Daily Archives: February 19, 2009

Words From Up North


What We Did


Joined the track team, purple nylon sleeveless tanks

shiny matching shorts, marching up young thighs.

Pulled our white athletic socks up to their full height

(spring training) straightened our backs, flattened our high arches

against cool silver chain link fence, bent our knees

bowed wide firm foreheads against hairless legs.

We stretched.  Before we stretched we gathered.

Before we gathered we had to arrive.  (Honor roll.) Back up.

Rewind past the cemetery (let the look out come along).

See our breath smoke.  Walk (run, run).  Warm up in our usual way.

It’s spring in the north country.  Sidestep black ice.

Cup hands (that’s how they do it in the movies).

Back track, back to the tracks.  Cross-train

over rusted rails.  Hardened tar, blackened ties

no chugging mass barreling toward us

ghosts trains don’t run on the empty trestle

like track stars do (no shortcuts, coach says), paying our respects

to the harrier who dashed before us, (silly rabbit) died

with his legs pumping in the icy river

still striding toward that blue ribbon.



While on vacation in my hometown, I have been reading Marie Howe.  Her poetry is filled with childhood memories, not many of them happy.  The “shocking” or “ah-ha” parts are so well woven into the tapestry of her poems.  I had to try it.  Especially since I’m here, in my childhood home, in my childhood town.  The ghosts, I’m sure, will be happy to oblige with appropriate memories.