New Mile

With feet built like the wings of migratory birds,
I set off galloping alone in search of a new mile.

Each stride unfurls arches, coils of flesh and tendon,
and I hide breviloquent praise for these moments

in the hiss of each breath; my clipped sighs of joy
baked by the sun and swallowed by the breeze.

The bready chocolate smell of the Malt-O-Meal
factory becomes the sweet scent of leaf decay,

the long, boxy building replaced by verdant
thickets and dull pools of old rainwater.

Somewhere along County Road 78, I forget
how to count anything besides my desires.

I break stride to cross a single railroad track,
leaping over the quartzite ballast and cool metal.

Once the machine-like rise and fall of my legs
skips and restarts, a change settles across my body.

Heaviness seeps from my bones into my muscles,
my eyes focusing for the first time on the deepness

of the faded afternoon sky and the distant line
of trees marking the border of my longest run.

A few beads of sweat fall from my eyelashes
and the notion of stopping hurtles through me.

Color is sucked from the world. A silvery shine creeps
at the edges of my vision as oxygen burns itself out.

It is enough to cast doubt over the entire journey.
But just as a grimace cuts through my breathing,

I find that I’ve crossed the border of trees and I’ve run
further than ever before, gulping unknown air and light.

I’m surprised by the familiarity of each twist and turn;
and here across the new mile my feet again know flight.

Dane Hamann is a poet in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Northwestern University. He works as a copy editor for a textbook publisher in Chicago's southwest suburbs.