The Red Wallet
Preparing for a half marathon, I obey
the training program. Day one, new year,
I was barely able to run 10 minutes.
For weeks and months, I give myself
to each day’s run, each day’s rest.
Today, the fourth of July, these things are true:
Four days ago, I turned fifty.
I am 20 pounds overweight.
For a runner’s body, let’s make that 30 pounds.
I’m not yet ready to run 13 miles.
There are five half-mile all-out runs to do this morning,
with two-minute breaks between.
It’s 6:30 am, and in this desert valley,
already over 90 degrees.
Here, in Papago Park, the day-off holiday crowd
has busy-bee swarmed up to the Hole in the Rock overlook.
Sitting in the shade, in a cave, in the cool cliff
they watch the climbing burn of the rising sun.
Below them, I run
half-mile dashes, starting, stopping, stumbling,
panting, frantic, idiotic speck of a bug
racing back and forth on a hot skillet, unable to escape.
Or maybe I appear as some sick and shaved
polar bear madly searching barren
ravines and hilltops for ice.
It’s a good workout.
I finish completely
spent, nauseous, mad
foam inside my lips.
These runs destroy me.
I find my limit, and the next day,
find a newer limit.
I’m in a series of middles, between being
unable to run ten minutes and
able to run thirteen miles with ease.
After this run, I climb myself to a nice view,
ease water into my dromedary belly,
and start this poem.
The next day
I put on my running shorts
and find my driver’s license
It’s nowhere in the usual places, and I realize
the card fell out between yesterday’s half-mile sprints,
while wiping my face with a rag from my pocket
the snagged license jumped and fled the trail.
My ID could be anywhere in the desert.
I decide I’ll retrace yesterday’s zig-zag runs
in hope it’s still out there.
The park is empty today, everyone back at work.
As I pull into yesterday’s parking spot,
before I even get out of the car, I see it.
Not my ID, but somebody else’s
next to a picnic table, glowing
in the sun like an ocotillo flowertop.
I walk over and pluck it.
Inside, a British driving licence.
In the official photo, a pale, dark-haired teen
stares seriously, a boy new to the role of adulthood.
He is nineteen years old. His name is Connor.
From Swansea, in Wales.
This young man’s life in my hands,
I scan the horizon for him,
for a park ranger, for anyone,
then laugh as the joke hits me.
This is why I’m out here every day,
running my self to nothing,
losing one identification, finding another.