I do not run for fun.
I run because man was not born to fly,
I do not run until I get tired,
I do not run until I cramp,
I run to know I love the world,
when the stars bleed blue,
and stare down at those lakes
with their blank eyes,
I run through sweat
until it dries and cakes
and my skin becomes salt
I trace the next fifty footfalls through my mind
as I weave across the fractured sidewalk
the pavement tells me stories.
T.J. was here, screams one square,
the day before I dried in 1997, the geese
had already migrated south that year.
Rose forgot some of the blood from her knee,
when she fell here five years ago, the mark withers
but the walkway remembers,
for the tired runners looking down,
these stories pass us,
fossilized flip books of suburban lives.
I read rosetta stones in the cracks,
and shed sweat from my forehead
like witch doctors casting raven’s bones
My feet overwrite the history of the pavement,
paint a canvas of concrete with sweat
my first kiss falls across a turn, my first homerun
bleeds itself into a crack
by the sixth mile, thousands of striding chapters
past my birth, my first fuck pours itself
out of the cotton sheets of memory
and flows in ribbons to the rhythm of my feet.
I run until I turn the world backwards, I can see
the town shrink around me,
foundations break and fill with dirt
pizza returns to the oven, cars return to the lot
grandparents are born, native Indians conquered,
roads become paths,
paths become trails plowed by curious steps
I run through college classes, through textbooks,
I run through a semester abroad.
I see Hitler run past Napoleon,
his back to Russia,
where the Corsican bounds in a sprint.
The two nod and return their eyes to the ground,
the red grass and burnt trees, the battlefields
were places to linger, and they never risk being lapped.
Napoleon’s hands cover his ears,
as Charlemagne’s troops
canter past in formation,
a great steal sponge dead set on Jerusalem,
but they raise their visors to spy the giant human turtles,
trample past in sandals,
bearing the banner of Rome.
I circle Europe defying history’s greatest runners,
their feet are now my feet, their life’s work
bound in my miles.
I run enough to see the moon twice in one day.
My shadow pants from exhaustion
and sits down on a bench,
watches me run laps, as I run into my wife,
and through my children’s graduation,
it watches as my hairline shrinks
and my stride is stopped by a seizure.
Under the bright hospital lights
the doctor tells me,
I ran too much,
I pushed too hard,
I wrote too many memoirs along the town’s flagstones.
The doctor told me I had three months to live,
and I would likely live them in bed, on my back.
When he left the room,
I did the only thing a runner knows to do.
I laced up my sneakers, and wrote my obituary