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From an Athlete Dying Young
Gilbert Allen


We all are.  Well, except perhaps
for those extraordinary chaps
whose hearts implode at ninety-one
beholding their first hole-in-one.
As for the rest of us, we die
in rehab or in surgery:
our bodies broken, our mind bent
on misconstruing what they meant.
“The best thing is to play and win,”
said Bobby Riggs to Billie Jean.
His 55-year-old Good News?
“The next best thing’s to play and lose.”
Track or diamond, field or court,
our time there is, alas, too short.
Raise?  We can’t even don the cup.
And then, at last, we just give up.
But dying once opens the eyes
to earth’s impending, dark surprise:
that Lord of Flies, that Final Buzzer
after which there is no other.

From Catma (Measure Press, January 2014). 
This poem first appeared in Sewanee Theological Review
Used here with the author’s permission.



Gilbert Allen lives in Traveleres Rest, South Carolina with his wife, Barbara, an educator and environmental activist. He enjoy gardening, poetry readings, and visiting with family and friends. Gil's most recent books are Believing in Two Bodies (poems) and The Beasts of Belladonna (short stories). Read a recent interview with him here, and learn more about him at






Post New Comment:
David Alpaugh:
Everything I desire in a poem and more (music, metaphor, originality——plus unpretentious allusions to both real and literary worlds). Like Housman at his best, Allen quietly uses meter and rhyme to lodge his words in the memory.
Posted 09/24/2013 01:59 PM
Love the final four lines. Excellent.
Posted 09/24/2013 10:31 AM
Pretty incredible. Enjoyed reading this.
Posted 09/24/2013 09:00 AM
My delight in this is absolutely boundless!
Posted 09/24/2013 05:54 AM

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