to Vasiliy Alexeyev
Weightliftingís not a recent innovation.
Recall how, once, a Greek of some renown
Picked his opponent up, in desperation,
And held him for a while, then tossed him down.
Applause will come - for me, or for another?
As if a victimís neck, I grip the bar.
I want to tear Antaeus from his mother,
Just like that first athletic superstar.
No graceful mustang, I! Iím hard as marble;
And all my movements are constrained and slow.
The barbell, the overloaded barbell,
Foreverís both my partner and my foe.
I wouldnít wish a task this uninviting
On anybody else. Thereís not much hope!
As I approach the heavy weight, Iím fighting
A heavy feeling: what if I canít cope?
Both it and I look like weíre made of metal,
Though only it is metal to the core.
Once I walked up, and once the dust had settled,
I saw the dents my steps left in the floor.
I donít have time to stand around and marvel.
Will I earn shame or glory? I donít know.
Ultimately, thatís up to the barbell,
My only partner and my only foe.
It looks impressive when you knock your foe down.
But in my sport, itís not so cut and dried.
Hereís whatís unfair about this final showdown:
Iím down below; the barbell is up high.
That sort of winís much like a loss, I reckon.
Yet victory is very simply found:
I must hold on for three more painful seconds,
Then slam the barbell down onto the ground.
My ears are ringing, and my thoughts are garbled,
And everything is swaying to and fro.
As if by magnets drawn, down weighs the barbell,
My faithful partner and relentless foe.
Still, it creeps upwards, slowly losing power;
My muscles, though, near bursting as they swell.
While from their seats, as if from lofty towers,
Spectators scream: "Just drop it, what the hell!"
I ascertain the judgesí satisfaction;
My iron god goes down - Iíve done my work.
I was performing that habitual action
Sadistically called the "clean and jerk."
The first two verses refer to the mythical story of Antaeus, son of the Earth goddess, Gaia.
Hercules fought him, and ran into trouble - because Antaeus kept drawing strength from her, via his feet.
Eventually, Hercules realized this, so he lifted him up and strangled him in mid-air.