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The Runners

By Irving Feldman

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 will read from his work at 2 p.m. today in the auditorium of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center on the Buffalo State College Campus. A Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at the University at Buffalo, where he taught from 1964 to 2004, he is the author of 11 full-length collections of poetry, for which he has received numerous literary awards, including a 1992 MacArthur Fellowship. This poem is from his "Collected Poems: 1954-2004" published by Schocken Books.