Tomorrow is the Chicago Marathon. I am not running in it, although my husband will be up in the middle of the night to help commandeer a large cadre of volunteers into position for the event. I have completed five full marathons in my life, and I do not plan to ever do another one. The level of commitment and the toll on the body are both things that I cannot afford at this point. In honor of those who do make that commitment and will be ready to take on that challenge tomorrow, I offer you “The Runners” by Irving Feldman.
Here or there hundreds of them, phantom-like,
bobbing in place at street corners, then
lifting their knees suddenly and leaping
into the densest, loudest traffic
(of briefest trajectories, of shortest views),
in transit yet at ease, breathing, loping,
like bearers of distance and pure direction,
darting half naked out of nowhere and
where, where in the world are they running to?
swift and solitary, silent beings
who, should you now step into the path,
have dodged away, or, if you raise a hand
to stay them to speak, immediately
are gone: who are these runners who create
in their gliding such fine, singular spaces
among the street’s vociferous jargons?
—as if each one were a still, wordless message
or question one would answer if one could grasp it,
this one, that one, sliding past, going away,
while you stand there, your hand raised to no purpose,
your hidden heart rejoicing that the quick heel
won’t soon, won’t ever, be overtaken,
although you, as you have longed to, suddenly
disburden yourself and follow follow.
If you want to write:
1. If you ARE a runner, choose your favorite line from the poem (mine is “such fine, singular spaces/among the street’s vociferous jargons”) and write it vertically down the page. Use those words as starting points for new lines.
2. If you are NOT a runner, choose a physical activity that you enjoy and imbue it with a sense of mystery as Feldman has done for running.