The gunpowder wet-rain smell,
overcast skies emptying, saturating the
slippery oval rubber and
clingy polysynthetic clothes
with cold, stinging moisture.
Jittery heart pounding nerves
bounce legs up and down on bleachers;
hands shake from adrenaline or cold–
one can never tell–as heavy clothes
slowly strip away revealing
too short short–shorts
and neon shoes.
“More white thigh than a bucket of KFC,”
as the saying goes.
Scores of us jog and skip and stretch up
and down the astroturf infield trying
to shake the wet and the cold and the stiffness
out of our legs, performing what looks to be a comical battle dance of flailing legs and arms, almost ritualized, listening for the crackle of the still-awful quality of the loudspeaker:
Final Call 400 meter dash
Then, to the line, on the cold heavy rubber,
motleys of blue, green, gold, yellow, and orange crouch, one in each lane, to start. spikes dig in to the track and muscles tense with anticipation.
stills the jitters
stills the mind, and for one eternal moment, time stands still, counting the spaces between heartbeats.
The unmistakable cap-gun sounds,
launches us forward into the fray.
Snick, Snick, Snick
go metal spikes on saturated rubber,
lungs strain and gasp and cry, feeling
gut-clenching and butt-locking burning
as sprinters sprint and runners run
around in the cold and the wet and the
wind: for of course there is always wind
chapping faces, bending backs, hunching shoulders, fighting against our own nature
as we round the last bend
sweat, rain, and sometimes tears
mix with wind as we strain for the finish,
stumble across the line and vomit,