home, I was thinking about shadows some more as I recited Jorie Graham’s “Still Life with Window and Fish.” In particular, I was thinking about the last line, We are too restless to inherit this earth. Then I thought about the beautiful interruptions — the shadows and the motion washed in kitchen light — and imagined myself as a restless shadow flickering fanning gliding upstream. Then this thought took me to a line from one of Victoria Chang’s Obit poems:

She switched
places with her shadow because
suffering changes shape and happens
secretly.

Not the suffering in secret part, just the switching places with my shadow.

Typing all of this now, I’m thinking about another J Graham line, The whole world outside wants to come into here, and twilight walks around the neighborhood before people close their curtains, when you can see inside their living rooms, watch the shows on their ridiculously big TVs with them.

added many hours later: In the late morning/early afternoon, I read a favorite childhood book, The Shades/ Betty Brock. I read the whole thing — all 128 pages of it — in about 5 hours. For normally sighted people that might not be a big deal, but for me it is. I read it with my eyes, not my ears! Yes, there was a rough stretch where I kept falling asleep every minute or so and stayed on the same page for about 10 minutes (or, maybe a lot more? It felt like a long time), but I still did it. Tomorrow, I hope to write about a few things in the book, and to also think about those things on my run. One thing that came up a lot in the book was the idea that the shadows in the garden ruled by a dolphin fountain and his magic were both beholden to the humans who entered the garden and independent of them once those humans left. A question I had a few weeks ago: what is the relationship between an object and its shadow?

may 18/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
67 degrees

Warm this morning. Humid, too. Lots of sweat and a flushed face. Ran alongside the 10 milers for the “Women Run the City” race — just briefly; they passed me quite quickly. Everything was wet from the all-night rain. Was there sun? I can’t remember. Rowers? Not sure. Lots of people on the edge of trail, cheering on the runners.

Running north, I listened to the spectators. Running south, Beyoncé’s “Carter Cowboy.”

Right after I got back, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk. No more runners, but the road was still closed. So quiet! Scott remarked, and I agreed, that you don’t realize how much car noise there is on the river road until the cars are gone. I wish they could close the road to cars more — like they did during the pandemic.

shadows: cave paintings

The other day, I came across a poem by Muriel Rukeyser that reminded me of a great topic for shadows, especially in terms of painting:

The Painters/ Muriel Rukeyser

In the cave with a long-ago flare
a woman stands, her arms up. Red twig, black twig, brown twig.
A wall of leaping darkness over her.
The men are out hunting in the early light
But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
and a woman among them.
Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
a woman among them, painting.

I know very little about cave paintings. Here’s an article to read: Were the First Artists Mostly Women? Also, I could watch the documentary: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

may 17/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill
65 degrees

Feels like summer is here. Everything green, my view of the river gone. I did see the river for a few minutes, as I ran down to the flats, but I don’t remember what I saw. Wait — yes, I recall seeing the reflections of trees.

Felt good for the first half, not so good the second. Tired legs, some gastro stuff.

added a few hours later, when I remembered: Along the river road, the workers were out patching asphalt and replacing wires in the street lights that were recently disemboweled again. How many times has this happened? Running north, I saw a guy in an orange vest with a big spool of coated wire, rolling out a lot of it on the bike path. Later, returning south, I saw another worker sitting at the base of a street lamp, fiddling with the wire. It looked like a time-consuming job. I read somewhere that all this stolen wire has cost St. Paul millions of dollars this year. I also read — maybe in the same article? — that the coated wire was stamped with “City of St. Paul” on it and that that stamped wire had been recovered at at least one scrap metal company that frequently bought stolen wire. Is Minneapolis wire stamped too?

I think I partly remembered witnessing the street lamps and the wire because of reading today’s episode of the Slowdown. Major Jackson picked a poem by Liesel Mueller that I gathered a few years ago for my list of vision poems: Monet Refuses the Operation. When I first encountered it, I didn’t really get it. Then, a few months ago (18 feb 2024), I read it again and it suddenly made so much sense. Yes, I thought, she gets it. She starts the poem with an image of streetlights:

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.

I don’t think I see halos around street lamps, but the idea of things blurring together, and edges not being visible (or not existing), is very true to my experience. This poem, along with several others I’ve collected, including Ed Bok Lee’s “Halos” offer ways to think about how I see as beautiful and magical, not tragic. Here’s how Major Jackson (love his poetry!) describes this “bad” vision as beautiful:

Poets and visual artists work to give representation to the world which shimmers and blurs. Sometimes only impressions are available. Rather than a fidelity to things as they are, we desire to represent those very distortions. Today’s dramatic monologue is a gem of a poem, one that reminds how everything around us is divined with light, even our imperfections.

Episode 1120

I can’t remember what I listened to for the first half of my run, but after running up most of the hill, I stopped to walk and put in my “Slappin’ Shadows” playlist. My favorite came from, “Dancing in the Moonlight”: you can’t dance and stay uptight

Favorite song: “Evening” — the haunting flute! the melancholy bass clarinet! love it

Evening makes me think of a wonderful poem that I encountered while rereading old entries from on this day.

Evening/ Jeremy Radin

Another word I love is evening
for the balance it implies, balance
being something I struggle with.
I suppose I would like to be more
a planet, turning in & out of light
It comes down again to polarities,
equilibrium. Evening. The moths
take the place of the butterflies,
owls the place of hawks, coyotes
for dogs, stillness for business,
& the great sorrow of brightness
makes way for its own sorrow.
Everything dances with its strict
negation, & I like that. I have no
choice but to like that. Systems
are evening out all around us—
even now, as we kneel before
a new & ruthless circumstance.
Where would I like to be in five
years, someone asks—& what
can I tell them? Surrendering
with grace to the evening, with
as much grace as I can muster
to the circumstance of darkness,
which is only something else
that does not stay.

I think I’d like to memorize this poem, just so I can spend some more time with it, especially out on the trail.

random line encountered again: “squirrels devote much of their life to not-dying.” Today, I’d like to write around and into this stark line.

silhouettes

On Wednesday, I picked up three books related to my shadow month: the kids’ book, The Shades, Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost of, and Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love. Today, I’m skimming through Nguyen’s and Walker’s books and thinking about silhouettes again.

When I look at Kara Walker’s work, I see adamantly two-dimensional images — images pinned and flattened in a rejection of Renaissance space.

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Okay, I would love to be able to read all of this book, but, wow, there is very little contrast and even with my brightest lamp, I’m struggling to read the words. Bummer.

I observe in Walker’s visual liexicon a world I’ve never seen quite so explicitly: a pictorial vision in which everyone is a mere silhouette of self, a profile drained of facture (def: the manner in which — a painting — is made) or flesh, pushed flat and up against the wall.

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Halbreich references an interview with Kara Walker in Index, which I can read much more easily than the book:

The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that’s also what the stereotype does.  So I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked.  Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people, and a lot of people can understand it, the other side of this is that it also reduces difference, reduces diversity to that stereotype.  I was kind of working through this in the tableaus and things that I’ve been doing, where the intention was to render everybody black and go from there.  Go from this backhanded philosophy that blackness is akin to everything.   

Kara Walker

In a quiet voice, she [Walker] might say that her narratives are a radical condensation of a faith in shadows, or “becoming.”

Forward/ Kathy Halbreich

Two silhouettes I recall encountering during my run:

one: Running down into the tunnel of trees, dark and thick with green, I saw a figure ahead moving strangely, something dark trailing around them, almost like flapping wings. Getting closer, I could see it was a dark jacket of sweatshirt tied around their waist. As they swung their arms widely, the sleeves of the jacket were ruffled.

two: Hi Dave! Thinking again about how I (almost) always can identify Dave the Daily Walker because of his distinctive form: one arm that swings out from his side — wide and awkward.

may 16/RUN

4.2 miles
ford loop (short)
56 degrees / humidity: 84%

Sticky with a cool wind. Glad to have my orange sweatshirt on when we started, but happy to take it off after 2 miles. Very moist. I told Scott I felt like one of those sponges you use for moistening stamps — damp all over. This led us to a discussion of how most stamps are stickers now and how hard it is to find non-sticker stamps. I suggested that my comparison — between sweaty me (would that be the tenor of a metaphor?) and the sponge (the vehicle?) — might be a dead metaphor. Then I took it a step further and suggested that stamps and letters were becoming metaphors that no longer worked because people don’t use stamps and send letters as much as they used to. Now it’s all online. This lead us to a discussion of library archives and old papers and what’s being lost when all of our evidence is online (and easily manipulable). I think that conversation was wrapping up as we headed east on the franklin bridge.

I remember admiring the dark, flat river and hearing a far off woodpecker. No sun or shadows today.

note: this paragraph was added later in the today. Earlier I couldn’t remember what we talked about on the east side of the river, finally it came to me. Between Franklin and the trestle on the east side, we talked about Still Life paintings and I mentioned how many dead animals are in the ones I’ve seen — the only way to study them closely — and with pools of blood or strung up, their bodies contorted in grotesque ways — or were those just the still life paintings Diane Seuss picked for her poetry collection? Anyway, I mentioned wanting to play around with different meanings of still: not just keeping still, but enduring. Scott mentioned a whiskey still and I thought that, since we both like bourbon, I should write a poem titled Still Life that was about drinking bourbon.

Sometimes it felt gloomy and sometimes, like walking back over the lake street bridge after we finished, it felt intense, vibrant as a certain slant of light made the green leaves glow. Woah! What a bright green!

After delighting in the green, we talked about the difference between shadows and reflections and I mentioned how I always see the edge of the water, darkened by trees, as shadows and not reflections. Scott couldn’t understand how I would get reflections and shadows mixed up. I couldn’t either until I realized much later that my confusion stems from my vision loss, at least partly. The dark forms at the edge of the shore don’t look like reflections, they look like dark shadows — no details, no evidence that it’s anything but a mass of darkness. When it’s brighter, I can easily see and understand that the smiling bridge in the water is a reflection and not a shadow. Another example: I can picture and imagine easily the difference between the shadow of a cloud crossing over me and the reflection of a cloud on the water.

At the beginning of the run, I recited the Jorie Graham poem I memorized this morning. Then I talked about the other Graham poem I encountered (see below). After I finished reciting the poem — which I did successfully while running! — Scott and I discussed the difficulty of listening to modern poetry and trying to grasp the meaning of strange language, or language used strangely with ears instead of eyes. As part of this, we discussed the oral tradition and its different methods for telling stories that people could make sense of as they listened. Again (because I have mentioned it on this blog before), it makes me want to study more oral forms of poetry, especially as I learn to rely more on hearing rather than seeing words.

a poet speaks to me from across the page

This morning, before running with Scott, after I finished memorizing Jorie Graham’s “Still Life with Window and Fish,” something strange and wonderful happened. Looking through the collection that “Still Life” is from, Erosion, I found another poem I wanted to read: To a Friend Going Blind. I began to read it and, seven lines from the end, there it was, me. Not Sarah but Sara. Out of nowhere, like the narrator or Graham was speaking just to me. Wow. Maybe I’m missing something and her Sara is referencing something earlier in the poem, but reading it for the first time, I gasped. I am Sara, and I am (most likely) going blind, and I know the beauty of the walls.

To a Friend Going Blind/ Jorie Graham

Today, because I couldn’t find the shortcut through,
I had to walk this town’s entire inner
perimeter to find
where the medieval walls break open
in an eighteenth century
arch. The yellow valley flickered on and off
through cracks and the gaps
for guns. Bruna is teaching me
to cut a pattern.
Saturdays we buy the cloth.
She takes it in her hands
like a good idea, feeling
for texture, grain, the built-in
limits. It’s only as an afterthought she asks
and do you think it’s beautiful?
Her measuring tapes hang down, corn-blond and endless,
from her neck.
When I look at her
I think Rapunzel,
how one could climb that measuring,
that love. But I was saying,
I wandered all along the street that hugs the walls,
a needle floating
on its cloth. Once
I shut my eyes and felt my way
along the stone. Outside
is the cash crop, sunflowers, as far as one can see. Listen,
the wind rattles in them,
a loose worship
seeking an object
an interruption. Sara,
the walls are beautiful. They block the view.
And it feels rich to be
inside their grasp.
When Bruna finishes her dress
it is the shape of what has come
to rescue her. She puts it on.

Her use of inside and rich and interruption here surely must be connection to the poem I just memorized: the beautiful interruptions, the things of this world and even the windowpanes are rich and I love it here where it blurs and nothing starts or ends but all is waving and colorless and voiceless.

may 14/RUN

7.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
59 degrees

Whew, that was hard. Running to the lake wasn’t too bad but on the way back, my legs were tired and I was hot and thirsty. I managed to bargain with myself — just keep going until you get to the water fountains or the light or the top of the hill — and do more running than walking in the second half. I think I needed to start earlier and bring some water.

I’m wiped out now, writing this, but I don’t care. It was worth it to get to run to Lake Nokomis and watch the glittering water, hear the seagulls, feel the lake air. Summer and open water swimming is coming! I signed myself, and FWA and RJP up for open swim this year! Will either of them swim? Hopefully at least once or twice. One more thing to note: looking out at the water, then to the little beach, I noticed the lifeguard boat — the main marker I use to navigate when I can’t see the buoys — has been moved. Hopefully it will be moved back again or I’ll have some difficulty sighting this summer.

Listened to the birds and the traffic and a song drifting out of a car window as I ran to the lake. Put in my “Slappin’ Shadows” playlist on the way back:

Moonshadow
Golden Years
The Shadow of Your Smile
I’m Beginning to See the Light
I’m Shadowing You
Shadow Dancing
If You Go Away
Hot Lunch Jam
Watching the Wheels / John Lennon

The last one about the wheels was just added last night. In addition to watching the wheels going ’round, he’s also doing time, watching the shadows on the wall. After he’s done singing, the song ends with random street noise: clopping horses, a person’s foot steps, someone talking. The clopping horses made me think of one of the rooms in an exhibit at Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). You sit on a bench in the room as a day cycles through, complete with the light changing throughout the day to simulate dawn, midday, dusk, evening, and with a recording of sounds outside of the room, including . . . horses clopping. I recall having some deep thought about shadows and my relationship to them as I listened to this song, but I can’t remember what it was. I recall having a general feeling of agreement: letting it go and just watching the wheels go ’round or the shadows on the wall sounds good to me!

One other random shadow thing I remember: In the middle of the night, during one of 3 or 4 sessions of being restless and getting out of bed, I looked around the room and noticed the shadows. The moon must have been bright last night because there were lots of shadows even though we have the blinds closed. At one point, a car drove by and their headlights looked cool and strange traveling across the wall.

As I ran along the creek and switched from sun to shade to sun again, I thought about how welcome shade is on a too sunny day. When I’m running in the spring and summer, I almost always cheer for the shadows and the coolness they offer.

Yesterday I picked up a book I requested from the library, Margaret Livingstone’s Vision and Art. Very cool. I got it so I could read more about how artists have used luminance and shadows and light to create images that look real.

Another thought I recall as I drifted in and out of sleep last night: I’d like to think about how the way artists manipulate light and shadow to create their illusions of realness, might be similar to how the brain does it for us. The brain as an artist — filling in, filtering, transforming signals into images that we can use and admire.

Yesterday I revisited Jorie Graham’s poem, “Still Life with Shadow and Fish” and understood it in a way I hadn’t before. Wow! I decided to listen to/read something else by her. Listening to this recording helped me to understand it a little better.

Two Paintings by Gustav Klimt/ Jorie Graham

Although what glitters
on the trees,
row after perfect row,
is merely
the injustice
of the world,

the chips on the bark of each
beech tree
catching the light, the sum
of these delays
is the beautiful, the human
beautiful,

body of flaws.
The dead
would give anything
I’m sure,
to step again onto
the leafrot,

into the avenue of mottled shadows,
the speckled
broken skins. The dead
in their sheer
open parenthesis, what they
wouldn’t give

for something to lean on
that won’t
give way. I think I
would weep
for the moral nature
of this world,

for right and wrong like pools
of shadow
and light you can step in
and out of
crossing this yellow beech forest,
this buchen-wald,

one autumn afternoon, late
in the twentieth
century, in hollow light,
in gaseous light. . . .
To receive the light
and return it

and stand in rows, anonymous,
is a sweet secret
even the air wishes
it could unlock.
See how it pokes at them
in little hooks,

the blue air, the yellow trees.
Why be afraid?
They say when Klimt
died suddenly
a painting, still
incomplete,

was found in his studio,
a woman’s body
open at its point of
entry,
rendered in graphic,
pornographic,

detail—something like
a scream
between her legs. Slowly,
feathery,
he had begun to paint
a delicate

garment (his trademark)
over this mouth
of her body. The mouth
of her face
is genteel, bored, feigning a need
for sleep. The fabric

defines the surface,
the story,
so we are drawn to it,
its blues
and yellows glittering
like a stand

of beech trees late
one afternoon
in Germany, in fall.
It is called
Buchenwald, it is
1890. In

the finished painting
the argument
has something to do
with pleasure.

may 12/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow
67 degrees

Too hot this morning! My usual refrain: get up and go out earlier! Lots of shadows, birds — several turkeys in the neighborhood just past turkey hollow! None of them menacing today. I decided to put together another shadow playlist with all my favorites. Called it “Slappin’ Shadows.” I listened to it for the whole run instead of the birds.

I remember these lyrics from “Moonshadow” especially:

Did it take long to find me?
I asked the faithful light
Oh, did it take long to find me?
And are you gonna stay the night?

I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow

10 Surfaces I Ran Over

  1. sidewalk
  2. street — smooth
  3. street — cracked, rutted
  4. grass
  5. roots
  6. soft, sandy, slippery dirt
  7. soft dirt that was mud 2 day s ago
  8. curb
  9. paved trail
  10. edge of road, slanted, over a grate

Last week, I checked out Dorianne Laux’s new collection, Life on Earth. I especially love this poem:

Mugged By Poetry/ Dorianne Laux    

—for Tony Hoagland who sent me a handmade chapbook made from old postcards called OMIGOD POETRY with a whale breaching off the coast of New Jersey and seven of his favorite poems by various authors typed up, taped on, and tied together with a broken shoelace.

Reading a good one makes me love the one who wrote it, 
as well as the animal or element or planet or person 
the poet wrote the poem for. I end up like I always do, 
flat on my back like a drunk in the grass, loving the world.  
Like right now, I’m reading a poem called “Summer” 
by John Ashbery whose poems I never much cared for, 
and suddenly, in the dead of winter, “There is that sound 
like the wind/Forgetting in the branches that means 
something/Nobody can translate…” I fall in love 
with that line, can actually hear it (not the line 
but the wind) and it’s summer again and I forget 
I don’t like John Ashbery poems. So I light a cigarette 
and read another by Zbigniew Herbert, a poet 
I’ve always admired but haven’t read enough of, called 
“To Marcus Aurelius” that begins “Good night Marcus
put out the light/and shut the book For overhead/is raised 
a gold alarm of stars…” First of all I suddenly love 
anyone with the name Zbigniew. Second of all I love 
anyone who speaks in all sincerity to the dead
and by doing so brings that personage back to life, 
plunging a hand through the past to flip off the light.  
The astral physics of it just floors me. Third of all 
is that “gold alarm of stars…” By now I’m a goner, 
and even though I have to get up tomorrow at 6 am 
I forge ahead and read “God’s Justice” by Anne Carson, 
another whose poems I’m not overly fond of 
but don’t actively disdain. I keep reading one line 
over and over, hovering above it like a bird on a wire 
spying on the dragonfly with “turquoise dots all down its back 
like Lauren Bacall”. Like Lauren Bacall!! Well hell, 
I could do this all night. I could be in love like this 
for the rest of my life, with everything in the expanding
universe and whatever else might be beyond it 
that we can’t grind a lens big enough to see. I light up 
another smoke, maybe the one that will kill me, 
and go outside to listen to the moon scalding the iced trees.  
What, I ask you, will become of me?

may 11/RUN

5.25 miles
ford loop
60 degrees

Shorts, tank top, sun! Only one rower on the river. Under the bridge the water was sparkling — was it because of the sandbar? There was some sort of informal running event — no signs, but a stream of people, adults and kids, running and people on the edge of the trail cheering.

I ran on the soft dirt trail beside the pave path a lot. Gritty and fun to slide on — not slide as in slip but as in glide.

Encountered other runners, walkers, one rollerblader who kindly said, on your left, as he passed me. I could hear the metallic clunking of his wheels before and after he passed.

Birds, of course. The run began with the haunting coo of a mourning dove. I don’t hear mourning doves that often. I didn’t know, or if I did I forgot, that they are also called turtle doves. Also heard some black-capped chickadees. At the end of the run as I walked back home through the neighborhood, I heard a little kid call out, bird!, and the adult with him say, sparrow.

Lots of shadows: tree trunks, leaves, fence railings, birds, me, beside rocks, under benches. My favorite shadow was mine — running close to the railing, overlooking the gorge and the river on the east bank, my shadow was way down in the trees, near the water. I kept moving closer to the railing, trying to get my shadow in the water. I never got close enough for her to swim.

Another memorable shadow: the sidewalk was almost all gray shade, with just a little light, where the leaves hadn’t filled in it. I imagined doing an erasure poem that mimicked this form. Most of the text shaded out with just a few words sprinkled around — dappled? I want to try it! Speaking of dappled, the other day I was describing all of the shadows in my plague notebook (vol 20!). I noticed the speckled light under the crabapple tree and wrote: crabapple dapple. Told Scott about it and he responded, ugh!

Almost 4 miles in, on the ford bridge, I stopped to put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist. Put it on shuffle: “The Shadow Knows,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “We Will Become Silhouettes,” and then a song I haven’t heard yet while running: “Shadows and Light”/ Joni Mitchell. I’ll have to think about her lyrics some more.

Here’s a poem that mentions shadow, and is about questions! Last year, I listened to a wonderful podcast with Alabi: Kemi Alabi vs. Divinity. It’s not available right now; is it because the hosts are protesting Poetry Foundation’s refusal to make a statement against the genocide in Palestine?

44 Questions to Ask While Bingeing/ Kemi Alabi

After Benji Hart

  1. How many hands have touched this food?
  2. What were their intentions?
  3. How vast is the range?
  4. What makes them hands at all?
  5. How many seeds survived their birth for this?
  6. Did you count yourself?
  7. From sprout to pluck, how many breaths old was the oldest?
  8. What’s become of its homeland?
  9. How many breaths will it add to yours?
  10. Or is this a thing that takes?
  11. Which things were born dead for this?
  12. Did you count yourself?
  13. Which born free?
  14. Which born food?
  15. Is there a state in-between?
  16. How old was the well of that answer?
  17. If governments and their signed scrolls are Plato’s cave wall shadows, where is the real sun?
  18. What’s become of its homeland?
  19. How many generations removed from the land are you?
  20. What floor takes its place?
  21. What is it built on top of?
  22. Are the people who tended that place still alive?
  23. Are there any living descendants?
  24. Is their language still spoken on earth?
  25. If you heard it, would your feet twitch?
  26. Or does dead mean gone?
  27. How many gone things in your place?
  28. Did you count yourself?
  29. What does your body and the day it makes cost?
  30. What is its price, in gone things?
  31. Is this sustainable? Better—regenerative?
  32. Or will this make you the most gone thing alive?
  33. Is god or the human the cave wall shadow?
  34. Who says the shadow is nothing at all?
  35. Are you still eating?
  36. Who?
  37. What for?
  38. What have you grown in its place?
  39. How much is enough?
  40. Is enough a place or a count?
  41. Is there a state in-between?
  42. Or does enough mean gone?
  43. Did you enough yourself?
  44. In the language of the oldest gone thing, how do you say devour?

Who says the shadow is nothing at all?
Did you enough yourself?

So good!

may 9/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
53 degrees

Overcast, then sun, then overcast again. This cycle happened throughout the run. Enough sun to admire the soft shadows — leaves stirring in the wind, tree trunks, fence slats, me. Went out earlier today and noticed more cars on the river road. No kids on the playground yet. No big turkeys. Greeted Mr. Morning! and smiled at a roller skier. Said good morning to a few other runners. Saw lots of light, glowing green, the small dark form of a flying bird.

Listened to car wheels whooshing and birds chirping as I ran to the falls. Put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist on the way back and kept working my way through the songs.

White Shadow/ Peter Gabriel
Glamour Professional/ Steely Dan
Hot Lunch Jam/ Irene Cara
We Three (My Echo, My Shadow, and Me)

It’s hard to tell black from white
When you wake up in the middle of the night

I thought I heard the line as, in the middle of the light, which makes more sense to me. Maybe I can’t see “white” at night, but I can see contrasts, light from dark, very easily. It’s color I can’t see. Waking up in the middle of light would be far more blinding, I think.

Reading the lyrics for “White Shadow” I was turned off by the rhymeiness of it all; he even did that annoying thing of altering the words a little to make them fit the rhyme. Ugh. But, dammit, when I listened to him singing them again, he made them sound cool. How can you make No one knew if the spirit died/All wrapped up in Kentucky Fried sound cool?

“Glamour Profession” was Scott’s addition. I kept waiting to hear where shadow fit in, but didn’t. I missed it; maybe because I was distracted by the name, Hoop McCann:

6:05 p.m., outside the stadium 
Special delivery for Hoops McCann 
Brut and charisma poured from the shadow where he stood 
Looking good, he’s a crowd-pleasing man

Shady Sadie/Serving Lady skimming off the top, making the same cheap and barely edible lunch for those Fame kids and pocketing the rest of the money. I always thought Irene Cara sang, southern lady. If it’s yellow, then it’s yellow/if it’s blue it could be stew

I want to include all of the lyrics for “We Three”:

We three, we’re all alone
Living in a memory
My echo, my shadow, and me

We three, we’re not a crowd
We’re not even company
My echo, my shadow, and me

What good is the moonlight
The silvery moonlight that shines above?
I walk with my shadow
I talk with my echo
But where is the one I love?

We three, we’ll wait for you
Even till eternity
My echo, my shadow, and me

“We three we’re all alone. Seems like we’re livin’ in a memory. 
That’s my echo my shadow and me. 
We three we ain’t no crowd. 
Fact is we ain’t even company. 
That’s my echo my shadow and me.
You know I been wonderin’ what good is the
moonlight that silvery moonlight that shines way, way up above? 
Yeah, I walk with my shadow, I talk with my echo, but where is that gal that I love?”

We three, we’ll wait for you
Even till eternity
My echo, my shadow, and me

I really like this song and thinking about the relationship between a self, its echo, and its shadow, although I think more positively of these three than the Ink Spots do.

At some point during the run, I remember thinking about how some shadows are still, frozen, sharply formed, while others stutter or flutter or vibrate like echoes.

When I heard the line, Seems like we’re livin’ in a memory, I thought about how I mostly can’t see people’s faces clearly and that I’ve either learned to tune it out and speak/look into the void, or I just fill in the smudge with the memory of their face. I’m used to it, and often forget I’m doing it until suddenly I wonder as I stare at the blob, am I looking in the right place, into their eyes, or am I staring at their chin? I don’t care, but I imagine the other person might, so I try to find their eyes again.

Almost home, the playlist returned to the beginning and I hear, “I’m shadowing You” again. This time I thought about shadowing as obsessing over something. To shadow someone or something is to be obsessed with it.

silhouette theory

Read about the silhouette theory this morning —

The Silhouette Theory of character design. What you do is take your lead character (or characters) and reduce them down to a silhouette — plain old black and white — and see how distinctive they look.
    It’s a common technique in animation. One of the initial decisions in creating a character is to choose a shape (before contour or even color) that is eye-catching and conveys attitude, so the character ‘lands’ in the animated world, has impact, and is easy to track.
    It works because our minds tend to register size, posture, shape and body language before processing other cues, like facial expressions or actions.

There is poem in here. Time to write it!

may 8/RUN

4 miles
trestle+ turn around
60 degrees

Okay spring. What a glorious morning! Birds, sun, shadows, green. Ran north, past the trestle. Didn’t see the river (too much green), but said Hi! to Dave and waved to Daddy Long Legs. Encountered, twice, a trio of very fast runners, someone on an eliptigo, and a roller skier.

Thought about shadows as the world of almost — echoes and reflections too. Welcome to the world of almosts not quites nearly theres. Glad you could join me. Some day, I’ll write a poem, or a series of poems, about the almost world I inhabit, where the shadow of a fence feels more real than the fence. As my mind wandered, I also thought about one of my favorite books as a kid: The Shades. I should read it again — just requested it from the library. I would buy it, but it must be out of print: a used copy is $300!

On the way back, I put in my “I’m Shadowing You” and listened to more of my shadow songs:

  • I’m Beginning to See the Light
  • Twlight
  • The Shadow Knows (just the beginning)
  • Yesterday
  • Moon Shadow
  • Golden Years
  • Candle Mambo
  • If You Go Away
  • We Will Become Silhouttes

So many interesting thoughts about shadows, some of them already gone: used to ramble through the park/shadowboxing in the dark — twilight as a time when shades are drawn and silhouettes appear on them — there’s a shadow hanging over me

And if I ever lose my eyes
If my colors all run dry
Yes, if I ever lose my eyes
Oh if, I won’t have to cry no more

Yes, I am bein’ followed by a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow

When this part of “Moonshadow” played I got excited. Yes! Losing my eyes? Color running dry? That’s me. It didn’t make me sad, but almost, strangely (I suppose), joyful in my recognition of my experience. And, yes, I will always have the moonshadow. In fact, as my vision diminishes, shadows are even more meaningful.

Run for the shadows/Run for the shadows

I wondered if the singer in “Candle Mambo” was dancing with his own shadow in the candlelight.

Listening to Neil Diamond’s version of “If You Go Away,” I was struck by the absence of shadows — when the person he loves goes away, all dark; when they’re there, all light. No in-between — either nothing matters, or it matters too much. Neil needs some shadows to temper all his drama.

Just as I reached home, “We Will Become Silhouettes” came on. Very fitting for what I was thinking about before my run:

silhouettes

    Thinking about shadows and light, I was reminded of a video I watch 10? years ago on Steven Spielberg and his use of shadow and light. I couldn’t find it, but found something else. Near the end, on a segment featuring shadows, I heard this line:

    A rule in comic books is that a character should be recognizable just by looking at their silhouette.

    Immediately I thought about forms and my interest in experimenting with how little visual information we need to recognize something — the silhouette as form. I also thought briefly about Platonic Forms. Then I thought about silhouettes, especially the ones I remember making in elementary art class. I looked up “silhouette” and found an article from the Smithsonian: Q and Art: Silhouettes. It mentions the influence of silhouettes on current artists like Kara Walker — Yes! I remember seeing an exhibit of her work at the Walker — in 2007 (I looked it up). Very cool.

    I found this video about Walker’s work that I’d like to watch after my run.

    The silhouette lends itself to an avoidance of the subject, you know, not being able to look at it directly.

    [about Stone Mountain, GA, where Walker grew up, after moving there from Stockton, CA] So that place has a little more resonance. It’s so in-your-face. There’s just no hiding the fact of what black stands for in white america and what white stands for in black america — they’re all loaded with our deepest psychological perversions and fears and longings.

    I was tracing outlines of profiles and thinking about physiognomy and racist sciences and minstrelsy and shadow and the dark side of the soul. And I thought, you know, I have black paper here, and I was making silhouette paintings, but they weren’t the same thing. It seemed like the most obvious answer, it took me forever to come to, was just to make a cut in the surface of this black thing. You know I had this black surface and if I just made a cut in it I was creating a hole. It was like the whole world was in there for me.

    Discussing her work Insurrection, she describes how overhead projects were used so that the shadows of visitor’s moving through the exhibit would be projected on the work, “so maybe they would feel implicated” in the scene, the history.

    I began to love the kind of self promotion surrounding the work of the silhouette artist. They would show up in different towns and advertise their skills, sometimes very overblown language describing their incredible skills: able to cut in less than a minute, 10 seconds, for your likeness, your accurate likenesses. I also began to question this whole idea of accurate likenesses.

    vision moment: While watching the video on my iPad, I paused it to transcribe what she was saying. When I put my finer on the iPad to scroll back a little and start again, my finger had disappeared. Georgina Kleege talks about this happening to her in Sight Unseen, but I didn’t remember experiencing it until today. It’s very localized, in one spot, and only if the contrast is bad. Am I mis-seeing this? Is it just the lack of contrast?

    a thought about the monthly challenges

    I’ve done monthly challenges about individual poets — Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson, Linda Pastan — or single books — Dart, garbage — or a single poem — Hymn to Life. I’ve studied birds, water, wind, windows, ghosts, shadows. Sometimes, these studies lead to poem, and sometimes they’re the chance to care about something new, something I’ve never noticed or bothered to think about. I love these challenges. Today I loved thinking about silhouettes and remembering art projects I did as a kid and having a chance to think again about art work that I saw years ago but didn’t quite understand.

    may 7/WALK

    30 minute walk
    neighborhood, with Delia
    65 degrees

    Walked around the neighborhood on a beautiful, windy morning. A few hours before, it had been raining. Puddles everywhere. Mud, too. Birds, laughing kids, yellow and orange and red tulips all around. Also: overgrown weeds, dandelions, unruly grass. Oh — and pollen! I know that it could be much worse, but I still felt it: scratchy throat, itchy eyes, fatigue.

    This morning I renewed my driver’s license. For me, it was a big deal. I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy in 2016, two months after I had barely renewed my license because I couldn’t initially read the Snellen chart. The woman behind the counter was generous — I remember her looking at me strangely after I said the wrong letters and then asking, Do you want to try that again? Slowly? For years I had been nervous about the vision test without knowing why.

    When the ophthalmologist first told me I would probably lose all of my central vision, I felt relief — I just renewed my license so I don’t have to worry about doing the vision test until 2020! — and worry — What’s will happen in four years? As 2020 approached, my anxiety increased. But, because of the pandemic, I was able to renew my license online. No vision test! Another reprieve for four years!

    Next month I turn 50 and it’s time to renew my license again. I decided to do it early, partly to get it over with and partly because Scott and FWA had both renewed their license’s two months ago and the person behind the counter didn’t make them take a vision test. Could I be so lucky? I hoped so.

    This morning I was anxious. I tried to convince myself that it would be fine if I had to take the test — I told Scott, it’s great material for a poem. But the same guy was there and I didn’t have to take the test and now I have another four year reprieve.

    10 Small Things I Remember

    1. the woman at the front desk was wearing blue gloves
    2. before we entered, a group of teenagers were called in — Anyone planning to take the test should follow me!
    3. I heard those same teenagers giggling a few minutes later
    4. my number, ended with a 54
    5. when it was called, I was told to go to A14
    6. the guy who issued my license asked me to meet him around the corner at A17 for my picture
    7. he had two thick textbooks on the counter — did he ever have time to study? I couldn’t read the titles
    8. for the first time, I wore glasses for my picture — before he took it he said, look at the blue dot. I couldn’t see any blue dot, but the picture turned out fine
    9. earlier, nearing the entrance to the building, a man held a door for a woman as she walked out. She apologized when she almost ran into him and said, I’m sorry, I’m in my own head right now
    10. also nearing the building: birds! so much birdsong!

    I am not planning to drive. I haven’t for five or six years. It’s too scary and dangerous. Still, it’s nice to have my license, just in case.

    My anxiety over the vision test has some layers, I think. It’s not just about failing it, or even primarily about failing it. I think it’s time to do some digging.

    the allegory of the cave, part 2

    Yesterday Scott and talked about Plato’s Cave and what we remembered from when he first heard/read about it. Then I watched a few more videos about it, all of which connected the cave and the shadows to a hero’s quest and being enlightened by a Philosopher King. Thought about writing against that and decided I didn’t want to. Instead, I attempted to read Jack Collum’s hard-to-understand-poem, Arguing with Something Plato Said. Some of it, I think I understand and some of it, I don’t. Learned a new word: chiaroscuro

    This is an Italian term which literally means ‘light-dark’. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted.

    Artists who are famed for the use of chiaroscuro include Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. Leonardo employed it to give a vivid impression of the three-dimensionality of his figures, while Caravaggio used such contrasts for the sake of drama. Both artists were also aware of the emotional impact of these effects.

    Nice! With my interest in ekphrastic poems, I plan to think about this concept some more.

    may 6/RUN

    7 miles
    st. kates and back
    60 degrees

    Ran with Scott on a beautiful spring morning. Sun, shadows, a welcome breeze. We ran over to St. Catherine’s University, across the river. RJP has almost decided to go there (hopefully she makes up her mind tonight) and we wanted to check it out. I’m impressed and excited to visit her next year. We talked a lot more in the first half of our run; we were both tired the last 2 miles. Scott talked about some Threads exchange involving Drake, Kanye West, and a diss track. We heard a creaking tree and I said it sounded like the squeaking gate we heard yesterday afternoon while we were walking. The mention of the gate reminded me of Marie Howe’s poem, “The Gate,” which I recited for Scott (of course I did). We talked about many other things but I just remember discussing what a wonderful campus St. Cates is and how great it will be for RJP.

    On the sidewalk just outside of campus, we encountered several sidewalk poems that are part of the Public Art Sidewalk Poetry project. Scott took a picture of one:

    November/ Marianne McNamara and Scott’s feet

    November/ Marianne McNamara (2009)

    Autumn winds drag leaves from the trees,
    clog the streets in dreary finale.
    Bare branches crisscross the heavy sky.
    Icy rain spatters, ink-blots the pavement.
    I settle at the window, stare into the black flannel, search the woolly lining of the night for winter.

    I was unable to read this on the sidewalk, so I’m glad I could find it online. How hard is it for someone with good vision to read? I like the idea of this project, but in practice, it doesn’t quite work. Scott suggested they should use black paint on the letters, to make them stand out.

    10 Things

    1. smell: lilac, intense
    2. tree shadows, more filled in than last week
    3. a loud leaf blower
    4. a safety patrol on the corner near Dowling saying I hate you, I hate you — who was he talking to?
    5. the soft trickle of water falling from the sewer pipe near the 44th street parking lot
    6. mud and ruts filled with water at a construction site on the edge of campus
    7. feeling a fine film of dust on my face near the end of the run
    8. more than a dozen signs in the grass outside a liquor store, each one said the same thing: wine sale. Scott: I guess they’re having a wine sale
    9. running down Randolph encountering 3 or 4 sidewalk poems, none of them marked on the map
    10. noticing a faint white thing flying through the air, high above us: a bird? a plane? a trick of the light or corrupted data from my eye to my brain?

    the allegory of the cave, part 1

    I want to read the cave parable and think about its shadows, but I want to read it in the context of The Republic so I’ve been searching my shelves for my copy. Which class in college did we read this for? Probably The Individual and Morality. Maybe a philosophy class? Anyway, it is very hard for me to find one book among almost a thousand. When we moved in I organized them, but over time, books have moved. Also, it’s dim in our living room and I have a lot of trouble reading book titles with my bad eyes. Yesterday I asked RJP to help, and she found it! Maybe I’ll try reading some of it out on the deck this afternoon. Reading physical books, as opposed to e-books, can be hard; there’s never enough light unless I’m reading it under my special lamp (designed for sewers and cross-stitchers and 80 year-olds with bad eyes and me). Reading outside in natural light helps.

    an hour spent outside reading and dozing off and reading again . . .

    First, two links that connect Plato and his cave with poetry:

    Reading through the allegory, I cam accross these lines:

    . . . the eyes may be confused in two ways and from two causes, namely when they’ve come from the light into the darkness and when they’ve come from the darkness into the light. . . whether it has come from a brighter life and is dimmed through not having yet become accustomed to the dark or whether it has come from greater ignorance into greater light and is dazzled by the increased brilliance.

    518a, The Republic / Plato, trans. G.M.A. Grube

    Of course, I immediately thought of two of my favorite vision poems (what I’m calling them) by Emily Dickinson. And of course I have both of them memorized — but not her punctuation.

    We grow accustomed to the Dark
    When light is put away
    As when a neighbor holds the lamp
    To witness her goodbye.

    A Moment — We uncertain step —
    For newness of the Night
    (We Grow Accustomed to the Dark/ ED)

    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The truth’s superb surprise

    . . .

    The truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind.
    (Tell all the truth but tell it Slant/ ED)

    I remember Plato’s cave and the shadows and the inability to access Truth, but I didn’t remember him discussing how both too little light and too much light blind us. The emphasis, as I recall, was always on darkness = bad, ignorance, the problem. Was I just not paying attention in philosophy class?

    Searching for “plato cave,” I came across a video about it and decided to watch it:

    The School of Life

    I’d like to write more about what I find to be missing (also what’s helpful) in this account, but I’ve run out of time. Here’s one more video for comparison that I just started watching. When I have time, I’ll reflect on both:

    After Skool

    may 5/RUN

    3.1 miles
    turkey hollow loop
    60 degrees

    Late morning felt hot today. Bright sun, not much shade. The river road was closed off for the annual Walk MS charity event so I ran on the dirt/mud trail between it and edmund. Listened to my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist for the whole run:

    (skipped Shadow Song/Screaming Trees, Shadows and Light/ Joni Mitchell)
    Silver Shadow/ Atlantic Starr
    Total Eclipse of the Heart/ Bonnie Tyler
    Help Me Make It Through the Night/ Kris Kristofferson
    Sunshine in the Shade/ The Fixx
    The Shadow of Your Smile/ Astrud Gilberto
    Evening/ The Moody Blues
    White Room/ Cream

    I wondered what a silver shadow might look like, then I wanted to see one. The silver outline of the sun behind the clouds? My shadow on the blue-white snow? I know — it’s Eamon Grennan’s birdsong in his poem, Lark-Luster:

    . . . when summer happens, you’d almost see the long silver ribbons of song the bird braids as if binding lit air to earth that is all shadows, to keep us (as we walk our grounded passages down here) alive to what is over our heads—song and silence—and the lot of us leaning up: mind-defeated again, just harking to it.

    Then I got distracted by mud and people and the sun and didn’t give close attention to the lyrics for the next three songs, only briefly registering that Bonnie Tyler was singing to someone whose love is like a shadow on her, keeping her in the dark; Kris Kristofferson was comparing someone’s hair “laying soft upon his skin” to the shadows on the wall; and The Fixx were declaring that they were the sunshine in the shade of life.

    Off the grass, back on the road, I thought about Astrud Gilberto’s affection for the shadow of a smile — was the shadow cast by a very bright smile? Looking at the lyrics now, I understand the shadow to be the wonderful (but haunted?) memory of a love that didn’t last.

    I am really digging The Moody Blues, “Evening.” That flute! Shadows on the ground/never make a sound/fading away in the sunset/Night has now become/Day for everyone

    I thought about the white curtains in Marie Howe’s dark room instead of Cream’s black curtains in a white room. where the shadows run from themselves.

    This is fun! I like thinking about silver shadows as birdsong, and shadows softly caressing the wall, and what it would be like to see shadows running from themselves.

    Near the end of “Shadow of Your Smile,” I saw something ahead of me, in the middle of the road. A big black dog? No — it’s that menacing turkey again! The one I wrote about on april 30th and april 11th. Just standing there in the middle of the road, his feather fanned out. This time I didn’t turn around, but walked by him, at a safe distance. I also took a picture:

    RJP has named this big turkey Jon.

    Zooming in, I see a brave person on the sidewalk, nearing Jon.

    Recounting the story to Scott when I returned home, I decided that I wanted to imagine this turkey as a friend, not an enemy — or a frenemy? I also began to believe that he’s trying to tell me something: write about ME! And I will. Well, I already wrote one poem:

    Unsettled

    by noise

    I stop to
    witness

    a dark shape
    draw near

    too big for

    a squirrel

    too small for
    a bear.

    The moment
    suspends

    unresolved
    until

    the shape turns —
    pale beak

    red wattle
    framed by

    tail feathers.
    This Tom

    wants trouble.

    What if this turkey is my shadow-self? Will he be around for my next run? I guess it’s the spring of the turkey — maybe the summer, too? I will add Jon — I might name him myself if he appear again — to my list of Regulars!

    Inspired by another turkey sighting, and deciding that I will embrace these visits, here’s another amazing poem from Diane Seuss’s Sill Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl:

    Still Life with Turkey/ Diane Seuss

    The turkey’s strung up by one pronged foot, 
the cord binding it just below the stiff trinity
of toes, each with its cold bent claw. My eyes

    are in love with it as they are in love with all
dead things that cannot escape being looked at.
It is there to be seen if I want to see it, as my

    father was there in his black casket and could not
elude your gaze. I was a child so they asked 
if I wanted to see him. “Do you want to see him?”

    someone asked. Was it my mother? Grandmother? 
Some poor woman was stuck with the job. 
“He doesn’t look like himself,” whoever-it-was

    added. “They did something strange with his mouth.”
As I write this, a large moth flutters against
the window. It presses its fat thorax to the glass.

    “No,” I said, “I don’t want to see him.” I don’t recall
if I secretly wanted them to open the box for me
but thought that “no” was the correct response,

    of if I believed I should want to see him but was 
too afraid of what they’d done with his mouth.
    I think I assumed that my seeing him would

    make things worse for my mother, and she was all 
I had. Now I can’t get enough of seeing, as if I’m paying
a sort of penance for not seeing then, and so

    this turkey, hanged, its small, raw-looking head, 
which reminds me of the first fully naked man
I ever saw, when I was a candy striper

    at a sort of nursing home, he was a war veteran, 
young, burbling crazily, his face and body red
    as something scalded. I didn’t want to see,

    and yet I saw. But the turkey, I am in love with it, 
its saggy neck folds, the rippling, variegated
feathers, the crook of its unbound foot,

    and the glorious wings, archangelic, spread
as if it could take flight, but down, 
downward, into the earth.

    may 3/RUN

    4.25 miles
    minnehaha falls and back
    58 degrees

    Warm, too warm. I need to remember to start these runs much earlier and to wear a tank top. A beautiful morning. All sun. Perfect for giving attention to shadows. Noticed many, cast from: new leaves on trees, tree trunks, lamp posts, a swooping bird, a parks truck, me.

    Listened to water — dripping then trickling then gushing, vigorous rustling in the brush, some frogs in the marshy meadow near the ford bridge as I ran south to the falls. Put in my “I’m Shadowing You” playlist on the way back north.

    I’m Shadowing You/ Blossom Dearie
    Me and My Shadow/ Frank Sinatra
    Shadowboxer/ Fiona Apple
    My Shadow/ Keane
    Shadow Dancing/ Andy Gibb

    I didn’t think too much about the first two songs, but when I got to “Shadowboxer” it hit me: shadow box. I wrote the following before the run:

    May is for shadows and I was thinking that I’d like to reread/study Plato’s Cave until I read this line in Readers recommend: songs about shadows without them everything would be a floating morass of light and colour — drop shadows bring a third dimension to the 2D world. It made me think about one of my ongoing obsessions: ekphrastic poems and visual art. Just yesterday afternoon, I was reading Diane Seuss’ Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl. (The title is a reference to Rembrandt’s “Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl“) In several of the poems I read, Seuss describes the dark and light in some famous paintings — does she ever mention shadows? Here’s one of my favorites, both her poem and the painting:

    Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber/ Diane Seuss

    Anything can be a marionette. A quince, a cabbage, a melon, a cucumber,
    suspended against a black background, illuminated by a curious
    white light. In this little show, the quince plays a full gold moon. The cabbage
    is the antagonist, curled outer leaves fingering the charcoal void.
    Cucumber’s the peasant, nubby belly to the ground like a frog.
    That leaves melon, center stage, rough wedge hacked out of her butter side.
    Each object holds its space, drawing the eye from quince to cabbage, melon
    to cucumber, in a left to right, downward-sloping curve. Four bodies
    hang in the box of darkness like planets, each in its private orbit.
    It’s a quiet drama about nothing at all. No touch, no brushing
    up against each other, no oxygen, no rot, so that each shape, each
    character, is pure, clean in its loyalty to its own fierce standard.
    Even the wounded melon exudes serenity. Somewhere, juice runs
    down a hairy chin, but that is well beyond the border of the box.

    This poem is about a painting by Sánchez Cotán: Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber

    What would these four objects look like without the shadows around the curves, in the cracks, below the belly? Would they look more real? Less real? This painting is strange and haunting, and both difficult and easy for me to see. Can I remember it on the first part of my run? I’ll try. I’ll also try to notice how shadows offer depth, make things seem real, substantial, not just dots or flat objects.

    side note: These fruits and vegetables as subjects reminds me of a movie that Scott and I rewatched the other week: The Four Seasons, with Alan Alda, Rita Moreno, and Carol Burnett. One of the other characters, Anne, has taken up photography and has spent the last 2? years photographing vegetables, one at a time. Her husband thinks this is ridiculous and offers it up as evidence for how little she does, and as one of the reasons he’s divorcing her. Reading Seuss’ poem and staring at Sánchez Cotán’s painting, I am far less judgmental of her choice than my 7 or 8 year old self was when she watched this movie, over and over, on HBO.

    I searched for a clip from the movie and found it! Unfortunately it starts right after the photographs of the vegetables are shown.

    Still Life with Vegetables and an Asshole Husband

    During the run, I kept thinking about the painting and the objects painted in a box. How each of them were separated from each other, isolated, with some amount of light shining on them to display them. I thought about how sometimes I feel like I’m on display, a bright light shining on me, blinded, unable to see other people clearly even as I know they can see me. Disconnected from the world by the box. The shadow box, which brings me back to the Fiona Apple song, “Shadowboxer.” I started wondering about shadowboxing as a verb that didn’t mean boxing at shadows, but the act of putting someone on display, isolating them, turning them into a keepsake in a box on a wall, like the set of small boxes my mom had hanging in our many houses when I was growing up. I also thought about how there’s no reference point for size in the painting. What if the box was a small shadow box, and what if the fruit were miniatures, made out of wood or silk or plastic? (my mom loved wooden fruit) These thoughts made me want to study the history of shadow boxes.

    Okay, just looked up shadow box origins and found some interesting stuff, which I’ll get to in a minute.

    But first, any connection between Apple’s song and my version of shadowboxing? These lyrics seem promising:

    Oh, your gaze is dangerous
    And you fill your space so sweet
    If I let you get too close
    You’ll set your spell on me

    Now, the history of shadow boxes. I had no idea —

    Sailors were the first to create shadow boxes. They made them out of wood salvaged from their ships. They made them out of fear. Sailors believed that if their shadow reached shore before they did, their life on land would be cursed. The box, containing the sum total of a sailor’s personal effects, protected their true self.

    Shadow Box — The Art of Assemblage

    In this post, Karen Kao also mentions Cornell Boxes, named after Joseph Cornell who collected objects then arranged them in whimsical and weird ways in little wooden boxes. Adam Gopnik wrote about for the New Yorker in 2003: Sparkings.

    Kao opens her post with an intriguing way to think about shadow boxes:

    Think of a literal box, perhaps protected by a glass front, inside of which resides a world of whimsy. Think of it as found poetry in three-dimensional form.

    Interesting, but what does this have to do with shadows? Not much, or at least not much in the way I expected. Shadow boxes don’t involve literal shadows, but figurative ones — the shadow-self as embodied through cherished objects. Am I getting that right? This shadow-self, serving as proxy for the real self, needs to be protected, plucked out of the world and made safe, preserved, in its own little box.

    The idea of the shadow-self and the shadow as the property of the self bothers me a little. Even as I imagine my shadow to be connected to me, I don’t see it as me, mine. This leads me to a question for another day: what is the relationship between an object and the shadow it casts?

    I want to return to the painting and Seuss’ poem and the shadows and dark and light within them, but I also want to finish this entry so I can go outside and sit in the sun.

    Okay, I sat (and napped) in the sun for about an hour. I’m looking at the painting of the quince, cabbage, melon, and cucumber and thinking about light and darkness and shadows. Then, color. I think that this painting would look the same to me if it were in black and white — I searched for a black and white version, but couldn’t find one. Okay, back to shadows. They offer texture, especially on the cabbage. They also suggest that the light source is coming from the left side — a window? Anything else? I’ll keep thinking about it.

    may 1/RUN

    4 miles
    veterans home and back
    57 degrees
    wind: 14 mph / 28 mph gusts

    Ran with Scott. What did we talk about? I remember Scott talking a lot at the beginning — it was something he was excited about — but I can’t remember what it was. I do remember him complaining about Spotify and how some of their new policies hurt independent musicians like him. I talked about shadows and wind and marveled at a tree branch creaking in the wind. Oh — and I complained (again) about my new yellow shoes. I tried them one more time and they still hurt my feet and make my calves ache. I need to remember: no more yellow shoes!

    The water was gushing at the falls. We could smell something being fried at Sea Salt — it’s open for the season! I heard and saw a cardinal. I was dazzled by the bright white paint on the locks and dam no 1 sign — we both wondered if it was a reflective paint that made it so bright. A mile later, I could barely make out the bright yellow sign at 38th — the one I referred to as a bee last month. It was dull and blended in with the greenish-yellow trees behind it.

    My favorite thing today: the wonderful shadows the new leaves made on the sidewalk. Tiny little jagged dots or points, making the tree shadow look like something other than a tree. What? Not sure. A strange, magical sculpture? Glitter shadow? The leaves made the shadows strange, the shadows made the path strange. First encountering them on the double bridge, I didn’t think they were shadows but some sort of blob on the asphalt.

    During the run I had mentioned that I didn’t know what my May challenge would be but that it would be fun to have a theme that I could make a playlist for. By the end of the run, after witnessing the wonderful shadows, I had my topic: Shadows! As we walked back, I was already creating my playlist.

    I’m Shadowing You

    1. I’m Shadowing You / Blossom Dearie
    2. Me and My Shadow / Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
    3. Shadowboxer / Fiona Apple
    4. My Shadow / Keane
    5. Shadow Dancing / Andy Gibb
    6. Shadow Song / Screaming Trees
    7. Shadows and Light / Joni Mitchell
    8. Silve Shadow / Atlantic Starr
    9. Total Eclipse of the Heart / Bonnie Tyler
    10. Help Me Make It Through the Night / Kris Kristofferson
    11. Sunshine in the Shade / The Fixx
    12. the Shadow of Your Smile / Astrud Gilberto
    13. Evening / The Moody Blues
    14. White Room / Cream
    15. Shadow Stabbing / CAKE
    16. I’m Beginning to See the Light / Ella Fitzgerald
    17. Twilight Time / The Platters
    18. The Shadow Knows / Link Wray
    19. yesterday / The Beatles
    20. Moonshadow / Cat Stevens
    21. Golden Years / David Bowie
    22. Candle Mambo / Captain Beefheart
    23. If You go Away / Neil Diamond
    24. We Will Become Silhouettes / The Postal Service
    25. Crepuscule With Nellie / Thelonious Monk

    Discovered this poem on the Slowdown before my run. Oh, Dorianne Laux, what a gift your poem is today!

    Life On Earth/ Dorianne Laux

    The odds are we should never have been born. Not one of us. Not one in 400 trillion to be exact. Only one among the 250 million released in a flood of semen that glides like a glassine limousine filled with tadpoles of possible people, one of whom may or may not be you, a being made of water and blood, a creature with eyeballs and limbs that end in fists, a you with all your particular perfumes, the chords of your sinewy legs singing as they form, your organs humming and buzzing with new life, moonbeams lighting up your brain’s gray coils, the exquisite hills of your face, the human toy your mother longs for, your father yearns to hold, the unmistakable you who will take your first breath, your first step, bang a copper pot with a wooden spoon, trace the lichen growing on a boulder you climb to see the wild expanse of a field, the one whose heart will yield to the yellow forsythia named after William Forsyth—not the American actor with piercing blue eyes, but the Scottish botanist who discovered the buttery bells on a highland hillside blooming to beat the band, zigzagging down an unknown Scottish slope. And those are only a few of the things you will one day know, slowly chipping away at your ignorance and doubt, you who were born from ashes and will return to ash. When you think you might be through with this body and soul, look down at an anthill or up at the stars, remember your gambler chances, the bounty of good luck you were born for.

    april 21/RUN

    2 miles
    edmund (grass), south/edmund (road), north
    52 degrees
    wind: 10 mph

    A beautiful morning — sun! shorts! Felt sluggish and tired and heavy — heavy legs and thick torso. The dirt trail was soft and uneven. I listened to Taylor Swift’s new album so I didn’t many birds or conversations. I think I heard a few black-capped chickadees, maybe a blue jay? Feeling blah or bleugh today in a way that a run couldn’t fix. No anxiety, just blah.

    Before the run, I wrote about yesterday’s image of the gutted street lamp:

    Yesterday I offered up an image of the run: the row of street lamps with their wires cut. I want to spend some more time with this image, use it as opportunity to think about image and metaphor, and to give attention to the trails above the river that I run on and the communities — in St. Paul and Minneapolis — that I run through.

    So many thoughts prompted by things I’ve been reading lately! Where to begin?

    1 — literal and figurative, part 1

    the relationship between metaphor and realism—specifically how a poem’s use or rejection of metaphor might double as a commentary on the poet’s relationship to testimony, to bearing witness to the actual world.

    When Metaphor Gets Literal

    Bearing witness to the actual world. Describing an image in ways that don’t remove it from its context and history and its specificity. Because I’m a poet of place who is dedicated to noticing and documenting the Mississippi River Gorge, I want the specific and concrete in my images. Grotz offers up Czesław Miłosz’s “Blacksmith Shop” as a good example of a literal poem, grounded in concrete reality.

    Deep image has had its day, though its ahistorical premises have been taken up in this new method’s assumption that style is merely a manipulable function, easily disconnected from the individual poet’s personal and historical circumstances. . . . In order to record the shocks of contemporary life, the poet must be willing to enter into history, to conjure it not merely as chronological sequence, but as unique texture and feel, what Walter Benjamin called “aura.” Deep image, however, was committed to locating itself in a world of prehistory, as if the mind were a direct conduit to the eternal collective unconscious

    Too Much of the Air

    What does this “entering into history” and “bearing witness to the actual world” mean to me and the image of the gutted street lamp? It seems important to connect these lamps with the recent spread (for the past 2 years) of copper wire theft across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Scott, RJP, and I have been noticing it for more than a year: all of the lights lining the west river road were out for months, making the river road too dark and dangerous to drive on or run beside at night. The Lake Street Bridge lights and Lake Nokomis lights too. I googled “street lamps cut wires minneapolis” and found a ton of articles about the problem and how difficult and expensive it is to stop the theft. Too many lights, too few police. Possible solutions include enlisting community members — someone has crowd-sourced a map of gutted lamps in Como Park — or targeting the sellers with legislation (imho: a much better solution, especially since it worked with the catalytic convertor thefts a few years back).

    Of course, putting this in a historical context also requires thinking about why people might feel compelled to steal wires (economic precarity, addiction) and recent reimaginings of the role of the police in communities. How to recognize this context without reducing the image to it? How to still allow for the figurative in the midst of this literal? How to move beyond chronology and “facts” to texture and feel? Tough questions, I think. Michael Kleber-Diggs offers an answer with his amazing poem, Here All Alone, which I posted on RUN! a few years ago. Wow!

    this land, once yours, was flooded and dammed
    the same day our Rondo was cleaved for a highway.

    the bees are back

    I read this suggestion from John Ashbery the other day — “It’s important to try to write when you are in the wrong mood or when the weather is wrong.”– so I have decided that because I am in the wrong mood — the blah bleugh mood — I should try to write something. And I have decided that that something should be about the bees being back in the service berry tree on my deck. Every spring when the tree (or is it a bush? or a bush imitating a tree? wanting to be a tree?) is blooming, the bees come and hover around it. When I sit in my adirondack chair (which I mistakenly called an “andriodak” 25 years ago on St. Simon Island in Georgia and which Scott and I reference every so often) under the tree, I see their shadows crossing over my notebook or my book or my pants. Usually just one or two, today a dozen. Circling and circling, making me almost dizzy. Sometimes I wondered if it was a shadow I was seeing or the actual bee. Then I wondered if they wanted me to move — would they sting me? What a delightful moment! I can’t remember if it was in a poem or an essay or an interview, but I recall reading Ross Gay delighting in the shadow of a bee crossing over his page*. I know I already delighted in these bees before it was endorsed by Gay, but somehow those bees began to matter more once I knew delighting in their shadow was something I could share with one of my favorite writers.

    *update, 4 may 2024: I found it! Gay mentions the bees in his delightful poem, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude:

    And thank you the tiny bee’s shadow
    perusing these words as I write them.

    composed under the tree/bush, with the bees above

    Beneath the
    bush that

    tries to be
    a tree,

    below the
    almost

    white blossoms — shadow

    bees hover,
    dizzy

    the air, pass
    over

    my page, write
    this poem.

    Am I happy with this poem. For now.

    march 28/RUN

    4.15 miles
    minnehaha falls and back
    28 degrees

    Back outside! There were a few patches of ice and some of the walking trails were covered in snow, but the rest was clear and dry. So bright, not just the sun but the sun reflecting off of the snow. My calf continues to make noise — mostly gentle whispers or soft, short groans. Today I didn’t wear the calf sleeves during my run. Maybe I should next time.

    Did my usual thing: ran south listening to the world, north to music — Winter 2024

    Heard lots of chirping and tweeting birds. Sharp squirrel claws on rough bark. A noise that I thought was a bird or a drill but decided was a dog that wouldn’t shut up — bark bark bark bark bark bark

    The favorite shadow I (thought I) saw: approaching a tree, I suddenly saw a shadow moving up the trunk, then realized it was actually a squirrel climbing up the tree.

    birding:

    Right after my lower calf near the ankle — or was it a tendon? — tightened a little and I was worried, I saw the shadow of a small bird flying over the snow, almost like it was saying, don’t worry; notice me instead.

    tweeting birds. I heard: TWEET tweet tweet tweet tweet — Walking back, this tweeting mixed with water dripping from a gutter, a squirrel’s nails scratching tree bark, a kid across the street squealing with delight.

    One mixed with
    many

    the drips and
    squeals and

    scratching feet
    and the

    Tweet tweet tweet
    tweet tweet

    That’s the version I spoke into my phone. I’ll work on it some more.

    before the run

    one

    Red Shoulder Hawk by Ciona Rouse was the poem of the day on poets.org. Instead of just posting the poem, as I usually do, I

    We met in the middle of the street only to discuss 
    the Buteo lineatus, but we simply said hawk 
    because we knew nothing of Latin. We knew nothing 
    of red in the shoulder, of true hawks versus buzzards, 
    or what time they started their mornings, 
    what type of snake they stooped low 
    and swift to eat. We knew nothing.

    I like how we meet in the middle sounds. The discussion of not knowing the latin name of the bird reminds me of J Drew Lanham and his interview with Krista Tippet — you don’t have to know the name, just be with the bird. It also makes me think of Robin Wall Kimmerer and how she navigates her scientific and indigenous ways of knowing, how she values the Latin names but also the names beings call themselves. And it makes me think of May Swenson and section 7 of her wonderful poem, “October,” which is part of my My 100 list of memorized poems: His shoulder patch/which should be red looks gray. I like how this first sentence unspools.

    Or, I should say, at least I knew nothing, 
    and he said nothing of what he knew that day 
    except one thing he said he thought, but now I say 
    he knew: I’m going to die soon, my neighbor said to me 
    and assured he had no diagnosis, just a thought. He said it 
    just two weeks before he died outdoors just 
    twenty steps away from where we stood that day— 
    he and I between the porch I returned to and twisted 
    the key to my door to cross the threshold into my familiar 
    like always I do and the garage he returned to 
    and twisted some wrench probably on a knob of the 
    El Camino like always he did every day when usually 
    I’d wave briefly en route from carport to door 
    sometimes saying “how’s it going,” expecting 
    only the “fine” I had time to digest.
     

    I knew nothing, and he said nothing of what he knew. Is this a chiasmus, where the order of the words is reversed for dramatic effect (I wrote about this device on 13 nov 2023)? Again, the unspooling of the story is wonderful: how the neighbor’s death is revealed, the details that help us to imagine the scene. There is punctuation in these lines, but there are also a lot of lines that are written in a way that make sense without punctuation. I’m reminded of June Jordan’s rules for critiquing other people’s poems:

    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!)

    June Jordan

    I don’t know if I completely agree with her, and I know Emily Dickinson wouldn’t, but I do like the idea of trying to focus on each word and trying to have them work without punctuation.

    I think I like, to cross the threshold into my familiar like always I do. Do I? I like the use of threshold into my familiar instead of home, but is it too wordy, and awkward with the like always I do?

    Except today 
    when I stepped out of my car, he waved me over to see 
    what I now know to call the Buteo. When first I read its 
    Latin name, I pronounced it boo-TAY-oh 
    before learning it’s more like saying beauty (oh!).
     
    I can’t believe I booed when it’s always carrying awe.

    Booed instead of awed? Love it.

    Like on this day, the buzzard—red-shouldered and 
    usually nesting in the white pine—cast a shadow 
    upon my lawn just as I parked, and stared back at us— 
    my mesmerized neighbor and me—perched, probably hunting, 
    in the leaning eastern hemlock in my yard. Though 
    back then I think I only called it a tree because I knew nothing 
    about distinguishing evergreens because I don’t think I ever asked 
    or wondered or searched yet. I knew nothing about how they thrive 
    in the understory. Their cones, tiny. And when they think 
    they’re dying, they make more cones than ever before. 

    A bird casting a shadow — a favorite of mine. The way time works in this poem is interesting. I didn’t know yet. How far in the future is the narrator telling their story? How long after the neighbor’s death did they begin learning trees? note: I keep wanting to refer to the narrator as he — why? I can’t distinguish evergreens and I’m constantly calling pine trees fir trees and all evergreens fir. Will I ever learn? Something in my brain resists this sort of specificity, and not just because of my bad vision. A line from Diane Seuss in “I look up from my book and look out at the world through reading glasses: All trees are just trees/ death to modifiers

    How did he 
    know? Who did he ask and what did he search to find 
    the date that he might die, and how did he know 
    to say soon to me and only me and then, right there 
    in that garage with his wrench and the some other parts 
    unknown for the El Camino and the radio loud as always 
    it was, stoop down, his pledge hand anxious against his chest,
    and never rise again?
     

    I’m always fascinated by how people know certain things, like, how did Truman in The Truman Show know that something wasn’t right? What enabled him to trust that knowing and not discount it? Or, another perspective: how do our wandering brains lead us to knowing? I like tracing the strange circuits I take to arrive at ideas.

    There are many details in this poem, but also many details left out. What kind of loud music is coming out of the radio?

    And now the hemlock, which also goes 
    by 
    Tsuga canadensis, which is part Latin, part Japanese, 
    still leans, still looks like it might fall any day now, weighed 
    down by its ever-increasing tiny fists. And the 
    Buteo returns 
    each winter to reclaim the white pine before spring.

    The passing of time, vague: now, still, returns each winter

    Most hawks die by accident—collision, predation, disease. 
    But when it survives long enough to know it’s dying, it may 
    find a familiar tree and let its breath weaken in a dark cranny.

    to know it’s dying — Back to Swenson’s “October”: this old redwing has decided to/ stay, this year, not join the/ strenuous migration. Better here,/ in the familiar, to fade.

    And my neighbor’s wife and I now meet in the middle, 
    sometimes even discussing birds but never discussing 
    that day. And I brought her roses on that first anniversary 
    without him because we sometimes discuss a little more 
    than birds. And the 
    Buteo often soar in twos, sometimes solo. 
    So high I cannot see their shoulders, but I know their voices 
    now and can name them even when I don’t see them. No matter 
    how high they fly, they see me, though I don’t concern them. 
    They watch a cottonmouth, slender and sliding 
    silent in tall grass.
     

    Birding by ear, the indifference of nature. Another line, this one from Frederic Gros: You are nothing to the trees. To me, this is a good thing.

    And the cardinals don’t sing. 
    They don’t go mute, either. They tink. 
    Close to their nests and in their favorite trees, they know 
    when the hawk looms. And their voices turn 
    metallic: tink, tink, tink.

    A metallic tink as warning call? I’ll have to listen for that. I like how the poem ends with the robins and the narrator-as-transformed-through-curiosity. The narrator has been changed by their neighbor’s death, they have learned to notice and to listen. As I write this, I realize that these last few lines are all about listening and not looking. Very cool!

    two

    I keep returning to the ekphrastic poem, or ideas close-by/near-enough to the ekphrastic. Thinking about made things and things being made and makers and the world somewhere between wild (as “untouched”?) and civilized (culture/made). Landscapes as not just there, but the living beings/systems, crafted through various “hands” — three in particular: the brain and its way of filtering and guessing and shaping visual data into something I can see; the Minneapolis Parks Department (and maybe other actors in and of the city, too: Army Corps, with its locks and dam and timber and flour industries) and how they’ve managed the land and created the paths I run on, the views I admire — and also created illusions of the “wild”; and water — the river, seeps, springs, drips down to limestone ledge, all carving out and slicing through rock, making: a gorge, rubbled asphalt, cracks, rust, waterfalls.

    With all of this I wonder, What is Art? Who is/can be an artist? What is the difference between art and the everyday? There are too many things I could read about how other artists/poets have approached this — that would be the work of past Academic-Sara. And maybe I don’t want to answer these questions, just pose them through my juxtapositions? Or, maybe I should try to stop asking these questions, and just start writing!

    march 20/RUN

    4 miles
    trestle+ turn around
    22 degrees
    wind: 21 mph gusts

    Straight into the wind running north. Not fun, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. Felt stronger, faster for parts of it. Running up the hill just south of the lake street bridge my calf tightened up a little. I stopped, walked, then started again, more cautious this time. Thought about Thomas Gardner and Poverty Creek Journal and his brief descriptions of sore calves after a tough session of hill repeats. After lots of anxiety for weeks, calf pain is now just a normal/regular part of my running. I’m glad — not for the off and on pain, but for the everydayness of it.

    Some shadows — soft, crooked, in motion: birds, gnarled tree branches, broken fence rails. Other shadows — dark, on trees, looking like someone standing there. Don’t remember seeing the river but I do remember the floodplain forest — open, bare, beautiful. No chain across the top of the old stone steps. Wondered what will happen in a few days; big snow predicted, well, possible.

    Listened to birds and cars and grit on the trail running north, my winter playlist running south.

    before the run

    Encountered these lines on twitter this morning, from Charles Wright:

    When what you write about is what you see, what do you write about when it’s dark?

    Charles Wright

    I like thinking/reading/writing about the dark. Imagining it otherwise, not as the absence of light, where light = life and happiness and safety, but as where more things are possible, outside the scrutiny of those watching and judging and classifying. The dark, soft. The dark, no need for sharp vision or eye contact. The Dark, where Emily Dickinson’s little men hurry home to their house unperceived and robins in a trundle bed try and fail to hide their wings under their nightgowns. Where Carl Phillip’s willow wants more for compassion than for company. The dark: the moon, the stars, louder silence. The dark, where reds and greens and blues and yellows are no longer necessary —

    A strange thing I’ve realized about my color vision. I can still see colors — the light green placemat my computer sits on, the purplish-reddish-blueish of my computer desktop, my bright blue hydroflask. And I can still see when things are in color. But, when something lacks color, like a movie in black and white or the middle of the night in my bedroom, I can’t tell that there isn’t any color. It looks and feels the same.

    4 moments when I noticed this:

    one and two: from a log entry on 13 nov 2022

    1 Yesterday afternoon, in the chapel at Gustavus, which was not dim but not bright either, I started to notice that looking one direction, toward the far window on the other side, the only color I could see was an occasional red square embedded in the walls (I double-checked with Scott; there were also a bunch of blue squares too). The hymnals 15-20 feet away, which I know are red, looked dark but colorless. Staring out at the crowd of people, everyone looked like they were dressed in dark or light — not quite black or white, just dark clothes or light clothes. No variation, no purples or blues or oranges or anything but dark and light. It was strange, partly because it didn’t feel strange. It wasn’t like I thought, where is all the color?

    2 It felt more like when I wake up in the dark and, after my eyes adjust, I see the room and it looks like the room, but just darker, dimmer and without color. And, usually I don’t think there’s no color — sometimes I might even think I see color because I know my robe is purple or the pillow is yellow, or I don’t see yellow, but I recognize the pillow on the couch as that yellow pillow because I already know it’s yellow.

    three: from a log entry on 12 jan 2024

    The other day, Scott, FWA, and I were discussing the scenes in Better Call Saul that are set in the present day and are in black and white. Scott and FWA both agreed that those were harder to watch — they had to pay more careful attention — because they lacked color, which is harder because visual stories often rely heavily on color to communicate ideas/details. I said I didn’t realize that they were in black and white; they didn’t look any different to me than the other scenes, which are in vivid color (at least that’s what they tell me). I realized something: it’s not that I don’t see color, it just doesn’t communicate anything to me, or if it communicates it’s so quiet that I don’t notice what it’s saying.

    four: this week

    A few days ago, we decided to finally watch Maestro. Wow! We haven’t finished it yet, but Scott and I are really enjoying it. The first scene is in color, which is intended to represent the present, at least the present as it exists in the movie. The second scene is in black and white and represents Bernstein just before his big break. After watching it for a minute or two Scott said, you see that this in black and white, right? And I said, oh, is it? I didn’t notice. I was focused on the contrast — the dark, closed-curtain window and the outline of brightness around it.

    Color exists, it just doesn’t speak to me in the same ways (as it used to, or as it does to other people). It’s not a foreign language, it is just turned down, whispering. Yes, it does make it harder to understand visual stories that rely on color to tell part of the story — a favorite: present times = color; the past = black and white — but it doesn’t bother me that much. Instead, I find it fascinating, the opportunity to notice the constructs of color and to see the world (and color) differently.

    Okay, that was a long ramble about color and black and white, but I think I’d like to write another color poem about it.

    Now back to the quote from Charles Wright on twitter. As is often the case, there was no mention of where it came from, other than it was from Charles Wright. I always find this frustrating. But, I found it easily enough: Littlefoot, 32 in The New Yorker, 2007. Such a wonderful poem!

    Back yard, my old station, the dusk invisible in the trees,
    But there in its stylish tint,
    Everything etched and precise before the acid bath
    —Hemlocks and hedgerows—
    Of just about half an hour from now,
    Night in its soak and dissolve.
    Pipistrello, and gun of motorcycles downhill,
    A flirt and a gritty punctuation to the day’s demise
    And one-starred exhalation,

    V of geese going south,
    My mind in their backwash, going north.

    my old station: love this way of describing a usual spot to sit
    the stylish tint: oh, the softness of near-night!
    everything etched and precise: I love walking at night in the winter and noticing the contrast between the sky and the bare branches, which I can see more clearly than at any other time. During the day, those branches are a fuzzy blur, but at night they are etched!
    Hemlocks and Hedgerows: sounds like a musical act or a comedy duo Scott adds: proto Prog rock/psychedelic band, Margaret’s Electric Forest or Garden, first album: Hemlocks & Hedgerows
    a pipistrello is Italian for bat, or “small mouse-like animal that flies”
    sounds of day’s demise: a flirt of a bat, the gritting punctuation of a motorcycle’s gun downhill
    one-starred exhalation: me, almost every night — o, look at the stars!
    I love hearing, then seeing, a V of geese in the evening. The choice of backwash instead of wake is interesting — and flying south/mind going north is a wonderful way to suggest being out of sync

    Wow, that is one packed first stanza! I’ll skip the next one to get to the quoted lines:

    When what you write about is what you see,
    what do you write about when it’s dark?
    Paradise, Pound said, was real to Dante because he saw it.
    Nothing invented.
    One loves a story like that, whether it’s true or not.
    Whenever I open my eyes at night, outside,
    flames edge at the edge
    Of everything, like the sides of a nineteenth-century negative.
    If time is a black dog, and it is,
    Why do I always see its breath,
    its orange, rectangular breath
    In the dark?
    It’s what I see, you might say, it’s got to be what my eyes see.

    I’ll have to think about these lines some more. Right now I wonder, when your peripheral vision is fraying, do you see strange things, like flames, at the edges? What do edges look like to me in the dark? I’ll try to remember to notice when I wake up in the middle of the night tonight, like every night. In the light, they are fuzzy and dance a soft shimmy.

    It’s real because we see it? Different ways to respond to this. I’m thinking about how so much of what our eyes see is illusion or guessing based on habits and repeated practice and context and other brain tricks. Even so, most people believe that what they are seeing is real. If they believe, and act as if what they are seeing is real, why can’t I believe and act as if what I’m seeing is real too? All those soft, generous things; those strange headless and legless torsos walking towards me; that river burning with a white heat that sets the trees on fire?

    Okay, it’s almost 11 am. I need to go out for my run before I finish this!

    during the run

    Did I think about this poem at all while I was running? I can’t remember.

    after the run

    During the run, I noticed bird shadows crossing my feet, both of us flying, the birds in the air, be just above the trail. I decided to add it into a fun poem I’m writing called “Birding.” It’s a series of small verses in my 3/2 form in which I describe how I see birds with my cone-dead eyes.

    Not sure if this works:

    vi.

    a shadow
    travels

    over feet
    running

    downhill — flight
    4 ways:

    the moving
    shadow

    the descending
    runner

    a belief
    shadows

    signal some

    thing and

    the small form
    gliding

    closer to

    the sun.

    shadows

    1

    And just like that, my plan to return to Wright’s poem will have to wait. Instead, I’m thinking about shadows, which is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I realized, earlier this month, that shadows see more real to me (as in, having more substance, easier to see as solid) than the object from which they’re cast — is that the most awkward way to say that? Here’s what I wrote on march 9, 2024:

    As I was admiring the fence railing shadows I thought about how clear and real they seemed to me. Much more there than the actual fence railing, which was staticky and vague.

    log / 9 march 2024
    2

    So, in the draft of my poem, I wrote: a belief/shadows/signal some/thing. In a different version, I wrote: a belief/shadows/have substance. Do I like that better? I can’t decide. I think it was inspired by a passage I read in Becoming Animal (which was a recommendation from my super smart niece):

    One of the marks of our obliviousness, one of the countless signs that our thinking minds have grown estranged from the intelligence of our sensing bodies, is that today a great many people seem to believe that shadows are flat. If I am strolling along a street on a cloudless afternoon and I notice a shapeshifting patch of darkness accompanying me as I walk, splayed out on the road perpendicular to my upright self, its appendages stretching and shrinking with the swinging of my limbs, I instantly identify this horizontal swath as my shadow. As thought a shadow was merely this flatness, this kinetic pancake, this creature of two dimensions whom one might peel of the street and drape over the nearest telephone wire.

    Becoming Animal / David Abram

    I haven’t finished the chapter yet, but I was able to access it through the reading sample on amazon — so I’ll return to finish later.

    3

    The line about draping the shadow over a telephone wire enabled me to remember a delight poem I read by Paige Lewis a few years ago:

    When I Tell My Husband I Miss the Sun, He Knows/ Paige Lewis

    what I really mean. He paints my name

    across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners
    to my ankles. Then he paints another

    for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game,
    saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your

    shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels
    of your shopping cart.
    It’s all very polite.

    Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take
    them to the Laundromat—the one with

    the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine—
    and watch our shadows warm

    against each other. We bring the shadow game home
    and (this is my favorite part) when we

    stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled
    my husband grips his own wrist,

    certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.


    march 11/WALK

    35 minutes
    Drs. Dorothy and Irving Bernstein Scenic Rest Area*
    52 degrees

    *This is the first time, after almost 10 years of living here that I recall reading the sign at the 35th street parking lot overlook. After a quick search, I couldn’t determine who Dorothy and Irving are and what type of doctors they were.

    What a wonderful spring day. High of 64 and sun! Such a strange time. Winter hardly happened. The snow total this year: 7.3 inches. Last year: 89.7.

    see: The Lost Winter

    I miss the crunching snow and the cold air and the big flakes hitting my face and layers and running on ice without slipping and snow walls and desolate river views. And, I’m happy to see spring early — to hear more birds, wear less layers, sit on the deck, open the windows.

    Once we reached Drs. Dorothy and Irving Bernstein Scenic Rest Area, we took the gravel path down and around the ravine: a shelf of snow and slick slats on the grate over the seeping water. Otherwise, mostly dry and without mud. Walking back through the neighborhood we noticed some birds — first, their tin-whistle song, then their fleeting forms fluttering across the thin branches. Could I turn this into a part of my bird triptych poem? At first we thought they might be blue jays, but then settled on robins. Did Scott see that they were robins? Not me. All I saw was a small, but not too small form, up in the trees. Mostly, quick, darting movement, then flight, once, hovering on a high-up branch.

    Before the walk I wanted to archive two sources:

    to archive

    james schuyler and color: Reading a past entry from march 11, 2023, I was reminded of James Schuyler and his wonderful use of color. I had forgotten that he was an art critic. Searched, “james schuyler ekphrasis” and found this LARB review of a then recent book (circa 2011) of Schuyler’s poems: Scrappiness. The review gave a lot of attention to one of the poems, which is about a painting, but (maybe?) not an ekphrasis: A Blue Shadow Painting. Here are some color lines I’d like to remember:

    It’s like this: the orange assertions, dark there-ness
    of the tree, malleable steel-gray blueness of the ground; and sky; 
    set against, no, with, living with, existing alongside and part of, 
    the helter-skelter of rust brown, of swift indecipherables. The day
    is passing, is past: mutable and immutable, came to live, 
    on a small oblong of stretched canvas. Blue shadowed day, 
    under a milk-of-flowers sky, you’re a talisman, my Calais. 

    another line to remember: Not Make it new, but See it, hear it freshly.
    listen to the full poem: A Blue Shadow Painting, audio

    charles simic: I found a link to this article — Charles Simic and Me/ Dana Levin — on poems.com the other day. I like the brevity of Simic, at least what I’ve read in The New Yorker.

    Williams used to say that he could revise a poem twenty different times just by changing the line breaks.

    Charles Simic and Me / Dana Levin

    Reading this, I immediately thought of an essay I read a few years back: Learning the Poetic Line/ Rebecca Hazelton. I’d like to reread it, and practice its 6 S’s. But — what are some ways other than line breaks to shape the story? Are these line breaks too visual, only achieving their effect when read with eyes and not ears? How can I represent line breaks in a way that resembles how I see? And/or what, other than line breaks, can I use to represent how I find/make/experience the world?

    and is more interesting than but

    Simic practiced this philosophy of and in all his poems, a metaphysics of radical inclusion: brutality and death were everywhere in life, and they were ordinary.

    Charles Simic and Me/ Dana Levin

    the real task, for him [WCW], was not to chronicle the development of knowing but to enact, via enjambment, the struggle of seeing—and so to find himself asking the reader to participate in that struggle too, to work with him in empathy?

    Charles Simic and Me/ Dana Levin

    the struggle of seeing — asking the reader to participate in that struggle too

    poems as made things—products of decision, as much as magic

    What a wonderful, thought-provoking essay! I think one of the problems with my Haunts poems are the line breaks and the music of the words? I’m using the breathing rhythm of 3/2, but do they all need to fit that strict form? How can the 3/2 feeling being played with in the lines? Adhered to, but in new ways? Yes! I will work on line breaks today and try to see my poems in not new, but fresh ways!

    Found this Charles Simic poem in his collection, The Lunatic. My answer to his questions: yes, I have.

    Late-Night Inquiry/ Charles Simic

    Have you introduced yourself to yourself
    The way a visitor at your door would?

    Have you found a seat in your room
    For every one of your wayward selves

    To withdraw into their own thoughts
    Or stare into space as if it were a mirror?

    Do you have a match you can light
    To make their shadows dance on the wall

    Or float dream-like on the ceiling
    the way leaves do on summer afternoons,

    Before they take their bow and the curtain drops
    As the match burns down to your fingertips?

    march 10/RUN

    5 miles
    marshall loop (prior)
    47 degrees

    An afternoon run with Scott. We talked about a cool rpf (request for proposal) that Scott just completed and whether or not the wires sticking out of the street lamps on the bridge were live and how the clocktower at Disney Land was telling the wrong time for years without them realizing. For most of it, I felt fine. My calf was a little sore after we picked up the pace so we wouldn’t miss the light at Cleveland. A few minutes later, it felt okay again.

    10+ Things

    1. the clear, straight, sturdy shadow of the bridge railing
    2. from the top of the summit hill near shadow falls: the river burning white through the trees — I got distracted looking at it and almost fell of the edge of the sidewalk
    3. from the lake street bridge heading west: a bright path of light on the surface of the river, spanning from the bridge to the west bank
    4. the pale brown of a sandbar just below the surface of the river
    5. the underside of the steps leading up to the lake street bridge: peeling paint
    6. a “Tacos” sign where the BBQ sign used to be at Marshall and Cretin
    7. a big, beautiful wrap around porch with white spindles near Summit
    8. overheard: Katie didn’t know
    9. wind chimes!
    10. a tabby cat running across the street, headed straight for us — it seemed to be saying, Keep moving! This is my block!
    11. added 11 march 2024: overheard — one woman to another: After the costume change, I’ll shine and fly

    haunted by haunts

    In the fall of 2021 I worked on a long poem based on my 3/2 breathing rhythms and centered on the gorge and my repeated runs around it. I revisited the poem this past fall in 2023 and wrote around it, leaving only a few traces of the original — a palimpsest? I stopped at the beginning of 2024 with a message to future Sara: good luck. Well, here I am and I can’t remember what prompted me to open my haunts documents again, but I did and I’m back. Reading through an older version titled, “Haunts late fall 2023.” It’s a mixture of the old poem and my new additions, and I’m wondering why I got rid of so many of the old lines. It might be because I submitted parts of the poem to about a dozen journals with no luck. All rejections. It made me doubt what I was writing. But maybe I should try to keep submitting it instead of losing all of it? Maybe submit different versions, too?

    Reading through the poem, I wrote a list of themes in my Plague Notebook, Vol 19!:

    • girl
    • ghost
    • gorge
    • trails
    • loops
    • echoes
    • bells
    • traces
    • remains
    • stories
    • bodies
    • habits repetitions

    Bells. In the newer version of my poem, from late 2023, I got rid of almost all of the mentions of bells. But, I keep coming back to them, like in ED’s “I felt a Funeral in my Brain”: As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And being, but an Ear

    bells

    1. starting a ritual
    2. the keeping of time — YES! bells as time/clock*
    3. tolling = death, the dead
    4. signalling the final lap in a race
    5. “fake” simulated recorded bells
    6. light rail bells elementary and middle school bells college bells
    7. the gorge world echoing of past bells
    8. echo = repeating, but not exactly the same, reverberation, ripple, eroding of the original sound from the strike
    9. Annie Dillard and each of us walking around as as bells not yet struck
    10. vibrations movement sound

    A curious, “fun” fact that I’d learn in my research about the St. Thomas bells and that supported in my own observations: the St. Thomas bells are not always accurate in their time-keeping; they can be off by a few seconds. Someone has to re-sync them periodically.

    A bell poem in the latest issue of Poetry (March 2024):

    A Bell Is a Bearer of Time/ ALISON C. ROLLINS

    *To be performed with bells on. All “writing” is performance, some performance is “writing.”

    I am
    a product
    of my time.
    Time is a body
    that resembles
    a sound without a scale.
    Forever foreclosed fortitude.
    In heaven, the dinner bell rings
    as elegy. The porch-light stars turn
    on their mothering moths. Betrayal
    takes at least two, and wherever two
    or more are gathered, I am there in
    their pulsating timbre. To hear is to hunger
    for the gendered race of sound. In my midst,
    loneliness listens. In confidence, I am secreted
    away. I was today years old when I learned the truth,
    a browbeat bell is an idiophone. The strike made
    by an internal clapper or an external hammer, a uvula—
    that small flesh, conical body projecting downward from
    the soft palate’s middle. Vocal, vibrating vulva. I am less a writer
    who reads than a reader who writes. Therein lies the trouble, the treble clef of
    conviction. Come now to the feast of hearing, where Hortense J. Spillers
    gives a sermon: We address here the requirements of  literacy as the ear takes
    on the functions of “reading.” Call me bad news bear. Bestial. Becoming.
    In “Venus in Two Acts,” Saidiya Hartman asks, Must the future of abolition be
    first performed on the page? Must I write a run-on of runaways?
    Must you make out my handwriting? Evidence that loss has limbs.
    The clawed syntax. The muzzled grammar. Don’t be afraid.
    Kill me with your language. Learn how to mark my
    words.*

    During today’s run, the only bells we heard were not bells but chimes, wind chimes. Strange how close we were to St. Thomas without hearing the bells.

    march 9/RUN

    4 miles
    river road, north/south
    25 degrees

    Oh, I love running in weather like it was this morning! Sunny, calm, crisp air. So many shadows, some sharp some soft. Sparkling, shimmering, simmering river. Today my legs didn’t feel heavy and my calf was quiet, or maybe it was humming happily? My IT band didn’t hurt either! No compression sleeve while I ran, just after, for recovery.

    I felt good. When I reached 2 miles I stopped, spoke a few notes into my phone, put on Beyoncé’s Renaissance and ran south.

    10 Things

    1. shadows of the fence railing above the ravine, 1: 3 slightly crooked lines on the path, very solid and sturdy and thick
    2. fence railing, 2: the 3 lines became straight and crisp, seeming more real than the actual fence railing to my eyes
    3. shadow, 3: another solid sharp thick line from a tree’s branch
    4. shadow, 4: a soft, almost fluffy, form made from a cluster of small branches
    5. shadow, 5: a flash of dark overhead — a big bird in flight?
    6. shadow, 6: not a flash, but a flutter or flurry of movement — a few darting birds?
    7. a small white dot in the sky — was it a plane? the moon? I tried to find it in my periopheral vision but couldn’t
    8. something dark and plastic looking down below on the winchell trail — a sleeping person?
    9. young voices rising up from longfellow flats
    10. hopefully mis-overheard — one older woman to another: I farted and then the diaper filled with blood — what?

    As I was admiring the fence railing shadows I thought about how clear and real they seemed to me. Much more there than the actual fence railing, which was staticky and vague.

    At some point in the run, I had an idea for the triptych poem I was working on earlier this morning: intentionally do not mention the type of bird I’m writing about. It’s all about these different ways that I see birds through my peripheral — swishing wings, a call/cry/sound?, a sense of feathers and a shadow. Yes!

    This weekend, I need to finish the wonderful book I’m listening to before it gets automatically returned to the library: The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I’m thinking about doors a lot lately. Wrote this before breakfast:

    an open
    door says

    come in and
    a shut

    door says who
    are you

    but a door
    opening

    does not speak, 
    it sings.

    Does it work? Not sure. And here’s a wonderful poem by W.S. Merwin:

    Door/ W.S. Merwin

    This is a place where a door might be
    here where I am standing
    In the light outside all the walls

    there would be a shadow here
    all day long
    and a door into it
    where now there is me

    and somebody would come and knock
    on this air
    long after I have gone
    and there in front of me
    a life would open

    march 8/WALKDATASILENCE

    A late afternoon walk with Delia and Scott. Colder than expected. 38 degrees. Full winter layers. Winter coat, double gloves, hat. Lots of sun and long shadows leaving gnarled shapes across the sidewalk. A Bluejay screeching. A kid laughing, playing baseball with an adult (his dad?) at the Howe playground. Cars commuting home on the river road.

    We talked about a new word I learned: nocebo (as opposed to placebo) and Scott’s work today. I mentioned that I’m feeling out of sorts with my writing practice. Too many directions, too many BIG concepts. I want to get back to writing my small poems.

    earlier in the day

    After 3 days of running in a row and a calf feeling much better but still on the mend, it’s time for a break. I decided to leave my watch off too. No stands or workout minutes or calories burned. No monitoring of my heart rate or my balance. I’m still moving — baking and cleaning and doing laundry and taking the dog for a walk — even if that movement isn’t making a sound.

    Speaking of watches, 2 days ago I wrote about time and the clock. Here are some more references to time I’d like to remember:

    1

    That loneliness is just an ongoing 
    Relationship with time. 
    (Lake of the Isles/ Anni Liu)

    2

    Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.
    (Let it be Forgotten/ Sara Teasdale)

    3

    When the big clock at the train station stopped,
    the leaves kept falling,
    the trains kept running,
    my mother’s hair kept growing longer and blacker,
    and my father’s body kept filling up with time.
    (Big Clock/ Li-Young Lee)

    4

    Mosses, I think, are like time made visible. They create a kind of botanical forgetting. Shoot by tiny shoot, the past is obscured in green. That’s why we have stories, so we can remember.

    The mosses remember that this is not the first time the glaciers have melted. If time is a line, as western thinking presumes, we might think this is a unique moment for which we have to devise a solution that enables that line to continue. If time is a circle, as the Indigenous worldview presumes, the knowledge we need is already within the circle; we just have to remember it to find it again and let it teach us. That’s where the storytellers come in.
    (Ancient Green/ Robin Wall Kimmerer)

    5

    IN THE ANISHINAABE languages of Skywoman, our words for moss, aasaakamig and aasaakamek, carry the meaning “those ones who cover the earth.” Soft, moist, protective, they turn time into life, covering the transient and softening the transition to another state.
    (Ancient Green/ Robin Wall Kimmerer)

    6

    Time is a circle reminded me of the tracking of the “wheeling life” that I did while running last year. I was inspired by Forrest Gander’s poem “Circumambulation of Mount Tamalpas”:

    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

    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

    feb 27/RUN

    4.5 miles
    VA bridge and back
    46 degrees
    wind: 16 mph, 29 mph gusts

    What a wonderful morning for a run! Okay, maybe the wind was a bit much, but the sun and the warm air and the clear paths made up for it. I felt good and strong and relaxed. A few times my right calf reminded me it was there — no pain, just a strange stretched feeling. I recited ED’s “I heard a Fly buzz — when I died –” several times, mostly in my head, but once, as I climbed out of minnehaha park, out loud! Should I be celebrating this? Do I want to be that person who doesn’t care if others hear her reciting poems as she runs? Yes, I do.

    10 Things

    1. the hollow knocking of a woodpecker on dead wood, echoing across the gorge
    2. lots of black capped chickadees calling to each other
    3. oak tree shadows, sprawled everywhere
    4. the brown creek water lazily heading towards the limestone ledge
    5. rustling below me, on the winchell trail — someone walking over the leaves
    6. climbing up from the part of the path that dips below the road, seeing the shadow of trunk on the path that was so sharp and dark I thought it was a fallen tree
    7. sirens on Hiawatha, getting louder as they off the walls of the tunnel near 50th
    8. passing a runner — What a beautiful morning!Yes! Almost perfect!
    9. a biker in a bright yellow shirt, as bright as the one I was wearing
    10. the meandering curves of the sidewalks that wind through the part of minnehaha falls near John Stevens’ house

    This morning, while drinking my coffee, I decided to write about the delightful noise of geese wings cutting through the air that I’d recalled hearing a few weeks ago on my back deck — I remembered it after reading a list of 10 things from a feb 27th from another year. I wrote a draft of a poem, then decided I’d like to start writing delight poems every morning. No pressure — just patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate — this isn’t a competition but a doorway into thanks and a silence in which another voice may speak (Praying/ Mary Oliver) — just the opportunity to sit with one of the delights I’ve encountered while running beside the gorge. A few minutes later, I had a further idea about including Emily Dickinson:

    The practice, elements:

    • write a poem each day
    • the poem should be about some delight noticed on the run — either from that day or a past entry
    • any form running/breathing form: couplets of 3 syllables/2 syllables
    • uses, in some way, a favorite line from an Emily Dickinson poem

    Here’s the poem I wrote this morning:

    Too Silver for a Seam / Sara Lynne Puotinen

    Even more than the sight of them
    it is the sounds they make
    that move me.

    Usually it is the mournful calls
    from within a tight formation
    then the lone honk of the last in line,

    but today the geese were low enough
    to hear the sharp swish of their wings
    cutting the air.

    In their wake only the echo
    of scissors and sharpening knives
    and movement too silver for a seam.

    The ED line is too silver for a seam and it comes from “A Bird came down the Walk”:

    And he unrolled his feathers
    And rowed him softer Home—

    Than Oars divide the Ocean,
    Too silver for a seam—

    I like it! It needs a little work, but it makes me happy and captures my delight in hearing this sound. Scott wondered about the scissors and sharpening knives — such violent imagery — so I explained — the scissors make me think of Scott’s mom and the old scissors I inherited from her that make a wonderfully sharp scissor-y sound when you use them — it also makes me think of my mom who was always using scissors for her fiber art. The sharpening knives make me think of Scott’s dad and the enthusiastic and dilligent way he would sharpen their knives with their knife sharpener. I think I might need to add a line or two that signals my affection for these sounds without making it too obvious.

    During the last mile of the fun, I started reciting other ED poems, including:

    To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
    One clover, and a bee.
    And revery.
    The revery alone will do,
    If bees are few.

    Note: This seems like an edited version from Mabel Todd, with all its punctuation and no capitalizing of clovers or bees.

    As I recited this small poem, I suddenly thought about how I was a bee, wearing my bright yellow shirt with my black running shorts and tights. I kept running, feeling ready to stop, looking ahead and wondering how close I was to being done. Suddenly I saw it: the bright yellow crosswalk sign with black figures at 38th street! I’m almost done when I reach that sign! I watched it getting closer and thought, it takes one bee or, it takes a bee?

    update, six hours later: I’m back. Decided that I might want to add one more rule to this ED delight daily practice: I want to use my running/breathing form of 3 syllable/2 syllable couplets. I tightened up the poem I wrote earlier using that form. Here’s the new version:

    Today the
    geese flew

    low enough
    to hear

    the quick swish
    of wings

    slicing through
    the air. (I could leave air for the unintentional rhyme or switch to sky)

    In their wake —
    echoes

    of scissors
    cutting

    knives being
    sharpened

    their blades too
    silver

    for a seam.

    feb 26/WALK

    40 minutes
    to the river and back
    57 degrees

    A warm, windy February afternoon. Took a walk with Delia the dog and Scott. Heard some kids on the playground that I mistook for a siren. Then later, heard some actual sirens. Also heard some ragtime music coming from a bike on the path. Marveled at the gnarled oaks and the jagged shadow one cast on another branchless tree. Noticed how high the bluff was above the forest floor. Encountered many happy, chatting walkers, one runner without a shirt.

    It’s Windy

    Is it the strange, too-early spring weather? The fact that I’m turning 50 in 4 months and that my kids are turning 21 and 18? Not sure, but my thoughts have been scattered lately, flitting from one idea to the next without landing anywhere for too long. Maybe it’s the wind. This morning I said to Scott, what a beautiful morning! Too bad it’s windy. Then Scott started singing “Windy” by the Association — I tried to join in, but I was in the wrong key (as usual). I should have a t-shirt that says, I’m always in the wrong key, I said (which, I think, isn’t always a bad thing to be in). Anyway, I decided to listen to the song and read the lyrics. It’s actually about wind! How delightful!

    Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
    Smilin’ at everybody she sees
    Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
    Everyone knows it’s Windy

    And Windy has stormy eyes
    That flash at the sound of lies
    And Windy has wings to fly
    Above the clouds (above the clouds)
    Above the clouds (above the clouds)

    I think I might create a page of wind poems/songs and add this, along with “They call the wind Mariah” from Paint Your Wagon and “I Take to the Wind” by King Crimson.

    an idea (for the future? now?): Yesterday I posted a poem that uses an Emily Dickinson line in the title (I heard a fly buzz), then obliquely references her in the poem. A year or so ago, I had the idea that I’d like to write a series of poems that use some of my favorite Emily Dickinson lines as titles for my poems about vision loss, how I see, and how I’ve been carving out a new way of being with my moving practice. I’ve already written one that was published this past December in the print journal, Door is a Jar:

    The Motions of the Dipping Birds/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

    Because I can no longer see
    her face, when my daughter talks I watch

    her small hands rise and fall,
    sweep the air, flutter.

    I marvel at the soft feathers her fingers make
    as they soar then circle then settle

    on the perch of her hips waiting
    to return to the sky for another story.

    I think Victoria Chang’s collection, The Trees Witness Everything, in which she uses W.S. Merwin poem titles and then writes her own poem, might be a good inspiration. I’ve been wanting to do this project for several years, but I wasn’t quite ready. Am I now? I’ve already been moving towards it with my interest in memorizing 50 Emily Dickinson poems before my 50th birthday — did I mention that in here, or was it just in my “to do” list? Oh, I hope this idea sticks and helps me to write more poetry. Lately, I’ve had tons of ideas that I start, but that really don’t go anywhere.

    As part of this Dickinson project, and inspired by yesterday’s poem, I decided to memorize ED’s “I heard a fly buzz — when I died”. After memorizing it, I listened to someone else’s reading of it and noticed a line change:

    [original] The stillness in the Room
    [alternate in video] The stillness round my form

    Which is correct, I wondered. At first, I thought the alternate might be the correct one, but it didn’t seem quite right — form neatly rhymes with the last line of the verse: Between the Heaves of Storm. ED liked slant rhymes, not straight ones. I looked it up and discovered that ED’s first editor, Mabel Loomis Todd, had changed the line to form. She also took out ED’s dashes. I’ve read about the fraught relationship between ED and Todd (who was ED’s brother’s lover) and Todd’s heavy-handed editing, so I’m sticking with the original!

    medical term fun!

    I’m still working with g a s t r o c n e m i u s and s o l e u s scrabble tiles. Last night’s favorite:

    Guess a minute’s colors

    I told RJP and she said, 7:42 is yellowish-green. Do I see any particular minute’s colors? No. But I do like trying to describe what colors I see at any given minute.

    What happens when I reverse 2 words: Guess a color’s minutes?
    Or, Minutes colors a guess?
    Or, As color, minutes guess
    Or, minutes: a color’s guess (as in, meeting minutes)
    Or, a guess colors minutes

    Back to ED’s buzzing fly. Whenever I read this poem, I think about an article I discovered a few years ago that discusses how accurately and effectively ED describes the physiology of the dying eye — 15 march 2021

    feb 19/RUN

    5 miles
    john stevens’ house
    34 degrees

    So bright out by the gorge today. Sharp shadows. Clear path. Black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, construction workers, little kids all chattering. Before I saw the creek, I heard it gushing below me near the falls. Oh — and wild turkeys! A dozen of them pecking the snow just north of locks and dam no. 1.

    My favorite part of the run was in minnehaha park near John Stevens’ house, where the serpentine sidewalk — completely cleared and dry — snaked through the grass covered in several inches of untouched snow. O, the sun and the shadows and the curves and the warmer air and the dry paths and the open lungs and humming legs!

    an illusion

    Glance one: running south on the stretch near 38th street, I noticed something dark and solid up ahead on the trail. A loose dog or wild animal? No.
    Glance two: Still staring, the black thing turned into a dark, deep puddle on the road.
    Glance three: How could I have mistook this puddle for an animal?
    Glance four: Wait — it’s not a puddle, it’s someone’s disembodied legs in dark pants walking on the edge of the path.
    Glance five: And their legs are attached to a torso in a light colored (gray? tan? pale blue?) jacket which blended into the sky.
    Glance six: Getting closer, I can see a head, some shoes

    This illusion is not unusual for me. Mostly, it doesn’t bother me because I am used to it and I have time to figure out what it is I’m seeing. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to look and think and guess, it’s scary and unsettling and dangerous.

    Found an interview with Andrew Leland from Joeita Gupta and The Pulse this morning and wanted to remember this helpful definition of blindness:

    The Pulse

    What is blindness? Blindness isn’t merely an absence of sight. Blindness is a central identity for some, a neutral or marginal characteristic for others. Not all blind people are the same. There are blind vegetarians, athletes, academics, you name it. Some people have been blind from birth, others lose their vision as adults. Blindness can come on suddenly or gradually. Blindness is then more than a physical experience. It has its own culture, language, and politics. Blindness is not the same for any two blind people anymore than sight is experienced the same way by two sighted individuals.

    note: This podcast has some other great episodes, including one about birding while blind, which I added to my May is for the Birds page.

    How I See

    I’m continuing to work on my alt-text/ekphrastic image project. Still trying to figure out the best way into the actual poems. Not quite writer’s block, but a grasping, grappling with, wrangling ideas. Anyway, maybe detouring will help a little. I’d like to gather lines from vision poems that describe how I see. I’ll begin with one of the most well-known blind poets, Jorge Luis Borges:

     In Praise of Darkness / Jorge Luis Borges

    Old age (the name that others give it)
    can be the time of our greatest bliss.
    The animal has died or almost died.
    The man and his spirit remain.
    I live among vague, luminous shapes
    that are not darkness yet.
    Buenos Aires,
    whose edges disintegrated
    into the endless plain, has gone back to being the Recoleta, the Retiro,
    the nondescript streets of the Once,
    and the rickety old houses
    we still call the South.
    In my life there were always too many things.
    Democritus of Abdera plucked out his eyes in order to think:
    Time has been my Democritus.
    This penumbra is slow and does not pain me;
    it flows down a gentle slope,
    resembling eternity.
    My friends have no faces,
    women are what they were so many years ago,
    these corners could be other corners,
    there are no letters on the pages of books.
    All this should frighten me,
    but it is a sweetness, a return.
    Of the generations of texts on earth
    I will have read only a few–
    the ones that I keep reading in my memory,
    reading and transforming.
    From South, East, West, and North
    the paths converge that have led me
    to my secret center.
    Those paths were echoes and footsteps,
    women, men, death-throes, resurrections,
    days and nights,
    dreams and half-wakeful dreams,
    every inmost moment of yesterday
    and all the yesterdays of the world,
    the Dane’s staunch sword and the Persian’s moon,
    the acts of the dead,
    shared love, and words,
    Emerson and snow, so many things.
    Now I can forget them. I reach my center,
    my algebra and my key,
    my mirror.
    Soon I will know who I am.

    penumbra: shroud, fringe, a shaded region surrounding the dark portion of a sunspot, in an eclipse the partially illuminated space between full shadow and light

    Here are a few lines that I think describe how I see:

    This penumbra is slow and does not pain me;
    it flows down a gentle slope,
    resembling eternity.
    My friends have no faces,
    women are what they were so many years ago,
    these corners could be other corners

    A slow, gentle deterioration. No dramatic or sudden shifts. / When I look at people directly, I usually can’t see their faces. / I either see a smudge or darkness or the face I remember from before, when I could see. / sharp edges or corners are difficult to see and streets once familiar are strange. Traveling to a new street corner, I struggle to read signs, to recognize where I am, everything there but not, everything the same forms: Building, Sign, Door

    feb 18/RUN

    5.8 miles
    down the franklin and back
    31 degrees

    A little icy, a little windy, a little crowded. Difficult to run together in these conditions, so Scott and I split up. The sun was bright and I saw some wonderful shadows of trees — gnarled and sprawling across the sky. Heard some geese, smelled some bacon.

    When we ran together, Scott and I talked about the half frozen river and how it looked like a gray slushy. What flavor is gray slushy, I wondered. Scott suggested, all the flavors then added, I bet that would taste good. I wondered if this “everything” slushy would include blueberry. No, Scott said, blue raspberry. I mentioned how there is no consensus on the origins of the rasp in raspberry, which I had come across while reading a past entry a few days ago.

    How I See

    As I continue to work on this project, I want to return to ekphrastic poems. In an article for Lithub — Back to School for Everyone: Ekphrastic Poetry with Victoria Chang — Chang offers some helpful thoughts about the form:

    how poets engage with visual art:

    • write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork
    • write in the voice of the person or object represented
    • write about their personal experiences
    • fictionalizing a scene within the art
    • write about the work in the context of its socio-political history

    In essence, ekphrastic poems are a way to interact with the world and a way to respond to the world. The process of writing ekphrastic poetry also brings into question aspects of viewing, the culture of viewing, and the gaze, always asking the questions of who is looking at what, when, and why?

    3 thoughts about Ekphrasis

    1: I’m as interested in how someone is looking as who, what, when, or why they are looking.

    2: Maybe part of the ekphrasis angle is the idea that sometimes the world looks like a painting to me — pointillism or abstract expressionism or?

    3: the contrast between how a photo captures/stills the image in a way that my eyes never can

    A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it's all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.
    8 nov 2023

    original description: A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it’s all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.

    5 nouns/ 5 adjectives/ 5 verbs

    nouns: river, water, shore, trees, sky, branches, a bend, surface
    adjectives: winding, scraggly, soft, fuzzy, drab, dark, light, gray, wide, flat, contrast, wide
    verb: stretching, reaching, standing, stilled, separated, cutting through,\

    one sentence about the most important thing in image: The sky and the river are the same color; only the disruption of trees enables me to distinguish between them.

    a second sentence about the second most important thing: Everything gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees.

    a third sentence about the third most important thing: In this soft, wide open view, when everything is stilled, silent, nothing is happening.

    The nothing that’s happening in this image is full of meaning. Here nothing = no things are doing anything/ nothing to see; nothing = a void, absence, unknowingness; nothing = a rest for my eyes, no movement, everything still, satisfied, stable.

    The idea of no separation, no edges or divisions between forms, reminds me of a wonderful poem that I thought I’d posted already, but hadn’t. I think when I first encountered it a few years ago, it didn’t resonate for me. Now, I want to call out, yes!, with almost every line.

    Monet Refuses the Operation/ Lisel Muller

    Doctor, you say there are no haloes
    around the streetlights in Paris
    and what I see is an aberration
    caused by old age, an affliction.
    I tell you it has taken me all my life
    to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
    to soften and blur and finally banish
    the edges you regret I don’t see,
    to learn that the line I called the horizon
    does not exist and sky and water,
    so long apart, are the same state of being.
    Fifty-four years before I could see
    Rouen cathedral is built
    of parallel shafts of sun,
    and now you want to restore
    my youthful errors: fixed
    notions of top and bottom,
    the illusion of three-dimensional space,
    wisteria separate
    from the bridge it covers.
    What can I say to convince you
    the Houses of Parliament dissolve
    night after night to become
    the fluid dream of the Thames?
    I will not return to a universe
    of objects that don’t know each other,
    as if islands were not the lost children
    of one great continent. The world
    is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
    becomes water, lilies on water,
    above and below water,
    becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
    and white and cerulean lamps,
    small fists passing sunlight
    so quickly to one another
    that it would take long, streaming hair
    inside my brush to catch it.
    To paint the speed of light!
    Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
    burn to mix with air
    and change our bones, skin, clothes
    to gases. Doctor,
    if only you could see
    how heaven pulls earth into its arms
    and how infinitely the heart expands
    to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

    feb 11/RUN

    5 miles
    Veterans’ Home and back
    32 degrees

    Another weekend run with Scott. Usually we run on Saturdays, but yesterday we were in St. Peter, so we ran today instead. Colder, windier, sunny. Sharp shadows. My favorite shadow: running under the ford bridge, a big shadow crossed over my head. A bird? No, a bike up on the bridge.

    We talked about ones and zeroes and the differences between null, zero, and false in coding. I mentioned how when it gets to the brain, seeing is about signals firing and not firing. Then we talked about a recent controversy with Margaret Livingstone’s research on animals, which led us to a discussion about scientific experiments as material practices, the ethical dilemma of using knowledge gained from unethical experiments, and then a mention of Newton’s experiments on himself — shoving something in his eye to learn about color. Some fun discussions!

    I forgot to notice the falls or look down the river, I recall seeing someone in yellow running on the Winchell Trail. I smelled the smoke near the house that always smells like smoke. I heard a dog’s collar clanging behind us. Felt the cold wind almost taking my breath away.

    before the run

    Started rewatching Margaret Livingstone’s lecture about artists and vision. Also found her book, Vision and Art — the “read sample” is helpful here.

    Near the beginning of the video, Livingstone emphasizes this idea: “Visual information processing is not image transmission.” She adds: you don’t transmit information up to your brain because there’s nobody up there to look. In her book, she elaborates on this idea, giving it a name: the homunculas fallacy — homunculas means “little man.” The fallacy: some little man is up in your brain “looking” at the image. I love this name and the idea of a little man; I’d like to put it in a poem!

    jan 22/RUN

    5.8 miles
    the flats and back
    26 degrees

    (added a few hours later): I almost forgot to mention that this entry is my 2000th post. Not every single one of these entries is about a run, but most of them are. Wow. When I started this project to document marathon training in 2017, I had no idea where it might lead! So happy I’m still here writing and running and noticing!

    Hooray for warm (but not too warm) mornings and clear paths and flying geese and frozen rivers and runners in electric blue running tights and frozen seeps and weeping springs and brief visits from shadows and squirrels that don’t dart and not slipping on the few spots where there was snow and chirping birds and laughing woodpeckers and clicking blue jay jaws and running down hills then walking back up them and winter playlists and legs and lungs and hearts that work!

    A good run. Before the run, I had a brief wave of anxiety — not for any reason. It just came on all of a sudden — feeling strange, tingly, finding it a littler harder to breathe. Peri-menopause and messed-up hormones, I’ve decided. Running helped, partly because moving always helps and partly because I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to run at a 9:30 pace for so long if something was really wrong with me.

    I wasn’t sure how far I’d run this morning, but when I got to the bottom of the franklin hill I had an idea: run until you reach a frozen seep. So I did, which made my run a little longer than usual. What a seep! And falling water from a spring. I thought about crossing the road to get closer to the seep, but there’s no curb and the road isn’t that wide and cars drive faster here then they should, so I didn’t. Instead I took some video from the edge of the trail and then I stood still and marveled at the falling and frozen water, and then the height of the bluff.


    frozen seep / weeping spring / 22 jan 2024

    After the seep, I ran again until I reached the bottom of the franklin hill, then walked up while I recited ideas for a new poem about the idea of not-seeing. One connection to windows: not seeing a window (or glass) and bumping into it. I’ve read several poems that feature birds who run right into the glass and are dazed. Are there any poems about people? I suppose people mostly (always?) run into glass doors not windows. I’ve done it at least once, while I was studying abroad in Japan. The worst thing about running into glass is the grease smudge your face leaves on the glass. It just stays there, staring at you, embarrassing you — not just because it’s evidence that you ran into the glass, but that your face is greasy.

    I’m wondering now: what are the most embarrassing things to not see?

    Here’s a poem I found from poem-of-the-day that I’d like to remember.

    Arequipa/ Ben Okri

    Leaves that fall.
    Ought to breed
    Fire from stone.
    The world counts
    On our fall.
    Our solitude interests
    The butterflies
    And the lost gold
    Of the afternoons.

    Ochre and blue walls
    And the fading peaks
    Of volcanoes
    And the sunlight
    Plummeting beyond
    The hills waken
    Leaves to their
    Lost trees.

    To discover
    You still have
    A world
    To make
    At sunset
    Sobers
    The stones.

    Love the brevity of this poem and the double-meaning of the first line: leaves from that fall and leaves that fall down. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru (south of Lima, slightly inland — 100km from the coast).

    jan 20/RUN

    4.35 miles
    minnehaha falls and back
    5 degrees

    Back outside! Cold, but much warmer than Tuesday. Low (ish) wind, plenty of sunshine, clear paths. I felt a little tired and sore, but still happy to be outside. Was planning to do my usual routine of running without music, then putting some in at my favorite spot by the falls, but I forgot my headphones. Oh well, if I had been listening to music I might not have heard a goose honking.

    10 Things

    1. startled some birds in the brush on the path near the ramp that winds down to the falls bridge — some rustling noises, then a silver flash as the sun caught the feathers on one of the bird’s wings — it reminded me of Eamon Grennan’s line about a lark’s silver trail in Lark-luster or EDickinson’s silver seam in A Bird, came down the Walk
    2. the falls were hidden behind columns of ice
    3. a few people (3 or 4?) walking on the frozen creek, admiring the falls from up close
    4. falling water sound: tinkling, sprinkling, shimmering
    5. the creek was frozen over, with just a few open spots where the water flowed beneath it
    6. running past the stretch of woods near the ford bridge — all the leaves are gone, the small rise up to the bridge fully visible
    7. crunch crunch crunch as my feet struck the ground — not slippery or hard or too soft
    8. my shadow, sharp lines, solid, dark, lamp post shadow, softer, fuzzier
    9. the rhythm of a faster runner’s legs as they passed me — a steady lift lift lift — so graceful
    10. a lone geese honking — not seen, only heard

    Somewhere near the Horace Cleveland overlook (near the double bridge), I thought about interiors and exteriors and how you can look in or out of windows and then outside as the abstract/thinking/theorizing/writing and inside as the body. I want to remove the barrier between these, to mix writing with being/doing/moving as a body. Then lines from Maggie Smith’s “Threshold” popped into my head: You want a door you can be on both sides of at once. You want to be on both sides of here and there now and then…Yes, I do.

    added 21 jan 2024: Reading through a past entry this morning I suddenly remembered the black capped chickadee calling out their fee bee song so loudly as I ran up the hill between locks and dam no. 1 and the double bridge. Wow! I recall thinking they were in beast mode (a reference to Michael Brecker and how some people describe his playing).

    Jane Hirshfield’s Ten Windows, Chapter 6 (Close Reading: Windows)

    Many good poems have a kind of window-moment in them–they change their direction of gaze in a way that suddenly opens a broadened landscape of meaning and feeling. Encountering such a moment, the reader breathes in some new infusion, as steeply perceptible as any physical window’s increase of light, scent, sound, or air. The gesture is one of lifting, unlatching, releasing; mind and attention swing open to new-peeled vistas.

    windows offer an opening, a broadened landscape, fresh air, a lifting, unlatching, releasing, expansion, an escape or a way into somewhere else

    In this chapter, Hirshfield does a close reading of ED’s “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” — yes!

    I have called the third stanza (And so of larger — Darkness –/Those Evenings of the Brain –) the poem’s first window, but for me, the true window in Dickinson’s poem is contained in one word; its quick, penultimate, slipped-in “almost.” (And Life steps almost straight). The effect is so disguised it feels more truly trap-door than window: On this close-to-weightless “almost,” the poem’s assurance stumbles, catches. Its two syllables carry the knowledge that there are events in our lives from which no recovery is possible.

    I love Emily Dickinson’s almost in this poem. The space it gives — the possibilities — for living your life otherwise. It seems that Hirshfield reads this almost as unfortunate — you almost made it back to your normal life after the darkness, but not quite. I don’t. There’s so much room (and a lot less pressure) in the almost! So much to write about this idea, so little time right now.

    In the chapter, Hirshfield references a “popular” Dickinson poem that I’ve never encountered before:

    The Brain — is wider than the Sky — (1863) J632/ Emily Dickinson

    The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
    For — put them side by side —
    The one the other will contain
    With ease — and You — beside —

    The Brain is deeper than the sea —
    For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
    The one the other will absorb —
    As Sponges — Buckets — do —

    The Brain is just the weight of God —
    For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
    And they will differ — if they do —
    As Syllable from Sound —

    I’d like to put this into conversation with my mid-run ideas about the body and the mind — maybe add Mary Oliver’s ideas about the difference between a poem and the world from The Leaf and the Cloud too.

    jan 19/BIKERUN

    bike: 10 minute warm-up
    run: 4 miles
    treadmill, basement
    outside: 6 degrees, feels like -7

    Because I was sick earlier this week, I’m being cautious and not running outside when the feels like temp is below 0. Running on the treadmill isn’t as interesting, but it is helping me to keep my heart rate down.

    Watched a Hot Ones while I biked, listened to the audiobook for The Woman in the Window (in honor of windows month!) for almost 3 miles, then my winter playlist for the last mile.

    The run felt easy and not too tedious. I looked over at my shadow — a giant head swaying. I think I saw the shadow of my ponytail swinging a few times. When I looked again, I lost my balance a little and stepped off the side briefly. Oops.

    In The Woman in the Window, Anna is agoraphobic and has been stuck in her fancy house for 10, or was it 11?, months. She keeps her windows shut tight and spies/watches/looks at her neighbors through them (with the help of a high-powered camera lens). In the chapter I just heard (18), a woman she is watching, Jane Russell, looks back and waves, which freaks Anna out. She realizes that just as she watches others, they could be watching her.

    side note: I know very little about this story other than that someone is murdered, Anna sees it, and no one believes her. Listening to this chapter and being introduced to Jane Russell, I’m guessing she’s the one getting murdered. I’m also getting the feeling that not only will people not believe that Anna saw the murder, they won’t believe that Jane Russell is real. She’s just Anna’s drunk/over-drugged hallucination. Am I right, or have I seen The Lady Vanishes too many times (thanks 1980s HBO!) Continuing with Lady Vanishes vibes, I’m wondering if the small portrait Jane sketched of Anna that she hastily shoved in her drawer will be proof (if to no one else, at least to herself) that she’s not making it up! Jane does/did exist! In The Lady Vanishes it’s the message written in the fog on the window, or the sugar packet that proves the little old lady who vanished actually exists — am I remembering that right? I think I’m conflating the 1938 original with the 80s remake here. Anyway, I’m probably wrong about Jane not being real. She has a son who can verify her existence. It was the random moment when Jane sketches Anna that made me think of this scenario. Future Sara, let me know after you’ve finished the book!

    update from feb 1st Sara: A lot of what I thought was right, but not quite. Lots of slight twists. For example, everyone believes Anna exists, but she’s someone else. The portrait does come up and does reinvigorate Anna’s flagging belief in what she thinks she saw, but it doesn’t serve as an a-ha moment or matter much to others. And all the stuff with the son? I probably shouldn’t have been, but it surprised me.

    In addition to the actual windows in her house, there’s also the window of the computer screen. After she waves back at Anna, Jane comes over and they talk. Jane asks Anna what she does in the house all day. Anna describes the chatroom she participates on and the french lessons she takes online. Then Jane calls the computer, “her window to the world.” The window as Windows (mircrosoft) has come up in my exploration of windows and their meanings alreadyearlier today even, when I was reading the Part 2 article I mention a few paragraphs below.

    Magritte and windows

    (written before the run) On the 15th, while rereading entries from that day in past years (thanks to Scott’s “On This Day” plug-in!), I encountered a great vision poem that I had read before, but not that closely, I guess, because I missed how much it spoke to me and my experience with vision loss. The poem: Ekphrasis as Eye Test/ Jane Zwart. And the verse that particularly spoke to me was this:

    Other losses begin in the middle of the field:
    redacting the kiss at a picture’s center–
    wrapping lovers’ heads in pillow slips; hovering doves
    at eye level anywhere hatted men stand.
    They could be anyone, the strangers Magritte painted
    almost as their mothers, maculas wasted, would see them.

    • the kiss, lovers’ heads in pillow slips: The Lovers
    • the dove and the hatted man: Man in a Bowler Hat
    • Magritte’s mother killed herself by jumping off a bridge when he was 13. When her body was found days later, her nightgown was wrapped around her head (I can’t remember where I read that — found it!)

    When I read these lines, I didn’t immediately get the references I mentioned above, but I did recognize the featureless faces and wasted maculas in my own vision. I recall liking Magritte exhibit when I was kid — I had a poster of the business men floating in the sky — but I hadn’t thought about him much since.

    I inherited my mom’s copy of a 1992 exhibition she saw at the Art Institute of Chicago, but I hadn’t looked through it much, if at all. I picked it up and saw the cover — his painting with a train emerging from a fireplace — and thought: Charles Bonet Syndrome! CBS happens to some people as they lose their central vision; it often involves strange hallucinations. I read about people seeing waterfalls coming out of skyscrapers, old carriages coming down the street, and a dozen cooked eggs on a fireplace mantel. A train emerging from a fireplace seems to fit in these.

    The cover of Magritte book. At the center, a fireplace with a black train, steam coming out of the top, emerging from its center. On the mantel, a clock. And behind that, a big mirror. In the bottom right corner, the book title: Magritte
    Magritte on my desk, next to Forrest Gander’s “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas” under the glass

    Of course, there are other meanings intended with this train, but I immediately saw it as CBS hallucination. Looking through the book at all the featureless faces and faces obscured by apples and doves, I recognized my own inability to see faces. Very cool.

    This morning I decided to dig into Magritte a little more. I discovered (or maybe remembered) that one of his reoccurring themes was windows — fitting for this month’s theme! Fearing copyright issues (I’ve been burned before), I’m not posting any of the images here. Instead, go here for examples: Magritte windows.

    In my brief research (googlin’), I found this: Part 2: Magritte’s Window Paintings. At the end of the post there’s an article on the symbolism of windows, with some useful descriptions:

    This intimate relation between the window, seeing, and perception (cf. eye/gaze) has become part of everyday language: the eyes as windows to the soul (or heart, or mind) [1] point out the possibility of looking inside a person through the opening of his eyes, where an inner state is reflected.

    note: 1 The notion of  the ‘eyes as the window to the psyche’ goes back at least to a text by the Skeptic philosopher Sextus Empiricus (2nd century A.D), who might be citing an even earlier text. Cf. Carla Gottlieb. The Window in Art. From the Window of God to the Vanity of Man. A Survey of Window Symbolism in Western Painting (New York: Abaris, 1981), pp.49f.

    I’m always searching for references to this phrase as I interrogate the idea that we see each other’s souls, and their humanity, by looking into their eyes.

    The window as an opening in a wall refers to an absence which can be filled – by a material (glass, wood, paper, stone), by that which is seen through it, or by something rather immaterial like light or air. If defined as an absence, the window becomes a frame for its variable content, a marker of difference between what is inside and outside.

    I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about Nothing lately, so I’ll have to add this idea of absence/frame to my list of ways of understanding the word/concept. Maybe I’ll add it to the series of Nothing poems I’ve been working on, which have emerged from my stripping down and reimagining my Haunts poem.

    jan 18/BIKERUN

    bike: 10 minute warm-up
    run: 3.65 miles
    basement
    outside temp: 9 degrees / feels like -4

    for future Sara: Tuesday night while sitting in the South High band room, listening to the community jazz band rehearse, I suddenly felt sick — a little like I might faint again, hot and tingling all over, very sensitive to loud sounds. Later on the way home in the ridiculously cold car, I had the chills and felt like I might throw up. Went home and straight to bed. Stayed in bed all the next morning. Not covid (I tested), but maybe the flu?

    listening to my Window playlist: I Threw a Brick Through a Window/U2

    I feel much better — almost normal — today. I’ve decided that I had the flu and the flu shot I got in November prevented it from being more severe (whew!). Of course this experience gave me some mild anxiety — was I sick, or was the faint-feeling signaling some bigger problem? How long would I be sick? At some point, would I have trouble breathing? Sigh — I dislike how much more I worry these days.

    Tip Toe Thru’ the Tulips with Me/Annette Hanshaw

    Since I felt pretty good today, I decided to try running on the treadmill. After my feet warmed-up in the cold basement, I felt great. Listened to my winter 2024 playlist and covered the panel displaying the time. I kept telling myself, one more song and I’ll check how much time I have left. When I finally checked, the time was at 31 minutes! Very cool; I thought maybe it would at 21 or 22 minutes. I like playing this game when I’m running on the treadmill; much better than staring down at the display.

    Open a New Window/Mame Soundtrack

    Noticed my shadow running alongside me. Stared at the water heater straight ahead of me: fuzzy and shifting very slightly. Also, the image had some static.

    Look Through Any Window/The Hollies

    As I write this, I’m making note of the window songs that are playing. It’s a bit difficult and I feel pressure to hurry up and write something before the next song comes on.

    Nan You’re a Window Shopper/Lily Allen

    In Nan, You’re a Window Shopper Allen complains — is she complaining or lamenting? — about her nan whose life is so constricted — taking a look, but you never buy/ and mad as fuck/only just alive

    Window/Fiona Apple

    Window/Daniel G. Hoffman

    Is is no more than an eyehole
    On the outside scene
    Making everything
    –The snow, the runaway dog,
    The boys brawling and the car
    Skidding against the tree–
    Content to be contained
    Within a reasonable frame?
    Or could it be

    A casement dividing
    A real Observer from a view
    Of untrammelled possibility,
    Its pane connecting
    A man in a room in
    Steam heat and a battered chair
    With his future
    Which he could not see
    Were it not there?

    Window Shopping/Just Derrick

    Perhaps it’s the lens that allows
    Errant swifts and swallows
    In a downward swoop
    Of their tumbling flight
    To glimpse the man waiting
    For the future to happen–
    While he’s caged in time
    They’re free to look in,
    And its gift is insight.

    Junk/Paul McCartney

    I noticed that Hoffman’s next poem is titled, Door. I’ll have to read that one when I study doors!

    From Junk:

    Buy, buy, says the sign in the shop window
    Why, why? says the junk in the yard

    Bust Your Windows/Jazmine Sullivan

    I’ll bust the windows out your car
    You know I did it ’cause I left my mark
    Wrote my initials with a crowbar
    And then I drove off into the dark

    Maybe I’ll try experimenting with a themed playlist? I could listen and pick out a few lyrics from each song, then write about them, or turn them into a poem?