Mary QuattlebaumThe earth is quickening. You can feel that energy outdoors. Stalks are thrusting, buds opening, leaves unfurling. And the kids! Kids are bouncing, skipping, hopping, running. Especially running.

And adults are running, too. Perhaps with less abandon and fewer whoops, but still we are quickening the pace, swinging arms, breathing hard.

You can feel this energy in a wonderful poem, “Running,” by former laureate Richard Wilbur. If you want a poem to ponder for your Green Hour (and for this month’s National Poetry Month and Earth Day celebrations), this three-part poem takes you from youthful sprinting to more sedate strolling.

Wilbur opens the poem with memories of childhood’s “whacking keds” and the race exuberantly “down the cart-road past Rickard’s place” to leap “out into the air”…”through jolted light.” The poem ends with the reflections of an older man as he cools down after a jog. Surrounded by sun and trees and “exhausted pasture,” he still feels a part of the world’s “great going,” though his young, strong running has stiffened and slowed.

I think of the poem’s delight in childhood running as I watch my daughter race up and down the hill in the dog park this spring or circle the school track. Her strides are long and easy and her dark ponytail swirls and commas behind her. The air smells of kicked-up mud and tender grass. I, too, loved running as a girl, but to borrow from the Wilbur poem, the lively “god of that has left me” in middle age. Still, there is joy in moving with spring, albeit more slowly, and of being part of that “great going.” Do you feel it, too?

“Running” is from New and Collected Poems by Richard Wilbur (Harcourt Brace, 1988, adult).

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 15 award-winning children’s books, including Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns (Random House) and two chapter-book sequels, all set in a city community garden. Check for activities connected with Mary’s books.

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Published: April 8, 2009