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institute Sesquiotic


To the Finish

5k, Toronto Island

published in TOK 3 (2008)

hot feet, boardwalk, legs blue sore
four thousand metres of panting so far
a bit of puddle spatter, a taste of salt spray
from hungry waves or the streaming body
running ahead, follow, thirst
now less than a thousand metres to go
boards riffling, crazing the eyes
each step cracking like aching joy
each breath a lust from the stomach
hoo, hoo, HAH, hoo, hoo, HAAH, ho
now nine hundred, now eight hundred
closing on body, white shirt, go past
a blue shirt slips by merely, but no
hold it, keep it, iron and acid
in body and water on boards, don't slip
and five hundred metres now left
and it darkens below and is harder
and a line and people, shouts
a tree, a tree, another tree, grass
to curl up and lie on, stop, please stop
but hoo, hoo, HAH, ho
just sixty seconds now, less
gain no one else, admit no one more
when like a dream she overtakes you
yearning for the end like a lost baby
like reaching for her child in the taunting waves
nothing to do but follow her pull
go harder than you even can, burning
the greensward underfoot rolling, pitching
there is a space between the trees, and fifty
forty, hoo, HAH, thirty, grass
the banner, the sign, the clock
the time has all leaked out
and there's just one second more, five metres
the length of three of her in a breath
and she is there, stumble stopped, gasping, coughing up
and you steam and shake and you have both prevailed
and the rest will fall in behind
but she has her metal, her ribbon
her shiny baby, and you have your time
three strides, three lengths of a body
a breath behind, and nothing you can hold


All contents 2000–2008 James Harbeck