Sweat-blinded you stumble,
wrench your trauma-pulsing hips
over the finish line
stamped long ago by winners’ easy feet.
The well-wishers have decorked their praises upon the favorites and vanished from the deceleration zone.
Nothing but the dusky air, laden with the sky’s own perspiration, separates you from the pines
that box in the turf-soaked field.
Even the beverage stands lie abandoned, gathering drops of fog.

What’s left in plain view,
unshielded by moisture from the debris of competition,
is your verdict that no subsequent run will match your past efforts.
Their recollections serve you only as a mockery.
You have expended the last of your winnings.

This is my story too on this day.
When my strivings shattered down on me—
a breath I could no longer bring in,
buckled ligaments,
the incline that proved higher and longer than anyone expected—
I strained every one of my techniques
and played the hero without recourse.

At the final meter, throb-bellied, bowed, I have just one insurmountable hurdle left:
my own peak afternoons stepping into sunlight before crowds gathered by the arbor,
entouraged by backslapping at the path’s border.
I cannot isolate that memory from the Now, the gap between them to be my lasting legacy.

It is a long instant, that failing marathon,
the confounded, compounded pacing toward an arbitrary end,
the smudge on the long road, ratified by the passionate throngs,
demarcated by an indifferent judge.

The mists now lift. While you stare about in search of oxygen,
their filaments unfold into placid banks of grass.
Their unpopulated expanse is your salve.
You can rest your forehead in the dew.

This poem was published in the April 2020 Spring Gallery of Kosmos Journal.

Andy Oram
February 21, 2020

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