Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
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Ghost Runner

by Thomas D Reynolds

Someday you'll cross the tracks
Enveloped in fog and mist
And there he'll be,

Wispy gray hair stuck to his forehead,
His emaciated frame on thin legs,
Phosphorescent tape across his chest.

Or turn onto the country road at night,
Headlights sweeping across the corn,
And see the flash of his still fierce eyes.

You'll remember his daughter,
The thin quiet girl in the back of the class
Who left hell bent the day after graduation.

You'll marvel that he is still living,
Still running day after day beyond all pretense
Of strengthening heart and lungs.

The straight-backed shuffle seems
With every step to drive a spike into his spine,
Sending spasms from his feet to his hips.

You remember him once running by the track,
Never glancing at joggers on the outside lanes,
Turning away down a rutted pasture lane.

Whatever impetus that forced him onto the road,
Spurring him from limping walk into lope,
Apparently craves the solitude of his own steps.

And just when you wonder if he has run his last,
Perhaps confined to the smoky window of his room,
You'll be driving and looking up at an oncoming storm

And he'll cross the white line at the road's edge
Staring from behind cataract-glazed eyes
Before settling back on the gray asphalt.

You don't know if he's haunted by regrets,
By some past horrors that seer like lightning,
Seeking absolution among the jagged gravel.

Maybe trying to recall some long forgotten road
That once lead him to those he loved most,
Or seeking fresh air to clear away the fog.

But maybe now that you are middle-aged,
You no longer wonder much at the reasons,
Only identify with his need to keep moving.

© 2007 Thomas D Reynolds

Thomas Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including Combat, American Western Magazine, Flint Hills Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, New Delta Review, The Green Tricycle, Ariga, 3rd Muse Poetry Journal, Sidereality, and Prairie Poetry. His poem "How to Survive on a Distant Planet," published in Strange Horizons , was nominated for a Rhysling award for best short poem.

Find more by Thomas D Reynolds in the Author Index.

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