Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Michael Ceraolo- A Poem

Modern Olympian Ode #3 (1896): Spiridon Louis

The Games had been revived after
an interregnum of a millennium and a half,
though there were some deviations from the Greek ideal

"Not the triumph but the struggle"
said one of the modern Games' revivers,
and here was one of those deviations:
to the ancient Greeks winning was the only thing,
and unlike Vince Lombardi they meant it;
there were no second or third prizes back then
as there would be here

There would be a new event here,
a race of great length
to commemorate the probably apocryphal tale
of Pheidippides,
said to have run over twenty miles
from Marathon to Athens
to bring news of a Greek victory over the Persians
and after the announcement dropped dead
Would a similar fate be awaiting those here?

There was a choice of roads,
and thus a choice of distances,
for this new race which would go
from Marathon to Athens
would not be legend but fact:
a short one of 21+ miles through the mountains
or a longer one of over 25 miles
over less mountainous land
The longer route was chosen,
and the race would be called the marathon

Seventeen men,
thirteen of them Greek,
not all competitors would finish,
for races of that distance weren't common
and pacing and race strategy weren't widely known
A little-known native, Spiridon Louis,
had finished fifth in the Greek trials
(sadly, little more is known of him even today)
But he had run the route six days before the race
and thus knew terrain and pacing,
and he would be the first man into the Olympic stadium
where the marathon's ending would take place,
and he was over seven minutes ahead
of the next closest competitor
The thrill of a fellow countryman winning,
the thrill of the host country not being shut out
in the track-and-field competition,
had sent stupendous cheers through the stadium
even before Louis had entered,
for spotters had been relaying news of the race
to the royals in attendance at the stadium
(said spotters traveling by horse-and-carriage
rather than on foot)

The marathon would spread worldwide
shortly after, and largely because of,
these first modern Olympics,
and Louis' victory went a long way
to insuring the continued existence
of the Olympic movement
for at least a little while longer

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. Historic. Moving Poetry moves with the precision of a King Cobra ready to strike, or an Olympic athlete like the offspring of Kings and Queens of physical beauty and strength, proliferating in the genius and skill of the kill. Winning medals of honor. Victory for nations that would otherwise be at war if with cunning and guile the hosts let the torch lose its shimmer of light and hope. Dead snakes tell no tales and win no medals. "To the victor the spoils." Nike. Dead snakes yield skins that are treasured and venom that cures. Dead snakes never really die they live on in other forms and shapes and laugh at us all.