Wednesday, June 28, 2017

News from Mt. Olympus

Mt. Olympus, Greece
—Poems by Michael Ceraolo, South Euclid, OH
—Anonymous Photos

Two in the Pool (2016)

    Katie Ledecky
The American conglomerate
that televises the Games in the States
often promotes American athletes
at the expense of those from other countries,
even when their performance doesn't warrant it,
sometimes framing the camera angles in a way
to reinforce the misleading jingoism

on a Friday night any jingoism was justified,
and Ms. Ledecky needed no camera tricks
to show her dominance in the 800-meter freestyle
[Insert your metaphor for a graceful swimmer
                 This was an event
where she had already lowered
her own world record three times,
the TV screen superimposed the same yellow line
showing the world-record pace in the race
that they used for every swimming event,
instead of being creative and showing
a projection of Ms. Ledecky
at her current record pace,
that would have been a real race
By the last few laps she was so far ahead
no other swimmer was in the picture;
she beat her previous record by almost two seconds,
and won the race by an even larger margin


      Yusra Mardini

In the days of the ancient Games
competitors were granted safe passage
to and from the festival,
                                    even through
areas that were at war,
there was never the much-mythologized
cease-fire in honor of the Games
the modern refugee is rarely afforded
safe passage to any destination,
Yusra Mardini,
                      her sister Sarah,
twenty others were no exception
And when their boat's engine died
their destination seemed to be a watery grave
But Yusra and Sarah were both swimmers,
and they jumped into the Aegean Sea
and pulled and pushed the boat to shore,
a landing in Greece that would have done Homer proud

The story would have ended there,
in unjustified obscurity,
                                  but for the fact
that Yusra was a world-class swimmer
She however had run afoul of
Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter:
"Any competitor in the Olympic Games
must be a national of the country
of the NOC [National Olympic Committee]
which is entering such competitor"

But even the IOC wasn't blind
to events happening in the world,
and they created a refugee team
of ten, in several different sports,
that would compete under the Olympic flag
Yusra won a heat in one of her events,
but didn't qualify for the final in either,
and so didn't medal
she'll be remembered long after
the medalists have been forgotten


Truth and Reconciliation (2016)

No one can ever be fully compensated
for having been denied the opportunity
to showcase their talents at the highest level
to which those talents could and should have taken them
there must have been some amount of satisfaction
for Odessa Swarts, denied opportunity
because of her country's laws of apartheid,
to watch her son Wayde Van Niekirk compete
at the highest level possible in his sport

And Wayde did more than merely compete:
in the finals of the four-hundred-meter race,
even though he was in the outside-most land
and the TV commentators made sure to say
that no one had ever won a major race from there,
he won the race in a time that broke
the seventeen-year-old world record

                                                      Wayde's coach
was a seventy-four-year-old great-grandmother
named Anna Botha, nicknamed Tannie Ans
(Tannie meaning Auntie in Afrikaans),
but their celebration was delayed some minutes
because security couldn't conceive of her
as a coach of a world-class athlete
But the situation was soon straightened out,
and coach and athlete hugged under the world's gaze,
no words necessary to express everything they were feeling


Cool Running (2008, 2012, 2016)

At these three Games
a Jamaican named Usain Bolt
established himself as the world's fastest man

[Insert your bad pun on his name
has a good enough sense of humor
he'd probably laugh at it]

of the hundred-meter, two-hundred-meter,
and four-by-hundred-meter relay races
(no one had ever swept all three races
at even two different Olympics before)
though Bolt holds all three world records
as of this writing, his dominance
is best expressed not by the numbers
(unlikely as it seems to us in 2016,
his records will one day be broken),
with the pictures of him, even in sprints
taking only ten or twenty seconds,
far enough ahead to safely glance back
at the other competitors in the race


Today’s LittleNip:

Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing Second in politics gets you oblivion.

—Richard M. Nixon


Our thanks to Michael Ceraolo from Ohio for today’s poems about modern Olympians! Michael writes: "Every four years when the Summer Olympics come around I am inspired to write more in my series of Modern Olympian Odes (Non-Commissioned, and Some Distinctly Non-Laudatory)." For a brief brief about Mt. Olympus, ancient Greek-wise, go to


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