The Runners

Here or there hundreds of them, phantom-like,
bobbing in place at street corners, then
lifting their knees suddenly and leaping
into the densest, loudest traffic
(of briefest trajectories, of shortest views),
in transit yet at ease, breathing, loping,
like bearers of distance and pure direction,
darting half naked out of nowhere and
where, where in the world are they running to?
swift and solitary, silent beings
who, should you now step into the path,
have dodged away, or, if you raise a hand
to stay them to speak, immediately
are gone: who are these runners who create
in their gliding such fine, singular spaces
among the street’s vociferous jargons?
—as if each one were a still, wordless message
or question one would answer if one could grasp it,
this one, that one, sliding past, going away,
while you stand there, your hand raised to no purpose,
your hidden heart rejoicing that the quick heel
won’t soon, won’t ever, be overtaken,
although you, as you have longed to, suddenly
disburden yourself and follow follow.

Irving Feldman, “The Runners” from Collected Poems: 1954-2004, published by Schocken Books. Copyright © 2004 by Irving Feldman. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Source: Collected Poems: 1954-2004 (2004)
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