originally published March 2002
Audio: Hear Linda Gregerson read this poem (2:02)
Also by Linda Gregerson:
Two Poems (2009)
Bright Shadow (2006)
For the Taking (1993)
From the archives:
Isabella Whitney's "Wyll and Testament"
Essay and readings by Linda Gregerson (April 2007)
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
introduction by Linda Gregerson (October 27, 1999)
It's another sorry tale about class in America, I'm sure
but you have to imagine how proud we were.
Your grandfather painted a banner that hung from Wascher's
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
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
the barns that bred the horses, bred at last this perfect
horse, our hundred and thirty seconds of flat-out earth-
They bought the Arlington Racetrack then, and Jens
got a job that for once in his life allowed him to pay
and the doctors too, but he talked the loose way even
good men talk sometimes, and old man Hertz
to let him go. It was August when the cab strike in
Chicago got so ugly. Somebody must have tipped
since we learned later on that the Count
and the trainer who slept in his stall had been moved
barn. I'll never forget the morning after: ash
in the air all the way to town, and the smell of those
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.
Linda Gregerson's recent collections include Magnetic North (2007) and Waterborne (2002). She teaches writing and Renaissance literature at the University of Michigan.