Doubtless, Philippides had no time to wash the stain
and stench of battle, before he ran
fresh from the carnage of Marathon.
His sandals still caked with blood and viscera
of defeated Persians
or victorious Athenians.
Sandals are neutral, like the Swiss,
they do not distinguish between victor and vanquished.
Yet seem to wind up only on the former’s side.
History does not record whether
he loaded up on carbs before he ran
Perhaps, he should have stretched.
No onlookers cheered or offered water
in the searing August heat.
We do not even know his age
or whether parents, wife,
or young child,
waited to greet him
or saw him cross the finish line.
We know only that he exclaimed “νενικηκαμεν”
and then, in glorious victory, died
ending the race a triumphant
This race has a bloody past.
No less dipped in turmoil
than tea in water,
leaving both forever changed.
So, this latest carnage came as no surprise.
I no longer marvel at our
capacity for cruelty,
inventing ever more resourceful means of separating
limbs from their owners.
I saw the photo of another bloody Philippides
his race-worn legs left behind him
carried in the arms of a firefighter
across a different finish line
and exclaimed “νενικηκαμεν”.
“νενικηκαμεν,” Pronounced “nenikekamen,” meaning “We won.”
Neil Silberblatt has been writing poetry since his college days. His poetry has been published in various print & online journals; and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is the founder of Voices of Poetry and has organized poetry events at venues in NY, CT and on the Cape.