Guest Poem by Jeremy Robson

Jeremy Robson’s most recent books of poetry include Blues in the Park, Subject Matters and The Heartless Traffic ( all Smokestack Books). Editor of several landmark anthologies, he also instigated the large-scale Poetry and Jazz in Concert events featuring many leading poets. He also ran his own publishing company, Robson Books, for many year, recently writing a colourful memoir, Under Cover: A Poet’s Life in Publishing (Biteback) He has a new poetry collection, Chagall’s Moon, coming from Smokestack in March.

The Race

The others had quit the track, I had
no choice, I had to step up now.
It was like a fight. I grabbed the baton
in my shaking hand and clutched it tight.

I hadn’t trained for this, and the race
was tough, circuit after circuit on rough
uneven ground. A jeering crowd was
cheering others on, and ruthless rivals
tried to trip me as I ran. It had been
like that since the moment I began.

It seemed endless—hurdles and streams
to clear, a winding course to steer, and
rising slopes that sucked the breath
as a raging wind tore into the overhanging
trees nearly bringing me to my knees.

I tried to preserve what energy I could.
Though it wasn’t yet in sight, I sensed
the final lap couldn’t be far away and
steeled myself for one last defiant dash,
determined to get there come what may.

There would, I knew, be no winning post,
just a finishing line, and once I reached it
I’d have to find the strength to raise the
baton high for another to nervously clutch
in his own reluctant hand while thunder
shook and lightning pierced the sky.

No time for sentiment or tear. He’d know
this was a race that could not be won, by him
or anyone. He’d also know his time had come.