1950s Trips to Rockingham Park
by MFrost Delaney

At 5a.m. the pickup starts, we’re on the road,
   the only sound, the gravel’s crunch,
and then the smell of fresh cut grass before the ramp
   that leads to 93. The drive,
some 20 miles, the only sound, the motor’s hum,
   and then the smell of cigarette.
Its smoke surrounds as Daddy’s silence settles in.

   In Salem, breakfast first for us,
a greasy spoon beside the track. The only sound
   I hear is Daddy’s voice, his words
to order bacon, eggs, some coffee, home fries, toast,
   and then the smell of perfume as
the waitress spins and leaves, the only sound, a swish,
   her skirt that captures Daddy’s eye.

The track comes next, the only sound, a rooster’s crow
   and then the smell of fresh mucked stalls,
manure piles whose vapors rise, escape to dark.
   The scruffy men who work the track
pay no attention to me as Daddy rubs and soothes
   his horse’s legs with liniment,
the only smell to overcome the barns and stalls.

   I find my way to backside’s rail
to watch the jockeys work, the horses exercise,
   the only sound the horses’ hooves
that slap the track and flip the mud into the air.
   It spatters as the smell of damp
seeps in. I breathe it out and lean against the rail
   to wait for each horse that will come.

Eventually I make my way back to the barns
   where Daddy’s horse is in the ring.
No track for her today. Her legs are sore, need rest.
   And there, the smell of dew on grass
evaporates into the sun that takes the fog.
   And then, embrace. The only sound,
my Daddy’s voice within his hug, his Let’s go home.

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