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The Race

An injury in sophomore year
caused me to miss the springtime meets.
I was sitting in a cast
while my teammates won their heats.

I am no brain, I can’t sit still
No chance I’ll ace the S.A.T.
But medal wins in track and field
could mean a scholarship for me.

Near Lewis is a cinder track-
an oval of a quarter mile.
So I come here to do my laps
And dream of victory for a while.

A short fat man goes jogging by
In sweat drenched shirt and navy shorts
Gasping, like a fish in air,
fleeing from his mortal thoughts.

I doff my sweats and start to stretch
I take no chances with this knee.
Soon I’m feeling good and loose,
it pays to warm up properly.

A tall thin runner, strangely pale,
About half of the track ahead
I‘ll pass him like he’s standing still
Then he’ll be chasing me instead.

I pass the jogger right away
The pale runner, though, moves speedily
I pick up my pace a notch
Just as quickly so does he..

I stretch my stride, he does the same
And gains upon me steadily
I thought that I was chasing him
It seems instead he’s chasing me.

I never raced this guy before
At any of the local meets
He appears to be as old as me
But his gear is “thrift shop” quality.

Sure enough, he’s gaining fast.
I dig down for a last reserve
I didn’t think I’d lost a step
Bad news, if it’s true, for me

I hear his foot falls close behind
And vainly try to stay ahead
I turn my head to see his face
It is the face of one long dead.

The ghostly winner makes a turn
and passes through the gate and chains
The cemetery lies beyond
That holds the urn with his cremains

“You saw him too” the fat man gasps-
“I thought that he had come for me”
I knew he only came to run
I recognized the ghost you see.

“Tommy Miller was his name
School Champion back in 63’
.He died crossing this finish line
an aneurysm in his brain.”

Unfinished business binds him here
A restless spirit, more than most,
The race is ever to the swift
The quick are beaten by a ghost

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