poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 4, 2016.
About this Poem 

“My dad loved to bet the horses, and Saratoga was his favorite track. The summer after his sudden death, I traveled upstate to take in a few races with my brother and his kids. After the fifth or sixth race, I snuck up to the finish line fence with a Dixie cup full of dad’s gravelly ashes, giving them a good fling onto the track. The horses ran so hard through his dust and their own dust—it was all I could ask for from the moment.”
—Christopher Salerno

Bray

It’s summer here so soda pop and blue
jeans in the trees. I am peeling
my sunburn on a bus bound for Saratoga
Springs where I will lob my father’s
ashes on the line where the racehorses
finish one at a time, and as they do,
the mist of a million particles
of ash in the air, all likeness will disappear
between us. I had built a boundary
out of skin where I sat quietly
until blood was the only moving
thing on a map of where we are.
On the dirt track, horses fill
their lungs in the sun and urge on.
When a losing horse dips
its head to greet me, his black whiskers
tickle the flesh of my neck. Why
do all hearted creatures stink?
I am asked by my brother’s
youngest child, Is horse your favorite
or least favorite mammal?
I say
don’t beg the Lord if the sky is
a gray roof beneath which
you have waited all day to see
gallop something graceful, swift.

Copyright © 2016 by Christopher Salerno. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Christopher Salerno. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Christopher Salerno

Christopher Salerno

Christopher Salerno is the author of Sun & Urn (University of Georgia Press, 2017), winner of the Georgia Poetry Prize. He lives in Caldwell, New Jersey.

by this poet

poem

The bakery’s graffiti either spells HOPE
or NOPE. But hope and results
are different, said Fanny Brawne to her Keats
voiding his unreasonable lung.
Getting off the medicine
completely means light again
blinking to light. Device returned
to its factory settings. The complete black

poem

It is important to face the rear of the train
as it leaves the republic. Not that all
 
departing is yearning. First love is
a factory. We sleep in a bed that had once
 
been a tree. Nothing is forgot.
Yet facts, over time, lose their charm,
 
warned a dying