Saturday Poem / Marathon

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for the runners

The ache that replaced his feet,
the horse collar of throb he wore
across his shoulders, the desolation
where his stomach should be--
all this he had carried with him
so long it was now merely part
of the message he carried. Olive
trees smoky along the road to Athens.
The sky a small clutch of clouds.

And then he died.

His name was Pheidippides,
or Thersipus or Eucles.
He was a messenger and he ran
around a mountain, ran along
the bay--September winds
bucking the surf. He ran
between the foothills of Hymettus
and Penteli, and then he ran
the long downhill to Athens
for which he gave thanks.

And then he died.

He ran, with that part of himself
that was not running growing
smaller and smaller, until
all that he was was running,
until he spoke the word victorious.

And then he died.

And the sirens wept along
the brownstones near Copley Square.


Jeffrey Thomson, a former resident of Pittsburgh, is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington and the author of four books of poetry, among them "Birdwatching in Wartime" (Carnegie Mellon 2009) and "Renovation" (Carnegie Mellon 2005). Honors include a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar position at the Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland.


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