Golden Gate Fields

by Joseph Millar

for David

We didn’t come here just for money and chance
for we like to gaze at the horses
being saddled now
for the thirty-first running of the Gold Rush Stakes,
the pale straw scattered underfoot
and the jockeys with Spanish names
climbing into the irons.
You sit here talking out loud
to nobody
penciling up the form
in a second-hand sweater and Giants cap
deliberating some arcane combination,
your infected foot wrapped in gauze,
six twenties left in your pocket
from a winner in the fourth.

Let’s just stay here and never go back
jittering around in the betting line
trying to keep an eye on the chalk:
the infield grass metallic gray,
the sea turning bright, then dark.
There’s a cluster of paper roses
taped to the mirror behind the bar,
a big cup filled with gold beer
and a southbound train in the distance
with a fat man ordering up the big lunch
behind the dining car’s plate glass window
glowing like platinum or seawater
under the cut sun of March.

Published on December 22, 2021