God on the Treadmill

Sometimes it takes miles to give up resistance,
though the mirror shows a body unresisting, shows
perhaps something to admire. Others may.
A body without difficulty loosening, breaking
its own willfulness, cracking itself
like a rusted bolt that finally begins to turn.
A body that turns. Toward openness, fantasy,
those desires of and not of the body. Sometimes
I notice a powerful man engaged steadily
repeating difficult action: folding himself, his tight
skin, over and over, lifting a declined torso
or pulling up a suspended trunk, and think,
how neat, how controlled to be inside that body.
I struggle not to stare, grip myself not to lose myself
inside the thought of being inside that body.
I can never get there I know because it is
the image I want, the veneer of muscle
having taken primacy from mind, now first
among equals: bicep, abdominal, quadricep,
the launch after launch of a perpetual run.
I want the image even when I am it, or nearly it—
because even then, I am also that other thing,
self-conscious, burdened, struggling for movement.

If there is a link between God and animals—

the way He identifies with the so much

that isn’t us, as He had to have, to have made them—
it must be in the body enacting will immediate
through movement, as if with a word
creating a world (enacting creation immediate
through speech). Which is to say, this is my time
of prayer, my only time: miles in, as long
as it takes for the body to relinquish resistance.
Bright, public, surrounded by others who move
toward better movement. And all the while seeing
in a wall of mirrors that image of myself, deer,
horse, running close kin to breathing, motion
necessary to survival, perfect image of a man
that I’m merely a self-conscious copy of.
I pray for things, of course, for myself
and for those whose pain touches me, selfish
and unselfish prayers for intimates and strangers.
I pray for the runner in the mirror, too, sleek, easy
animal, unselfconscious and present, and absent
as a god, the man who could almost be me,
who I do my best to rush toward. I pray that
one day, by His grace, we may meet.
    Benjamin S. Grossberg
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