Devil Take the Hindmost
Devil Take the Hindmost

If you have raced on a grass, you have known
the burn as you chase down the curving pack
your shadows flickering like figures on a Zoetrope.
As if you held a match to every sinew

as twists of paper in a grate give to flame,
your heart banging in the chasm of your chest
like a drunk in the back of a Black Maria.
Orbiting the big nothing at the centre of the track,

your bike stripped back until it weighs precisely the same
as the idea of a bike, a snow flake or a beam of light.
Not for the warm champagne, the canary-yellow top
or a big-eyed face contorted in the cup,

but the fear of coming last: I’ve seen grown men weep,
abandon toddlers, farmsteads, nest eggs,
go from three-car-garage to gutter in a matter of weeks.
Understand, we do this because we must,

because to fall behind is to fall from grace,
this race that dwindles lap by lap,
casts us from our choir until one remains:
a loaner, a lodestar, a Lucifer ascending.

Text © Adam O'Riordan