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A poem about horses: Colours in Joy, Racing Silks

Updated on February 14, 2013
image courtesy of Wiki commons
image courtesy of Wiki commons

Colours in Joy - Racing Silks

I went to Goodwood races once. It was a glorious day, and the sights and sounds of the racetrack generated an intoxicating mix of nervous energy, anticipation, and pent-up, hold-your-breath excitement. I'm not a big gambler, but I can see how some people get addicted. Horse-racing inspires people to part with money on the off-chance that they might see a substantial return, and in the meantime, they get the opportunity to cheer, and scream, and shout for the horse and rider that take their fancy. We're talking about risks and chances, dreams and nightmares, hopes and fears. A slice of life.

Racing Silks

At the track the money’s changing hands
‘Black Knight, a tenner on the nose,’
‘Even Stevens, a ton each way’
‘Five pounds on the favourite’
Crumpled notes are flattened, folded, pocketed
Honest Mac chalks the odds on a board

The horses line up, flanks gleaming
Flared nostrils steaming, dragon breaths
In the January air.
Hooves paw the ground impatiently
Jockeys poised in a riot of colour
Carnival colours in a wintry world

Punters huddle together for warmth
Wrapped up snugly against the chill
They stamp their feet and pull up their collars
Their ears are pink. Cheeks are aglow.
Will there be champagne later? Or will
They scatter their losing tickets like confetti?

And they’re off! Flying down the track
Hooves thundering! Jockeys crouched low
Clattering past as the crowd roars encouragement!
‘Even Stevens!’ ‘Move it Black Knight!’
‘Come on, come on!’ as the mist engulfs them
Honest Mac smiles as the favourite comes last.

Pulled Up

Galloping down the track
He suddenly saw the jump
With appalling clarity
As though for the first time

So high, so solid
And coming up so fast
He felt the grip of unaccustomed fear
Knotting in his belly

His mouth as dry as a desert,
Sweat trickiling down his spine
Horse and rider
Communicating silently

This unspoken fear
A memory of unhorsed riders
Covering their faces against an onslaught of flailing hooves
Their empty mounts cantering across the finish line
Steaming and snorting in puzzlement

Eyes closed, and a prayer on his lips
It came as no surprise
When his horse refused to jump.

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Photo Credit

 Memorial Day, Arlington Park 2007, by Slooby. Posted to Flickr, and sourced via WikCommons

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