The Procedure is Called Limited Containment
- by Maj Ragain
Companion poem for %Jesus Jockey&, oil on panel, 12 x 12”, 2016
My son called tonight from Livingston, Alabama.
He is working seventy hours a week, his first real job.
The earth in that part of Alabama is chalk,
a geological formation that holds surface water.
A company from Atlanta bought up a hundred acres
and dug a lake, a toxic waste site.
My son’s job, as a geologist, is to look after
that pool of bone eating doomsday toothpaste.
It seethes in a great black pit
lined with layer after layer of Hefty bags.
The plastic pool liner is expected
to last no more than thirty years.
The procedure is called limited containment.
I am well here in Kent, I tell him,
on a holy tear at the racetrack.
Saturday, at Thistledown, it was a 15 to 1 shot
named Joanie’s Law who wired the field,
and K. O. King won in the mud at 7 to 1.
Yesterday it was Bluffin Wings. And a horse
named NearArtic Reality has hit the board
twice for me this week.
It this keeps up, I’ll be making my living
like a stockbroker, working an hour every morning
on the Daily Racing Form.
I’ll call in my bets, then unplug the phone.
I am learning to live a life
Of magnanimity, simplicity and trust.
Give me thirty more years of this
And the world can keep the rest.
I try to learn from the jockeys.
When they ride in the mud,
they wear maybe three or four pairs of goggles.
As the frontrunning horses kick back the mud,
the trailing riders shuck off a pair of muddied goggles
and throw them away. They keep throwing them away
til they get down to their eyes.
Then they ride blind.
My son, I had this dream that you woke up
In the middle of the black dead sea,
a hundred acres across. You stood
on a island the size of a barrelhead.
The only way to shore was a boardwalk,
a foot wide, suspended over the pit.
I was close enough to hear you breathe
but I couldn’t help.
You got up on the narrow boardwalk
and took a step, your arms extended for balance.
You said you couldn’t see.
I told you to remember that Jesus was a jockey,
blind and skinny and devout.