5.09 / September 2010

Passing Invisible Fence in Winter

You are a smart girl
who waits

for the rustling bags,
the black gloves,
and the key

hanging from my mouth
as I lock you into

the long elastic leash.
Ahead of us: the squirrel
I hold you

back from; the strong men
shoveling snow; the lone
widow; and dogs

in fences you approach
and dismiss.   You,
who are learning so well

to obey, abandon
your guilt at the underground

field.   If you knew
what the upturned
dirt was for

I fear

there’d be no
stopping us.

Leaving Him

In stories I would tell later,
I would say I was dying.
That was not war.
I was not dying.
A grimace of flame in my legs,
barely making the scoot
up the hill of the course.
Strange competitor,
he came on strong,

and when he met me, did not pass,
but stayed there, said something,
and together we overtook
a middle-aged couple
and two preteen girls
who were gassing.
At the top of the hill

the world rearranged
and I could breathe again—
the fire going out
and my legs longer than his.
We had come to this point,
who otherwise would never have
spoken, and with a mile-and-a-half
left he told me to go on
and I did.

That was not war.

He was not dying.
I left him

and passed several thirteen-year-olds
and could not catch several more.
The last two tenths of the last mile
I could breathe only
loudly, accepting the cheers
from the crowd as I pushed
past a pair of old men
who had gotten that far
on their own even pace.

In the corral I looked for
but could not find
the runner that saved me,
who disappeared into the widening
past, who every day falls
further and further behind.