The Competition

June 26, 2011      James Hayes Nichols
Posted to: prose poems - 0 Comments - Click to Comment


An infinity of competitors down in the streets. The vagabond digging through the dumpster—competition: he lives free while I live chained to my chores. The Mexican kid rolling the mop bucket to the sewer — competition: his is a heartening tale of American ambition; his entire life sweeps ahead of him. The guy pedaling his bike down North Highland — competition: he probably knows all the right people, and those glasses make him look like a writer.

The competition surrounds me. I go down into the streets, dodging the potholes. The potholes, too, are the competition. I must sidestep or be left lamed by the ravages of ever-moving time.

The competition is my friend. The competition is my enemy, too. The competition will see to my failure and the competition will assure my ascendancy, which will in turn ensure theirs.

The competition toils in the dark; most will never know that they compete. As the opponent, I can expect no more. Why fight that which cannot be bothered to fight back? Why turn every foray into the streets to an introverted pugilism?

The answer lies in the competition. When I walk into the stores, I see in all the faces the contentment of that sweetest of knowledge— I have that which you will never have. I see the happy knowledge and slink away, planning my next move against the competition. When I walk into the bars, the laughter of the regulars is the sound of the struggle — I am alone, and this is the competition.

Sometimes the competition is middling and easily overcome, but more often the competition is brilliant and shocking in its energy and sharp of tooth. The teeth of the competitors gnash me to a mess. My struggle is to keep the mess to a minimum — a controlled clutter — while I deign to create a response to the gnashing of the competition.

There is much to know. The competition is the dignified professor and I am the eager pupil. I cannot hurt or best the competition, and in the end I cannot sidestep the competition. If the competition twists me lame, I can only patch up and keep walking. I cannot defeat the competition. I must, one way or another, be the competition.

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