bike: 30 minutes run: 3.25 miles basement outside: 19 degrees
Watched another episode of Dickinson while I biked. Then listened to a playlist while I ran. Decided today I would start to break my habit of having to pee between biking and running. I did it! I went straight from the bike to the treadmill. It was difficult for the first few minutes, then it was fine. Will I be able to not do it again? How many times do you have to not do something to break a habit? I’ll find out. While I was running I had the treadmill display covered. I decided that I would check the time after the 5th song. I waited until the 8th song. 29 minutes. I was surprised, thinking a lot less time had passed. It’s nice to learn how to get lost in time in the basement, and to not need the gorge to do it.
Before working out, I finished my incurable poem (well, I completed a polished draft at least). I’m pleased with it. I think it completes my mood ring collection. 3 sets of 3 moods: 1. Delighted, Curious, Awed; 2. Doubtful, Lonely, Bewildered; 3. Relentless, Resilient, Incurable.
Here’s the text for the three poems:
Poem 1 (entire grid):
No cure. A stubborn sentence that brings relief not despair. No expensive tests. No inconclusive results. No experimental treatments. No jammed waiting rooms. No needles pickling my eyes. No need for tears. No need for grief. No need for answers. Nothing to fix to make safe to store away for winter. Someday there will be a way to repopulate the vacant city of my macula. But not now. Now is for living and breathing and being outside above the gorge. For adapting and exploring and creating different forms of seeing. For wandering among the sprawling oak trees feeling the biting breeze admiring the view to the other side.
Poem 2 (inner circle, central vision that’s left)
safe winter will be late
Poem 3 (blind ring)
Acceptance is not weakness but strength. Strength is not a hardening but a softening. Diminished vision is not a death sentence but a door into other worlds. Put back that sugar and salt. Pack away those preservatives. I do not need to be cured.
I am very pleased with this poem. It was such a helpful way to work though my feelings about having an incurable eye disease–my acceptance of it and my frustration with others who can’t accept it or the idea that losing vision is not a tragedy.
After working out, Scott and I took Delia the dog on a walk. Today it is bright and beautiful and much warmer. At the end of the walk, I recorded a moment of sound in the backyard.
a moment of sound
Quiet. I can hear a few birds, the wind moving through the alley, some dripping. And a scratching sound that is Delia digging in the snow for crabapple trees the robins left behind.
bike: 25 minutes run: 2.25 miles basement outside: 15 degrees
I started my bike by listening to Dr. Michael Osterholm’s podcast on COVID-19–he’s the infectious diseases expert/director at the University of Minnesota. He often gives worst case scenarios but his latest assessment tracks with another expert I check in with on twitter: Bob Wachter, the chair of the department of medicine at UCSF, who is a little more optimistic generally. Today’s episode of his podcast is titled Hurricane Warning and it’s about the likely category five hurricane of covid destruction that the B.1.1.7 variant (also known as the UK variant) could bring in the next month if we open up and let down our guard. While I don’t like hearing this news, I appreciate the reminder that my concerns about things opening up, including schools, are not unfounded. I’ve heard Osterholm say this several times: “Americans like to pump the brakes after the car is wrapped around the tree.” Meaning, we’re reckless and then try to be cautious after it’s too late. Looks like that’s what’s happening now. Numbers are down, people are tired of sheltering, so it’s time to open back up. This attitude makes me sad and concerned about our (U.S., the world) ability to make hard choices for our survival–not just with COVID but with the climate crisis. Most of the time I am an optimist, able to see past the bad to the good (in people, in situations), but the selfish, short-sighted way that many (at least those with the most power) have responded to crisis is chipping away at that optimism. Slowly, I’m letting the pessimistic “people suck” attitude creep in. I need to focus more on delight and people who are delighted and delightful.
Speaking of which, after biking I listened to a podcast with Ross “Book of Delights” Gay and his new book-length poem, Be Holding. Well, first I tried listening to my audio book Wintering but it was an extra dark chapter about insomnia that was bumming me out too much so I turned it off. Ross Gay is wonderful and his ideas about beholding as attending and looking with love, which reminded me of Maria Lugones’ idea of loving (as opposed to arrogant) perception, are very inspiring and help me restore my optimism. I look forward to when the transcript of the interview comes out–hopefully soon. In the part I listened to today, they were talking about looking and vision. The phrase “eyes of poetry” was used. It made me think about my relationship to vision and what I’m trying to do with my work (and my practices, and my strategies for coping with vision loss). Two things I’m doing:
First, a critical intervention in the privileging of vision/sight—an exploration of other ways of attending and other language for that attention. Not just seeing but listening and feeling. What might be some aural-centric words to counter vision, insight, focus? Thinking about this reminded me of a poem I memorized this summer: And Swept All Visible Signs Swept Away/ Carl Phillips
Easy enough, to say it’s dark now. But what is the willow doing in the darkness? I say it wants less for company than for compassion,
which can come from afar and faceless. What’s a face, to a willow? If a willow had a face, it would be a song. I think. I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing.
Here, I’m thinking about listening and the expression of self through song, as opposed to through face and vision. The “visible signs” have been swept away by the wind, yet compassion and recognition (to beholden) are still possible.
Second, an expansion of what vision/seeing is—how do we see, what does it mean to see? what are others ways of seeing are possible? what are the different ways I do/can use my vision (e.g. peripheral instead of central)? This second project is inspired by Georgina Kleege’s book Sight Unseen and the descriptions of her own ways of seeing–even though she is legally blind, she likes to go to movies and art museums. She can still watch the movies and see the paintings, just in different ways.
So, the other thing I’m doing today (besides worrying about variant strains and high schools opening too soon, or loving looks and Ross Gay) is collecting definitions, expressions, descriptions of cure/curing as a method for preserving food. In my mood ring poem, I want to introduce this language subtly throughout the poem in order to create more impact with the final lines–which I’m thinking might be part of the inner blind ring. So much fun!
expired, expiration date
shelved, put on the shelf
needed in times of scarcity
preserve body for medical experiments
dried out, old
hardened, tough exterior, leathered, weathered
drawing moisture out
airtight, removing oxygen, sealing out air
inside, packed, put away
2 Habits formed, one bad, one good
Currently I am very aware of the forming of two habits through repeated practices. The first habit, which I see as good, is my daily moment of sound. I have recorded enough of them that it is a routine practice for me to step outside, no matter how cold, and listen for a moment. The second habit, which I see as mostly bad, is my need to pee every time I am done with biking inside and before I start running. I can feel the practice become entrenched, something I have to do every time. I know I could have tried harder to stop it, but instead I’ve been observing how it has been happening. Is it too late now to stop? I hope not, but I’m not too concerned. It’s fascinating to witness it forming. I just remembered how I had this same habit in high school during swim practice–I always had to pee after warm-up and before the main set.
a moment of sound
Today’s moment of sound happened right after I took the recycling out–around 7:30 in the morning. Birds!
Stayed inside today. Not that cold (about 20 degrees) or snow-covered, just wanted to stay inside. Finally started watching Emily Dickinson on Apple+. So far, I don’t like it and I was planning to ramble on in this log about it as I tried to figure out what bothers me. But, I deleted what I wrote. I’m planning to give the show a few more chances and watch at least 2 more episodes. If, after that, I still don’t like it, I might write something more. I’m glad that, after wanting to watch it for over a year, I finally am. Thinking about this episode and trying to figure out what I didn’t like about it has taken up almost 2 hours of my time–with nothing to show for it.
After I biked, I ran on the treadmill for about 30 minutes as I listened to an audio book: Agatha Christie’s By the Pricking of My Thumbs. Nice. I didn’t think about anything but what I was listening to–this book features my favorite sleuths, Tommy and Tuppence.
Earlier today, someone tweeted about retinal detachments. I was curious so I looked it up. Signs: you see floaters (like spiders) or flashes of light. I’ve been seeing flashes of light for about 6 months now–not sure how many each day. I don’t think I have a retinal detachment. I think my thinning retina is thinning even more, and might be tearing. This is not unexpected. Luckily it’s not painful, just part of the process of losing my central vision. Every so often, it can feel strange–I’ve been known to call out, “woah, trippy”–but not scary. My first thought: I am so glad that I already know what is happening to me and that I have had 4+ years to adjust to my inevitable vision loss. If these flashes were the first things I noticed and then I looked up retinal detachment, I would be freaking out right now. Instead, it’s good to know what these flashes most likely indicate.
I want to give attention to this flash of light, so I can describe what it looks/feels like to me. Next time it happens, I’ll try to write down some thoughts.
a moment of sound
I recorded today’s moment of sound while out on a walk with Delia. I would have liked to stop so I could record the birds better, but Delia wouldn’t let me. As a result, you can hear Delia’s collar, my footsteps, and my noisy pants. It’s funny how when I was listening, as I was recording, all I could hear were the birds. My brain had completely tuned out the collar and my footsteps/pants. Finally, you can hear the chirping birds and some cawing crows. So many loud crows lately!
Scott and I took Delia for a longer walk this morning, which was wonderful. Not too cold, hardly any wind, a few fluffy flakes falling from the sky. Lots of other people out too. So I decided to head to the basement again for my workout. While I biked, I continued watching Margaret Livingstone’s fascinating lecture about vision and art. Then, after I finished biking, I listened to a playlist and tried to run faster, which I did but not necessarily because of the playlist. It’s time to make a new one, I think.
I’m enjoying Livingstone’s lecture. I’m not necessarily learning anything new, but it’s reinforcing thoughts I already had or ideas that I had encountered elsewhere. Maybe it’s the academic in me, but I like to have my ideas confirmed by others, especially by those who have devoted themselves to studying vision and the brain. After discussing how “your visual system has higher acuity in the center of gaze” (acuity = sharper, finer detail), she says:
But your peripheral vision isn’t bad, it’s just different. Your peripheral vision is designed to see big blurry things; your central vision is designed to see small detailed things and actually cannot see big blurry things as well as your peripheral vision. So there’s a trade-off.
It’s the forest from the trees again!
a moment of sound
I stuck with it and recorded a moment of sound every day this month–31 moments. Nice. This final one is short and is from my walk with Scott and Delia. I can hear the chapel bells chiming from across the river at St. Thomas University in St. Paul; at least two birds–including a coo or trill or something at 15 seconds in; Delia huffing (at 22 seconds); traffic on the road; Scott and I discussing, mostly in whispers, what kind of bird we heard; snow crunching underfoot; Delia’s collar jangling; and the wind.
Slowly but surely, I am falling in love with birds. A few years ago I wrote a poem in response to Mary Oliver’s goldfinch poem “Invitation, in which I asked, “Anyway, who cares about the birds?” I do, now. I’m hoping to learn more of their calls in the upcoming months.
While I biked in the basement, I watched this great video lecture by a neuroscientist from Harvard, Margaret Livingston about vision and art. Very fascinating–and something I’ll have to watch a few more times before I get it all. Near the beginning she says,
So if you take anything at all away from this talk tonight, please try to remember: Vision is information processing; it is not image transmission. Your visual system does not just transmit an image of the world up to your brain, because there’s nobody up there to look at an image. There’s nothing up there except nerve cells and all they do is either fire or not fire. So seeing is whether some neurons are firing and some neurons are not and what information those cells are extracting by the firing patterns from the pattern of light that lands on your retina.
Yes! Vision is not just using your eyes to see an image that gets transmitted to your brain. Vision is a complex series of processes involving light entering your eye through your cornea then landing on the retina, traveling through the optic nerve to the brain where it is processed not merely reproduced.
During my run I continued listening to the audio book, The Guest List. Wow, the men in this book are terrible; I was actually getting angry and sad about what assholes they are. Despite this, finally, three-quarters of the way through I am invested in listening to the entire thing and finding out how it ends. Whenever I make it to this point in a book where I’m finally hooked even though I had thought about giving up on it several times, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
a moment of sound
On the deck again. Listening to a crow and my neighbors’ scare rods spinning in the wind, sounding like the scratching noise that Voldemort’s soul makes in one of his horacruxes in the last movie. For the first 20 seconds or so, Delia joined me. You can hear her collar clanging, then the door open as she goes back inside. Too cold or boring for her, I guess.
Note: Working earlier today on some notes about vision, I think I figured out my new project: peripheral vision. So much to think about literally and metaphorically! I was inspired by a line I came up with:
If central vision represents the trees, peripheral vision is the forest. I will never lose the forest, even as the trees fade further away.
Thought about running outside again this morning but decided that I should run inside where it felt warmer than 0 and so I could listen to my audio book which is due in 8 days. (As usual, all of my books became available from the library at the same time.) Watched a few random races while I biked, then listened to the audio book, The Guest List, while I ran. I’m not quite sure why I keep reading/listening to books in this Ruth Ware/Paula Hawkins type genre: British, murder, troubled past, terribly toxic friends, forced gatherings. Do I even enjoy them? I guess I do a little because I always finish them, but I hate most of the characters: lost, selfish, never having their shit together. Listening to it this morning did help the 32 minutes on the treadmill go by much faster. The first few minutes were difficult as I thought, how can I stay on here for another 28 minutes? But it got easier. It is still easier (and much more fun) to run outside. I think one of my goals for this winter will be to work on my aerobic base (the long, slow miles at a lower heart rate) so that when it gets warmer and the paths are clearer I will be fit enough to run for an hour. Yes! I miss running for longer distances, traveling farther away from my house beside the river. So much more to write about.
how we see: eyes and brain
For the past few days, I’ve been reviewing how vision works, from when light enters the eye and hits the retina and then travels through the optic nerve to the visual cortex and the occipital lobe. So much jargon–names for parts of the cells and the neurons and the areas of the brain, ways of discussing direction (dorsal, medial, ventral). How much do I need (or want) to know about this process? When does it become too much, a distraction? What I find fascinating, from my limited research, is how, even as scientists use their fancy language to name/classify the parts of the brain and what they do, there is so much they can’t name or understand. I am not dismissing the important work that is/has been done on how we see, but I’m drawn to the limits of that language and knowledge. The mysterious parts. It seems like there is a lot that scientists don’t know about how the brain processes images and visual information. I’m basing this last conclusion mainly off of the lack of recent articles (in the last 10 years) on how we see and the conclusion to this article (it’s from 1993 so it’s old, yet I haven’t found many more recent articles):
Let me try to give you a sense of where we are, says Margaret Livingstone, in an effort to assess the status of visual research today. Take form perception. Human beings are very good at it. We recognize contours, faces, words, a lot of really complicated things. What we understand is that in the retinas, the lateral geniculate bodies, and the first layer of the visual cortex, we code for changes in brightness or color. In the next stage, cells become selective for the orientation of the change–that is, they code for contours, or edges. In some places cells select for the length of the contour. Then, if you go up very high, you find cells selective for certain faces. Livingstone pauses. We know remarkably little about what happens in between. It’s frightening how big a gap there is.
Instead of understanding these gaps as failures to KNOW, I like to think of them as reminders that seeing/vision is so much more than we can or ever will understand. It is complex and can’t be reduced to the simple, naive idea that our eyes see what’s in the world and then our brain correctly communicates that exact image to us. I am not sure this makes sense, but I have been interrupted several times in writing this entry and I think I lost my train of thought. I’ll keep it in and work on it later.
a moment of sound
Listen to those birds! Right outside my front door. It’s 18 degrees, but sounds like spring.
Gloomy, light gray today. Wind coming from almost every direction. My lower back hurt when I started but was okay by the end. Less than 30 miles to go now, then a break. Nice to be outside, moving, and not thinking. Ran to the river and started on the trail, but there were too many people so I crossed over to the grass between edmund and the river road. No view of the river today. Encountered a few irritating squirrels, a big white dog. I don’t remember hearing any geese or seeing any big birds in the sky. No fat tires or roller skiers.
Running around Hiawatha School, I thought about when my kids went there. FWA started in pre-school in 2006, RJP finished 2nd grade in 2014. It seems so long ago and like it was a different Sara who took her kids to the playground, soccer practice, the wading pool, school concerts. I like the Sara I am now better than the Sara I was then.
This morning I reviewed part of Ed Bok Lee’s wonderful poem, “Halos,” and then recited it in my head as I ran. No recording today because I ran all the way to my front door without a cool-down walk. Here’s my favorite part of what I reviewed:
That visual impairment improves hearing, taste, smell, touch is is mostly myth. With it, however, I detect
fuzzy spirits exiting buildings; halos around bikers’ helmets; each streetlamp a pink-orange dawn.
So much in this bit that I love and that makes me think.
Visual impairment, in and of itself, has not improved my other senses. Instead, it has made me want to work harder on them: to learn to listen, to notice and make note of what I smell, to find words to describe the textures I encounter.
And, not being able to see normally most often doesn’t mean you can’t see anything. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), 93% of blind and partially sighted people can see something. I like how Lee describes that something as beautiful and magical and not damaged or partial or less than: fuzzy spirits, halos, streetlights casting pink-orange dawns as light. Pretty cool. Quite often, I like the soft, fuzzy, gentle way I see the world these days. In an earlier part of the poem, Lee describes how he sees people: “any nearing face is surely smiling, gorgeous; each blurry body’s aura numinous.” Yes, I see this too and I like it. So much better than harsh lighting with sharp features and haggard faces.
As I was trying to write out the lines of this poems, I was thinking–and not for the first time–about how difficult it is for me to memorize line breaks and punctuation in poems. I googled “memorizing poems difficult punctuation” and found a discussion of how and why some contemporary poets write poems that deliberately resist memorization. Interesting. Here are some sources I’d like to check out:
The idea of writing poems that are hard to memorize–awkward phrasing and rhythms, for example–made me think about my poems about vision, the Snellen charts and mood rings. How hard are they to memorize? Are they too dependent on vision and reading to be understood? I think I want to do a poem/some poems about vision that are not so visual. I like the idea of experimenting with memorization and speaking/reciting in new ways. I’m also thinking about how I’ve been partly drawn to poetry because it’s easier to read as reading gets harder for me. Easier because there are usually less words to read and they are grouped differently, with lots of white space. Not easier in terms of understanding; I love how chewy and difficult they are in that respect. Yes, I want to think about this some more!
Feeling sore–not hurt, just sore–in my legs and lower back so I wasn’t sure I would run today but when Scott said it seemed like a great day to run outside, I had to do it. Sunny, mild, clear. A bit windy, but not too bad. A few more people since it is warmish and closer to noon, but I managed to keep distance from all of them. Listened to a playlist again so I didn’t hear any birds or leaves or far away traffic. I’m very close to my goal of 1000 miles for the year! I should take 3 or 4 days off from running once I reach that goal. My body needs it. 1000 miles has demanded a lot–I’ve run almost every day this year. Almost all of those runs have been short–4 or 5k–but frequent. Will I ever be able to run more than 1000 miles in a year? Would that be good for my body? I’m not sure.
Anything I remember from my run? My mind has gone blank. No views of the river, no remarkable trees, no roller skiers or fat tires or Daily Walker. I do remember running on the dirt trail between the river road and edmund. Uneven and windy (as in lots of meandering, not a stiff breeze). I remember wanting to stop at the top of the edmund hill to change my music but deciding to keep going. I remember seeing lots of cars on the river road and running in the grass at Howe field to avoid pedestrians. I remember stepping off the sidewalk and running in the street several times to avoid some more people, doing a loop around Cooper and Howe, smelling something overwhelmingly fruity coming from a van and guessing that someone inside of it was vaping. I remember feeling especially strong and smooth as I ran down the hill on 32nd and especially nostalgic as I ran by the main entrance at my kids’ old kindergarten. I don’t remember taking note of my breathing or making up any chants or noticing any connections between my striking feet and my inhales and exhales.
Richard Siken is the Best
I think it was last year that poets.org began including an “About this poem” author’s note with the poem-of-the-day. I find them helpful and interesting and always look at them after my initial reading of the poem. Richard Aiken’s “About this poem” note for today’s “Real Estate” is the best, most delightful one I’ve ever read. It offers an explanation that helped me to (start to) understand the poem, which is great, but it also offers itself up as another poem to place beside the first one. How cool to turn the note into a poem! I want to experiment with doing this, especially since I am so resistant to offering explanations for what I’m doing (even as I feel I should and/or long to).
My mother married a man who divorced her for money. Phyllis, he would say, If you don’t stop buying jewelry, I will have to divorce you to keep us out of the poorhouse. When he said this, she would stub out a cigarette, mutter something under her breath. Eventually, he was forced to divorce her. Then, he died. Then she did. The man was not my father. My father was buried down the road, in a box his other son selected, the ashes of his third wife in a brass urn that he will hold in the crook of his arm forever. At the reception, after his funeral, I got mean on four cups of Lime Sherbet Punch. When the man who was not my father divorced my mother, I stopped being related to him. These things are complicated, says the Talmud. When he died, I couldn’t prove it. I couldn’t get a death certificate. These things are complicated, says the Health Department. Their names remain on the deed to the house. It isn’t haunted, it’s owned by ghosts. When I die, I will come in fast and low. I will stick the landing. There will be no confusion. The dead will make room for me.
About this poem
“I had a stroke and forgot almost everything. My handwriting was big and crooked and I couldn’t walk. I slept a lot. I made lists, a working glossary. Meat. Blood. Floor. Thunder. I tried to understand what these things were and how I was related to them. Thermostat. Agriculture. Cherries Jubilee. Metamodernism. I understand North, but I struggle with left. Describing the world is easier than finding a place in it. Doorknob. Flashlight. Landmark. Yardstick.” —Richard Siken
I want to experiment with adding these notes to my mood ring poems–and maybe my earlier Snellen chart ones too. Is that too much?
3.2 miles river road trail, south/edmund, north 33 degrees/ feels like 20 wind: 17 mph (30 mph gusts)
Blustery this morning. Pale gray sky. Clear path. More people than I expected but not too many. Looking out for others, I forgot to check on the river. Was it blueish gray? Don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing any geese. No dogs or fat tires. I can’t remember thinking about anything except the wind and the random patches of ice on neighborhood sidewalks. Sitting here, writing this at my desk in the front room, I can hear the wind howling. Did I hear it while I was running? I’m not sure.
Thinking about the wind, decided to google “Emily Dickinson wind”. Here’s what I found:
Of all the sounds despatched abroad, There’s not a charge to me Like that old measure in the boughs, That phraseless melody
The wind does, working like a hand Whose fingers brush the sky, Then quiver down, with tufts of tune Permitted gods and me.
When winds go round and round in bands, And thrum upon the door, And birds take places overhead, To bear them orchestra,
I crave him grace, of summer boughs, If such an outcast be, He never heard that fleshless chant Rise solemn in the tree,
As if some caravan of sound On deserts, in the sky, Had broken rank, Then knit, and passed In seamless company.
I love her descriptions of the sound of wind as “old measure in the boughs,” “phraseless melody,” “tuftless tune,” and “fleshless chant.” I think fleshless chant is my favorite. Oh, and I really like the verb thrum. I need to use that in something.
Working on my mood ring poem about the mood relentless, trying to figure out the last line for the inner ring/scotoma poem. Here’s what I have:
Ten thousand years ago water from melting glaciers began to wear down limestone to form a gorge. Thirty years ago cone cells in my macula began to malfunction to form a scotoma. I am both limestone and water. As I dissolve my slow steady flow carves out a new landscape.
Now I’m wondering if I should use “geography” instead of landscape? Landscape seems more visual than geography–and passive, with the land like a background. Yes, I think I like geography.
As I dissolve my slow steady flow carves out a new geography.
3.2 miles river road path, north/river road, path, south/32nd st, west/43rd ave, south 29 degrees 5% snow-covered
Winter running! I love the cold air, the snowy gorge. Encountered a few irritating runners who refused to move over to the other side of the trail. Had to run in the snow to avoid them. Are they really comfortable running that close to someone else, especially as we enter another, even scarier phase of the pandemic? I don’t get it. But, these two runners were such a small part of the run. The rest was wonderful. The sky was grayish-white which made everything seem other-worldly or at least at a distance from this world. Quiet and calm and empty, uncluttered.
Things I Remember
The overpowering and mostly unwelcome smell of pork–bacon? sausage?–wafting down from the Longfellow Grill as I ran under the lake street bridge
Voices down in the gorge, near the rowing club. Were they rowing in the water? On the shore? I couldn’t tell
The crunch-cracking of feet striking hard shards of super packed and icy snow. The same sounds even louder as tires drove over the icy snow
A wedge of geese–4 or 5–flying high in the gray sky
Some yellowish-brown leaves still on a few of the branches in the tunnel of trees
So many cars on the river road
As I ran, I thought about my latest mood ring poem. Relentless. Some lines popped in my head: “I am not the river but the limestone…” and “I am not the limestone but the river” and “I am both the limestone and the river.” Thinking about how the relentlessness comes both from me as I try to make sense of my vision loss and write about it and from the erosion of cone cells as they continue to destroy my central vision.
Encountered a poem this morning that I liked a little with one reading, then liked a lot after reading the poet’s explanation of it.
I get ready for my first day as the new girl in high school already knowing what not to wear. I dress perfectly to stand out and disappear. I know how to put on makeup, and I do it exactly right. My hair looks awesome, of course! I step onto the bus, pause by the driver, raise my arms like a superstar, and meet the eyes of my adoring audience. Three different beautiful girls punch each other in the face to have me sit next to them. I decline and the school’s most lovely, artsy boy slides over to make room. He knows his feelings and only goes too far when he honestly misunderstands. He’s one of the safer ones.
I walk down the halls and no one makes fun of me. I pass the section of lockers where her locker is, and she is there, taking a book out of her backpack. She’ll go running this weekend, as usual, and won’t be followed. The man who won’t be following her has already followed half a dozen women to rape and kill and leave in the woods. But she won’t be followed. She’ll survive her fate this time, and come back
to school on Monday, avoid the mean girls in the bathroom. She’ll pick on the new girl, call her a virgin of all things. She’ll limp her way through math, cheat a bit in science, do pretty good in history and English. She’ll graduate, and go to the state school on a track scholarship. She’ll have two girls and keep them safe. She’ll almost forget
about this other ending: her in the woods near her house, staring at the ground beneath her, wondering why.
This line! “Three different beautiful girls punch/each other in the face to have me sit next to them.” And the ending with the reimagining of the girl as not being followed. Wow.