april 14/RUN

3.5 miles
2 trails + extra
32 degrees / feels like 22
wind: 20 mph with 33 mph gusts
light snow

Cold and windy. Snow flurries covering my eyelashes. Winter is back. Glad I went out for a run, but some of it wasn’t fun. The best part: running closer to the river on the Winchell Trail, glancing out at the gorge, seeing everything smudged from the snow falling — almost like looking through a fogged-up window. I also liked how the dirt and grass were white in the corners where the snow was sticking, like a dusting of powdered sugar. Near the end of the run, right after I made it through the tunnel of trees and past the old stone steps, 2 walkers clapped for me. As I ran by, I wasn’t quite, but I think that’s what they were doing, because I was out there, running even in these bad conditions. I’ll take it. How many times in my life will I have people randomly clap for me?

before the run

1 — a tool used to loosen and bury things in the ground

The planet seen from extremely close up is called the ground. The ground can be made loose by the human hand, or by using a small tool held in the human hand, such as a spade, or an even larger tool, such as a shovel

We bury our dead in the ground. Roughly half the dead are buried in boxes and half the dead are buried without boxes. A burying box is an emblem of respect for the dead. 

Besides burying the dead in the ground, we bury our garbage, also called trash. Man-made mountains of garbage are pushed together using heavy equipment and then pushed down into the ground. The site of this burial is called a landfill. The site of the dead buried in boxes is called a cemetery. In both cases the ground is being filled. A dead body in a box can be lowered into the ground using heavy equipment, but we do not consider it trash. When the dead are not in boxes and there is a man-made mountain of them we do use heavy equipment to bury them together, like trash. It is estimated that everywhere we walk we are walking on a piece of trash and the hard, insoluble remains of the dead. 

Also buried in the ground are seeds, which we want to see when they emerge from the ground in their later form–that is, as plants. Plants rising from the ground are essential to life. To bury a seed it to plant it. 

When flowers arise from the ground, colorful and shapely in an astonishing variety of ways, the living are made especially happy.

After a while, the flower that has been separated from the ground dies, and we throw it in the trash. Flowers are often planted where the dead are buried in boxes, but these flowers are never cut. That would be horrible. Whoever did such a thing would be considered a thief. Thoseflowers belong to the dead.

Observations on the Ground“/ Mary Ruefle

To bury is not always to get rid of, but to honor, attend to, plant. A shovel is one tool we use to do this.

2 — digging in and developing foundations

List: Things I have shoveled: sidewalks, snowdrift, holes (for outhouses and bridge abutments and potatoes), driveways, fill pits Also, footings for rock walls, tie-ins for for cribbing, horse shit, dog shit, mule shit, a grave for a songbird caught in an early frost. Coal, gravels, dirt, straw, mud, cedar chips, muck, bark, left-over acorn hulls from a squirrel’s midden, water from a gooey ditch. Once, I lifted a dumb spruce grouse from the middle of the road in a shovel, carried it twenty yards to safer ground.

Look around—an urban subway system, the pilings of a shipyard dock, the basement of your house. Shovels, more than bootstraps, are the secret to success.

from Dirt Work

shovel = digging in = finding home, a place to stay. settle, attend to = remember, praise, honor

“Dirt work is foundation work.”

3 — the Golden Shovel

The Golden Shovel = a poem + poetic form + a way to honor others/ancestors + a place (where the seven pool players play) + a helpful constraint

The Golden Shovel is a poetic form readers might not — yet — be familiar with. It was devised recently by Terrance Hayes in homage to Gwendolyn Brooks, whose centenary year this is. The last words of each line in a Golden Shovel poem are, in order, words from a line or lines taken often, but not invariably, from a Brooks poem. The results of this technique can be quite different in subject, tone, and texture from the source poem, depending upon the ingenuity and imagination of the poet who undertakes to compose one.

Introduction: The Golden Shovel

The Golden Shovel/ TERRANCE HAYES

after Gwendolyn Brooks

I. 1981

When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, we
cruise at twilight until we find the place the real

men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool.
His smile is a gold-plated incantation as we

drift by women on bar stools, with nothing left
in them but approachlessness. This is a school

I do not know yet. But the cue sticks mean we
are rubbed by light, smooth as wood, the lurk

of smoke thinned to song. We won’t be out late.
Standing in the middle of the street last night we

watched the moonlit lawns and a neighbor strike
his son in the face. A shadow knocked straight

Da promised to leave me everything: the shovel we
used to bury the dog, the words he loved to sing

his rusted pistol, his squeaky Bible, his sin.
The boy’s sneakers were light on the road. We

watched him run to us looking wounded and thin.
He’d been caught lying or drinking his father’s gin.

He’d been defending his ma, trying to be a man. We
stood in the road, and my father talked about jazz,

how sometimes a tune is born of outrage. By June
the boy would be locked upstate. That night we

got down on our knees in my room. If I should die
before I wake. Da said to me, it will be too soon.

II. 1991

Into the tented city we go, we-
akened by the fire’s ethereal

afterglow. Born lost and cool-
er than heartache. What we

know is what we know. The left
hand severed and school-

ed by cleverness. A plate of we-
ekdays cooking. The hour lurk-

ing in the afterglow. A late-
night chant. Into the city we

go. Close your eyes and strike
a blow. Light can be straight-

ened by its shadow. What we
break is what we hold. A sing-

ular blue note. An outcry sin-
ged exiting the throat. We

push until we thin, thin-
king we won’t creep back again.

While God licks his kin, we
sing until our blood is jazz,

we swing from June to June.
We sweat to keep from we-

eping. Groomed on a die-
t of hunger, we end too soon.

And here’s the original poem from Gwendolyn Brooks:

We Real Cool/ Gwendolyn Brooks

The Pool Players.
        Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We   
            Left school. We

            Lurk late. We
            Strike straight. We

            Sing sin. We   
            Thin gin. We

            Jazz June. We   
            Die soon.

during the run

I tried to think about shovels and digging in and things planted instead of buried, but I think I was too distracted by the wind and the snow to remember anything.

after the run

Thinking more about Mary Ruefle and whether or not to read the collection, My Private Property, from which her prose poem about ground comes. Found and read/skimmed an LARB review about it, with a great definition of poetry:

In her introduction to Madness, Rack, and Honey, Ruefle suggests that poetry maintains its mystery by always being a few steps beyond us. She likens attempting to describe poetry to following a shy thrush into the woods as it recedes ever further, saying: “Fret not after knowledge, I have none.” Ruefle proposes that a reader might “preserve a bit of space where his lack of knowledge can survive.”

Human Lessons: On Mary Ruefle’s My Private Property

Also, scrolling through twitter, found a great passage Ada Limón in her interview for Michigan Quarterly Review:

‘I want to know how we live. How do we live?’. And I mean that in a curious way, but I also mean it in a wondrous way. Because sometimes I think — wow, we do this! And other times I think, how do we do this. It is out of sheer amazement that the question comes out of me — because it is really remarkable to be alive. But the ebbs and flows are just so intense. And I think acknowledging how hard it is, is actually part of the wonderment. You know that’s part of the awe. And I don’t think I knew that until I had experienced my own realization about mortality.

She also offers a great definition of poetry:

that’s what poetry is. It doesn’t just point out the world. It makes it strange to us again. So that we can remember wonder. 

And, one more great thing about not knowing and uncertainty:

When I began as a poet, I thought it was all about knowing. I thought it was about truth, and beauty. And every poem I read, felt wise to me. I could read Anne Sexton, Philip Levine, Lucille Clifton and I would find this deep wisdom. So I thought that’s what I should work towards, a knowingness. And then, the old cliché – and it is a cliché because it’s true – that the more you learn, the more you witness, the more you realize you don’t know. And I think I’m very scared now of certainty. Even when someone says, what’s your opinion about this? Often, I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t 100% know. And that’s because the world is changing so fast. And I can have a sense of morality, of course, and right and wrong, and goodness, but beyond that, I hope I can remain porous and open enough to not think that I know all the answers. And I think a lot of harm comes from that false certainty, that is so attached to our egos, when not only are we completely convinced that we’re right, but to be proven wrong would be almost deadly. And I don’t ever want to be in that position.

What is Enough for a Poem? An Interview with Ada Limón