The Jockey

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Able Muse Write Prize for Poetry, 2015 ▪ Finalist

Elise Hempel

The Jockey


      Atop his exhausted buggy with its
      rusted wheels and now-stuck key,
      one boot missing, a faded jersey,
      the bill of his cap cracked off, he sits

      behind a nicked brown horse that once
      flicked its tail, clattered around
      planked floor or rug when the buggy was wound
      after school by children who’ve since

      fallen behind him, white-haired or gone,
      as he still waves the flopping spring
      of his crop, still stares through dimming
      goggles, gathering gray ribbons

      of dust in his silent, frozen race
      down an ever-unfurling track,
      hunched to win, leaving far back
      all claps and laughter, his once-smooth face

      scarred and pitted, just the white
      fleck of a smile now, more a sneer,
      his empty fists on the reins of air
      still holding tight.