To be born is like being on a train ride.
You can hear the music of the train cars rattling from side to side,
carrying an old farewell song as the speed crashes into the wind.
Everything is going as fast as the blood through the veins.
I want to be reborn inside this metal womb,
inside the tunnel heading towards which seems like a deep uterus.
The greatest miracles are brought from the dark:
the diamond inside the wall of a mine,
the falcon inside its egg,
the idea inside the mind of a brilliant man,
or a verse in a poetess’ heart.
Everything is beautiful in the dark,
in a woman’s womb,
in the very fathomless universe.
Everything rests in a calmed silence,
until the joy of living comes into the world
-and with it- a scream, a shout, a word.
Edited by Ida Chou and Francelia Belton @FranceliaBelton
* * *
My words are like doves of silver
that tear the curtain of the paper and take the flight they own.
I sculpt them with my pencil, I paint them with the ink of pain
and I launch them to the world from the dovecote of my soul.
My words are hollow pigeons.
Clothed in a plumage of syllables and silences,
they flow through the breeze between us
and tell you what I do not dare write.
My words are doves into the air
without nest or peace
crossing the path marked by the accents
and the sentences in which my soul leaks along with them.
My words are birds of fire
burning and leaving a stream of ash.
My words are broken doves,
are sore pigeons.
My words are doves,
only doves abandoned to the wind.
* * *
Biscuit and I arrived at Elkmont, Alabama, in 2010. He was a five year old golden retriever, and always playful as a puppy. And then there was me, a twenty-two year old man who had no idea what to do with his life. There, in Elkmont, my grandfather waited for me, as did the rest of its inhabitants (all four hundred-and-seventy of them to be accurate) who occupied the one-hundred and seventy-two homes that conformed the whole of the residential area.
Believe me, there was a world of difference between Atlanta, the city where I was born and raised, and Elkmont. The men and women were, and still are to this date, employees of the two unique factories which are responsible for this small town’s economic prosperity, which is to say, no small task. First, the manufacturer of French electrical parts- then there was ours, the goat cheese factory. I inherited the responsibility of managing our family business when my mother, father, and grandmother died in a tragic car accident. Thereafter, my grandfather and I remained as the only members of the McCoy family.
Before that fateful accident, I was an important athlete in my field: the 100 meter dash. My extraordinary aptitude to fly instead of trotting bought me an entrance ticket to college and almost led me to become part of the Olympic team. In January, 2008 the International Olympic Committee made the call for the eliminatory phase at the “Centennial Olympic Stadium.” My parents were so proud they invited my grandmother to the event. They were so excited they drove to Elkmont to pick my grandmother, but when they were heading back to Atlanta… tragedy struck.
A feeling of guilt took hold of my soul for many years. Would they be alive today if I had never participated in that match? I questioned myself repeatedly while getting drunk and stumbling from one bar to another. Two years passed by in a drunken stupor, I barely managed to complete my degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering.
One fine day, my neighbor, who frequently dragged me from the hallway into my apartment after I returned drunk with grief, appeared on my doorstep with Biscuit in his arms.
“I’m leaving Atlanta, my friend. I’m joining the Army, so I’m leaving my dog with you. He’s called ‘Biscuit.’ You know, my friend? I think you should go to Alabama and see how things are going with that old man of yours,” he suggested.
My grandfather! I had almost forgotten about him. Without a clear picture of what I wanted to do with my life and a puppy sitting on my car’s back seat, I packed my few belongings and drove to Elkmont.
Grandpa thanked Heaven for my timely arrival: his widowhood had weighed on his shoulders like a heavy bag. His pace was slower and slower, and his ability to handle the cheese factory had decreased due to affliction and age. Immediately, I assumed the management of the factory and in a few months, not only had I understood, but improved the business’s operation as well.
Every day, Biscuit ran behind my car from the neighborhood to the factory, then returned home to look after my grandfather. His legs became stronger and his golden fur turned soft to the touch as he matured. Thanks to his agility and beauty, my dog became a regular local of Elkmont. He was liked by everyone, except Rose, our neighbor.
“That dog keeps getting in my geraniums,” she continuously complains.
I installed new wooden posts to bolster the fence which divided our properties, but Biscuit managed to escape and got into her garden anyway. Then I placed a welded wire mesh across the length of the fence, but that dog made it out again.
In 2012, the County celebrated the first annual “Elkmont Half Marathon,” a local event that, in as little as a couple of years, succeeded in capturing the attention of thousands of runners. The whole population usually participates in it and joins the ranks of the organizers and the coordinators. For the McCoy’s, the race meant an increase in the sales of our goat cheese. I, personally, used to feel envious. I love athleticism, but since the accident happened, I never practiced in the race. I didn’t even care about being in shape.
January 28, 2016, day of the competition. I had left home earlier, leaving my grandfather asleep on his huge sofa with Biscuit at his feet, but, as usual, my dog sneaked out and went into Rose’s garden again. Around noon, the old lady knocked on my front door.
“Mr. McCoy, your grandson’s dog escaped over an hour ago. I saw him running after the marathonists when they passed by the sidewalk, and now I’m watching on TV that it’s still following the runners,” said Rose.
Unable to believe what he heard, my grandfather switched on the TV set and called me. He told me what was happening and I turned on the TV in the store’s kitchen. To my surprise, there it was- Biscuit, my dog, running beside the first competitors.
I rushed to the place where the finish line was, hundreds of people were waiting for their relatives and friends with eagerness and joy. As soon as Biscuit showed up, he threw himself into my arms and licked my face, the marathoners and spectators stared at us. The paramedics immediately rehydrated him and examined his pulse. They also bandaged his raw paws, and suggested that I take extra care of him for the next seven days.
I arrived home with Biscuit in arms. Grandpa, astonished at his feat, received him with a caresses of his soft coat. Even Rose helped us with Biscuit, maybe because she was just as amazed as the rest of us. During the next few days, I thought about my treatment towards my dog. I recalled the many times I had refused to play with him, perhaps because I did not have time for it, or perhaps because of my deep-rooted bitterness, and I wondered what it was that drove him to run after those competitors.
All sorts of comments about my dog passed by word of mouth between the inhabitants of Elkmont, whom at first thought that the animal was accompanying one of the runners. A few say that he stopped to sniff a dead rabbit; others, to scamper some cows; the fact is that my dog was consistent and finished the race in one hour and thirty-five minutes, reaching the finish line in eighth place.
Two weeks after the event, the organizers of the race knocked on our door. They explained to us that the unexpected initiative of Biscuit had brought international attention to the race, to the point that they had begun to receive donations for the production of next marathon. Before departing, they gave Biscuit a shiny gold medal.
Does it require physical training to race a half marathon? Apparently not, as my dog Biscuit proved. However, I am not as outstanding as him, and I will have to prepare myself. I’ll go back to my old habits, because I want to be an athlete again. Next January, I will proudly run in the Elkmont Half Marathon with Biscuit by my side.
Translator-editor: Chris Gargiulo
* * *
“Who Are You?”
Now that the mask has fallen down,
now with your feet back on the ground,
did you leave all your past behind
or is it blowing out your mind?
Now that our dreams look all too old,
where did it go, your rush for gold?
Tell me, isn’t it funny to realise
that you were wrong about your size?…
And, who are you?
Who really are you?
What are you, really?
Alejandra Meza Fourzán ©