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I. Churchill Downs
Furlongs of sky curve fast over burning rails –
dirt thundering and flicking up beneath the polished clap of sweat.
At the reins, each breath draws bluntly from the sternum.
Knees in. The sun ringing loud. Pumped fists and hats tipped to wave wild
from the grandstand – a roaring applause
composed of timeless stuff: men bowed hard, given to the mane,
the short whistled cath of leather on sculpted folds of flesh.
As the sky bends out straight,
speed is held –
man and horse flat out,
the weight of flames shivering in the eyes
of rider and beast,
breaths of fire
spilling wet
off lips of the fevered crowd.