Did Memorial Day approaching
fuel my dream of a kid I knew
who’d served in the Marines?
We loved the horses but underage,
jumped fences, outran cops
to get a bet down.
When I awoke we were at a window
cashing winning tickets.
Saw him last at the Narragansett
Park under last race lights.
Not for nothing, he was a heavy smoker
and my memory squinted through
a fog to make certain it was him.
His older sister dated a guy who wore a black
leather jacket: “Love Hurts” in big white
letters on its reverse.
In the Corps also, he counseled Vets
after city trash truck work wore him down.
Liver disease failed to count
his medals, finished him off.
She had beautiful eyes but cancer didn’t
care how startling their blue.
My old gambling friend was in Nam too.
He went into furniture repair
and refinishing after discharge.
I hoped the ponies still mattered
and I pictured Marlboro ashes
mixed with stripping fluid
on an old Racing Form spread
on his shop floor—
tobacco and solvent fumes
inciting memories of long ago
horses we’d bet not war.
Thomas M. McDade