Forget what you hear, every horse
is the same, lined up and waiting,
standing still at the same speed.
But when the starting gun cracks
its cold command across the back
of a Kentucky afternoon, there's a hush
in the air, and the crowd lifts out
of their seats, and briefly, their lives.
And it's like the second that love stops
winking her shadowed eye so you finally move
to close in, when whatever you bet on
a minute ago has faded from the sheets
where the track was tested amd and sure. But, listen,
a favorite is only a good-looking plug
who's been beating the odds until now.
Just lift up the gate, and his ankle could twist,
like a question, in the mud. Or take off his blinkers,
spook him with the hooves of the horse next door,
and he's running the other way. A turn
of the weather , the wrong batch of oats
could throw a wall of air in front
of anything, a lover's heart, or the nose
of a horse whose neck is stretched across
the finish line, where the sun has shifted left,
his own shadow coming in first.

Francine Witte

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