feb 28/RUN

3.2 miles
edmund, south/ edmund, north
36 degrees
75% sloppy puddles

Was planning to run on the trail, but it was a slushy, icy nightmare. Instead I ran on Edmund, which was filled with little lakes. Now my socks are soaked, but that’s okay because it felt like spring out there with the warm sun.

I don’t think I heard any birds. I did hear a guy do a snot rocket (yuck!). And — maybe it was the same guy — someone shuffling and scuffing their feet on the road. Lots of whooshing wheels. Some scraping somewhere. The gush of water rushing down the sewers.

Noticed all the snow piled up at Cooper School. Had to stop there and take a picture of the strange tree that has a utility pole/power line running through the middle of it. Not sure if its strangeness is captured in this photo.

city street with a tree on the left side with a pole growing through it
a strange tree near Cooper School

A good run. My IT band hurts a bit today. Is it time for a few more IT acronyms?

I.T. could mean something/I.T. could mean everything/I.T. could be what Rilke meant when we wrote…

  • I tried
  • Icarus triumphed
  • Isabel theorized
  • implausible trampolines
  • island trombones
  • idiotic television
  • ill-willed tarantulas
  • inflatable tractors
  • ibex traffic
  • icy trails

feb 26/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
23 degrees
60% snow-covered

Sun. Blue sky. Low wind. Most of the sidewalks are cleared, the path is not. Usually there was a strip of dry pavement. Not the best conditions, but definitely not the worst. I meant to notice the river, but forgot to look, or didn’t remember what I saw. Most of my attention was devoted to making sure I didn’t fall. Heard at least one woodpecker.

Looking down at some clumps of snow, I remembered noticing the clumps by the falls on my run two days ago. Big half-oval lumps of snow, much bigger than a snowball. What made these? For a flash I wondered if there could be a frozen body under that snow then I dismissed the idea. Speaking of lumps of snow: running on the road, heading home, I noticed a big dark gray something ahead of me. Was it a squirrel, stopped in the street? A dead animal? As I swerved to avoid it, I realized it was a chunk of snow that had probably fell out of the wheel well of car. Gross.

Waved to a lot of other runners in greeting. Didn’t see any regulars. No headphones running north. Put in a “Summer 2014” playlist on the way back south.

My Emily Dickinson, part three

Each word is deceptively simple, deceptively easy to define. But definition seeing rather than perceiving, hearing and not understanding, is only the shadow of meaning. Like all poems on the trace of the holy, this one remains outside the protection of specific solution.

Susan Howe referring to ED’s “My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun”

I’ve been meaning to post this wonderful poem by Franz Wright for some time now. It feels right to do it today after reading more of My Emily Dickinson and thinking about the Self, or losing, rejecting, being free of, moving outside of the Self. Often I think about being beside the Self (my self) as a desired thing, but is it? Today I wondered about what it could mean to claim (and celebrate) a self, to have a voice.

Poem with No Speaker/ Franz Wright

Are you looking
for me? Ask that crow

across the green wheat.

See those minute air bubbles
rising to the surface

at the still creek’s edge—
talk to the crawdad.

of the skinny mosquito

on your wall
stinging its shadow,

this lock
of moon

the hair on your neck.

When the hearts in the cocoon
start to beat,

and the spider begins
its hidden task,

and the seed sends its initial
pale hairlike root to drink,

you’ll have to get down on all fours

to learn my new address:
you’ll have to place your skull

besides this silence
no one hears.

I must admit, I didn’t initially read this poem as about someone who has died, their new address their grave. And maybe it isn’t.

feb 25/RUN

ywca track

Ran on the track with Scott this morning, not together but at the same time. I thought about swimming, but knew it would be crowded, so I ran. Listened to a playlist titled, Sara 2020. Started with Tower of Power’s “What is Hip” and ended with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Focused on my cadence, arm swing, and not running into people as I passed them, including 2 runners who were running in the far lane. There were soccer games going on below me in the big gym, but I didn’t notice them at all. Too lost in my run.

The thing I noticed the most were the people:

  1. a man with white hair, wearing shorts and a tank top, running
  2. a woman in turquoise shorts and a tank top, running in the far lane, making it difficult to pass
  3. another runner in dark sweatpants and a light shirt running in the far lane
  4. 2 people walking, one of them carrying dumbells
  5. another pair of women, the one in the middle lane wearing a bright blue shirt
  6. a woman in mid-calf light blue patterned running tights and a white tank top running in the middle lane
  7. someone in tan shorts walking faster than the other walkers
  8. a woman stretching her calf muscles on the steps in the far corner
  9. a guy in gray, walking
  10. someone in red (I think?) sitting on the bench near the punching bag and the exit

I was listening to music, so I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying, but Scott told me that he overheard 3 interesting things from the pair of women walkers (#5 above). He called them chatty Cathys, he guessed they were in college, and he heard them say this: First, just as he passed them, he overheard one of them call out in disgust, Yuck! Next time, They’ll see it on your transcripts. Finally, You should really stop binging. Binging a show, food, alcohol? What will they see on your transcripts, and is this a good thing, or a bad thing? I love overheard conversations and imagining what they’re about.

Here are two poems I discovered today that move in opposite directions:

Rain/Jack Gilbert

Suddenly this defeat.
This rain.
The blues gone gray
And the browns gone gray
And yellow
A terrible amber.
In the cold streets
Your warm body.
In whatever room
Your warm body.
Among all the people
Your absence
The people who are always
Not you.

I have been easy with trees
Too long.
Too familiar with mountains.
Joy has been a habit.
This rain.

Love: I have been easy with trees/too long.

Opera Singer/Ross Gay

Today my heart is so goddamned fat with grief
that I’ve begun hauling it in a wheelbarrow. No. It’s an anvil
dragging from my neck as I swim
through choppy waters swollen with the putrid corpses of hippos,
which means lurking, somewhere below, is the hungry
snout of a croc waiting to spin me into an oblivion
worse than this run-on simile, which means only to say:
I’m sad. And everyone knows what that means.

And in my sadness I’ll walk to a café,
and not see light in the trees, nor finger the bills in my pocket
as I pass the boarded houses on the block. No,
I will be slogging through the obscure country of my sadness
in all its monotone flourish, and so imagine my surprise
when my self-absorption gets usurped
by the sound of opera streaming from an open window,
and the sun peeks ever-so-slightly from behind his shawl,
and this singing is getting closer, so that I can hear the
delicately rolled r’s like a hummingbird fluttering the tongue
which means a language more beautiful than my own,
and I don’t recognize the song
though I’m jogging toward it and can hear the woman’s
breathing through the record’s imperfections and above me
two bluebirds dive and dart and a rogue mulberry branch
leaning over an abandoned lot drags itself across my face,
staining it purple and looking, now, like a mad warrior of glee
and relief I run down the street, and I forgot to mention
the fifty or so kids running behind me, some in diapers,
some barefoot, all of them winged and waving their pacifiers
and training wheels and nearly trampling me
when in a doorway I see a woman in slippers and a floral housedress
blowing in the warm breeze who is maybe seventy painting the doorway
and friends, it is not too much to say
it was heaven sailing from her mouth and all the fish in the sea
and giraffe saunter and sugar in my tea and the forgotten angles
of love and every name of the unborn and dead
from this abuelita only glancing at me
before turning back to her earnest work of brushstroke and lullaby
and because we all know the tongue’s clumsy thudding
makes of miracles anecdotes let me stop here
and tell you I said thank you.

This poem! The beauty that interrupts us and forces us out of ourselves and into the world! Ross Gay is wonderful.

My Emily Dickinson, part two

a new grammar grounded in humility and hesitation

Emily Dickinson took the scraps from the separate “higher” female education many bright women of her time were increasingly resenting, combined them with voracious and “unladylike” outside reading, and used the combination. She built a new poetic form from her fractured sense of being eternally on inteIlectual borders, where confident masculine voices buzzed an alluring and inaccessible discourse, backward through history into aboriginal anagogy. Pulling pieces of geometry, geology, alchemy, philosophy, politics, biography, biology, mythology, and philology from alien territory, a “sheltered” woman audaciously invented a new grammar grounded in humility and hesitation. HESITATE from the Latin, meaning to stick. Stammer. To hold back in doubt, have difficulty speaking. “He may pause but he must not hesitate”-Ruskin. Hesitation circled back and surrounded everyone in that confident age of aggressive industrial expansion and brutal Empire building. Hesitation and Separation. The Civil War had split American in two. He might pause, She hesitated. Sexual, racial, and geographical separation are at the heart of Definition.

Here’s something I wrote about this passage on March 17, 2021:

I really like this idea of hesitation and humility and aboriginal anagogy as a sharp contrast to progress, aggression, confidence/hubris, and time as always moving forwards (teleology). I tried to find a source that could explain exactly what Howe means by aboriginal anagogy but I couldn’t. I discovered that anagogy means mystical or a deeper religious sense and so, when I connect it to aboriginal, I’m thinking that she means that ED imbues pre-Industrial times (pre Progress!, where progress means trains and machines and cities and Empires and factories and plantations and the enslavement of groups of people and the increased mechanization of time and bodies and meaning and, importantly, grammar) with the sacred. Is that right? Is it clear what I’m saying?

A few paragraphs later, Howe writes this about ED’s grammar of “hesitation and humility”:

Naked sensibilities at the extremest periphery. Narrative expanding contracting dissolving. Nearer to know less before afterward schism in sum. No hierarchy, no notion of polarity. Perception of an object means loosing and losing it. …Trust absence, allegory, mystery–the setting not the rising sun is Beauty. No outside editor/”robber.” Conventional punctuation was abolished not to add “soigne stitchery” but to subtract arbitrary authority. Dashes drew liberty of interruption inside the structure of each poem. Hush of hesitation for breath and for breathing….only Mutability certain.

Some of this is starting to make sense. The periphery, the dashes as hesitation, mystery. I was curious about her take on sunsets over sunrises so I googled it and found this ED poem and helpful account from the Prowling Bee (love her!). She includes a list of ED’s sunset poems.

Howe ends Part One with one more description of ED’s hesitation and humility:

Forcing, abbreviating, pushing, padding, subtraction, riddling, interrogating, re-writing, she pulled text from text (29).

feb 24/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
5 degrees
95% snow-covered

First run after the big snowstorm. 16 or 17 inches total. All plowed then pressed down to about an inch of solid, crunchy, fun-to-run-on snow. Cold. No wind. Blue sky. Blue snow. Frozen river. Heard at least one or two birds. Quiet at the falls. Encountered a few runners, a few walkers, no cross-country skiers or dogs or shadows. About a mile and a half in, there was a flash of sharp pain in my left knee.

I wasn’t trying to notice anything. Just swinging my arms, striking my feet, and thinking about this blog and how I use it. Did I notice at least 10 things without noticing?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the single chirp of a bird near the ford bridge. Not sure what kind of bird, but it was very “bird” (as in, what you might imagine when you think about hearing a bird call)
  2. the path was almost completely covered. Only at Minnehaha Regional Park near the falls on the path closest to the parkway were there a few strips of bare pavement
  3. I think I remember hearing some people talking as I neared the falls, or did I imagine that?
  4. a person in the park with a dog appearing from a path that I thought wasn’t plowed. Were they trudging through the snow on an unplowed path, or was I wrong about it not being plowed?
  5. kids yelling and laughing on the playground at minnehaha academy
  6. 2 people dressed in dark clothing, walking fast through the park parking lot — in this sort of light my color sense with my lack of cone cells is reduced to 2 colors: light and dark
  7. sharp, quick crunches on the snow as my feet struck the ground
  8. a car pulling over on the river road to let a faster car go by
  9. the pedestrian side of the double-bridge was almost a perfect sheet of white — just a few footsteps on the edge
  10. the big sledding hill on the edge of the falls was white and empty


Felt very cold at the beginning. Started with a buff covering my mouth and over my ears, top of my head, a hood, and a cap, a pair of gloves and a pair of mittens, my jacket zipped up all the way. Pulled the hood down 3/4 of a mile in. Then unzipped the jacket slightly near the double bridge. Pulled my buff down next. At the falls, removed the mittens and stuffed them in my pockets. Near the end, flipped up the ear flaps on my cap.

Before I went out for my run, I was thinking about the final week of my class and possibly applying to teach something in the summer about how I use this blog. Often, one of the primary ways people use a blog is for sharing their work with others and for developing an audience. As I was running, I remembered how my blog is about practicing care — care of the self (a little Foucault), care as curiosity, attention, beholding. On the run, the word “care” popped into my head and it all made sense. Now, sitting at my desk and typing it here, it makes less sense. O, to live forever in that magical moment of clarity before you have to force an idea into meaning and words!

My Emily Dickinson, day one

In the spring of 2019, I discovered that Susan Howe had written a book about Emily Dickinson called, My Emily Dickinson. My first encounter with Howe had been when she wrote about Jonathan Edwards and how he would remember ideas while horseback riding by pinning notes to his clothes in Souls of the Labadie Tract. When I discovered My Emily Dickinson, I talked about buying it, which I did 2 years later. Now finally, 2 years after that, I am reading it. I decided that I better do it before I can’t — I’m not sure when my final cone cells will die, but it could be any day now. When that happens, I won’t be able to read, or I might be able to read a little, but it will be even harder than it is now. And it will take so much time — only a page (or less) a day?

I’m taking notes in a pages document titled “My Emily Dickinson,” so I won’t post it all here. I’m contemplating creating a page on my UN DISCIPLINED site for all my ED stuff. A few things to note:

Lorine Niedecker (another of my favorites — she loved condensing, wrote beautifully about water and place and Lake Superior, and she had serious vision problems that she incorporated into her writing) considered ED one of ten writers in her “immortal cupboard.”

William Carlos Williams, who thought ED wasn’t a poet but got closer than any other woman had, had a maternal grandmother named Emily Dickenson.

According to Howe, most (all?) of the critical studies of ED as a poet (up to 1985, when this book was written), read ED’s decision to stay isolated in her bedroom for the rest of her life as tragedy and a failure to celebrate herself as a poet (Whitman) or declare herself confidently as the Poet, the Sayer, the Namer (Emerson). Howe argues that she made another choice and writes the following:

She said something subtler. ‘Nature is a Haunted House–but Art–a House that tries to be haunted.’ (L459a)

Yes, gender difference does affect our use of language, and we constantly confront issues of difference, distance, and absence when we write. That doesn’t mean I can relegate women to what we ‘should’ or ‘must’ be doing. Orders suggest hierarchy and category. Categories and hierarchies suggest property. My voice formed from my life belongs to no one else. What I put into words is no longer my possession. Possibility has opened. The future will forget, erase, or recollect and deconstruct every poem. There is a mystic separation between poetic vision and ordinary living. The conditions for poetry rest outside each life at a miraculous reach indifferent to worldly chronology.

My Emily Dickinson

I feel like I’m just on the edge of understanding what Howe says here. I need some more time, and I’ll take it because I like this idea of haunting a house. One thing I can tell already from Howe’s first 10 or so pages, is that her Emily Dickinson is not exactly my Emily Dickinson. Howe seems to be arguing strongly that ED should be taken seriously as a real poet who was smart and learned but had different aims (that most critics have ignored or not “got”). And, to take her seriously is to acknowledge that she should be included in the canon — and that, contrary to what all the other critics think, women can be poets, have been poets. I’m all for taking ED seriously and recognizing that she did some amazing things with her dashes, but I don’t care about the canon. In fact, I’m trying to stay away from those sorts of academic discussions. Of course, part of the reason I/we already take ED seriously in 2023 is Howe’s 1985 book. Am I making sense? I’m not sure.

I was just about to write another paragraph, citing a few passages from Howe to clarify what I mean, but I won’t. I could spend the rest of the afternoon doing that, but why, and for what aim? I used to spend all of my time summarizing and offering a critical analysis as an academic, never reaching the point where I got to do what I wanted with the ideas, constructing something new out of them. Most of my papers or presentations would conclude: “Having almost run out of time, I’ll offer some brief suggestions…”

The challenge: to read and enjoy Howe’s book without getting sucked into engaging with it as an academic. I find this to be the challenge with poetry too as I continue to study it more. Referencing Wallace Stevens and his idea that poetry is “the scholar’s art,” Howe is arguing that (maybe?) above all else, ED is a scholar and that’s why you should respect her and take her seriously. I’m not interested in that, and don’t believe that being a scholar makes you more serious. As I write these lines, I’m realizing that I should call this My Susan Howe. I’m reading her arguments from my particular perspective, and I’m bringing lots of baggage!

Does it sound like I dislike Howe’s book? I hope not.

feb 23/SHOVEL

shovel: 111 minutes
18 degrees

Before I get into a description of my adventures in shoveling, I want to mention the delight I saw last night. Scott and I were sitting in the front room, listening to music, and looking out at the snow, when suddenly Scott cried out, A skier! Someone is cross-country skiing in the street! Yes! It’s not a real snowstorm until someone is skiing down the middle of your street in the middle of Minneapolis in the early evening while the snow is falling. Oh, to be that skier! A life goal, I think. Also: it’s pretty cool that Scott was the one who pointed it out to me, and with enthusiasm. My delight habits are spreading!

The epic storm wasn’t quite as epic as they’d imagined, but it was still a lot of snow, especially to shovel. It took me a little less than 2 hours to do it all. 46 minutes before lunch, 65 after. Ugh! No snow blower, all shitty plastic shovel from Target — lime green — and back, arm, and leg muscles made stronger from swimming and running.

Mostly I didn’t mind it, and I was happy to be outside, but my back is sore now, and so are my right fingers. Arthritis, I think. I listened to a good chunk of my audiobook, Moonflower Murders. That helped. It was satisfying to see my small driveway pad and the tall wall of snow at the end (thanks to the plow) gradually become clear. No — not become clear, but be cleared by me and my shovel. So much snow! Thank goodness it was powdery. I don’t think I could have shoveled all that if it had been heavy and wet.

At the start, it seemed overwhelming. Too much snow and nowhere to put it. But I just started and kept going, and slowly it felt less overwhelming to imagine clearing it. Then, possible. Then, inevitable. Then, cleared. The runner Des Linden always talks about showing up and simply putting one foot in front of the other when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a big task, like a long run. Sometimes this idea seems too simple and impossible at the same time, but it usually works. It worked today. I didn’t believe I could clear it, but I started anyway. And then I did it.

Yesterday I finished up my (almost) month with Linda Pastan. Next up: windows and/or Emily Dickinson. But, before that, a quick break with Jack Gilbert. A few days ago, I encountered a beautiful poem of his on twitter. The poetry person sharing it introduced the poem by tweeting: “I love poems because they can do this.” Yes, I agree. I’ll write how I understand the “this” after the poem.

Alone/ Jack Gilbert

I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strange that she has returned
as somebody’s dalmatian. I meet
the man walking her on a leash
almost every week. He says good morning
and I stoop down to calm her. He said
once that she was never like that with
other people. Sometimes she is tethered
on their lawn when I go by. If nobody
is around, I sit on the grass. When she
finally quiets, she puts her head in my lap
and we watch each other’s eyes as I whisper
in her soft ears. She cares nothing about
the mystery. She likes it best when
I touch her head and tell her small
things about my days and our friends.
That makes her happy the way it always did.

Okay, I said I’d explain what I mean by the “this” in I love poems because they can do this, and I’ll try. I’ll start here: Last night I was telling Scott about this poem and the tweet. I didn’t have the poem in front of me, or any of its lines memorized, so I explained it as best I could, which was not very well. I think I didn’t succeed with my summary because the meaning and magic of this poem doesn’t come in a summarized telling of it, but in the specific words used, the line breaks, the order of the words, their rhythms. This poem isn’t so much telling the story of a man and his dead beloved who has come back as a dog, but inviting you into the story to witness it, to behold his grief and tenderness. And, it’s inviting you to believe in other worlds where such gentle, tender moments are possible. Or, even if you don’t/can’t believe in them as true/real/ scientifically possible, you can give room for them to live or to breathe or to be possible for someone. Also, it’s strange. I love strange!


shovel: 4 inches
14 degrees

The aftermath of the second round of the epic snowstorm: 4 inches of mostly soft snow. Cold, but not too cold, outside. Listened to the audiobook, Moonflower Murders as I shoveled. The coldest part of my body: my fingers. Even with gloves on, they were getting numb. More snow than I expected. I think I remembered hearing some other shovels scraping, at least one snowblower droning. Already we have big piles of snow on the edges of the driveway, near the garbage/recycling/organic bins on the side of the garage, and on the front sidewalk. If we get more snow tonight, where will it all go?

walk: 15 minues
me, Delia, and Scott
18 degrees

Brrrr. The temperature had increased by 4 degrees but it felt colder because of the wind. About half of the sidewalks we walked on were shoveled. The un-shoveled ones didn’t seem like they had 4 inches of snow on them. Did they? The most enjoyable, warmest feeling direction to walk was east. Heading south, west, or north, we felt the cold wind in our faces. I could sense a brain freeze induced headache about to happen. Delia didn’t care. She sniffed the edges of every block, her tail wagging as she gave attention to the yellow missives from the other animals who had walked these same sidewalks.

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.5 miles

Because of the wind and the snow, I decided to move in the basement today. Watched the first 20 minutes of the Netflix documentary, Break Point, while I biked. Listened to more of my audiobook while I ran. Wore my new running shoes: Saucony Ride 14s, color: Jackalope (white with orange accents, a red tongue, blue laces). Not my first choice, but they were in my size and $40 less than any other color. Now that I have them, I think I especially like the blue laces.

Before heading downstairs, I started memorizing a poem by Heather Christle that I especially like, “What Big Eyes You Have.” I worked on the first 2 sentences:

Only today did I notice the abyss
in abysmal, and only because my mind
was generating rhymes for dismal,
and it made of the two a pair,
to which much later it joined baptismal,
as — I think — a joke.
I decided to do nothing with
the rhymes, treating them as one does
the unfortunately frequent appearance
of the “crafts”adults require children
to fashion from pipecleaners
and plastic beads.

Wow, it is fun to memorize poems. And, it really helps me to do a deep reading of the words and ideas and rhythms and rhymes. I wish I had time to memorize all of the poems I love!

Here is a Pastan poem that seems fitting to read after encountering so many of her dark ideas about death and its inevitability and wondering why her poems were almost always so dark.

Why Are Your Poems so Dark?/ Linda Pastan

Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn’t the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.

Instead he invented
ebony and crows

and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”

Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.

feb 21/RUN

3.5 miles
under ford bridge turn around
8 degrees / feels like 8
100% snow-covered (path)
0% snow-covered (sidewalks)

Wore the Yaktrax today. Not sure if it was a good idea. The trail was covered, but the sidewalks were dry. Bad for the coils, and probably my feet/legs. Not too bad, I think. Colder than yesterday. More layers.

I remember looking down at the river. Open, brown, a thin layer of ice in the center, shining a little. Beautiful.

I remember seeing a bird’s shadow pass fast and low just above my head, then thinking how I like sensing these shadows.

I remember seeing someone with ski poles descending the hill that leads to the ford bridge, then passing them later on the climb to the double bridge. They weren’t using the poles, but holding them off to the side while they did a strange shuffle run.

I remember seeing my shadow running in front of me.

I remember slipping a few times but never falling. Passing a few other walkers and runners, but no bikers. Breathing in the cold air. Seeing the dead clump of leaves that was on the trail months ago and that, when the wind pushed it a little, made me flinch.

I remember hearing a kid’s voice in the oak savanna, children on the playground. Staring far ahead at the snowy view in front of me. Feeling the warm sun on my face.


  • my dead mother-in-law’s purple jacket
  • 2 pairs of black tights
  • a bright yellow TC 10 mile shirt
  • a pink jacket with hood
  • 1 pair of black gloves
  • 1 pair of orange/pink/red mittens
  • 1 pair of socks
  • pink and orange striped buff
  • black fleece-lined cap

I started all zipped up, buff over my ears and covering my mouth, pink hood up, mittens on and up past my wrists. Before the end of mile 1, the hood was down. Before mile 2, pulled the buff off of my ears. After mile 2, I put the mittens in my pocket. At mile 3, I unzipped my jacket slightly. My gloves always stayed on, so did the ear flaps of my cap.

This morning, I discovered a winter line in a Jack Gilbert poem (Meanwhile):

Winter lingers on in the woods,
but already it looks discarded as the birds return
and sing carelessly; as though there never was the power
or size of December. 

With an epic winter storm approaching this afternoon (2 feet of snow possible + strong winds), it’s hard to imagine a time when winter will be discarded. But that time will come and it will always be the birds who will be there first, singing their careless spring songs.

Today’s Pastan poem is about windows. Pastan writes a lot about standing and looking out her window.

At My Window/ Linda Pastan (December, 1979)

I have thought much
about snow,
the mute pilgrimage
of all those flakes,
and about the dark wanderings
of leaves.

I have stalked
all four seasons
and seen how they beat
the same path
through the same woods
again and again.

I used to take a multitude
of trains, trusting
the strategy of tracks,
of distance,
I sailed on ships
trusting the arbitrary north.

Now I stand still
at my window
watching the snow
which knows only one direction,
falling in silence
towards the silence.

feb 20/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
25 degrees / light snow
100% snow-covered, slick ice

This morning it snowed. An inch in an hour. Then it stopped. By the time I got out to the river, it was snowing again. I decided not to wear my yaktrax, which was a bad idea. Very slippery. Lots of ice hidden under the snow. I slipped a few times, but never fell.

a few tips to avoid slipping

It was difficult for me to see where it was icy, but within a few miles I had developed a system that mostly worked.

First, look for the footsteps that stretch, the ones that seem longer than a foot. That is where someone has slipped or slid from ice underneath. Try to avoid these spots.

Second, accept that every single crosswalk entrance will be slippery and that you need to slow down in those spots. Slow down by shortening your stride and lifting your feet more often but with less height. Do a shuffle. Or, slow down to a walk. Keep your foot flat as you step down.

Third, stay focused, constantly reminding yourself the ice is lurking everywhere. Do not look away or try to pick up your pace.

I liked this run and am glad that I did it, although I wondered what I had gotten myself into when I was on the east side of the river, too far in to turn around.

the river

Crossing the Franklin Bridge, the snow just starting again, I noticed the river was brown and open and that the faintest fog, due to the light snow, was hovering above the surface. Later when I was crossing under the lake street bridge on the east side, I noticed 2 people standing at a railing, looking out at the river. I walked up the steps and stopped halfway to stand at another railing and admire the grayish-brown water. This view, a reward for the effort of trudging through the snow for 50+ minutes.

10 Things

  1. on the bridge, closest to the railing, there were squares of bare pavement. As my feet landed on snow then bare pavement then snow again, I could feel the difference — a slight slide, then a thud, then a slide again
  2. voices yelling from down below in the gorge — people having fun in the snow?
  3. a quiet voice grunting or clearing their throat, gently alerting me to their presence before biking by
  4. cars moving very slowly, carefully
  5. a truck on the bridge starting to stop way back from the cars in front of it. Must be slippery on the road
  6. chick a dee dee dee
  7. headlights down at the bottom of the franklin hill — a car slowly climbing up
  8. an adult pulling a young kid in a sled on the path
  9. 2 walkers having an animated conversation as we all approached meeker island. I heard one of them talking as I passed. Now I can’t remember what he said, just that he said it strangely
  10. the pipe under the lake street bridge — the one that I recorded gushing the last time I ran the franklin loop — was frozen solid. One thick, ugly icicle hanging at the bottom

Another Pastan poem:

The Death of the Self/ Linda Pastan

Like discarded pages
from the book
of autumn, the leaves
come trembling down
in red and umber,
each a poem
or story,
an unread letter.

Think of the fires
in ancient Alexandria,
the voluminous smoke
of parchment burning.

Open your arms
to the dying colors,
to the fragile

of November.
Deep in the heart
of buried acorns,
nothing lost.

Nothing lost. I like imaging my past selves — not past lives, but the many selves I’ve been throughout my life — as not lost. Buried acorns to become, over time and slow, steady growth, a new forest of trees. Now I’m imagining a forest of Saras. I’d like to walk through that forest! This makes me think of something I’ve been noticing about Pastan — she loves trees. She wants to be a tree, she links trees with the act of writing poetry, she finds hope against the inevitability of death in trees. A forest of Saras also makes me think of a poem I started a few years ago about a lake of Saras, different ages, lining up to make a bridge. It also makes me think of something funny I did last night. I positioned 2 of the mirrored doors of our bathroom medicine cabinet in such a way that I could look into the small wedge between each mirror and see around 20 of me. I stuck out my tongue and all these Saras were sticking their tongues out too. So many Saras. I kept looking to see if one of them might decide not to stick out their tongue. Nope, at least not that night.

feb 19/SWIM

1.3 miles
ywca pool

Swam with RJP this morning. Only 2 lanes open. The H2O combo class was happening in lanes 3-5. Fun to watch all the bouncing underwater. RJP and I had to circle swim with one more swimmer for a few minutes. I told her that I’ve only circle swum twice in the last 30 years. Wow! That’s a long time.

Had a nice conversation with one of the H2O people in the locker room after we were done. She said she used to swim but couldn’t any more because she injured her rotator cuff. It was fun to talk to her. I love the older women energy in the y locker room.

What do I remember about my swim?

  1. A blue pool noodle was creeping over the edge of the lane line. I felt it first, then saw it, ready to attack me
  2. The guy in the next lane, in red swim trunks, churned up a lot of foam with his kick.
  3. It was calming to watch the H2O people bouncing in the water.
  4. 2 cute little kids in the locker room, fully of weekend energy.
  5. the pool floor had some dark crud on the tiles
  6. the water was clearer than Thursday
  7. the water had faint shadows that danced on the tiles
  8. I forgot to wash out all of the baby shampoo and now my eyes burn

Today’s Pastan poem:

Ethics/ Linda Pastan

In ethics class so many years ago
our teacher asked this question every fall:
If there were a fire in a museum,
which would you save, a Rembrandt painting
or an old woman who hadn’t many
years left anyhow?  Restless on hard chairs
caring little for pictures or old age
we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
and always half-heartedly.  Sometimes
the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face
leaving her usual kitchen to wander
some drafty, half-imagined museum.
One year, feeling clever, I replied
why not let the woman decide herself?
Linda, the teacher would report, eschews
the burdens of responsibility.
This fall in a real museum I stand
before a real Rembrandt, old woman,
or nearly so, myself.  The colors
within this frame are darker than autumn,
darker even than winter — the browns of earth,
though earth’s most radiant elements burn
through the canvas. I know now that woman
and painting and season are almost one
and all beyond the saving of children.

I like the idea of asking the old woman what she wants, but wish it could have taken that idea somewhere other than to the inevitable conclusion of death. I really like Pastan’s poems, but it does seem that so many of her poems end with death. Aging seems to be reduced to dying/getting closer to death.

feb 18/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
31 degrees
5% ice-covered

Felt off this morning — sore, unsettled. Wasn’t sure I should go for a run, but did it anyway. I’m glad. It felt like spring again: less layers, birds, sun, bare grass in a few spots, gushing water at the falls. My mood has improved. My back felt a little sore, my knees too, but most of the run felt good. The other day, I saw an instagram post on running form and arm swing. From the video I saw (with no audio) it looked like you should swing your arms further forward and higher than you’d expect. I tried it by focusing on swinging forward — not quite, but almost, like punching the air in front of you — instead of what I’ve usually done, focusing on extending my arms back more. It seemed to help, making my run feel more smooth, effortless, locked in.

moment of the run

Running north, approaching the double bridge, I heard a strange howling noise. It repeated several times. What was it? A coyote? Dog? Human? I couldn’t tell. I also couldn’t tell if it was right below on the west side, or over on the east side. I also started hearing sirens, and a bunch of dogs yipping. Crossing over from the river road to Edmund to run past my favorite poetry window, I suddenly remembered a bit of a poem I encountered this morning on twitter:

from March, 1979/ Tomas Tranströmer

Weary of all who come with words, words but no language
I make my way to the snow-covered island.
The untamed has no words.
The unwritten pages spread out on every side!
I come upon the tracks of deer in the snow.
Language but no words.

Was this the cry of language but no words? Or, just some kids trying to imitate a howl?

Here are 2 earlier (as in, before Almost an Elegy) Pastan poems that I found today:

Emily Dickinson/ Linda Pastan (1971)

We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won’t explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain.

The economy of pain, I like that.

Wind Chill/ Linda Pastan (1999)

The door of winter
is frozen shut,

and like the bodies
of long extinct animals, cars

lie abandoned wherever
the cold road has taken them.

How ceremonious snow is,
with what quiet severity

it turns even death to a formal

Alone at my window, I listen
to the wind,

to the small leaves clicking
in their coffins of ice.

I like the last stanza with its small leaves clicking in their coffins of ice.