Poetry: Linda Gregerson, 'The Horses Ran Back to Their Stalls'

originally published March 2002

Audio: Hear Linda Gregerson read this poem (2:02)

Also by Linda Gregerson:
Varenna (2010)
Two Poems (2009)
Constitutional (2008)
Bright Shadow (2006)
Waterborne (2000)
Target (1996)
For the Taking (1993)
Safe (1990)

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
             you're right,
     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
             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.

Linda Gregerson's recent collections include Magnetic North (2007) and Waterborne (2002). She teaches writing and Renaissance literature at the University of Michigan.