Art by Andrew Thomson.
The Winningest Jockey
He could hold that assumed prayer position,
be plucked gently as a lifted cricket from
the foam-slicked, heaving winner of this race,
its nostrils blown, and be lowered to the next.
So go the days. At season's end, a long bath.
With luck, he'd unfurl like a Magic SpongeTM
and walk upright, until we lose his sparse,
red hair to the parking lot—a bowlegged
slip of a man, moving from one sun-struck chassis
to the next, mumbling, searching for his truck.
Polished brass door knobs, retrieved
newspapers, vegetables, mail, meat,
new clothes from that day's ads.
They carried in thick glass jars
of yogurt, and sweating bottles
of Guaranteed milk, left between
back doors with a handwritten note,
correct change. Planted annuals,
deadheaded perennials, weeded lawns,
watered all. Raised children, waxed
floors, starched shirts, poured
milk, filled pools. Baked cake.
Scrubbed toilets, washed curtains,
beat rugs, ironed sheets, aired rooms,
fed dogs, cleaned silver, waited
tables, scraped plates. Every night,
a checked apron, discreetly folded
on a shelf in the tidy kitchen
closet, before the last one out,
in thin wool coat and worn overshoes,
climbed the snowy hill to catch the #66,
support hose, work slippers, school
pictures of her nephews, and a book
of paper bus tickets to last
through the month, deep
in a shopping bag from Harrods.
A School Night in February
In his attic bedroom, a teenaged boy
watches his lava lamp's colours implode.
Downstairs, his mother has burned
her wrist on the oven rack: she's
tired, distracted by an earlier incident
to which we are not privy.
Nor are we privy to the basement
location, behind the furnace, under
a tarp, where her son has stored
the rifle he will carry to school
via torn hockey bag and lift
with a steady hand, a witness will say,
from under his grandfather's old black coat,
sleet still clinging to the shoulders.
Tomorrow night, all night, in tidy,
heavily-mortgaged homes like this one,
lamps will cast angled windows on the worn
suburban snow, 60 miles west of Chicago.
Seen from a distance, say, a moving train,
it will appear that every other house
has left lights on for a weary traveler-
someone expected much earlier, someone
who must have been inexplicably delayed.