To carry close a fishing net of gold or sea-green thread,
a-woven by some skillful hands, with ruby borders bound,
a massive net, with onyx weights, and glass-blown floats, deep red –
against one’s chest to press this, while it drapes cascading down.
To gather from one’s feet the loops, and place them on one’s head,
parading long this treasure as a happy drooping crown.
Then through the tangled ties to push one’s eyes and look around,
beyond the treasured mesh and see some finishers of a race,
who talk and tell of evidence that once lived in the ground –
a heritage they hold with those who died in poor estates.
To watch them raise a prize whose great inheritance they are crowned…
And then to look upon one’s golden threads and polished weights:
therein, to see one’s face reflected,
standing poor and pale.
Then on the air to hear quite clear an all-compelling voice,
which calls, “Cast off!” and then to see the winners set a-sail,
as many from the watching crowd display obeisant choice:
they cast aside their bundles made of gold or turquoise veil
and liberate their legs so they can run and much rejoice.
To see all this and long to join them, gath’ring up one’s net,
its mass all overhead to hoist in sudden strengths unknown,
to topple once, and stumble twice, but every time to get
upon one’s feet and run again, as one and not alone,
unstitching every cord that binds, an oft-returning threat,
and live a life of casting off, and running to the throne.
To persevere, surrounded by the runners who have gone,
whose finish lines were met when they were halfway through the race.
To hold that fitness that they held, and confident, press on –
this is the essence of athletic stamina and grace.
So may we all consider those who ran that marathon,
and cast aside our nets which slow a great and glorious pace.