Run Like Hell

Jayson Iwen



            I start back up the alley, unfocusing into the evening sun, when I spot a cop

            He points in my direction and shouts to someone out on the street

            Here he is, over here

            I turn and start running

            I remind myself

            'To run a mile takes about 1,600 steps, at a cost of about 100 kilocalories for a human weighing about 150 pounds' 

            That's half a cup of rice

            Half a cup to freedom

            The most egalitarian of escapes

            I tell myself      

            Everyone's after you

            Everyone's out to nail your ass to the wall


            Repeat after me

            I run to save my skin

            I run to realize the dream I’m in

            To realize the human instant

            To keep all spacetime between us


            Breathe in four steps

            Breathe out four steps

            I say

            Aristotle says motion is the mode in which the future belongs to the present—the joint presence of potentiality and actuality

            The friction, I become part of it

            The resistance, I become part of it

            The struggle, I become part of it

            The revolution, I become part of it

            The end of the alley seems an eternity away and my footsteps infinite divisions of that eternity and I run faster than I thought I could, to prove I can get to the end

            In this I am the intersection of thought, action, and will

            All dualities reunite in me

            The sunset, I become part of it

            The sunrise, I become part of it

            The mountains floating on the horizon

            The constant, and every position between

            I am complete in my escape of completion

            I am my body

            I am the street and the rain

            And my corpse, I become part of it

            And my flame

            I become part of the polyphony of my coaches and teachers

            'He was taught to make room for it, to receive the trail as a being, letting it dictate the run…as though the trail was running out behind him and under him by itself'

            You must match the frequency of your breath to the pitch of the earth

            You must run so you can't hear your own feet

            So you are the air you displace

            'Whether the world is doing it or he is doing it is of no importance' 

            For you are the message it bears

            I burst onto a busy street and hit the sidewalk

            I run past billboards that read

            Run Like Hell

            Prove You're Alive


            'On the fourth day of instructions two hummingbirds had the boy strip down' 

            Like the salmon midwaterfall

            The whale deeper than religion

            The wildebeest pounding the earth to stone       

            The songbird on its thousandth mile above

            The tapeworm writhing in all their guts

            'When he was standing with the river up to his neck, they circled above his head until the earth "fell fast and whirled"'

            Move as the eye of the storm

            The world whirling about you

            Like a cockroach on its hind legs, outdoing the shoe again

            Or the basilisk lizard glinting across the river's surface

            The clouds, the currents, the storms ripping across time

            The salesman on his hundredth porch

            On his hundredth pitch

            'The birds blew into his mouth four times, so strongly that he could not speak, as if to permanently expand his lungs for the work ahead' 

            Move like words across whispering lips

            Like hands across your hips     

            Like the pronghorn, too fast for any modern predator

            Because it's still racing those of the past

            Move like the bullfrog's love song on the stillness of the pond

            Like a migratory thing

            A body in the endless groove of its orbit

            'They said, "Perhaps this day you are the last ceremonial runner," and then they flew off' 

            All over the city, from their minarets and belfries, the voices cry Run, Run, Run Like Hell

            Like hell is burning inside you

            Like the only way out is out of your skin

            'I saw them carrying their black lunch pails, with a thermos and a sandwich, each morning on their way to the dreary bowels of the clanging woolen mill' 

            Like a bee on scent

            Or blood lightning through veins

            'In the evening they came back, milked the cow, and went to bed' 

            Move your ass

            Move your tongue

            Move what makes you the one

            'After some years of the same endlessly repeated routine, they died' 

            Like shades of blue on the sea

            'Usually in the same hospital where they were born'

            What stark painful beauty might grow from redundancy

            From one footfall after another

            From finding a differential of speed and duration and inhabiting it

            Humans evolved through endurance predation

            And knowledge of what lies at the end of exhaustion

            A vision of what is absent from view

            In three, out three

            I run past a teenage girl on a skateboard, wearing a tshirt that reads

            Burn Fat, Not Gas

            I run past a veteran of the oil wars sitting next to a plastic bowl and a cardboard sign that reads

            Please Help a Forgotten Soldier Get Drunk

            When does predation end

            When does the distance between predator and prey remain constant between imagination and reality

            'When the deities won, the babies were whipped with boughs of mountain mahogany' 

            Prove You Move

            Like a husky cut from the sled

            Like an axe cutting through winter

            'The twins practiced for four days, raced them again and won, and scourged the gods in return' 

            Loud as a hound trained on the scent

            Fast and silent as the scent maker

            Move like hunger

            Like a marlin slicing the waves with a line

            Eyes on a line of verse

            The laundry in a stiff wind

            'Talking god is said to have clapped his hands in delight' 

            An advertisement, a tshirt, a cardboard sign

            You become part of them too

            With every fourth step I travel through the bright nebula of my own breath

            With every step I travel centuries

            I remind myself

            'Runners often seem suspended between the source of their power and its fulfillment in purposeful action' 

            The man behind me fires his pistol into the air

            'And aging Priam was the first to see him sparkling on the plain, bright as that star in autumn rising, whose unclouded rays shine out amid a throng of stars at dusk'

            'I am fighting God, fighting the limitations he gave me, fighting the pain, fighting the unfairness, fighting all the evil in me and the world, and I will not give in, I will conquer this hill, and I will conquer it alone'


            In two, out two

            The road runs out of the city and across a plain so straight it seems to puncture the blackening bowl of sky

            'They ran full speed, and not for bull's hide or a ritual beast, or any prize that men compete for'

            I hear the panting of progress behind me, and I descend the hill

            'As in a dream a man chasing another cannot catch him, nor can he in flight escape from his pursuer, so Akhilleus could not by his swiftness overtake him, nor could Hektor pull away'

            On either side are low stone walls and the last homes of town

            'But when, for the fourth time, they reached the springs, the Father poised his golden scales' 

            He fires again

            'He placed two shapes of death, death prone and cold, upon them, one of Akhilleus, one of the horseman, Hektor, and held the midpoint, pulling upward' 

            I grip the handle of the briefcase tightly and straight-arm over the wall

            Pivoting in a hundred thousand imperceptible angles

            'Down sank Hektor's fatal day, the pan went down toward undergloom'

            I say

            Only the dead can be caught

            As long as you sustain this thought, this life, this line, this motion

            You become part of it

            When over the wall you go