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False Starts


                           i
 
             i am not the first to say it
             but i'll repeat it
             poetry and comedy are just lies
             and the racetrack is more like life
             than anything i know
 
             there are people everywhere
             yet you are alone
             the odds stacked against you
             and you have to make choices
 
             life's choices only matter every now and then
             while at the racetrack every decision matters
             you see the difference right then and there;
             so understand that it is not about gambling
             it is about knowing who you are
 
             remember that june day
             after you got laid off
             we sat in belmont's backyard
             it was so beautiful
             and i said to you
             let's just see what happens
             if we try right now
 
             so we did
             underfinanced
             somewhat ill-prepared
             not unlike that day in my car
             when i asked you to marry me
 
 
                     ii
 
             if there is a god
             then he plays the horses
             and he plays them at belmont park
             so (again like our marriage)
             we started out
             in the presence of god
 
             belmont was hard
             we were scared
             we pressed too hard
             yet though we were behind
             we decided to head up to saratoga
             for a month and a week
 
             saratoga wasn't easy either
             but we did our work
             each of us
             buried in the racing form
             and we studied our bets
             to see what went wrong
             and by the end of the month
             things were going better
             and we had some confidence
 
             back at belmont
             a slow turnaround
             continued
             until
             finally
             last day of the meet
             last race of the day
             we pulled off the big score
 
             after five long months
             we were in the black
 
             we moved over to aqueduct
             where every day seems the same
             familiarity breeds contempt
             except to those who pay attention
             we went back and forth
             but we were learning
             a lot about ourselves
 
             remember the day we realized
             that everytime we'd win big
             we'd cut down our bets
             so as not to feel invincible
             only after a day of that
             we'd start making
             bad choices all the time
 
             when we think we have a cushion
             is when we are at our worst
 
 
                       iii
 
             then they switched to the inner track
             which is what we were waiting for
             and bang bang
             mr. aquilino and mr. parisella
             put us ahead for good
             because we had learned
             how to deal with a cushion
 
             well
             we thought we had
 
 
                       iv
 
             soon it was january
             a new year a new decision
 
             we had accomplished a lot
             more than i thought we could
             forgive me for saying this but
             i was impressed by us
 
             all that time
             day in
             and
             day out
             at the track
 
             three thousand dollars
             became more than sixty three hundred
 
             now listen to me everyone
             i do not care if you are my father
             or if you are my brother
             and i do not care if you
             are some stranger i have never met
 
             i do not care
             because this is the truth
             if you can play the horses
             everyday for months
             never tap out
             and double your stake
             then you can do
             just about anything
             and we did that
             and we can do
             anything
 
             this is not boasting because
             it is the truth
 
  
                        v
     
             there are a lot of truths at the track
             one of them says that 3300 dollars
             divided by 8 months doesn't pay the rent
             especially when clubs are closing
             and the landlord's selling the house
 
             a decision had to be made
             we decided we had won
             together
             we knew what we could do
             but it takes money to do it
 
             so we decided
             to move to LA
 
 
                       vi
 
             now you are back in an office
             and i seem stuck behind the keyboard
             which is not why i came here
 
             haven't been to the track in a month
             we went to hollywood park when
             the horses were at Delmar
             we sat in the grandstand
             and watched the tv
             and i looked around
             for charles bukowski
             and half-expected him to be there
 
             do you remember in the hotel room at saratoga
             when i read mr. bukowski's poem to you
             i am the horseplayer who became the racetrack
             i am myself alone with a racing form and a program
             the words were so beautiful we both could have cried
             but instead we went back to our racing forms
 
             somehow i wanted to show him
             that i was not alone that you
             don't have to live alone
             then i looked at you
             and wondered
             if i was
             alone
 
             decisions all the time
             all the time decisions
 
 
                        vii
 
             you told me about your separate bankroll
             you turned 40 dollars into 400 plus
             must have laughed at our 3300
             can't say i was surprised by it
             you can survive at the track
             with or without me
 
             and life is like the racetrack
 
             except at the racetrack
             you know where you stand
             for 8 months we were together
             every day at the track
             fighting and winning the same war
             when we realized what we had done together
             we thought that we were invincible
             but we should have known
             we would take foolish risks
             because we thought we had a cushion
 
             now eight months and
             a whole new life later and
             for no reason i can think of
             we look at each other
             and wonder
             if we are alone
 
 
                            viii
    
             and so another decision to be made
             and soon the breeders cup at belmont park
             and i am saying
             let's go to belmont park
             and not to recapture what we have lost
 
             at the racetrack
             chasing after what has been lost
             will always be a sure way to lose more
  
             the racetrack is more like life
             than anything i know
 
             let's go to belmont park
             where god (if there is a god)
             intended for us to make wise decisions
             let's decide to start again
             to take another chance on
 
             us
 
             we have shown time
             and time again
             we can do just that
             and win
             we have shown
             we can win
 
             together
 
 
                         ix
   
             you and me
             me and you
             together
 
             Us
-d



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