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“The Runner”

From: Journal of Narrative Theory
Volume 43, Number 3, Fall 2013
pp. 415-416 | 10.1353/jnt.2013.0016

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

for Muriel Rukeyser

Sweat glides on the forehead of the gasping runner
Who runs of necessity, who runs possibly for love,
For truth, for death, and her feet are sweltering.
Behind the runner lies a battlefield.
There, the dust falls. Ahead, the narrow road
Eats a plateau, leads into streets and buildings,
A beach, and the excavation of motherly ocean,
Everything under the arch of an innocent sky.
Sweat trickles between her breasts, evaporates,
And the runner, seeing bright bone under brown landscape
Where one of us would see rocks, bushes, houses,
Begins to feel how fire invades a body
From within, first the splinters
And crumpled paper, then the middle wood
And the great damp logs splendidly catching.
Ah, but some moments! It is so like fireworks,
Hissing, exploding, flaring in darkness,
Or like a long kiss that she cannot stop,
And it is heavy for her, every stride
Like pulling an iron railing
Uphill, ah Christ—we would have to imagine Jerusalem,
Dresden, a hurt this hard, like a screen of fire
Rising, continuous and intolerable
Until solid things melt. Then the runner is floating,
She becomes herself a torch, she is writing in fire,
Rejoice, we have triumphed, rejoice,
We have triumphed,
Although words, although language
Must be useless
To the runner.

Alicia Ostriker  

Alicia Ostriker is a poet and critic, twice a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent collections of poems are The Book of Seventy, which received the National Jewish Book Award in 2010, The Book of Life (2012), and the forthcoming The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog. As a critic, she is the author of Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America and other books on poetry and the Bible. Ostriker teaches in the low-residency MFA Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation at Drew University.


1.  From A Woman under the Surface © 1982 by Princeton UP.

Copyright © 2013 JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Alicia Ostriker. "“The Runner”." Journal of Narrative Theory 43.3 (2013): 415-416. Project MUSE. Web. 5 Mar. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Ostriker, A.(2013). “The Runner”. Journal of Narrative Theory 43(3), 415-416. Eastern Michigan University. Retrieved March 5, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
Alicia Ostriker. "“The Runner”." Journal of Narrative Theory 43, no. 3 (2013): 415-416. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed March 5, 2014).
T1 - “The Runner”
A1 - Alicia Ostriker
JF - Journal of Narrative Theory
VL - 43
IS - 3
SP - 415
EP - 416
PY - 2013
PB - Eastern Michigan University
SN - 1548-9248
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_narrative_theory/v043/43.3.ostriker.html
N1 - Volume 43, Number 3, Fall 2013
ER -


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