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Melbourne Cup

Melbourne Cup

There’s an unmade sand track

off the only sealed section of the Dalkeith Road

where an untidy corner of rolled rusty wire

and mouldered fence posts

borders this long slow agistment

and an old frail horse droops

beneath the ancient dark of afternoon

and pepper tree shade

with the nosebag nuisance of flies

around its face

its tail the only movement

a fugue of repetition

in the seventh heat soaked day of summer

somewhere in an adjacent lean-to shed

a man in a sweat-stained and purple singlet

is tinkering with the mysterious minutiae

of a carburettor

and at this farthest distance from Flemington

a distorted crackling radio

marks this timeless moment

with the staccato of a racetrack reveille

the horse raises its slow head

to the sleepy summons

of something it has almost forgotten

the man puts down the impedimenta

in his fingers

wipes his hands on an oily rag

and a nation stops

for a start.

Jeff Guess


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