Watchwords of the last yellow fig leaves as they skitter, second-hand against cement. Wishes as racehorses—glassine physiques pushed until cracks form and the horse goes down. Broken leg. Blown heart. Which would win,
lapsing into a longing like my mom did so many years later, slumbering longer each day until she didn’t wake up? Dreaming or desiring what? Her wishes had been the Black Stallion in the Walter Farley books, coat gleaming with salt, kicking up spray along an island beach. The smell of brine filling its distended nostrils. Sand solid under iron-bar legs. Get that horse on a track one morning before dawn and watch it run fast but zigzag as it moves down the track, not keeping to a straight line for the life of it but still life itself, barreling at speed with no hint at being stopped. Stopwatch in the observer’s hand with its second-hand running at its regular sprint but seeming like years to run faster with each orbit around its face. A wish,
heart pumping, more answer than question,
as wishes always tend to seem, one clock momentarily paused while another runs down to when the starting-gate bell sounds. Sides brush against galvanized steel pipe-rails. Jockeys feel taut ropes of muscle quiver under saddles. Sugary musks of nervous sweat, much different from the funks and lather of running and having run. Which expectation would take the lead? Which rider would fall, as George Wolff did years after riding Seabiscuit into wish fulfillment against War Admiral at Pimlico? How far
both wild and beyond fulfillment—for me to say goodbye? How far, racing
in the first book’s final race further past me down the track? The Black pulling far ahead, its lead increasing like hours slept before not taking. Horse receding like words unspoken, caught in a breeze midair, between mind and mouth, to tumble and drift, landing unseen or far from where they were expected to land, yellow and browning. Hint of dust in the air, as those words fall, that they were never revealed when green, absorbing sunlight and wishing to fruit some conversation. That they didn’t follow what appears a straight line, down a deceptively straight-looking white wooden rail, pounding a track, letting the mainspring unwind? Toward what image or recollection? The formal Chinese dinner with sister and her husband one Christmas in Phoenix, everyone at the table quiet as an empty stable while the restaurant was packed? The Chinese food three years later, an hour snatched before my daughter flew home? Before hooves drowned calm—or was it rain, falling while we remained oblivious, chatting, catching up? Before
along with all the other befores that somehow never make an after? Like Mon. Like Wolff as he made the clubhouse turn at Santa Anita, drifting out of conscioueness. Perhaps wishing past his body touching ground, the rest of the pack wanting past, over him. Maybe more dream than wish by then. Falling.
* Title taken from the poem “And You Know” by John Ashbery, in the collection Some Trees.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA while working as an in-home health-care provider, a profession he practices to this day. His work has appeared in Gleam, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Synkroniciti and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, was published by Tebot Bach in 2021.