outside the racetrack just before the 9th race

I watch them raise the cripples and the infirm
in their wheelchairs
on the electric lifts
where they are emptied into the long bus
where each chair locks in
and each person has a window
of their own
they are all very white-skinned, it’s like
cheap paint on thin cardboard.
most of them are very old,
there are many old women, hardly any old
men, just a few young men, 3 of them,
and two of them wear neckbraces that
gleam, and all 3, their arms are stiff
ropes that end in almost-
claws.
but the caretaker seems very kind, very
understanding, he’s a
marvelous fat fellow with somewhat of a
rectangular head and he carries a good
smile which is not
false.
the old women are either extremely thin
or quite overweight.
most have little humps on their backs
and for most
their hair is
straight and blazing
white.
they are very still, look straight
ahead as the electric lift raises them
into their bus.
there is no conversation.
they appear calm   and not overtaken by
bitterness.
all are loaded in except for one,
the last one, an old guy, thin and
straight, long oblong head, bald, a
shining point against the
sky, he waves a long cane about as he is
pushed toward the electric lift:
“WELL, YOU FREAKS, THEY TOOK OUR ASSES
AGAIN, CLEANED US OUT, SHIT, WE’RE A
BUNCH OF SUCKERS, WE’RE TOTTERING ON THE
EDGES OF OUR GRAVES AND WE LET THEM TAKE
OUR LAST PENNIES!”
as he speaks
he whirls the cane about his head and
with the last whip of it he
cracks the marvelous fat fellow
who is pushing his chair,
he cracks the cane against the side of
that rectangular head.
it’s a damned mighty blow and
the attendant staggers a bit, grabs
hard at the back of the
chair
as the old man yells: “OH, SHIT, MANFRED,
I’M SORRY, I’M SO SORRY, WHAT CAN I
DO?   WHAT
CAN I DO?
MANNY, YOU GET IN MY CHAIR, I’LL PUSH YOU!
MANNY, I’M SO SORRY!”

Manfred gathers himself, he is not cut but
it’s a small concussion and within an hour
and a half he will possess a knot like half
an egg.

“it’s all right, Mr. Sanderson, only like
I’ve told you again and again:   please
do be careful with that
cane…”

Mr. Sanderson is pushed to the electric
lift, it rises and he is placed
within the bus.

then Manfred climbs into the bus, takes
the wheel, starts up and the bus slowly
goes down the exit lane
and upon the back of the vehicle
in white whirling paint
upon dark blue
are the words:
HARBOR HOME OF LOVE.

then over the loudspeaker come
those stirring words:    “THE HORSES ARE
APPROACHING THE STARTING GATE!”