Thursday, June 21, 2007
For John Alexander
An older poem...a new image to go with it.
Every arc is different. I heard Mr. John Alexander
lost his wife and sank before a friend pulled him out
into his new adventure, before he could bring himself
to pull hard against the same curve again and again.
The same curve and different each time – light shifting,
the smell of woodsmoke one day and wet grass the next,
one knee aching more than at other times, tempo changing
in small ways. We all felt those things; few spoke it.
John sewed his racing flats out of old bedroom slippers, told
me once he trained by dragging a truck tire tied to a rope
around his waist. He was over 70 years of age, forged iron
for legs by then, faster at the 400 than many 40-year-olds.
The way we were taught to race: spend it all by 300 meters
and hang on, grind it out, gut it out. Others still ran
their race with some reserve, but I learned to relish
that moment when pain caught me, emptied me, nothing left.
Every arc is different, but the way our coach taught us –
drive hard against the curve then float then drive – it seemed
the same arc as an old star flaring, hotter, brighter, each
sparking burning atom turned fast as light before the end.