Poetry from J.K. Durick


                  Tipping Point
There’s that moment, we’ve all lived it,
felt it, survived it, the moment when
everything slips, slides, even cascades
away from us, beyond our control, we
become watchers, witnesses without
a role to play, but to hang on and pray
if we can remember prayers for just
moments like this, chaos theory plays
out, the butterfly we watched last fall,
the monarch we watched set things in
motion, and now once again we get to
watch, witness as everything slips away,
history, when we live it, amuses itself
with the irony of it all, we read the past
and pick out these moments and know
the future will read our present and draw
time lines, our tipping points, our tripping
points, like this one when everything begins
to slip, slide, cascade away, the Niagara river
going by, heading for the Falls, and here we
are midstream, knee deep, waist deep, and
here we are, hanging on, watching it all go by.

They gather early near the starting line, stretch,
tuck, straighten shirts and numbers, talk quietly,
then stare off, avoid eye contact to concentrate
on their running and what they remember about
the course; very few think of winning, just their
times, at least finishing and not looking foolish,
stopping, quitting before the end or being helped
off, like last year on that long hill five miles in,
EMTs, ambulances, the embarrassing attention
the others paid running by, pacing themselves as
they should, as they need to, this is not a sprint,
it’s big time, eight thousand started out this year,
the winners were done in less than three hours
others, four, five, how many, it’s never a sprint;
we all do this in our own way, join the race, join
the crowd, hope to finish without embarrassing
ourselves, in the end everything is a marathon
never a sprint.
The sirens are after me, chase me, find me –
this time the police surround the house, tell
me to surrender, to send out my hostages, then
come out with hands up, I can’t escape them;
 the sirens are after me, find me stretched out
on the kitchen floor, gasping, barely conscious,
the EMTs crowd me, take my vitals, ask their
questions as if I could answer them, then talk
on their radios, ready to transport what’s left;
the sirens are after me, find me, firemen arrive
evaluate the smoke, the flames, quickly hook up
their hoses, begin asking the gathering neighbors
questions, I know I am the answer, trapped inside,
inhaling smoke, burning ceilings, collapsing walls;
the sirens are after me, chase me, find me, haunt
me, catch me, drag me away, go into my dreams,
asleep or awake they are there, announcing their
presence, warning, predicting, they know about
me, what I have done, and where I’m trying to hide.
J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Social Justice Poetry, 1947, Poetry Superhighway, Synchronized Chaos, and Algebra of Owls.