For Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, First Native American To Win The Boston Marathon

by Keith Kopka

At the beep, I start my story
again: Heartbreak Hill, Tarzan
scaling its tree-pimpled back faster
than any white man. How,
in the seventies, my father
saw him bite a chunk
from a pint glass, hunched
over a bar along the wharf
in Narragansett. The answering
machine cuts off, and I pour
another. There’s a new
bottle each night to cover
the ping of my car’s
finished engine. I don’t bother
with proportions. I’ve watched
my father, and his father shake,
each blossoming Chestnut
branch, the pollination of ice
in glass, like a desperate finger tap
on the fuel gage at thirty
thousand feet. Some nights,
I pretend my body is condensation,
go limp for the oncoming
wreck. Through my window
I calculate the distance between
tree line and impact, then
finish my drink. I press
the receiver against my ear
and let the redundant beep shake
through me like sonar, or a
starting gun. Tarzan died by truck
in a field behind a bar. I’ve got
the story memorized: face down
in a puddle, his calf muscles
glistening like rain on a cow’s back.

Keith Kopka is a native of Rhode Island, but he currently lives and writes in Florida where he is the Managing Director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Mid American Review, Ninth Letter, Normal School, Southern Indiana Review, The Greensboro Review, The New Orleans Review, and others. He won the 2015 New Ohio Review Prize, selected by Robert Pinsky. He is also the Poetry Editor of The Southeast Review and has been a recipient of a Chautauqua Arts fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship for poetry.

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