Sestina for Marathon Training

This is how to extend every breath
into soft staircase. You are scaling
a wall of undulating ribcage, tethered
to the shivering rind of spine
splayed open as a carcass of road.
Your pulse is a map in Morse code.

Before you ever learned the code
of escape routes- jamming breath,
as a rusted key, into stubborn road-
all you knew was movement. Scaling
the itchy rash of wait from your spine,
your surgeon feet sliced you untethered.

In high school, you learned to tether
your pace to the other girls, coding
your want to kiss her glazed spine
into the handcuff of your breath
to her face as you passed by, scales
flapping as red flags of open-mouth road.

You never won a trophy, but the road
tasted like ribbons. Every bare tether
an undressing of virgins, a blunt scale
of everything you drenched with code.
It felt like tidal wave to unfold breath,
without apology, down coast of spine.

Even when you finished last, spine
bowing to feet, to throbbing road,
you had a furious army of breath
streaming from your lips. Untethered
from your coach’s frown, her code
for loser, you beamed bright scales.

Through the years, you learned to scale
down heartache into shivers of spine.
They say it’s chemical, how the code
of sad is translated by tongues of road
into exhale, how the sinew can tether
you back to the whitewashed first breath.

Now, you are shoving handfuls of stupid hope into bursting spine. The road
measures your pounding on a scale of one to everything. You are not tethered
to even yourself. Marathon is code for look what you’ve done, with your very own breath.


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