It’s summer here so soda pop and blue
jeans in the trees. I am peeling
my sunburn on a bus bound for Saratoga
Springs where I will lob my father’s
ashes on the line where the racehorses
finish one at a time, and as they do,
the mist of a million particles
of ash in the air, all likeness will disappear
between us. I had built a boundary
out of skin where I sat quietly
until blood was the only moving
thing on a map of where we are.
On the dirt track, horses fill
their lungs in the sun and urge on.
When a losing horse dips
its head to greet me, his black whiskers
tickle the flesh of my neck. Why
do all hearted creatures stink?
I am asked by my brother’s
youngest child, Is horse your favorite
or least favorite mammal? I say
don’t beg the Lord if the sky is
a gray roof beneath which
you have waited all day to see
gallop something graceful, swift.
Copyright © 2016 by Christopher Salerno. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.