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September 2017

We all run.

Babies can't wait to stand and walk because they really want to run. That is running for the joy of running, but people run for other reasons and in other ways. We run toward things and people. Sometimes we run away.

A Baby Running Barefoot by D. H. Lawrence

When the bare feet of the baby beat across the grass
The little white feet nod like white flowers in the wind,
They poise and run like ripples lapping across the water;
And the sight of their white play among the grass
Is like a little robin’s song, winsome,
Or as two white butterflies settle in the cup of one flower
For a moment, then away with a flutter of wings.

I long for the baby to wander hither to me
Like a wind-shadow wandering over the water,
So that she can stand on my knee
With her little bare feet in my hands,
Cool like syringa buds,
Firm and silken like pink young peony flowers.

We think of D.H. Lawrence as a novelist but his first-published works were poems and he continued to write poems throughout his life. This innocent poem is not what we typically associate with Lawrence's writing but it captures the youth joy of running.

Not all running is done by humans.  Edward Baugh's poem "Running River Water" is an example of that use, though in his poem there is a "deep river woman."

As our model poem for this month's writing prompt on the Poets Online website, we are using Afaa Michael Weaver's poem "Losing the 440-Yard Dash." In that poem, the runner wants the joy of that child. He wants to fly, not as a child but as a man - no, as a warrior.

I wanted more than being human, a warrior
of field and track would be bursting out now
ripping open my chest with masculinity 
to make Jesse Owens proud or jealous,
or inspired or something other than me
the pulling-up caboose slower than mud

Running holds the possibilities of joy and fear. For your poem, someone might be running toward or away, or for some other goal. Or it may not be a person that is doing the running at all.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


I've always admired runners
Maybe because some dislike them so much
Maybe because I was never much of one myself
At least not yet and likely never
Their endurance and dedication
Their lovely toned limbs
Their rain or shine perseverance
And no nonsense lone wolf independence
Just them and the ground
On which they land and rise
Land and rise
Their goal a certain destination
Or number of minutes or miles
Weight loss or improved health
But I wonder too
If like some of us
They are running from
And not just towards
Perhaps, what propels
Also threatens to immobilize
Things real or imagined
External, internal
Other things that keep us on our toes
Perhaps flight not fight
The only option
Or the one preferred
A shamed choice
We other runners don't talk about
Problem ahead
We detour
So that we too may land and rise
Land and rise
Do we cower in search of our bootstraps
Or simply lack the strength to pull them up
Maybe sometimes you can't
Just do it
Maybe it's all about genetics
Neurotransmitters, and receptors
Hyper fearful since birth
Mama baristas who shorted us
On that shot of serotonin
With our breast milk
Or was it that watery formula
That skilled us in the paths of least resistance
Or the eggshells over which our fathers taught us to walk
We takers of the roads most traveled
Running is our default
Our dis-comfort zone
It's how we endure, persevere
Runners who run and don't run
Moving forwards and backwards at once
Like a gerbil on a wheel
There is no final destination
No runners high
No stopping allowed
No finish line
Just us and our fears
As we land and rise
Land and rise
And maybe that
If not progress
Is our daily victory
Lonesome and without end

Terri J. Guttilla


It’s quiet now, the old tailrace that glitters
with snowmelt – even in summer, upcountry-
cold; bucking boulders on its course. Swarming
with memories, the river comes down swift
bold and wild out of the mountains, leveling off
here on its way to sea; tangled tributaries
that fold and unfold through canyons – creating
canyons as they go, losing bits of granite,
quartz, the same old story of erosion, time, life.
A prospector stands solid in the stream,
shaking his pan to settle the heavies – black sand
with its mix of garnets and lead, maybe gold;
dipping to wash away the rest. The river can not
withhold its history, its pages of geologic time,
of cutting and weathering away, carrying
the remains downstream. Who could have
foretold the luck of hard work, a man with gold-
pan, pantlegs rolled, legs planted in the flow,
hoping for paydirt among gravel, silt, rocks
crammed, buffed, and scrolled in the current
that releases bits of rock buried by the ages.
River of ghosts. Listen. “Eureka! Motherlode!”
Or is that an echo, a down-canyon wind?
A day’s course run, sun sets on the river, gold.

Taylor Graham


My father told me never to run away from a fight.
My commanding officer told me to run to the fight.
But they meant the same thing,
and neither was correct.
I run in circles
around a lake.
Toward nothing.
Away from nothing.
All for the journey, nothing for the destination.
All fights far behind me. The path forward clear.

Charles Michaels


We weren’t tough,
Not like the Navajo kids who stood ten steps apart
And took turns pelting each other with stones,
Until the loser was knocked down;

Or the Mohawk kids
Who threw knives at each other’s feet,
Trying to get as close as they could without breaking the skin.
And the winner was always the one with bloody feet.

Our games were more civilized.
In the twilight, when it was too dark for baseball,
We would meet in the empty lot down by the river.
While the rest of us would close our eyes,

The oldest kid would throw a long stick as far as he could,
And then the rest would go looking for it.
The thrower, out of this round, would tell us whether we were getting
Hotter or colder as we searched the knee-high grass.

The first kid to find it would yell “Hot ass,”
And then have the right to whack on the behind any kid he could catch
As we raced back to touch a tree which was our haven.
Woe to the fat slow kid,

Whose only defense was yelling out “Hot ass,’
Even if he hadn’t found the stick,
So that the other kids would start running away
And give him a few more moments to locate it himself.

And thus we learned the basic rules of life:
You win by inflicting pain;
You lose by receiving pain;
And only fraud gives you a chance.

Ron Yazinski


in the Calm of the months, weeks, days,
before the start.
Everyone is different:
the idea of a Purpose,
Carries them to the start.

The comfort of the Calm is a deception.
All Reasons are born of it, are deceived by it.
They Lie:
to their teachers
to each other
to Themselves.

The Race begins.
Fatigue hammers the Reasons,
tests their caliber.
Most are broken
The remaining are severely deformed,
forced to change to avoid destruction.
Either way,
they are changed.

In an endless race
all Reasons are fatigued, none are spared.
The deceptive Calm lures Reasons
back into complacency

“Next time,” it whispers.

Now and forever:
Glory fails,
Fame fails,
Pride fails,
the idea of a Purpose, may not.
It can evolve.

Fatigue exposes the cowards
i.e. those who yearn for the Calm.
But it provides opportunity to the evolving.
In the endless race,
strength of the adaptive intangible,
defeats the deceptions
the lies
the ever luring falsehoods of the Calm.

Daniel Reynolds

I’m an existential runner,
Indifferent to space.
I’m running here in place.
     - Senator Eugene McCarthy, “Are You Running with Me, Jesus?”

The heavens glare upon me; in shame I hide my face.
I’m the existential runner, running here in place.

Yes, everything that walks, or crawls, or swims passes me by.
Without a doubt, my destiny is calling me to try

to win this race and find my pace in any time and space.
But I’m the existential runner, running here in place.

A life is lost in bits and bytes and falls upon the ground;
I’m told it makes a joyful noise but I don’t hear a sound.

My work is near completion and it needs to show its face.
But I’m the existential runner, running here in place.

Once I had bright dreams to live and share with all the world.
A tapestry of majesty, a flag to be unfurled!

But as I aged my spirit sagged, my flag caught fire and burned.
My plans tired out, my dreams sought me, and found that they’d been spurned.

The heavens chide and glare at me, and smirk within their grace
at the existential runner, running oh, so fast in place.

R. Bremner


My trainer says to run. She floats when she walks,
a bouncy spring on the air, muscles and sinew
coil and release, a well-engineered machine.
The pavement is before me, but my past is
just behind. My body is foreign matter and wanders
inside the meaning of time, amorphous and unsure.

There is a someday where my body moves as light,
skimming the top of the asphalt in a whisper of air.
I do not run towards the things I wish to carry but rather
away from that which besets. Today is no different.
I look to my trainer; she is resolute, believes in the places
where I do not. I look ahead to the road; I am dragged behind.

Was there a moment when I was buoyant, defying
gravity, weightless? I am like the Earth, layers composed
of crust, mantle, outer and inner core. I am 10 miles
thick, a timeline of life. I can name the strata; give a story
from my deep veins. My blood is tar, a viscous thread,
and I cannot move the weight of it all.

Janette Schafer


The joggers move singly, or in herds,
Bobbingly through the trees,
Some wear smiles, some wear frowns,
Some have bandaged knees.

The joggers move singly, or in herds,
Down the concrete path,
Scaring squirrels right and left,
Thinking of opera and math.

I slow and edge close to the right
To accommodate all this show,
But they pay no attention to me
As they run, as they pound, as they go.

They’ve all got buds in their ears
Keeping the world at bay,
Thinking of all they have to do,
Of tomorrow, or yesterday.

I wonder, as they pass so close
This Sunday morning in spring,
If life is like the jogger’s world,
Passing quickly by—unseen.

And if, like joggers unaware, we jog
Through office, and home, and park,
Keeping a rhythm throughout our life
As the days carry us on to the dark.

Robert Miller


Does the lion feel the biting cold,
Of a desert night-hunt?
Or the snake, the sand’s hold,
or the scorpion, the burning sun?

Each to their own nature,
And me myself to mine;
So ask me not if I tired,
Or gave any such sign;

And yet, and yet! The distance clear,
And once so seeming-near,
Stretched further and further away,
As I fell to the rear;

I see now why they had chosen,
The name the way they had,
For in those final, frenzied moments,
All one can do is dash!

Rizky Wibisono