Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Final .2 Miles

This is a newer draft of a poem I began during National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) in April. You can see an earlier draft in the blog entries below. This poem still needs work, but it's approaching what I intend:

The Final .2 Miles
The modern marathon is more than 26 miles long.
It is 26.2, to be precise. The .2 added
because a young queen wanted to greet the runners 
of the first modern marathon at the ornate gates of Buckingham palace.

Flash-forward 50 years. Hawaii, 
inside the chain-link fence enclosing Moana Loa shopping center.
where 26 thousand anxious runners are lining up in the pre-morning dark of pre-morning
hopping in place or rolling shoulders 
under the tendrils of falling sky flowers, the opening ceremonial fireworks.
Speeches I do not hear, crunching my first handful of Cheerios.

At the mile 6 marker, I am holding steady,
happy in my selection of moisture-wicking socks.
My feet fall into that familiar rhythm that I recognize from training.
When all of a suddenly, that shoeless Ethiopian who soon will win the race,
is already returnsing in the opposite direction, already at the mile 20 marker (for him)
grinning as he passes, his bare feet flapping on the sticky blacktop.

But Yet for me, yet, are two times over Diamond Head, our only hill, 
a volcano really, and then an the eternal stretch of featureless sky and Pali Highway and sky.
Porta-potty stops, more water and , more Cheerios.
Beide the Pali Highway, Llocal Hawaiians cheer us on., handing us banana halves and cups.
Someone hands me half of a banana.

In my imagination, I throw a giant rubber band around a faster runner 
up ahead, herding his momentum with my mind, 
to pull me forward on the confidence of his stride.

Hours later, my turn finally arrives to pass that mile 20 marker for myself,
Momentary elation and relief are swallowed by the realization 
of not jut 6 more miles to run, but 6.2.
of 6.2 miles yet to go. And then at mile 26, still another .2 miles!

But everything I had apportioned out to sustain me over 26 miles,
is used up already, good intentions long-since gone, 
both water bottles empty. All my Cheerios are consumed.
Physical stamina? Depleted; and I run solely on emotional energy now, 
and that too wanes. My stomach, painfully bloated, sloshes with its own acids.

In my imagination, I throw a giant rubber band around a faster runner 
up ahead, herding his momentum with my mind, 
to pull me forward on the confidence of his stride.
But the rubber band, or my imagination, stretched beyond the limit, 
snaps. And I am hurtled backward by impact with The Wall.
My left IT band is tearing away from the knee.

What fuel is left that I can use?

A whisper, the slightest suggestion inside me: Rage? 
Oh right. Raging against the dying of the light!
So many times in my life before, rage has served me well. 

Can rage carry me now, over what feels like 
the final .2 miles of life?

Because I am finishing this race! I have traveled too far--
600 miles in training and then 2 separate jets!
I endured the headaches and Plantar Fasciitis,
low blood sugar depressions, and the body certainty 
that long distance goals are really short distance goals 
when taken daily, one step, and then the next. 

Yes, rage! Even if I drag my bloody stump 
across that line, I will finish strong. I am a Finisher.

Although, I have not finished yet. I still earn 
every painful step of those final .2 miles 
before I will be greeted at the scrolling gate of an eternally ancient queen.
The marathon extends beyond my reach. But I know that sometimes
just maintaining forward momentum has got to be enough.

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