The Horses Run Back to Their Stalls
It’s another sorry tale about class in America, I’m sure you’re right, but you have to imagine how proud we were. Your grandfather painted a banner that hung from Wascher’s Pub to Dianis’s Grocery across the street: Reigh Count, Kentucky Derby Winner, 1928. And washtubs filled with French champagne. I was far too young to be up at the stables myself, of course, it took me years to understand they must have meant in bottles in the washtubs, with ice. His racing colors were yellow and black, like the yellow cabs, which is how Mr. Hertz first made the money that built the barns that bred the horses, bred at last this perfect horse, our hundred and thirty seconds of flat out earth- borne bliss. They bought the Arlington Racetrack then and Jens got a job that for once in his life allowed him to pay the mortgage and the doctors too, but he talked the loose way even good men talk sometimes and old man Hertz was obliged to let him go. It was August when the cab strike in Chicago got so ugly. Somebody must have tipped them off, since we learned later on that the Count and the trainer who slept in his stall had been moved to another barn. I’ll never forget the morning after: ash in the air all the way to town and the smell of those poor animals, who’d never harmed a soul. There’s a nursery rhyme that goes like that, isn’t there? Never did us any harm. I think it’s about tormenting a cat.
From Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976 to 2014 (Mariner Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of the author.