Coach said puke, then get back
on the track, keep running.
Which we did.
Which was how we became
what the local papers called
At sixteen, my feet against the starting block,
I waited for the gunshot, then
rocketed onto the rubber track,
gliding over hurdles that bounced
back the moment they were clipped.
Heat of six young women neck-
and-neck at the two-hundred-meter mark,
until, like muscled horses, three of us
thrust beyond the pack, so close
we could have touched. The girl beside me,
one step ahead, tripped near the finish.
Toe catching, her spikes unlocked
from the surface of the track and she went
to brace her fall.
I turned, latent arm reaching back to help,
and the third runner
went hurtling on.
It would be my last race, as it became
evident that, despite bewildering
skill, I do not have what it takes—
second where I should have been
first, I stood upon a lower stoop,
which made it easier for them
to place the medal around my neck.
Coach turned red through her
sunburn, railing: Who is she
that you would lose for her?
I don’t recall now what it was like
so hard that vision left me,
replaced by the kaleidoscopic
of migraine, but I have not forgotten
the moment that girl went airborne,
in my periphery.
Her body’s acute angle
rapidly diminishing, her knees the knobs
of a slamming door,
it was in that moment I understood
my own worth, bearing witness
to greater loss.
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