Why I Didn’t Finish the 25-Mile Charity Walk in 1975

Because I’d completed the walk the year before
and the year before that, and the thrill of finishing had faded.
Because those other times I’d walked with my cousin,
then my brother. Even arguing made the miles pass quicker.
Because the wave of walkers, thousands strong,
had dwindled to a dribble of stragglers.
Because I’d run out of things to fantasize about
to keep my mind occupied as I walked.
Because the thunderstorm three miles ago
had drowned me and I couldn’t stop shivering.
Because every part of my body
was sending my brain telegrams of outrage and protest.
Because my wet socks rubbed new blisters,
and the existing blisters all popped at the same time.
Because my knees wouldn’t bend
when I tried to step on and off curbs.
Because I offered up my suffering for the poor souls in purgatory,
and they just jeered and called me an idiot.
Because my only sponsors were my mother and grandmother,
and those lost three dollars weren’t going to ruin the charity.
Because it was my birthday
and this was how I’d chosen to spend it.
Because I accepted I wasn’t committed to a life of failure
if I called my mother and said, “Come pick me up!”

Nudge: A popular poetry writing exercise is to start every line with “because.” Write a “reasons why” poem using this exercise. The subject can be anything from why you stopped smoking to why you’ll never eat head cheese (or, for that matter, why you love it). After you’ve let the rough poem sit for a few days, write a second version, taking out each “because.” Consider such elements as rhythm and sound when deciding which version you prefer.

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