“The Finish” by Anemone Beaulier

Anemone Beaulier


The blaze began as my husband hobbled up Boylston,
though no one in Boston, or Paris, knew yet.
I called to him, held up our children,
but he didn’t see us, ten people back,
and our voices were of the half-million,
a throng seeking spectacle or purpose, to ponder
a hundred dawns, a thousand miles’ practice,
multiplied by thirty-thousand, collective lifetimes
condensed to hours of grinding, interrogating what
lies beyond, what within. I wept at his glazed-eye grimace and
two men lifting another across the finish, this transcendence,
and how, in hours, nothing would be left, the course
cleared, the crowd parted into houses and apartments.

When we reached our hotel, the lobby TVs showing CNN,
Notre Dame’s spire was wicking flames to Heaven,
smoke boiling orange above the latticework forest,
the lead roof melting and caving in, centuries of construction
falling to ash, Parisians sobbing along the Seine,
singing “Ave Maria” in chorus. But my husband
would not pause or turn, shuffling ahead to delay collapse.

That night, though, I put my ear to his chest as he and the children slept,
and his heart beat as if those blistering miles were never tread.
The crowds who’d sobbed, “Je vous salue, Marie pleine de grâce,”
also slept. How many, come morning, reached for their lovers,
as we did, grasped in urgent silence toward resurrection,
answered the calls of rising children, made oatmeal, omelets?

On the news, images of a man with two prosthetic legs
jolting through Natick, another pushing his wheelchair backward
with one foot in Framingham, the sprint finish
preceded photos of the fire’s aftermath, charred timbers
angled about Mary on the altar, Jesus in her lap,
the stained glass behind them intact, sunlight surging in.
A reporter said damage was limited
to the roof and spire above the transept, almost
a billion dollars had been pledged to rebuild it, the French
government vowed the project would be expedited.

We hailed a cab, my husband walking with slight stiffness,
and talked on the way to the airport of when he would run again.

from Poets Respond
April 23, 2019


Anemone Beaulier: “My husband ran the Boston Marathon this past Monday. He had trained for a three-hour finish, but the intense humidity left him and many other runners struggling with cramps, walking, or collapsing, leaning on one another to finish the race. He was in a great deal of physical pain the last ten miles, yet pushed through and completed the marathon (in 3:23!), as so many others did, and it was incredibly moving to watch thousands of runners test their own limits, help each other along the route, and receive support from hundreds of thousands of fans. As we were walking away from the finish line, our children noticed news coverage of Notre Dame burning, and the story and my husband’s physical discomfort and disappointment at his marathon performance defined the rest of the day. I found myself thinking of the fleeting nature of all human accomplishment—athletic events that last mere hours but that people train for over the course of months or years; buildings that are destroyed by fire or neglect or simply knocked down to make room for others; poems written to be put in a drawer—but also how our sense of defeat is only ever temporary.”

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