F. Daniel Rzicznek

Horseplayer

for Maj Ragain



He chose his horses

like a wild raspberry bush overtaking an abandoned downspout.


                                   He told me once to fold a fifty twice,

                                   lay it in the sole of my left shoe

                                   but it didn’t do shit.


He chose his horses

by ignoring the glances of the fates and by listening

endlessly. (He had engines for ears.)


                                   He told me once: I never root,

                                   I try never to say a damn thing—

                                   if I win, I collect, and then I hit 

                                   the road home on four spare tires.


He chose his horses

wrong most of the time, like everyone,

but he x-ed his boxes with a mercenary’s pen.


                                   Another time: you will bet on a horse

                                   named ‘eleven little devils,’ and lose

                                   but by surviving it, you will win and win.


He chose his horses drunk 

on coffee and nothingness, scribbled poems for the void

to grind to a bony dust and sweep across this wide, blue place.


                                   He told me once: later, take that fifty,

                                   pressed flat as a leaf and still damp,

                                   and give it a whiff: Easter, Halloween,

                                   and Christmas, rolled into one.

                                   Spend it on your true love and rejoice.


The House a Man Lived in

After seventeen years of hard luck

and bad work, he slipped off and away.


Pointless replications of willows and rainclouds, 

the dry eyeball of a pond: too many 


strings of ether drawn through his mind's 

syringe, and too many sirens and too much 


daylight pawing at the outlines of condos,

privacy fences. The supplanted forest


deploys tendrils into gutters and attic. Termites 

climb the blackout curtains. Two miles away, 


hawks haunt the berm bridging turnpike 

to limp cottontail. The slippery sun duels 


with no one: the face a familiar blur, one less 

metaphysical villain bleeding out


in waist-high weeds, the dust-clogged 

windows reflecting always, only, sky.


F. Daniel Rzicznek's books of poetry are Settlers (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press), and he is coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press). His new poems can be found in Denver Quarterly, American Literary Review, Witness, and Barrow Street. He teaches writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

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