Lessons of an Old Runner

David Ackley
On my morning commute,
about midway, in the valley below a long
steep hill, I’d cross him in his sateen shorts
and Nikes, vestigial runner’s torso, long
gnarled hands flopping at his chest
useless appendages of a flightless bird,
dogged with intent to ascend.
How high I never knew.
Always before the base, face
vised in the chill wind
then shuffled rearward out of sight
toward the hillside where
double-wides and cellar holes
floored for a roof
were certain lives lived aslant. To him
just measures, increments—here he went on
here turned back–
whatever passed or failed abducted
from what it is to what we are
–epic of our diminishment.
And I drove once more through yellowing pines,
grey-stone peaks, white lines,
cutlets of crusted gore
pressed into the tar, dogged
by him and the hill, shivered
jolt of asphalt,
wheezing lungs
all the lessening.
For days
I don’t see him then he’s there
again, shuffling toward
worse to come, the
Pounding bones to powder
for what’s never got back,
that first time unbound
snowsteeped wind at the top
the lid of blue worn for a cap.
David Ackley lives and writes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He holds a BA in English Lit. from the University of New Hampshire, where he studied writing with the late National Book Award winning novelist, Thomas Williams. He has an MFA in Fiction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His short fiction, drama, poetry and essays have been published in a number of online and print journals including A-Minor, Litsnack, and The Greensboro Review, with a short story forthcoming in Per Contra.

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