Tag: past


The Jockey by Elise Hempel

9
September

American Life in Poetry: Column 598
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

elisehempel
I’d guess that many of us like old toys. As a boy I had a wind-up tin submarine that dove and surfaced, and a few years ago I saw one just like it in the window of an antique store, making me, of course, an antique. Here’s a poem by Elise Hempel of Illinois, from Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art. Her newest book, Second Rain, will be out in the spring of 2016, from Able Muse Press.

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.

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