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Barefoot Running Poems

September 23, 2011

I had two wonderful opportunities to spend large blocks of time wandering and writing in relative solitude this summer: three weeks in June as Artist-in-Residence at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and 10 days in remote Wallowa County, OR, for a Fishtrap writing workshop.

“Origin Story” was “invited” out of me by workshop leader Bob Pyle, who asked our group to think and write about a “river tooth” moment from childhood–a defining experience in nature that has stuck with us ever since. “Going Barefoot on the Trail” flowed out of my much musing on why I like to hike/trail run barefoot so much.

Barefoot Running

Barefoot running on the Widforss Trail, Grand Canyon North Rim

Going Barefoot on the Trail

I had hoped
it would fix
(finally)

my odd mix
of running injuries—
nope.

But something did heal—
now it’s almost fun
to turtle along through

titillations of terrain:
smooth river-rolled rocks
rain-fresh sharp gravel

sand, dust, mud
horse manure
mini-pillows . . .

my soles have grown
tougher and
oddly alive

and my run-hungry soul
feels less
of the injury blues

on the trail, sashaying
through silk-dust
wearing a smile
but not any shoes.

Bare feet on Kaibab limestone shards

Origin Story
Corona del Mar, CA, 1960s

The quarter mile smile of beach:
leering you down the steep
trudge from free far-away
parking. The sand: colonized
by noon with coco-buttered settlers.
Beach blanket homesteads.
Boss radio in the better neighborhoods.
Shorebreak rush-hour shrieks.

The siren snack bar: hard to pass
at twelve years old untantilized
by wafty fries and the assault
of gaudy red script listing more
than your allowance would allow—
surf mat rentals, frozen snickers bars . . .
but not why you snuck away.
(If no one missed you
did it qualify as sneaking?)

Finally there: wave-breaker.
Harbor maker. Speckled granite
tumbling straight out to Pacific
nowhere. You take an extra hit
of June salt air and grab
a coarse-grained slab,
hoist yourself into new territory—
population: you.

Step. Step. Hop. Ignore
the dark current sucking
on starfish far below; scuttle
crabs wave you on and on.
Nothing matters now but run—
as fast as you can look,
you launch. Faster than that,
each rock opens a place for
your spring-loaded toes.

Gulls scatter and all
shore-bound stuff recedes
with each artful foot-fall,
with each maestro arm swing
defying the gaps to
swallow you bare feet first—
gasping and grinning on your way
to the blue end of the earth.

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