Dana Roeser Derby Party

I went to the party in my pajamas
____and a giant white picture
hat that dominated me
____like an elephant ear.
Don said my cleavage showed

____the entire time.
I used the hat as a personal Japanese
____screen and had no idea
who else was in
____room. But when I ran

into them, the other dowagers in hats,
____I stared them
down. For none had hats
____half the size of mine.
There was a three-tiered display

____of bourbon balls that contained,
one of the Brians told me,
____walnuts that had been
soaked in booze for two days.
____There were bushels of mint

and simple syrup for juleps. The Brians
____should have had
powdered sugar, and no one
____knew how to muddle

the mint. I got into an argument
___-with Pete in which
he declared he used to see me
____on the street running
like an old man. I punched him
____in the arm

and said I ran for forty years
_-__and had to have my hip
replaced. I said if he didn’t
____quit it with his bicycle-bragging,
I’d take him to the stable and put him

____on a race horse. That
there was one I’d been riding,
____who last raced six months
ago. Puffing up in my hat
____like a cobra.

My husband was panting with
____enthusiasm; God knows
where my décolletage
____was in the “intimate”
Free People white

____lace negligee.
My husband and I left early,
____drove ten miles north
to the prairie at Prophetstown.
____We walked under a

lavender sky. Under
____Venus. Without
much to guide us. I picked a fight
____about being neglected;
the coyotes and foxes rustled through

____the grasses. The
birds sang all their songs in
____unison and backwards
and weren’t that pleased
____with my whistling replies.

I asked Olivia about Florida
____at the party.
She wasn’t wearing a hat. She said,
____It’s simple. Google Man o’ War
and beaches and find out

____which beaches don’t have
them. I said there was the day
____in Key West when the
stinging marine life purple flag
____flapped by

the guard house.
____I was so freaked out
by my giant-frame fat-tired blue bike,
____I failed to notice.
I could have been goosed by

____the tips of hundred-foot-long
tentacles the whole time I swam.
____I said I had waited three months
exactly from the time
____I returned from Key West

for the weather in our
____Indiana town to become
decently comparable. But no one
____was listening. They perked up
a little when I mentioned

____my weekly injection. How I got an
instant headache
____and craved orange food items
in boxes. My husband
____is cruel. On our walk he said

that it looked like
____there were some people
at the party I was
____getting along with. I told him
I could count the number of

____people I wasn’t introduced to
and the number of people who looked
____directly through me. I had a
lucrative job once, that
____came with a four-story

house, window treatments,
____chandeliers, and gold
faucets. I want to leave
____this place so badly I might go
out in the fields and

join the coyotes, the
____foxes. Comporting oneself
while being ignored
____is a special skill set. John
almost started hyperventilating

____about the amount
my daughter will need to go into debt
____to pay for medical school.
But he settled down
____as we picked through

the fruit tray.
____I fingered some criminally
large strawberries and
____he had the melon.
I was staring at the little

____TV over the table and adjusting
the volume on the remote. I looked
____at the horses in the paddock
before the race and tried to remember
____how I used to

pick them. Saw Justify
____prancing next to the lead
pony on his way to the track.
____The other guests, the bettors, were
in the living room, assembled

____in front of the flat screen. John
leaned over to me, looking up, said,
____“It’s grotesque, isn’t it?” I said,
“Yes, of course. Our new thoroughbred at
____the barn—Beach—

didn’t even know
____how to eat an apple wafer
when we got him. I have
____since introduced him
to carrots and real apples.”

____I said it was like he’d
been at a boarding school.
____Or an orphanage. The jockey
who won, Mike Smith,
____was it?, looked upward

and said loudly for all to hear,
____Thank you, Jesus Christ.
He said Justify had a good
____mind. I was on the
macadam path at Prophetstown

____in that huge field at nightfall.
Venus and its starshine
____scattering over me.
I was on the deck at
____the party, glints falling

through an oversized
____picture hat. Larger than that
elephant ear outside the back door
____of my yellow clapboard
shotgun in New Orleans.

____It would double
in size overnight.
____Larger wingspan
than anyone
____else’s at the party.

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