Decathlon poem - Decathlon 2000
Decathlon 2000 › Decathlon poem

Decathlon poem

In ten seconds it's over
ended almost as it began
from a rush at the line
to a burst from the blocks
at the blast of a gun
shearing wind in a pack of eight
each cutting the tape
a breath from the other
more points than air between each.
One hundred feet to an eight-inch board
from which he blasts
four times his body's length
into the sand
his heel print measured
back to the board
unless he stepped out too far
and fouled
so never started.
Sixteen pounds, cast iron
pressed to five-inch diameter
wedged between chin and hand
body stooped reared back
to forward, upward, outward throws
still confined in a ring
he heaves, grunts, screams, releases.
Leaping over his head
is not enough but
one foot more will do
to stay in the vent
where the bar climbs
two inches at a time
and when the hours are done
he has stretched the limits
of gravity and the definition
of his anatomy.
Legs pushing body hard
once around the track
too long to sprint
too short to plan
gut-wrenching race
he runs two curves
two straightaways between two lines
and the first to break
the last is the first to break down
and only the first day is done.
Ten barriers, hip high
four strides apart
arms parallel to legs
in positions measured
for speed and accuracy
but not for those conditioned
to pull for less than
total harmony of running
and flying rhythms
suspended for a quarter-minute.
The disc locked between
taut forearm and cupped hand
stretched between flailing body
swinging madly
in dizzying circles
within a caged circles
which stops upon launching
the disc in spiraling flight
a wind pendant lofting
descending
but impacting only when the thrower
pulls himself up.
Beyond the roof of a two-story house
or ceiling of a commuter tunnel
with endless headway of the heavens
the Fiberglas rod three times his size
bends him back bends his back
farther than when he was on earth
and snaps him up
a rubber band with purpose in flight
and direction intentionally soaring
past the bar at the apex
crash landing in the clouds
of a safe earth.
Sky piercing spear
length of the hurler
following his chest-high kicks
as he runs to the line
behind him back even farther
as he moves on, closer, then
half-moon rainbow arc
squeezing the silent air
with its cutting whistle
a home run's distance away.
Not to end like this, please!
the decathlete's muscular force
to heave the shot, discus, javelin
his breaking strength
to dash the hundred, four hundred, hurdles
his graceful power
to long jump, high jump, pole vault
do not quite prepare him for this end
not quite a mile
but more like 36-hours later
of exertion, waiting, exhaustion
to end like this
a marathon of proportions
a confirmation of his skill
his determination
his absolute master stroke:
not mastered yet required
each step one closer
to athletic excellence.

Decathlon poem by Philip Vassallo