The horseits number smudged
by sweat and thumbs nuzzling
stamped in blackstumbles
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 movingsomething 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 chancea white truck,
a man with an open-mouthed kit.
A needle. A hurtling world
closes like a gate.
Corey Marks's Renunciation was a National Poetry Series selection. His recent poems have appeared in New England Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere.