A Sonnet for the Boston Marathon, 2014

Events, Opinions Posted Apr 14, 2014 by chenpr

In 2012 I began writing poems in advance of Massachusetts’ great Patriots’ Day tradition—the Boston Marathon. That year the weather forecast was for conditions decidedly hostile to long-distance racing and I penned a rhyme that I hoped would help my marathon-running friends forget their dread of going the distance with the mercury threatening 90F.

Marathon Monday, 2012, A Poem
(With sincere apologies to Mr. H.W. Longfellow)

Listen my children and I shall tell
Of a marathon forecast that’s as hot as Hell.
On the 16th of April just three days hence
Every one of those runners will think, “I must be dense
To believe I’ll survive twenty-six point two
Miles under a sun that’ll turn pavement to goo.”
And yet there’ll be thousands from Podunk to Kenya
Jogging and plodding and panting, and then ya
Will hear the sirens screaming down Comm Ave
Scooping up folks who obviously must have
Forgotten to hydrate at each water station
Now suffering fits of severe dehydration
But hooked up to IVs they’ll give thanks to Buddha
That none of them ended up soiled like Uta

The response to that inaugural verse was overwhelmingly positive and so, encouraged, I decided to make the effort an annual tradition. In 2013 I followed the same general formula: use familiar meter and poke fun at some of the race’s infamous moments.

Marathon Monday, 2013: Two Weeks Before Boston
(To the meter of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.)

Two weeks before Boston and all ‘cross the nation
Runners were thinking of a race they’d be racin’
Their miles increasing, offering assurance
That legs would not fail for a lack of endurance
Kenyans were training in rarefied air
While the masses hit pavement less lofty than there
But each, from elite to those without numbering
Whether sprinting down Boylston or painfully lumbering
Dreamed dreams of being carried by a soft April breeze
Or of riding the Green Line like Rosie Ruiz

Of course when I wrote my poem in 2013, I had no way of knowing what would transpire on April 15 of that year.

This year, as the Marathon began to enter into the consciousness of Boston and the New England region, my memories of 2013 overwhelmed fonder recollections of spring days as a boy in Central Massachusetts spent fishing and playing baseball. It did not seem right to compose a tongue-in-cheek poem for the 2014 Marathon, nor did it seem right to abandon the young tradition.

Next year I hope to be able to return to humor. In the meantime, here is my attempt at honoring the victims and survivors of last year’s craven attack.

A Sonnet for the Boston Marathon, 2014

When the time of Paul Revere’s Ride draws near
And the light of patriots of old dawns
We honor them with games and marathons
Memories of days and of ideals held dear

Yet now we strain to think beyond the year
Past a moment scarred by hatred and bombs
That took Martin, Krystle, Lingzi and Sean
Left others wounded, a city in fear

Even as innocents crumple and bleed
That light still glimmers as ever before
Piercing the dark of our “peril and need”

A fire that burns bright with love and deed
The word that shall echo for evermore
And strength that must never fail to lead

Godspeed to all those who will gather in Hopkinton a week from today, and may God bless all those who were touched in some way by the events of April 15, 2013.