Chariots of Fire: Two Running PoemsAndrea Krause
Smells Like Track Season
Spring is out of the starting blocks, fast-
healing up the blister of Midwestern winter.
Stop watches start on the smoke—
before the pistol’s soft POP wafts
across the in-field. This is not a false start.
Welcome back, gentle breeze sweet with wet:
puddling mud, stomped worms, crocuses in bouquets.
& can you smell the quarter mile of tired tires,
good-for-nothing-else Good Years & Firestones,
shredded into 8 concentric lanes, perfect ovals
fit for the Ancient Greeks? Hurdlers stretch hamstrings
into teenage leg taffy & the freshman are ogling
upperclassmen in short shorts hauling ass
down the back-stretch, faster than a TI-86 calculator
can graph f(x) functions. That first sprint sloughing ice
from hibernating quads. Check out the Pre 'stashes
& calves of gods on the distance squad, long
& lean with attitude, lapping everyone
in killer mile repeats. The stadium is a gear grinding
taut with congenial suffering. In the stands,
wind through prized metals,
Mom-sewn chimes on a letter jacket.
Can you feel that bounce, the rubber
of possibility under your soles?
The poets can take one whiff & declare it
petrichor, for all I care.
But me, I just smell track season
I’m Still Thinking About 2000
& the greatest rivalry in the history of Track & Field
you probably don't remember. I'm thinking about
Michael Johnson & Maurice Greene
& the infamous dual of July 23, 2000—
the 200 meter dash finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
I'm still chewing the epic pre-race trash talk-
flavored Gator Gum. Two ‘roided & pulsating
egos chumming up the salivating press, 6 months
starving after the juicy nothing-burger of Y2K.
Grown men spiking one another with cleats
made of no mercy. Exactly who was christened the villain,
I can't recall. I'm thinking of the crisp-painted lanes.
The steaming track. The starting blocks.
The On your marks.
The grinding pit of my gut. The gun
pointed straight up at the gods.
The epically tight asses clad in spandex
unitards. My lip chewed to a pink pulp.
I'm thinking about the fair start. The centipede of legs
across our grainy 90's TV. I’m thinking about
Johnson around the turn. Stutter-stepping
into shock. Left hammy imploding, crumpling
like your grandma's hoard of brittle sun-bleached
rubber bands. His face, a wreck of bodily defeat.
I'm thinking of Greene, 100 meters to glory,
his nemesis fileted on the track like roadrunner
roadkill. I'm thinking about how in less time
than it takes to clip my hang-nail, his left hamstring
blows out like a spare going 65. I'm thinking
about those endorsed muscles, sculpted deities
gored by the bulls of Pamplona on live TV
& in replay after replay. I’m not thinking about
the victor. I don’t remember who won the race.
No, I’m still thinking about being 18 & fucking free,
daring fate to crush my hubris like those icons on the track.