So that there won’t be a trace-sweep everything clean, Curse me and shame me and roar. My finish line is the horizon, my ribbon, the edge of the earth. I must be first at the horizon. Not everybody approved of the conditions of the bet, And the stake was unwillingly held. The conditions were this: to drive down the highway And only the highway, without turning back. Winding the miles on the axle, I speed along parallel to the wires, But every now and then there’s a shadow in front of the car - A black cat or somebody dressed in black. I know that they’ll poke a stick in my spokes, I can guess how they’re going to deceive me. I know how they’ll cut off my race with a grin, And across what road they’ll string a wire. But I step on the gas. At these speeds A grain of sand acquires the force of a bullet. And I squeeze the wheel until my bones ache, I must get there before they start tightening the bolts! Winding the miles on the axle, I speed along vertically toward the wires. Faster-they’re twisting the nuts - Or they’ll pull a wire right up to my neck. And the asphalt melts, the tires boil, My heart aches from the nearness of the denouement. I tear the stretched line with my bare chest. I’m alive-take off the black bandages! Who forced me to make such a harsh bet - They argue and calculate dirtily. The rush intoxicates me, but, say what you will, I break on slippery corners. I wind the miles onto the axle To spite ribbons, lines, and wires; It will only bring the losers to their senses When I appear on the horizon! My finish line, the horizon, is just as far off as befoie. I didn’t break the ribbon, but I have done with the line. My jugular didn’t cross the ribbon, And they’re shooting at my tires from the bushes. It wasn’t the money that turned me on to racing. They told me: Don’t waste your chance! What if there’s a boundary at the edge of the world? And is it possible to push aside horizons? I wind the miles onto the axle. I’ll not let them shoot at my tires. But the brakes refuse to work-coda! And I cross the horizon at full tilt.
© H. William Tjalsma. Translation, 1982