Inspired by Arrogate’s record-setting win August 27, 2016

by Mary Perdue


In the beginning there were

Thirteen horses

Celebrated and obscure

Alert or reluctant

All laden with hopes and dreams

Of those they knew the way horses know

And others they had never seen and would never

Feel or touch or know

But still they carried

What we needed them to carry

Glorious burdens

More than iron, lead or silk

A chance to be their own dream

Or someone else’s

If horses dream.


In the gate they shift and paw

Tense and glistening

Manes bunched in clenched fists

Until the break

When time stops for them and starts for us

And running is all there is.


In their hearts they run


The way they might if they were truly free

But the race is their freedom now

Confined along the rail or breathing dirt

Only a few may lead

And so they do.


But in this race there is one horse

Who takes what until now has

Never been his,

Accorded by his given name

Perfect and faithful to human desire

He runs against the race itself.


In his jockey’s hands

Remembrance and future

Grey as one

Bit and bridle

One neck outstretched

To overtake and thus become all those

Who ran before.


In front alone

The others fade

From time and memory

Ordinary and distant behind him

Clearly beaten

Their brave futility

Ennobles him.


In the stands we cheer or cry

Others are silenced

By the animal flash

Of expectations shattered:

No horse can run like this.


In the end

There is no end at all

Our race is over but not his.

Commanded by blood

He runs without a wire

Loose forever

On the lead.


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