It’s derby day, & it’s been 30 years since 1984 when I stood in the grandstand at Churchill Downs after betting 20 bucks on Swale—the horse I groomed & watched as he pulled away from the great filly Althea, to win the 110th running of the race. Thirty years. & a lot of souls have risen to the upper register of life & my own life has been made more reachable by what their love did to me. I read some books & wrote some books & watched performances that moved my thinking. I’ve seen the man who gave me horses go home to his mother & I’ve seen other horses break down or go home to the grasses of their beginning to make more of their blazing kind. & after it all, I met the love of my life. & when the government turned something over, I foolishly married him—foolishly, only because all marriage is foolish—an errand into the maze. It’s Derby Day & I’m remembering my life in a stable & the ordinary living that spilled around it. I’ve eaten good food in places that had views of the everlasting & I’m certain I’ve seen the face of God on more than one occasion. & I’ve held animals so close to my own body, that something in theirs must have passed through mine. But nothing has given me more life than watching that big black beautiful shining soul run through the animal line & past all comprehension into the music of his speed & win that race on the first Saturday in May, in the Year of Forever. Here’s to Swale & to others of his kind, creature of my joy & of my sorrow.
“Swale” from The Early Minutes of Without: New & Selected Poems by Michael Klein. Copyright © 2023 by Michael Klein. Used by permission of the poet. All rights reserved.