National Poetry Month, April 21, 2014

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

Today, 36,000 people will queue up to run in the 118th Boston Marathon. The inaugural Boston Marathon was staged in 1897 and has been run every year since. It’s safe to say that it is the world’s signature marathon.

Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur

My good friend and colleague at ASU, Leon Lewis – to my mind the Dean of running, and mentioned in a previous post – claims “Running,”by Richard Wilbur, as the great running poem.

Here’s a poem of mine on running, dedicated to Leon, and published inLand of Amnesia (Press 53, Winston-Salem, NC).

Running

(For Leon)

I recite the rosary
Hail Mary when I run,
a wooden bead full of grace
per so many meters: for the winter wheat,
coy blessed barely green beneath
the purple art thou Lenten crown vetch;
the sun that rations color among women and blessed
sitting in its cupboard ripening
like a pomegranate is the fruit;
the frayed, porous moon of thy womb
dissolving on the tongue
of blue morning Jesus;
cows, musk of their bowels
scenting the fog, still as tintypes;
deer Holy Mary gazing skyward in wonder
at the cry of Canada geese;
papery corn shucks whispering at my feet;
strips of loose tin from an infolded barn
thundering in the wind-lash;
my print Mother of God
alongside the raccoon’s and skunk’s
as I leap the creek bed
and cross Stikeleather land,
posted black letters on yellow handbills
tacked to the shaven thighs of Sycamores;
chicken houses a mile off
on Midway Road whitening in the now-
lightening horizon pray;
and far beyond in Alexander County,
on looming Fox Mountain, nectarines
that hold migrants hostage
all spring flower.
I gulp another quart of ether,
dig for us sinners
up the steep farm road to intercept
the risen sun, sprint the crest,
my chest filled with pink shrapnel,
and fall into it,
a stretched and sweating shadowgraph.
For this searing instant
one chases now and at the hour
in the darkness every morning
the improbability of our death 
that legs with hearts to prompt them
may keep lurching, decade upon decade,
chaplet upon chaplet, toward salvation Amen.

Alan Sillitoe

Alan Sillitoe

The greatest piece of running fiction remains Alan Sillitoe’s novella, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Though known primarily as a fiction writer, Sillitoe once declared, “I have always regarded myself as a poet before novelist.” Here’s a clip of the film, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, directed by Tony Richardson, starring Tom Courtenay and Michael Redgrave and written by Sillitoe.

A very happy birthday to Celisa Steele. We celebrate it with her by featuring “Another Moon Poem,” originally published in Inch.

Another Moon Poem

After Jack Gilbert

Celisa Steele

Celisa Steele

bored of being button,
bow and chipped dish,
should write poems of us?
And then, shining whitely
in the contrail-streaked sky,
his poem ready for recitation
should realize we’ll hear his words
only as the ocean’s lisp?

Celisa Steele is the Poet Laureate of Carrboro.

Here’s a sax solo from Eric Alexander (who, not incidentally, in the first road race of his life, ran a 2:58 at the 2001 Chicago Marathon.)

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