The Races
Robin Myers

There must be something.
If everything
is moving ever faster, there must be
something that isn’t
moving ever faster. Something
            if not completely still, then slow
enough to touch.
            What does he think of it, the traffic cop
in his hat and yellow vest, motionless, poised exactly
along the middle line
of what he’s trained to stop
when it isn’t stopping: four lanes that only converge
            colliding, and otherwise plunge forward like a river to its death,
or like what a river wants and has its way with:
fish, silt, trash, the body of someone who trusted it.
            What becomes of the yellow lines
painted down the middle of the road, parallel,
immediately peeling
between tires and pavement.
                            There must be something that knows how to slow
without stopping; there must be a way
to look straight at it while it’s still moving.
            Once, in the mountains, in inadequate footwear,
I lay down with others
on a clean staircase of long, flat stones
that snow had learned to trickle around
as it melted its way down the slopes.
(I’m not sure whether the presence of others
            made it slower or faster.)
When I closed my eyes,
the water was the only thing I heard.
            (Once, water was the only thing I heard.)
                        But the water moved fast.
Is there anything that moves forward
without moving forward ever faster—
            what is it like for her, the shy opera student poised in the park
to sing, the neon joggers arrowing around her
like lasers. Or for the mango-seller as he peels an infinity of mangos,
slicing slivers from one fruit after another after another
after another. Or for the group of friends
struggling to send up a star-shaped hot air balloon along the freeway
            without setting it on fire.
                        I can think of no way to do it
without setting it on fire, or stopping.
I can think of no way that doesn’t start with once,
even on repeat.
Once, a friend had a hummingbird
fall dead at his feet; he said it was strangely heavy
when he picked it up.
            Once, I watched a drunk man lurch across the tracks.
                        Once, I heard someone drop a glass, which shattered,
during the low, sweet note held so long by the saxophone
that I waited either for him to breathe again
or for his heart to snap.
Once, and again, and again, and again, the moment of nearing my face
to another face as if for the first time,
            or for the last—although the nearing
uproots it, opens it up like an orange,
mouth paused to meet the mouth of it,
if only for an instant.
            If there is something that knows how to slow down even
when it keeps going and going,
then I’d like to know about it.
            What is it
                        they become, competitive swimmer,
insomniac hacktivist, hungry can-collector, father of a daughter
braiding her own hair before bed—
            there must be a way to look at them while they’re still growing,
to see them, water, numbers, hunger, daughter,
somehow, and be unafraid of them
and where they’re going.
            Not like the way I waited on a bus, at a stoplight,
in a city both stalled and teeming,
when the pause lingered in a way that felt truly
                            eternal, or could become eternal—all my longing
surging into the movement denied me,
a frustration nearly erotic
in its helplessness. What I thought, once,
before the bus lurched forward again and carried on towards who
       knows where
             I left it,
because that’s the part I can’t remember,
was I’ll be here forever, was   
                        I’ll be here for the rest of my life.
Robin Myers is a Mexico City-based poet and translator. Recent translations include Cars on Fire by Mónica Ramón Ríos (Open Letter Books), The Restless Dead by Cristina Rivera Garza (Vanderbilt University Press), and Animals at the End of the World by Gloria Susana Esquivel (University of Texas Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Denver Quarterly, the Yale Review, the North American Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She writes a monthly column on translation for Palette Poetry

Read Robin Myers interviewed by Lauren Peat.


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