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  • POET: Richard Wilbur (6/30/2015 1:09:00 AM)

    I have long had Wilbur's poem, ``Man Running, '' on my home office bulletin board. When I first read it in the NewYorker Magazine, it gave me shivers. How did Wilbur know exactly how I felt when a man was on the run, a bad man, most certainly, pursued by hounds and the law and uniformed men with guns, and my hopes were all with the man running?
    Because we have ``fidelity to childhood games/And outlaws of romance, We darkly cheer him, whether or not/ He robbed that store, or bank, or fired that shot/And wish him, guiltily, a sporting chance.''
    When Richard Matt and David Sweat, convicted murderers, escaped from Dannemora, NY Penitentiary and were on the run for those three weeks in June, just ended, I was hoping dimly and remotely for their success. Perhaps, I dreamed, they would alight after their frenzied, tortuous run on a foreign, tropical beach and quietly live out their days in small victory against the man
    But Matt was killed by searchers, and Sweat was shot and captured. They were dangerous, guilty cons, but I still learned the news of their failure with a sigh.
    How did Wilbur know this side of us, we the civilized? Does he know how modern, how true his poem is?
    And not just for me, but for others I have spoken with and feel the same. In my dreams I often was running, running, from something gaining on me, in terror, heart-racing, alive and primal. No doubt it's because I, like Wilbur's narrator, ``Remembered from the day/ When we descended from the trees/Into the shadow of our enemies/Not lords of nature yet, but naked prey.''
    Still makes me shiver. Makes me think. What a poet. - Rick Telander

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