An Epilogue to “Fugue For Tinhorns”, or The Claimers’ Lament

Their natural habitats vary widely, as they are an adaptable lot:
Sometimes a sufficiently surreptitious booth
In a bar on the main stem,
Poring over a gaggle of Racing Forms,
Perhaps a convenient light stanchion
Just inside the track’s main gate,
Maybe even behind some lectern
Fronting some staid, stately stained glass,
But, in any case, a tout is a tout is a tout,
Their dissertations and dissection
Of speed ratings and other holy text
Promulgated as gospel truth
(Albeit tinged with a sotto voce touch of the disclaimer,
That nothing can shake its author’s faith
As long as the weather is clear, the pace not too frantic over the opening quarter)
Though the nuances of sacred writ lead prelate and pundit
To come to quite opposite conclusions as to the race’s outcome
(Indeed, the disagreements can become quite heated)
Leaving the wagering public with little more to do
Than clutch sheaves of pari-mutual tickets
Close to their chests in the manner of rosaries,
Knowing that as their favored mount
Makes its way to the paddock for that final time,
It’s all too likely the tote board will flash “INQUIRY”
In grave and portentous typescripts.


14 thoughts on “An Epilogue to “Fugue For Tinhorns”, or The Claimers’ Lament

    1. Yeah, Bill. I remember commercials for Milford Jai Alai. Never went to it, though.

      My grandfather used to go every day to the OTB on Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn, as you and W.K. both read in my old blog from about two or three years ago. The piece that I wrote was called “Grandpa and the OTB”. Maybe I’ll re-post it in my new blog. In the meantime, I’m still writing that story called “So They Tell Me” in installments in my “My Cousin Bummy” blog.

      I liked this piece, W.K. It does a good job in capturing the atmosphere in an OTB. Isn’t it ironic, though, that OTB is now gone in New York City, but is there in upstate New York and on Long Island? I mean, New York City (in my grandfather’s case, specifically Brooklyn) was the home of “Guys and Dolls” and “Fugue For Tinhorns”, which was in “Guys and Dolls”. These people were New York to the tilt. It was not made to take place in Rome or Utica!

      But then again, New York City sucks now. I mean, the kind of guys in “Fugue For Tinhorns” are largely no longer around. All we have left in New York City are 90 percent mean and hostile people with no hearts. People like my grandfather and others who were the kind of people who were portrayed in “Fugue For Tinhorns” and in “Guys and Dolls” were people who were tough on the outside and had hearts of gold underneath. The average person in New York City today are mean on the outside and mean on the inside. Not to mention hostile, belligerent, and selfish.


  1. I’ve only known one poet in my life, in person that is. And now I know you wk, on line, sort of. The poet in person was James Liddy. He let me sign up for his Beat Generation Literature class back at UW-Milwaukee and I’m glad he did. I learned a lot about life from him and the other students as well, maybe the most memorable thing was the advice to know what to order if you happen to enter a bar which I hardly ever do, but the advice seems to be a blue print of sorts, applicable elsewhere, anywhere. Anyway, I also made a friend in that class and that was over 20 years ago and I’m still in contact with him. I guess that’s a consequence of the Beat Generation spirit. Anyway, I’m way off topic from your poem or maybe not in that it’s exciting to read a poem of yours or Mr. Liddy’s – may he never rest and sometimes understand what I’m reading or at least think I do. In this case, some old men filling out racing cards in a state of loneliness, but definite purpose? I know there is no right answer to a poem or that’s what people say anyway, but I find it interesting that you have a wonderful habit of saying things that somehow seem to have two meanings. I’m talking about comments you leave or replies to other people’s comments rather than within the poems themselves. James had the same habit, but after we exchanged a bunch of letters, things seemed to level off a bit. I had the same admiration and awe of him, but I stopped trying so hard to impress him, relaxed a bit and was more of myself. We became more like friends I guess.

      1. I had tickets to the Giants last visit to Montreal, must have been July 2004, lower box between third and left, preparing all kinds of jingles for Barry Bonds when the entire series was rerouted to San Francisco, part of the MLB take over procedures that included denial of September roster expansion and all those home games in Porto Rico, but ya know, if you’re gonna get contracted or relocated out of baseball, might as well do it with some strangeness, not that Montreal had any control over the how it happened, but as it turned out, well during one of the radio broadcasts in Porto Rico, Bill Lee went AWOL. He was climbing a tree in search of a rare singing frog. I have that on tape somewhere. Gotta find it and post it on you tube.

  2. The ancient wager is a prayer for luck to heap rewards in spades, and the sacrifice — everything in ones own pocket for the hope of that payoff — is what is redeemed in the hurricane of hooves. Or so we pray, so it is, as Mama Z sez, pure religion. This has the experienced eye for the entire gamos, does not judge but so knowingly (perhaps too much so) participates.

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