Saturday, November 25, 2023


by Julene Waffle

Ten minutes before the sun started 

its fiery path across the sky 

and dropped its first dewy light 

through my window, 

someone called the fire department 

at Tioga Downs,

but it was already too late.

Always Smooth, Better Call Saul (a cheeky bugger), 

Birdie Three, the angel of the barn, and more.

Did he speak to them? Tell them why?

There must have been a click of an igniter

Did their ears prick at the sound? 

Did they stomp their feet?

Da Boogie Man, Danzon Hanover who loved 

nipping at zippers and pulling strings. 

A barn intentionally set on fire. 

In an instant thirty horses were gone.

Diamond Express whose eyes sparkled like her name. 

Fireside Tail arrived not twelve hours before; 

A yearling, her owner cried, 

I’m so sorry little angel.

Their trainers and owners couldn't 

free them from the flames for the heat 

and the smoke and the burning.  

Hall It Off. It’s Rigged was a soft-hearted oaf. 

Karpathos was 22 and in his eleventh year 

of retirement. Lone Wolf American.

Onlookers could hear them, kick and scream,

then nothing 

but the crackle and break of flame and beam.

And people crying in the dusk.

Hot Shot Joe had a zest for life 

as big as the race inside him. 

Hunts Point—no one will know his full potential. 

Ideal Chance arrived two days before.

He was in a new home amidst strangers. 

These horses were more than statistics, more than racers; 

They were promises made and promises kept.  

They were family.

Market Mayhem. Mc Mach loved racing 

but might have loved his ears scratched more. 

My Delight was a lady’s man. Payara danced in her stall.

Owners knew their lineages better than their own.

Grant Me This adored her barn sister Silverhill Misty.

Pineapple Sundae just finished six months of rehab

for a knee injury.  He was a race horse 

who didn’t have one last chance to run. 

Once they begged for treats. Others leaned eagerly out

of their stalls to greet everyone who passed.

Some napped twenty-two hours a day. Some knew 

their mind and let everyone know it too.

Pocket Watch N. Prairie Dutches. 

Rough Montana Lane loved cuddles and kisses.

SD Watch Me Now was grumpy, but 

would secretly give you kisses then pull faces 

behind your back. Blazin Mooss was sweet in the barn 

and crazy on the track.  Slave Labour. 

Schlitz lived for hay bags and hugs. 

And a horse named Violence 

would sit in your lap if you let him.

Buzzards R Flying was a wise old man at heart

and his brother, didn't even have time 

to earn his name.

Some were just learning. Some were veterans.

They were nicknamed: Dandy Cheeks, Princess Di,

Macaroni, Norman, Spongebob, Sassy Susan, Tank.

They were gentle to the wheel,

and named by little girls and boys who were their best friends.

They made men cry at the track and made their owners 

throw themselves into the flames to save them.

Julene Waffle, a graduate of Hartwick College and Binghamton University, is a teacher in rural NYS, an entrepreneur, a nature lover, a wife, a mother of three boys, two dogs, three cats, a bearded dragon, and, of course, she’s a writer. She finds pleasure in juggling these jobs while seeming like she has it all together.