Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SERVICE, by BURGES JOHNSON

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THE SERVICE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I was the third man running in a race
Last Line: "I dreaded you two thundering behind!"
Subject(s): Track Athletics; Running Races; Pole Vaulting; Discus Throwing; Shot Putting; Running Hurdles

I was the third man running in a race,
And memory still must run it o'er and o'er:
The pounding heart that beat against my frame;
The wind that dried the sweat upon my face
And turned my throat to paper creased and sore;
The jabbing pain that sharply went and came.

My eyes saw nothing save a strip of road
That flaunted there behind the second man;
It swam and blurred, yet still it lay before.
My legs seemed none of mine, but rhythmic strode
Unconscious of my will that urged, "You can!"
And cried at them to make one effort more.

Then suddenly there broke a wave of sound, --
Crowds shouting when the first man struck the tape;
And then the second roused that friendly din;
While I -- I stumbled forward and the ground
All wavered 'neath my feet, while men agape,
But silent, saw me as I staggered in.

As sick in heart and flesh I bent my head,
Two seized me and embraced me, and one cried,
"Your thudding footsteps held me to the grind."
And then the winner, smiling wanly, said,
"No dream of records kept me to my stride --
I dreaded you two thundering behind!"

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