by Jonathan Vold

Wednesday, November 30

Stone Heart

(Open with the opening rift from “Little Queenie”)

(*Gradually add chorus tags throughout: “Ev’ry day, baby, every day”)

I’ve got a stone heart, baby,
That’s telling me your love me every day.*

And that lucky coin you flipped me
Says you’re right there with me always.*

I get your verse of the week
With a personal note;
You put the word of God in front of me
Backed up by what you wrote.

You keep that stone heart beating
Like it’s never gonna go away.

(Continue with the opening rift from “Roll Over Beethoven”)

I’ve got this stone heart you gave me
That’s engraved with words of everyday love*

With a message I can feel
And a substance I can’t get enough of.*

When you showed me your heart
You also sang me a song
And every time I hear it
I just want to sing along.

You keep that stone heart rocking me
And rolling me in everyday love.

(Continue with solo rift from “Black Dog”)

Stone heart - That’s the way you love me
Stone heart - Every day, every day
Stone heart - You love me like a rock
Stone heart - And you’re never going away
Stone heart - Rock steady
Stone heart - Rock and roll
Stone heart, stone heart, stone heart, stone heart....

I’ve got a Satchmo melody
That’s running through my head all the time*

And I think to myself
What a wonderful way you make it rhyme*

I get your wake-up messages
So blessed and bright
And your sweet dream wishes
In the dark, sacred night

You’ve got my stone heart singing
And its memorizing Every line.

(Continue with upbeat sample of “What a Wonderful World”)

Stone heart - That’s the way you love me
Stone heart - Every day, every day
Stone heart - You love me like a rock
Stone heart - And you’re never going away
Stone heart - Rock steady
Stone heart - Rock and roll
Stone heart - Ev’ry body got to get stoned!

You’ve got your stone heart in front of me
That’s telling me you love me every day.*

It’s a heart that can’t be broken
And the letters never fade away.*

And I love you the same,
And if you’re ever in doubt,
You can hear my own heart beating
What this song is all about.

You’ve got my stone heart, baby,
And it’s telling you I’m here to stay.

You’ve got my stone heart beating
Like it’s never gonna go away.

(Slow rollout)

You’ve got my stone heart in front of you
And it’s telling you I love you every day

...ev’ry day, ev’ry day...

Tuesday, November 29

Walking Song, Revisited

to the tune of Arcade Fire's Modern Man
(see August 10 for the extended metaphor)

I am the man, and this is my dog.
What would I hear if this dog could talk?
What would I say if I were the dog?

What would I think? What would I know?
Where would I run to? How far would I go?
And would I run away if I were the dog?

God is the man and I am the dog.
I’m not the man I once thought I was.
He seems so far away, and I don't know what to say,

But I'll stretch this leash from here to heaven,
And I'll sometimes think I know the way
And I'll take the paths that I’ve been given
And I'm learning, I'm learning what to say.

I am the man. This is my dog.
I try to listen when we go walk.
We walk every day,
Just keep walking, me and my dog.

You may think that you know,
but you don’t understand
the walk of man and dog.

Whether dog, whether man,
you're just doing what you can
on the walk of dog and man.

Prayer is a leash, and this is my prayer,
Drawing me close to the man up there.
He's not so far away,
And I'm working on what to say.

  God is the man, but I am the one
Who walks with him when the day is done,
And with each breaking dawn
I am still the one

To stretch this leash from here to heaven,
And to sometimes think I know the way,
And to take the paths that I’ve been given,
And I'm learning, I'm learning how to pray.

...but you don’t understand
the walk of man and dog.

Whether dog, whether man,
you're just doing what you can
on the walk of dog and man.

You may think you know,
but you'll never understand.

Whether dog, whether man,
you're just doing what you can
on the walk of dog and man.

The dog and man...
The dog and man...
The dog and man...

Monday, November 28

Sing sing

Melodia, revisited, with Stevie Wonder co-opted:
To the extended tune of Wonder’s Have A Talk With God

Lowly sparrow, you in your stubble field
are God’s example and encouragement
to stand behind a thinly-feathered shield
with nothing more as an accouterment
than simple faith in what tomorrow brings:
all things are set before you, every seed
and sunray

comes delivered without strings;
God gives you everything you need

But gives you more, the time and voice to sing!
Sing boldly, bird, across the stubble field,
show us your color and your gilded wing,
your air of confidence, that all may yield
and pause, to see what stands behind the fable
of fearlessness and food at every table,

comes delivered without strings;
God gives you everything you need.

Sing, sing
Sing, Sing
Sing, sparrow, sing

The sparrow chirps, “But who am I to be
the center of attention?  I believe
your story: God is good, even to me,
and daily God provides, and I receive
abundantly beyond what I deserve,
but that’s the point.  You call on me to sing
for all I’m worth;

you’re telling me to serve
as if my voice made me acceptable,

  but take a look at me:
my feathers are the shades of sand and dirt,
my wings are short and my ability
to fly will never take me far from earth,
and now you’re asking me to join the choir
of angels, as if song could take me higher?”

you’re telling me to serve
as if my voice made me acceptable,

Sing, sing
Sing, sing
Sing, sparrow, sing

Yes, little sparrow, by your very word
you are acceptable; indeed, you were before
the first note of your song was ever heard,
but you will please your maker even more
if you will sing.  Sing loud for all you’re worth,
but louder still for all that you’ve been given:

seed and stubble from the earth,
air and sunshine sent from heaven,

and all the camouflage and coloring
designed to keep you safely unrevealed,
and all the intricacies of your wing
designed to let you navigate the field.
O sparrow, sparrow, know that you are gifted
and by your gift the whole world is uplifted.
...comes delivered without strings;
God gives you everything you need

Sing, sing
Sing, sing
Sing, sparrow, sing

But you will please your maker even more
if you will sing.  Sing loud for all you’re worth,
but louder still for all that you’ve been given:

seed and stubble from the earth,
air and sunshine sent from heaven,

comes delivered without strings;
God gives you everything you need

and He’s telling you to serve
because His gift makes you Acceptable,

and He’s telling me to serve
because my voice makes me Acceptable.

Sunday, November 27

Determination: Boston Strong

Madison, November 6, 2015

This is it, kids!  The day before the morning of the moment I’ve been aiming for.  Not quite a forever moment, not as big as birth or citizenship, but surely as significant as a college degree or a career launch.  I’ve given this my last three years, after all, and now, tomorrow, I’m going to cross that stage and get what I’ve got coming to me.  Many others, hundreds if not thousands, will earn the title with me tomorrow, but that will not diminish the accomplishment.  Call us Marathoners, and by that medal that says “Finisher,” consider us all winners.  That, folks, is the magic of the marathon: only a very small number will be running for first place, but all of us will be proud of our personal achievement.
At the end of this race there will be a bell that runners can ring if they set a new “personal best.”  I already know I’ll be ringing it, because just finishing, which I will do even if I have to crawl the final stretch, will be the best I have ever done.  In fact, if I keep at this, I can imagine my second and third and fourth race each being a reason unto itself to ring that bell.  Each new race will bring me to a new level.  Ring it up!  I will never have run at the age I have then reached.  Ring it!  I will, with each race, have conquered a new city or a new course.  Ring them bells!
I know that not every runner will reach that finish line, but this too is the legendary spirit of the marathon, that even if one stumbles, the moment is big enough that eventually, by any means and to whatever extent possible, there will be a victory to declare.  After miles and hours, indeed months and years of running to this point, the forward moment will carry that journeying soul, in spirit if not in fact, to get to that bell and ring it!
This is what that most famous running town meant when they declared themselves “Boston Strong.”  The year was 2013.  The fastest runners had already crossed the finish line but there were still thousands of runners behind them when, at the sick whim of a couple of miscreant brothers, a nail bomb went off near the end of the course.  Several runners were killed, many more were injured.  Many who were able to run on were prevented from crossing the finish line because police had
to take safety measures, and for the briefest instant it looked like the bombers had achieved what they perhaps had intended, to not only take the lives of a random few but to kill the spirits of a city and a country.
Ah, but those bombers had no idea how big that spirit was.  There would be community after this, and a resolve to keep running in 2013 and onward into 2014.  There would be mourning for those who had fallen permanently, but then, in their honor, there would be many more who would run forward and ring than bell for them all.
Along the course of Boston’s race is a statue paying tribute to one of Boston’s most enduring runners, Johnny A. Kelley.  Johnny entered his first Boston Marathon at the age of twenty, but he did not finish.  Discouraged, he did not run for several more years, and when he tried again, he failed again.  A momentum was beginning to build, though, and the next year he was back, and he finished this time, then repeated the achievement the next year and the year after that.  When he was twenty seen, he won the race, first place, but perhaps even more impressive is what happened next: he kept running, every year for a total of sixty one years, with only one other run not completed because of a race day injury.  He ran his last full race at the age of 84.  His statue, called “Young at Heart,” shows two runners, with Johnny the elder holding up the hand of Johnny the younger, declaring victory across time.  Ring them bells, Johnny, one for every year!

But where was I?  Oh yes, accountability.  Eight chapters in eight days, and anecdotal ninth in the dog days of summer and then, suddenly I am on the eve of my first big race.  Tomorrow.  Twenty six point two miles, all in a morning run.
And where did the time go?  The training, like the journal writing, was less than perfect.  I did progress to a 22 mile run to weeks ago, but I had once had higher aspirations.  It was my intent to reach 26 miles three weeks ahead of race day, to consistently run five runs a week and to hit a 9:30 average pace for a four hour run.  It became harder to fit the longer runs in, though, and even short runs were a challenge during some very active work weeks.  I will still finish this effort, but with an adjusted goal of four and a half hours, and I am resigned to the possibility of a little walking towards the end.

I had higher goals for this journal, too, but maybe this is as it should be.  I though I might have completed a definitive, publishable marathon book, but I know I’m not quite there.  I’ll keep writing, though, just as I will keep running.  Today, in fact, just before I sat down to write this final paragraph, I signed up for the next one: the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, June 2016.  And you can hold me to that.

I’m afraid to stop running.
It feels too good.
I want to stay alive.
— Johnny A. Kelley, age 70

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel his pleasure. 
― Eric Liddell, as quoted in Chariots of Fire (1981)

Saturday, November 26

Anecdote: On My Way To The Run

Other than the Thirteen Mile poem from last year and not counting the preface, added later, everything in the first eight chapters of this journal, fifty two pages of moleskin scrawl, was written over the course of eight days, one chapter a day.  A hundred days later I m beginning chapter nine.  The run goes on and the goal remains.  But what happened?  Yes, I am still running, and there are stories to tell.
After the 5K run with my niece and nephew, I ran a half marathon in Milwaukee, then another in Mackinaw City, Michigan, then back to Madison for a third half, where the preface notes were inspired.  I also trained wherever I found myself over the summer: in San Jose, California, along the Guadalupe River; in St. Louis, Missouri, along the Meramec; outside of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, up and down the Sugar Hills; into the farmland west of Champaign, Illinois; back and forth between New Glarus and Monticello, Wisconsin; and along the James River in Richmond, Virginia.  I found trails near home, too: up and down beachfront bluffs in Lake Forest, through the streets of Waukegan and then, my most regular route, a ten mile stretch along Skokie Highway.
I went through four pairs of shoes, trading my well-worn Adidas for a pair of cushy Brooks after Milwaukee, then switching to Saucony shoes after the Brooks started cutting into the top of my foot, then a pair of backup New Balance lightweights after the Sauconys couldn’t dry out fast enough after hot summer runs.  I gave the Brooks away to Joey, another nephew, who found a more comfortable fit in them.
I ran with family: brother Dan, visiting from Prague; sister Anne, when I visited Champaign.  I also encouraged and was encouraged by nephew Joey, Dan’s oldest; niece Allison, who is also running her first marathon this fall in Des Moines; and nephew Tilo, a sub-five minute miler, talking about trying a half marathon next spring.

I stayed healthy.  Mid-stride I was stung by a bee once, but that was the worst of it.  As the miles increase it’s been tougher to keep the stamina up, but legs are in place, feet aren’t complaining and muscles have been recovering quickly.  And I’m doing what I can to keep in shape: learning to run with a water bottle; starting a pre-run routine of planks, lunges and squats; maintaining my weight, with more attention now to supplementing the calories than limiting them.  And the run goes on and the goal remains.
Distances are increasing, too: There are still over two months to go before marathon day, and I’m up to 18 miles with some walking, 17 miles all running.  The half marathon times over the summer have been up and down but balanced: 1:52 in Milwaukee, 2:14 in Mackinaw (a trail run with an extra end stretch), 1:53 in Madison.
It was my intention, though, at the beginning of this journal, to write daily about running.  I did not expect to run every day and had generally settled on a 3-4-5 standard: three runs a week was passing, four was progressing, five was taking it seriously.  But I had hoped that daily writing would serve to encourage the run and keep holding me accountable.  In one sense, it did, I suppose.  These first eight chapters have been read and reread, even rewritten once with an editor’s eye and onto cleaner pages, and the words have kept me going.  My own words have held me accountable, the words of others have continually inspired me and the word of the run keeps resonating.  The run goes on and the goal remains.

It is too bad that I couldn’t have been more disciplined as a writer these last few months, even as I learned that every run, every day, has a story to tell.  Surely there is more to say about that bee sting or the trail run or the runs with my sister or my brother.  So much could be said about the backdrops across the country, each giving me different stories to tell.  Maybe, in time, I will share some of these experiences, but it will be harder now, with time having passed.
Today, though, coinciding with my return to the journal, I have a story to top all others.  It was a beautiful day.  I set a good pace and reached a new distance.  Along the way I also got hit by a car - but the run goes on and the goal remains!
Let me tell this one moment by moment.  I woke up at 5:30 am out of habit, and it was still dark out: daylight hours are waning quicker than I want them to.  This gave me time to hydrate and do a few stretches and, as it turns out, to start working on the first part of this journal entry, summarizing the last three months.  I wasn’t out the door until 6:45, but the run started right in front of my house.  It was a perfect 55ยบ outside, dry and not too windy, and steady cool and cloudy was the forecast.  I set out on my usual path, a biking and running trail that passes just across the street from home.  It runs north a mile, then forks with a three mile straightaway or, my preference lately, a longer route to th west that loop back southward for an overall twelve mile path.  I have been building up my distance here, not yet getting to the end of the trail before turning around, but I can see that this trail will make the approaching marathon distances easy to manage.

My goal today was to run 18 miles, meaning a turnaround after 9 miles, or maybe a little longer southward with a three mile shortcut option on the way home.  My pace goal, with the cool temperature and a good buildup routine in the last few days, was to keep under 9 minute miles for at least four miles, then sub-9:30 for another 6 or 7 miles.  It is good to understate these goals within goals because it feels so much better when you blow them away.  By comparison, I ran a 7:30 first mile yesterday, but that was a shorter run overall.  And so it went: mile 1: 8:10.  Mile 2: 7:50.  Mile 3: 7:55.  My pace slipped a bit a I went, but I didn’t slow to 9 minutes until mile 10 and I kept it under 9:30 for miles 11 and 12.  So far, so good!

I kept going past the nine mile turnaround point, deciding a good walk at the end wouldn’t be a bad thing, and at mile 12 I reached the end of the trail.  It was not the absolute end, though, if I didn’t mind alternative paths: the dedicated off-street runner/biker trail now yielded to sidewalks and a few busy intersections.  I was on Lake-Cook Road, roughly ten miles south and two miles west of home, and instead of turning around I decided to veer east into these alternative paths, expecting to eventually find quieter northbound roads back home.

This meant crossing a big six-lane intersection first, then crossing two ramps to an underpassing expressway, but it was now 8:30 on a Saturday, still relatively quiet, and the stoplights and traffic were all in my favor.  I didn’t even have to stop.  My pace was still sub 9:30, so I could see a new PB —personal best —ahead for the 13.1 mile split.  Split! Wow, my distances are actually getting to this point: not just a half marathon plus a little more, but one stage and then the next.  I was expecting a sub-1:52 now, and the adrenaline was starting to pump as I reached the next road a block east of the expressway interchange.

As I approached the intersection, a black sedan was pulling up to the main road from my left, ready to turn westbound. This was a small, two lane road with a stop sign, and the car came to a stop just before I reached the street. I thought the driver saw me, but apparently she was looking eastward to check for oncoming traffic.  There was an SUV 70 yards east, but I guess she figured she had time, so she gunned the accelerator just as I was passing in front of her, hitting me straight on and throwing me ten feet into the road.  The vehicle contact wasn’t so bad —a mark on my extended left hand and a scrape on the side of my left leg —but I landed on my ass and right elbow: ow!

I remember looking skyward for a moment, thinking it was a good thing I didn’t hit my head.  But then I got up, a little tenderly, then walked over and leaned on the side of her car.  She was just opening her door, and I remember thinking, maybe I could ask her for a ride home now, as the run was apparently over and I was twelve miles down the road.  But then I remembered that personal best I was pursuing, so before she could even say anything I waived her off, told her I ws okay the turned back to the sidewalk I front of me and started to run.
I didn’t get very far, though.  That SUV driver had now stopped and he was out of his vehicle and running toward me.  “Not so fast,” he said.  “Are you okay?” Yes, I said.  “Are you sure?”  Yes, I was sure, and I started blathering on about that PB and the distance I had in front of me.  “Hey, I understand,” the SUV guy said.  “I ran Boston.  But we should call you an ambulance.” That surprised me, had not occurred to me.  I looked myself over an saw the skinned elbow and scraped leg and felt that sore butt, but I smiled and again assured him I was all right.

By this time the sedan driver was approaching me, asking the same questions and expressing the same concerns and even offering to give me her name and number.  I said no, don’t worry about it, and I showed her my elbow.  “Look,” I said, “this is the worst of it.  And I’m in the middle of a long run with a great time going and I’d just like to get back to it.”  And I shook her hand and thanked the SUV guy and started running again.
Half a mile down the road, even with the setback, my 13.1 mile split was still under 1:54, and I kept running another three miles before I stopped at a Panera for some water.  Oh, I was sore to be sure, and I was still about six miles from home, but I gave it a good five minutes at Panera then started on a slow 17 minute walk for the next mile.  Then I  started running again, an easy 10 minute pace for a mile and a half, and after that I walked a half mile, ran a mile, walked another mile, ran a little more and finally walked the last two blocks to home.
With only that brief traffic stop (!), I had run 16 miles straight and 19.1 miles overall: deliberately, the distance of my two day race last May!  With the walking miles, my distance was 21.8 miles and my time was 3:45.  Which means, at a 9:30 pace without any walking, my 26.2 mile time would be 3:59 - a sub  four marathon! Even with the walk time, if I could run those last four and a half miles I would finish in 4:27.  I can do this!  But I will try to avoid being hit by any more cars.
Just before I turned back to my run after shaking the sedan driver’s hand, I noticed she was finally smiling.  “This’ll teach you to run on Lake-Cook Road so early in the morning,” she said, awkwardly.  She had been pretty hook up by what had happened, maybe even more than me, and I knew she was only trying to lighten the mood.  I smiled, then looked over at the SUV guy —the Boston marathoner —and saw that he was smiling, too.

  ...This doesn’t stop us.  And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston.  That’s what you’ve reminded us —to push, to not grow weary, to not get faint, even when it hurts.  We finish the race.  And we do that because of who we are and we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend a stranger has a cup of water.  Around the bend, somebody’s there to boost our spirits.  On that toughest mile, just when we think we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up.
—President Barack Obama,
       April 17, 2013.

Friday, November 25

TWL, Lines 418-423: Thunder To The Lesser Gods

418 Da
419 Damyata: The boat responded
420 Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
421 The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
422 Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
423 To controlling hands

419. THUNDER’S THIRD DISCIPLINE: This is the third DA, after lines 401 and 411. Damyata means “Control yourself,” what lesser gods understood in hearing “Da.” See note 400.

DADAISM: Apart from any meaning heard in what the thunder said, the da da da passage also evokes the concept of Dadaism, a pre-surrealist art movement that began in Switzerland in 1916 and was reaching its peak at the time of The Waste Land. The movement, which ranged from visual arts to literature and poetry to theater, spurned the bourgeoisie reasoning and hard logic that were at the roots of World War I and instead placed a value on abstract nonsense. In contrast to Eliot’s objective correlative theory (note 417), compare this with the ostensible “gibberish” of the jazz movement (notes 130 and 433).  See Eliot’s comments, in The Lesson of Baudelaire (1921; see note 76): “Dadaism is a diagnosis of a disease of the French mind; whatever lesson we extract from it will not be directly applicable in London”; and again in James Joyce, Ulysses, Order and Myth (1923), in which he criticized another critic: “Mr. Aldington treated Mr. Joyce as a prophet of chaos; and wailed at the flood of Dadaism which his prescient eye saw bursting forth at the tap of the magician’s rod.”

420. THE BOAT RESPONDED: See line 280 (Elizabeth and Leicester, on the Thames barge) and note 280 for more on oars.

421. CALMNESS: Compare the calm sea with the calm night after leaving the Chapel Perilous (see note 388) and the calm day of a riverside wedding in Spenser, Prothalamion (see note 176).

Thursday, November 24

Meleagris Gallopavo

When country fiddlers held a convention in Danville, 
the big money went to a barn dance artist who played 
Turkey in the Straw, with variations... 
— Carl Sandburg

Some say the first Americans had named it for its
Or that Chris called it “tuka” for a peacock he
(By Chris I mean Columbus; Tuka’s Tamil for
And Tamil is the language of Ceylon), but by the
The Brits declared it first and for all time the bird
   from Turkey,
While Science called it meleagris, out of
(Relating it to Guinea fowls, with Latin terms so
They get excused for making things perpetually
Each stop along the trade route added names to
   the imposter:
The Palestinians dubbed the bird an Ethiopian
The Dutch decreed it kalkoen, a Malibarian
(From Calicut of Malibar in India, southwester).

The commonest of turkey tags, for Turks and
   many others,
Is Indian Chicken, for the land Columbus
Thus hindi, dindon, indyk, indjuk, hindishga, all
Of the nascent New World Order of the Turkey.
   Meanwhile, over

In India, some Indians have christened it
Deferring to the name their Portugallan traders
But Peru never knew the bird until the Spanish
   shipped it;
They called it gallopavo, for the peacock Chris descripted

(By Chris I mean Columbus; pavo’s peacock;
   gallo’s chicken;
And Portugallans are the chicken-trading
And so this story goes: the plot unwinds, the titles
But dinner’s on the table; you can call it what you please.

There is no grand denouement in the course of
   human nature
And from the very start the turkey’s oldest
Presented by the Aztecs in their native
Has been a word the world could never say:

Wednesday, November 23

The Real Thing

I would like to say
that there is nothing
like the quenching power
of a Diet Coke,
ignoring for one
indulgent moment
what other poets
choose to write about.
I would like to note

the pleasant feeling
of carbonation
and the sweetness of
zero calories
and the bitter hint
of a grownup taste,
the icy chill, the
feeling of steel and
the perk of caffeine,

but I’d have to add
quickly, being one
from that grownup world
of bittersweetly
carbonated gas
how the “real thing” is
hardly everything
and “nothing like” is
much less than it seems

after the bubbles
die down and the air
takes the chill away,
when the buzz wears off
and you hunger for
more, anything more
than the flattened
aluminum taste of
water in disguise.

With wisdom and age,
everything is less
than you thought before,
more than you supposed,
nothing like they told
you when you were young,
something that your youth
might spend all its life
trying to understand,

something like the power
of water with no
color, taste or fizz
poured without ice
into a lucid glass
and then lifted up
to the waiting lips
of simplicity.
I need nothing more.

Tuesday, November 22

Table Grace

Around the table, tradition goes,
each person has to say one thing
they’re thankful for, a word, a phrase.
We take our turns with the usual string
of gratitudes and platitudes:
for food and family, most of all,

but also health and love and God.
We try to be original
but every year’s about the same,
just as it should be I suppose,
a fitting capsule for this time,
the simple words of hungry souls.

Monday, November 21


I clean my house
     the way I pay my debts
the way I find my peace:
     a little at
a time (a resting place
     in greener fields
now and then, forgiveness
     by the silent
waters).  So far,
     time's been good to me
but in the end
     I want to live to see
no more to clean, no more
     to pay, and PEACE,
such peace that passes
     understanding, peace
that supercedes
     my earthly needs
          and leaves
this tired world,
     this plodding pace
I don't know if or when
     I'll ever find
that better place, but
     let me still
that if I serve my time
     and look for peace
a little at a time
     I'll be released.

Sunday, November 20

Beside Still Waters

A Restatement of Psalm 23

The person of God
     is a shepherd, my shepherd,
     who assures I will have
     all that I need,

A place to rest
     and be refreshed
     in the greenest pastures
     beside the stillest waters,
A path to follow
     to righteousness
     in the name of the one
     who leads me,
A prayer to say
     as I walk through the shadows
     that I may never feel afraid,
     even in the face of my enemies,

A presence here
     to comfort me
     with your shepherd’s staff
     and the strength of your stand.

You prepare for me
     a banquet feast;
     you pour fragrant oils all over me
     and fill my cup to its capacity

And you promise me
     your grace to follow me everywhere,
     your loving mercy until the day I die
     and your place, a place for me to live forever.

Saturday, November 19

Brooding Barn

The brooding barn was an old hen perched
On a tilting nest at a hillside farm.
Her eggs were lifelong memories,
To the very end kept safe and warm,

And now that she’s gone, the eggs are hatching,
Generating chicks dispatching
Hungry peeps with a sweet refrain:
The barn’s expired, but we remain.

So, trouble not at the season’s end
That the hen is dead.  Remember how
She was a shelter from the rain,
She was a friend to horse and cow,

And when they left, the children found her,
Rebuilt her nest and ran around her
With energy that’s still sustained.
The barn has fallen, but we remain

To never forget how that barn stood tall
And caught the sunrise on the hill
And defined the farm.  Or so it seemed:
There is a windmill creaking still,

Just one mile north of Yankee Hollow,
And still an easy pace to follow
On Sawmill Creek at Loyalty Lane.
The barn is gone, but there remains

The Andrew Path, the winding trails
The planted pines, the budding oaks,
The setting sun, a billion stars,
And time to visit with the folks,

And the lasting word from Dick O’Brien
Who has no time for country cryin’:
Enjoy! Sit back! Don’t give a darn!
The barn is dead?  Long live the barn!

Friday, November 18

Turning Positive

Lately I am looking west at sunrise
Watching the autumn colors change from gray
To vivid blue and gold, seeing the day
Awakened from the opposite horizon.
Where the rising sun once had a way
Of drawing me toward its eastern skies
To see the morning spark before my eyes
I am compelled to look the other way now,
To find the russet brown of the tall grass prairies,
The richest yellows reds and remnant greens
Of mid October trees, the oaken black
And birch white of the wood as the season changes,
As the azure sky reflects a breezeless pond
With the warmth of an autumn sun upon my back.

Thursday, November 17

Moleskin 5.8: Brag River

...and an honor roll. To this point I had been a good student, even standout if anyone noticed, but my first report card at Lincoln put me in the top ten percent. The sixth grade system did not hand out the usual A, B, C, D letters and there was no honor role, but in seventh grade, for whatever reason —more students, more serious academics, more trust in our maturity? —we were graded for all to see. And I was proud to find my name on the list, posted prominently on the school’s hallway bulletin board, guarded by glass and enhanced with cabinet lighting: here was the fruit of my labors, a quiet brag to my peers, something to write to my dad about and something to put a smile on the face of my mother —maybe even something for my stepdad to notice.

Wednesday, November 16

Thirteen Miles

(or, Thirteen Ways of Listening to the Run)

A bird flies with
     instinctive purpose,
          but humans run with
     determined will.

   Rivers flow from beginning to end,
        all at once.
             Within every runner
        there is a river.

  The poem of the run
       is one without words,
             won without words:
        the run is the poem,
  life’s rhythm exceeding
        the sum of its beats:
             the drum of the run
        becomes the rhyme
   all at once:  it's the road
        speaking up to the feet, the heart
             sending will to the legs, the soul
        circulating the blood,

  all at once, the wind of the world
        blowing into the lungs,
             the breath keeping pace
        (keeping pace, keeping pace)...

  The race, says Qoheleth,
        is not to the swift,
             but time and chance
        are not what keep me going.'s the quiet salt rivers
        that roll off the face,
             like lines of a poem
        within a poem,

  the descant chant
        of muscles in tune
             with the length of the race
        and the time that it takes;

   all at once, it’s the senses:
        the dry lips of thirst,
             the sight of the bend,
        the scent of the breeze,
   the feel of the earth
        with the treadmills gone,
             the sound of the air
        without headphones on
  and the mind memorizing
        the song, but the song
             defies contemplation
        or singing along:
  the song is the run,
       to be learned on the run,
            all will turning to purpose:
        the run is a song.

Tuesday, November 15

Inspiration: The Paramuses

These are the first of my aerobic muses: the Preacher for wisdom, Paul for the calling, Philippides for the adventure and Lucian for the retelling.  There are others, too,  paramuses standing for a variety of inspirations, including some whom I have already given nods to: Robert Browning for the poetry, Pierre de Coubertin for the spectacle, Kendall Scherr for the antitheticals, my de facto running club, even Anheuser Busch for a sense of perspective; and others not yet mentioned: Dennis Kimetto, Chicago Marathon record holder, for the perfection of pace; Johnny A. Kelley, a Boston Marathon pioneer, for being forever young; and all those affected by the 2013 Boston bombing —victims and families, citizens and supporters, runners and cheerers-on— whose Boston Strong spirit would not be stopped.
The original Muses, the daughters of Zeus, have long served as inspiration for arts and sciences, dance and song, so why not muses for running too?  The traditional realms of these early sisters may not seem to align with a runner’s interests, and even the generic name of muse, inspiring music and museums, conjures more sedentary and leisurely reflections, but consider them one at a time:
Calliope, muse of epic poetry: not short sonnet sprints but works that go on and on;
Clio, muse of history: not just what reporters write but the stuff of enduring legends;
Euterpe, muse of lyric poetry: instilling, beyond song, the discipline of meters and pace;
Thalia, muse of the pastoral landscape: leading us through fennels fields and beyond;
Melpomenene, muse of tragedy: bidding us to save some breath for the final finish line;
Terpsichore, muse of dance: demonstrating the beauty of composition and grace;
Erato, muse of romance: the charm more than reality that leads us down the path; Polyhymnia, muse of sacred works: the choir all around us and the harmony between; and Urania, muse of the stars: of all that courses across an endless sky.

Maybe running deserves a category of its own, a tenth Muse devoted to the poetry of the run, but even as I consider this in turns pastoral and epic and choreographed, I don’t mean to diminish the inspirations.  Let each run find its own beat and sustain its own song: no headphones, please!  And let my inspirations be plural and multidimensional, to merge those classical reflections with the para-muses of philosophy and spiritual calling, of adventure and retelling, and, yes, of poetry.

On my way to my first half-marathon, already seven months ago, I wrote my own poem of the run, not inspired by Robert Browning’s Pheidippides, which I had not yet heard, but by Wallace Stevens and Basil Bunting and, again, the writer of Ecclesiastes —and also, of course, by the run itself.  I’d like to say the poem was composed in flashes during my training runs, but it was not; rather, I wrote it in the more reflective, in-between run times, which were, in retrospect, like this journal itself, a key part of my training.

—Fennel, —I grasped it a-tremble
     with dew —whatever it bode...
          ...if I ran hitherto—
    Be sure that the rest of my
         journey, I ran no longer,
              but flew.

—Pheidippides, by Robert Browning, 1879.

Monday, November 14

Motivation: Muses Of The Run

It is a reflection of life, this run through fennel fields.  We run alone, we run in crowds.  We need an inner drive, we need encouragement.  We balance focus and diversions.  We endure for the sake of endurance and we rest when we need to rest.  We set big goals dependent upon little goals and then adjust, and sometimes we advance in ways we don’t expect.  We know we are mortal bit we live as we can and give all that we have.  We know, too, that all we have is a gift: every breath, every trail, every step of the way.  And in the end, if we live right and appreciate life’s goodness to the fullest we will be able to lift our arms up, feel the joy and declare the victory, knowing our ultimate calling is complete.
That’s some moleskin philosophy for you, with a touch of pocketbook religion and the seasoning of Lucian revision.  Ecclesiastes’ Preacher, whom I have cited earlier, is my muse for the old testament wisdom, and for that extra dose of testimony —and let me call it a testimony of faith, not religion: what I soulfully believe, not what I may dogmatically adhere to— my muse is, with some more of that Lucian spin, the apostle Paul.  Paul may have had more heavenly goals and a higher calling when he wrote to the Philippians, but it doesn’t take much to imagine he had the influence of Philippides to inspire him:

Not that I have secured it already, not yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in an attempt to take hold of the prize...  I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lied behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call...

—Philippians 3:12-14 (New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

Sunday, November 13


From far out in the center of a naked lake
The loon's cry rose.
It was the cry of someone who owns very little.
— Robert Bly

Justified: battling the paunch, racing
‘gainst the clock, basking in the sun, standing
in the rain, fighting for my sanity,
seeking peace of mind, staying on the path,
looking down the road, holding onto youth,
clinging to the earth, breathing in the air,
catching my breath, seeing the world, facing
my mortality, celebrating God,
heeding a call, needing time, struggling
with reality, dreaming of a day,
taking an account, feeding a desire
to sharpen senses, to revive my soul,
to stop somewhere a dozen miles away
and hear the distant cry of a common loon.

Saturday, November 12


Rattling and piercing, the cran cries out
A rolling, trilling, gregarious shout
Ambiguously pitched: high, guttural, deep;
Cross the purr of a cat with the bleating of sheep,
Or the chirping of dolphins with mutant brass,
Each note multiplied by the numbers that pass:
A song hard to score and beyond all compare,
yet musically pleasantly strange to the ear:
    Kewrr, k-r-r-r-ooo, garooo-a-a-a,
    Kewrr, kkewrooh, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o.
They parachute down with an open stance
On to crowded fields where they dance their dance
In the midst of rivals and mates and unmated
With movements so strange, uncouth, unabated,
The march of the oldest living birds:
They match their songs, escaping words,
With the moves of long-traditioned lovers
Who bond for life and call out to each other:
    Kewrr, k-r-r-r-ooo, garooo-a-a-a,
    Kewrr, kkewrooh, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o.

Greater brown preacherbird shypoke sandhills
Of old, mistaken for whooping juveniles,
Fooling us all that they’re naturally brown;
They’re actually grey with a tinge of ground
From the marshland mud they smear on their feathers,
Just part of the primitive fun whenever
Big, vulgar red-headed birds get together,
And that red they wear on their featherless foreheads
Will flare to the world and expand when excited:
    Kewrr, kkewrooh, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o.

They are Grus canadensis, with six subspecies
Of mares, roans and colts making sedges and sieges
As G.c. Canadian, Cuban and Greater,
And Florida, Ole Mississippi, and Lesser.
At 10,000 miles a year, 30 an hour
They flap six foot wings beating silence and power
With slow strokes down and quick strokes up, in time
To an ancient cadenced rhyme:
    Kewrr, k-r-r-r-ooo, garooo-a-a-a,
    Kewrr, kkewrooh, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o.
Eternity lives in the Sandhill Crane,
A reminder that all generations remain
In song and dance and spirit the same
Through the ages, by every intimate name
That echoes across the valley, relating
The spirit of God and resonating
From crane to crane and throughout creation.
All souls cry out, with variation:
    Kewrr, k-r-r-r-ooo, garooo-a-a-a,
    Kewrr, kkewrooh, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o. my stepdad to notice.

Friday, November 11

TWL, Lines 411-417: Thunder To The Demons

411 DA
412 Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
413 Turn in the door once and turn once only
414 We think of the key, each in his prison
415 Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
416 Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours
417 Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus

412. THE PRISON KEY: Eliot: “Cf. Inferno, XXXIII, 46: ‘ed io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto all'orribile torre.’ Also F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 346. ‘My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it... In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.’”

See Dante, Inferno (note 0.2) 33.46-47:

“And I heard locking up the under door
Of the horrible tower.”

SOLIPSISM: F. H. Bradley was Eliot’s professor at Oxford, and his book, Appearance and Reality (1893) was the basis of Eliot’s doctoral thesis in 1916. Bradley advanced the philosophy of solipsism, suggesting that only one’s mind exists with certainty and everything outside the mind is questionable. Eliot, and modernist literature in general, refuted this, arguing instead that the world, like thunder, speaks to us all.

THUNDER’S SECOND DISCIPLINE: The concepts of “datta” and “dayadhvam” go even further, telling the poet to give back and sympathize with the world.  See note 400:  Dayadhvam means “Sympathize,” what the demons understood in hearing “Da.”

417. A BROKEN CORIOLANUS: See Shakespeare, Coriolanus (0.1) 3.3.125-126, where Coriolanus speaks after being banished from Rome:

“And here remain with your uncertainty.
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!”

THE OBJECTIVE CORRELATIVE THEORY, a literary criticism theory advanced by Eliot and his “new critic” peers, asserts that a literary work needs explicit, relatable elements to express itself and evoke emotions in its audience.  By this theory, Eliot proclaimed Coriolanus a better tragedy than the more solipsistic Hamlet (note 4).  See Eliot, The Sacred Wood; Essays on Poetry and Criticism: Hamlet and His Problems (1920), and see Eliot’s objection to Bradley’s solipsism at note 412.  But see note 432 for Eliot’s awareness of emotions beyond explanation.

Thursday, November 10


to my brother Josh,
and from you to me

If every day is a gift
     it doesn’t seem fair
Whenever there has to be
    the days one must battle for
But let each breath that you breathe
    fill you with the air
Of revelry and the spirit
    of wanting to breathe it more.
Let every day you’re alive
    be given to you
And every battle you fight
    be an opportunity
To know the giver is good
    who sees you through
To celebrate your life
    and declare it victory.
Let every breath I breathe
    lead me to believe
In heaven’s hold with the spirit
    of wanting to breathe it deep.
Let every day I’m alive
    be mine to receive
And every battle that I survive
    be mine to keep.
Let me know the grace is good
    that sets me free
To celebrate the gift
    and declare the victory.

Wednesday, November 9

Training: The Ongoing Education

Two chapters into this journey, which apparently may go on for a few more pages now, I gave my effort a title: Accountability.  And I want this to keep me accountable, so the title will stick, but as I was out running today it occurred to me that I could easily come up with a dozen other names for this project.   ... “Fennel Fields” ... “The Morning Run” ... “What To Do When You’re Fifty Two”
I try not to think too much when I run.  It slows down the pace and takes away from the pure meditation of the moment.  For the same reasons I do not wear headphones when I run.  Every once in a while, though, the flash of a thought occurs, and often as a brief spark no longer than a book title.  ... “Head Up, Eyes Forward” ... “Steadily Better” ... “Uphill Is Forward And Ahead”
Now and then, at some detriment to my pace, a flash-thought bounces around for more than a few seconds.  Today it was this:  ... “Maybe I Oughta Join A Club”
A but more clunky than those other passing titles, and it stuck with me enough that later, off-track, my mind started to argue back.  In the three years I’ve been running, with each gradual advancement I have found myself embracing my introversion, enjoying the personal accomplishment and defending the self-determinate nature of the run.  More title here:  ... “The Runner’s Achievements” ... “Daily Devotions” ... “The Joy Of The Distance” ... “Victory Is Mine”
That last one is part of the argument back, though, a stubborn spin to what Pheidippides reportely said at the end of his race.  But it was not just “Nike” he delared, but “Nenikekamos,” or “Rejoice, victory is ours.”  And I know better, don’t I?  I mean to say, I know I am not alone on this run.  Even as I pride myself for the personal adventure, I know I am picking up plenty of good pointers from others:  Hydrate – Small sips, not big gulps – Keep that steady pace – Know when to stop – Mix it up, short and long – Carbs the night before – Three runs a week to be consistent, four to be serious – Don’t let a little rain stop you!  These flashes are not my own titles but thoughts I’ve borrowed form other runners, things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe I really should join a club.  But there are reasons I haven’t joined one yet and may not do so any time soon.  Time management, keeping a spontaneous edge and finding simple contentment, to begin with.  But there is another, more prevalent reason: I enjoy the discovery of the run and how I get things out of it I don’t expect, things that maybe others could teach me but probably not as pointedly as the run itself teaches me.
Running through a blackbird’s territory. Finding things to focus on ahead of me. Learning a good breathing pace. The blessing of a cool morning. An appreciation of rain. All sorts of possible titles.

And yesterday, apart from that runner’s club flash, I was taught a new lesson, and again it came as a quick spark I was not expecting.  For all my planned runs and set daily distances, I have learned just yesterday, and today again, that it is refreshing to run without a plan now and then, or rather to get beyond the plan.  Yesterday my intention was to run a hard-paces ten kilometers for time, but when I got to mile six, when I should have been exhausted form the push, I felt like stretching it a few more miles and the next thing I knew I had run as long as I had ever run.  And then today I thought I would run an easier stretch, no more than five kilometers after yesterday’s twenty one.  The first hundred meters seemed to corroborate that idea, as I was stiff and felt slow out of the gate, but the first mile’s pace turned out to be a fairly respectable 8:20, then the second mile was the same and the third was 8:10, even better. I was keeping pace, unexpectedly, and it did not feel right to stop while I was ahead so I kept on. Mile 4, an 8:20 pace. Mile 5, 8:20 again.  Finally, at Mile 6, I slipped to 8:50, but that was okay, as it was already a better run than I had counted on.  Pace is everything, a lesson already considered, but now, with feet to the trail, I was learning it and figuring out how to make it real, not by regimen but by simply allowing it to happen when it does.

It won’t be the same every day.  Yesterday I set a new personal best; today was no record breaker but it was an even keel. Both days had distances and designs that weren’t in the lesson plans.  As it should be from time to time.

Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves.  It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.
 — Patti Sue Plumet, 
      U.S. Olympian, 1988, 1992