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A Day At The Races

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When you wake up after twelve hours
The stove is cold, there's ice in the water bucket
— clouds outside and snow, the noise of a crow,
The only sound; until your wife cries
From an upper bunk, Honey, I'd like some coffee.
Luther chuckles. I nod, excuse myself  for the men's room

Next to me stretches a teacher
Who once warned me not to get married
Too early. Elderly now, but having done well
In real estate as a second career. He says
Well, well, as if  he can't recall my name.
But buys me a drink and talks of  his wayward
Daughter. When he mentions her married last name
I tell him I have met her, but leave off at that    . . .
He squints like a badger. In my wife's family, he resumes,
After a jostling by a drunken salesman, there's a
Sort of stupid gene that runs through the whole outfit,
Being half  Finnish, half  Dutch — or maybe something
Cancelled something    . . .    I notice a protuberance, a small growth
At the edge of  his eye, hanging like a broken thread

I always thought, I say, your daughter had a charming
Personality. He hunches his shoulders. Waking to dread,
The debts of  dread — but I couldn't help him.
Neither did I want to. On the way out
I spot my first wife chatting with a small-time gangster —
She flutters a wave my way, a Victorian flutter

Source: Poetry (October 2007)

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

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A Day At The Races

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