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That's the Way of It.

That's the Way of It

my dad was always something
of a railbird
he loved to play the ponies
more often the sulkies
than the riders
every year it was a week
at the Little Brown Jug
with his cronies in a car
racing for Ohio
one of his friends had lost the farm
three generations of the same family on the land
and it was gone
to gambling

when I was seven
he taught me craps
and euchre for a dime a hand
he loved the risk
some evenings he'd go to bed
at sundown
and lie in the radio light
of the room
with the ballgame on
lying in the half-sleep of those green-grass voices
listening for the phone
and when it rang
he'd leap alive
and we could hear his belt buckle
ringing in its loops, his shoe soles
tapping linoleum
until down the lane he ran
and off to Windsor, off
to London or Detroit
he loved the dusty oval so
the silks and blinkers
of the torn-ticket crowd

sometimes we'd go together
to the city fairgrounds
with footlongs at midnight diners
and the ache of fatigue in my boyhood frame
cramped in the front seat
between two happy chancers coming home

once at Dresden raceway
he bought us a program
and then left us with nothing to do
but watch him come and go
as loss by loss
he darkened down like evening
in the moth-light of the summer night

but here's the story
concerning what I'd done
before the horses took to the track
I'd perused the pages of the program
picked and circled my selections
for all ten races
and I'd done so by simply guessing
letting my pencil stray to names I liked
and numbers I favoured--it must have seemed
as though in a trance of knowing
I had insider knowledge
or I'd overheard some loose talk at the barn
some stable rumours, some corrupt agreement
concerning who's to win and who's to lose--
for every race come one, come two,
come three, come all through nine
I'd picked the winner
my mother said to dad
"George, you should pay attention
to what your son has done." And so
he said "Give me that damned thing"
and finally after I'd made nine perfect predictions
he bet my pick and lost

and that's the way of it
it seems
my mother shining a light
and my father
finally seeing the source of it
as like evening come upon the land within
it dimmed

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Author:Lee, John B.
Publication:Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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