Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale



Tin medalists

A thousand tin medalists
settle into their sagging bodies
and sunken back porch podiums
each on the long shadow side
of the world's shining slope

having seen every personal best
bested by the untouchable giants,
just how do those heavily hung with gold
bronze and silver matter
more (or matter less)?

It will come to seem to them their absurdity,
the comic cosmic puzzle, its secret
meaning and significance lost
buried somewhere along too demanding courses,
frozen midway through

some high-degree-of-difficulty jump
where an occasional soul freeze-frames in wonder
as another deeper stranger quest
explodes clean through,
whisper-shouting where and when and why?

How was it that our ancients
forged the immutable standards
set the parameters, got us
sprinting holy points A to B

or around a random mountain, and if you're lucky
not smack through some forest tree,
on a marathon swerve, on curves of stamina
and speed, making time
and distance the be all end all
but still never good enough?

Indeed, we live and work and play
in space and time, and even
as helmetless huge-brained children
frolicked in dimensions. Thrilled
to our sense of depth and movement,

saw the event horizons and vanishing points,
called out 'you're it' and 'catch me if you can'
at tag and hide and seek and kick the tin can
within all delightful limits.

Within such a limit we strive to break on through
barriers of sound, sight and silence.
For these are such straps as set us free,
these rules that rein and harness in
a beautiful noise and motion.

These hundred thousand medals,
our battered tin badges and paper stars,
we're happy and proud
to carry, poetic champions

composing anthems of the echoes of chaos,
lighting torches with fleet laureate cries,
for the stragglers lost in mountain passes
beyond all domestic warmth and light

and safe 'in bounds' huddle of the official village,
its happy yodels, but where the game-changer calls
a rougher more righteous poetry aloud
to stunned host onlookers
along the sideline, the flimsy fences,
and high up in the bleachers and lookout towers,

our bloodied game, its sacred
story, epics, scriptures, the blasts of thought
right there stopped/paused
in the middle of this world's last great downhill,
whilst negotiating a tricky floating turn, lifting us

saving us and everyone away from there,
from ever new relentless record-breaking heights,
to lower true life podiums, in sagging bodies,
our limping Olympic souls, medalists of love and loss.

© Larry Nightingale




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