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:

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

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

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

detail—something like
a scream
between her legs. Slowly,
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:


    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 came 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:


    by noise

    I stop to

    a dark shape
    draw near

    too big for

    a squirrel

    too small for
    a bear.

    The moment


    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?
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,

    or 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, 
    ward, 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.