Achilles, Swift Runner

For Julia, who’s been studying Greek Mythology. This poem appeared in a recent issue of Illuminations, from the College of Charleston (SC).

Achilles, Swift Runner

It’s the idleness that begs you
to be stationary when most of you screams
to move. A catalogue of gym classes
run through the mind on an old projector—
the last roll spinning to a clicked ending
as it speeds down—the final fat kid

remaining against a concrete wall,
standing still and shifting too much weight
from foot to foot, never running
to line up with the others: Sal Padula
who called me Bozo at the bus stop; Beth Ryan
who snubbed me in the hall; Sam Smith
who wouldn’t dance with me unless
the group filled into the circle around us.

The pummel horse waits with mats and onlookers
for me to crash my head against its folly,
and I want to run, swift Achilles,
to the far end of the horizon. Dawn
can mesmerize and keep me whole. So much fury
in the ankles means the great hills cannot claim me.

The day comes when stretching legs
on the family room carpet becomes
a trip to the mailbox, then, around the corner
and up the long slope past the fork in the road
where cool autumn breezes sing in eager ears
that survival means forgetting boys, kicking
the habitual ball of self pity, punching
the horizon of possible pathways.

I am swift runner, born out of blessed dreams,
cool and uniform motion. As I go
I narrate my journey. I was the fat kid, look
at me now: Achilles burning
up the last hill. The victory is absolute.
I run another mile, just because I can.


Thanks to Achilles, I got strong. Yoga helped, too. And weightlifting, and Eric . . . Image


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