A Lot More

some indie bluegrass,
boardering on plate throwing music,
makes this night of SIOP tolerable

an eight miler set the day’s tone,
slow, tired, questioning…
full of, “Really?”

why are the miles so hard?
why are the days so short?
why am i writing objectives tonight?

so the repetition of planning proceeds,
serenaded by the angry bluegrass songs
that distract me from my own questions

So Long, Mr. Fetters

Many years ago
I made a move to teach
At a high school.
After elementary school and middle school,
I figured I had seen just about everything.

I hadn’t.

Besides the normal school stuff,
I got to learn a whole new faculty.
One man was a longtime teacher
Who was nearing retirement.
I only knew him in passing, but he was always around.

He ran the hallways during his planning.
His choppy steps were quiet
And he always listened to something
Loud enough on his headphones
To bypass his downgraded hearing ability.

After he retired,
He stuck around.
Using his guile and experience
From teaching the hardest of students
To manage the toughest of all teaching jobs, the substitute.

And he ran.

After a quick Clark Kent change,
He was out of his bow tie
Making his way around the building
With a pace perfect
For memorizing his lines in the script he carried.

I never knew he was an actor,
But he was great,
Never letting on that he had cancer,
Never suggesting that he could not beat it.
His anger seemed manageable as he reasoned with his struggle.

Yet, he remained upbeat
Running as much as possible,
Reading during quiet moments between classes,
Standing through the rigors of standardized testing,
Acting as if he was on the mend.

We last spoke about two weeks ago.
He did some quiet judging of education,
How we are missing the importance of what we are
By focusing so much time on testing
For he had been a man of relationships, no matter how difficult the student.

Word came today that Kirk passed away.
Cancer took a good man away from us all too soon.
He lived with a dignity and honesty
Few will ever approach.
So long, Mr. Fetters…

A Perfect Calm

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All rights reserved-Chris Hancock

The traffic is so far away,
That it sounds like waves at high tide,
An occasional roar,
Then nothing for a while.
A large cloud is overhead
Providing a little break
From the 5:39 glare.

I’m dripping having just pulled
My gym teacher tan of a body
Out of the cool tonic
Simply known as, The Quarry.
Only a few families are here,
The famous log is moored to its spot
Allowing nothingness take over
The way it’s supposed to.
The energy here is restorative
Like a cold beer on a scorching day
Or heavy blankets on a frigid night.

Shhh…

Parts Unseen

Sitting to write
With Blind Willie Jefferson humming
The most haunting song ever,
Dark was the Night.
My bourbon is cooling in the freezer,
The Phillies are trying, and
All day I’ve been trying to get my head around
The run I took this morning.

This first day of the “Eff-It” list started,
“No exercise excuses,”
With me trying to decide about going to the Y,
Pounding out some minutes on my basement bike, or
Hitting the roads for a run.
The list’s streak was in trouble as fasting was hitting
A critical breaking point with only three hours to go.
A run seemed the best option.

The humidity was down,
Clouds blocked the sun,
Morning traffic at 9:50 had moved on, and
The roads felt like they would accept my plodding pace,
Potential hunger defeatism, and
Sheepish lungs, who long ago lost their endurance.
Besides, I could easily kill an hour and get myself
Closer to the peanut butter smoothie I dreamt about last night.

Runs have a way of taking a person places.
The more adversity encountered the more interesting the journey.
Since I live in the rolling hills of Chester County,
There are plenty of ups and downs along any route I take.
One minute in and the steepness of my neighborhood
Attacked my determination with full force
Making me question my choice to run outside
Instead of hitting the climate controlled air of the Y.

Somehow nature allowed me to continue and my legs
Stretched out for an easy downhill only to be confronted
By they hill across the way.
It sucked and by the fifth mailbox, I was breathing rocks,
Thinking how sad it is, for this used to be nothing but a warm up.
Negotiating the incline became a series of power deals
Where my will gave into to my legs and
My legs agreed to stick with the run.

In ten minutes, I hadn’t gone anywhere yet, but the run took over.
Thoughts of adding feet to the run in an effort to get to an hour
Rose from self-talk to real life action.
I took to the cul-de-sacs of the neighborhood next to mine
Running for as long as I could, before walking to catch my breath.
I saw old people pruning bushes, rows of cookie cutter condos,
Pregnant ladies walking on paved sidewalks, and a woman
On a big tricycle working with therapists to overcome the ravages of a stroke.

I found myself thinking less about agony,
Thinking about all kinds of stuff really.
Gump, Apple Watches, the kids whose father worked at the car dealership,
The one that burned to the ground.
I dodged the weeds in the abandoned site as my legs took me further from home.
Then a water crew guy yelled, “Give me two, buddy.”
I nodded and kept going thinking how wrong it is that I’m off all summer
While he digs in whatever weather comes this way.

A turn up another hill took me towards the Italian Social Club.
Only a mile and a half from my home and nearly an hour into the run,
Lot’s of cul-de-sacs, hills, and walking,
I found myself on a road that I had never been on before.
Nearly thirty years in this town and I had never run down this hill.
My mind was like a camera,
The sagging roof on the Boy Scouts clubhouse,
The abandoned trailer, and kids were playing next to their home,
A mushroom house converted into an apartment,
There were weeds and isolation was everywhere.

And I was pissed.
Five minutes by car are million dollar homes.
These kids are growing up in an area
Just two minutes from where they go to school
And I guessed most of my town knew nothing of this street.
The idea of their living here pushed me further down the hill
Where I planned on turning around and head back home.
This would not be, as the run back up looked to be too much for my heart.

Next was a dirt road next to the railroad tracks. Across the rails was a trailer Park that I pass on my way to school each morning.
It looked different from this side, larger, lower,
A creek, that I heard flooded regularly, snaked through without a care
For the damage it might cause.
My feet crunched with each step,
The homes along the track seemed nothing more than permanent tiny homes
Stuffed on this route to be hidden from the renaissance less than a mile away.

Somehow, I found a groove on this soft pavement.
Another mushroom house was being renovated,
There were tires strewn about, and dust
From the concrete plant drowned the weeds next to the train tracks.
The leaves looked like frosted Christmas decorations
Instead of nature’s deep green that they should have been.
It struck me, I had no idea of the concrete plant, its white powder everywhere
Except under the hose spewing water without an attendant or a current purpose.

Finally, I arrived at something I knew.
The edge of town, the high school fields, a beer garden, a fancy pottery store.
I turned right and ran up the hill, the houses looking well kept,
The yards manicured,
The people the same as the other street, only in better situations.
Another right turn and I was heading towards home.
I let the water guy know I had done his two,
He wished me a Happy Father’s Day and twenty minutes later I was walking my dog.

Running took me somewhere today,
Further from thoughts of fitness, marathons, and split times
And closer to the realities of economic injustice and my lack of awareness
About the struggles of people around town.
Maybe I covered seven miles today, I refuse to run with my phone,
In terms of enlightenment
I think I ran that marathon I’m training for.
Charlie Patton is singing, “I’m Goin’ Home.”