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Fall 2010

Dumb Luck

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The horse—its number smudged
by sweat and thumbs nuzzling

predictable exactas
stamped in black—stumbles

at the last, run too hard, run
beyond what her ankles could bear,

and the jockey, who’d driven
her ahead of the other horses

now churning past and flinging
back rings of dust, rides

her down, out of the grace
and rush of the race and into the hoof-

torn dirt, the shit and grit
and the shudder he’s lost control of...

Then another rush: people
flurry to the fallen animal, the jockey

is raised, stunned and still
he feels he’s moving—something roils

in him, around him, under him.
Words are inconsequential

as flies. Dumb luck.
The animal won’t rise.

Nearby, the winner paces,
cooling, saddled now with the reason

for the day, heavy chest
widening against his rider’s approval,

each breath ragged and expendable
and replaceable as the printed bets

that drift the grounds, skittering
between knuckles of grass

beneath the stands where people
stare, the ones who got it wrong,

used to seeing what doesn’t come,
to wagering chances bound to be

nothing, nothing, nothing
but lost. Though someone got it right

and smacks his ticket
against his palm, exactly sure

of what it bears. He looks away
as the crowd around him cranes

and gawks into the afterlife
of chance—a white truck,

a man with an open-mouthed kit.
A needle. A hurtling world

closes like a gate.

—Corey Marks

Corey Marks's Renunciation was a National Poetry Series selection. His recent poems have appeared in New England Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere.

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