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Today’s Biggest Winner

The people near the station have a game
they play it when the day is light
the sun high and sky clear.

The train is coming and the players—
not all the people play—the players
gather by the tracks.  The object
of the game has to do with
the train hitting the players.
It’s simple and it’s complicated.
If you get hit and killed, horribly mangled,
you win, but obviously don’t get to play again,
so you’re not a big winner.  If you get
hit and injured and survive—for instance,
your arm is broken in three or more
places—you are a lesser winner.
The lowest winners are the players
who jump off the tracks in time and only
get sprayed and spattered with blood.  The biggest winners
are the ones—and there’s never more
than one or two per train—who jump
up from the tracks onto the station platform
and are drenched with the blood of those slain
and who turn and look at the spectators
and have phony looks of surprise on their
faces, their eyes wide open and blood
running down and half-smiles playing.

We spectators gather in the cool darkness
at the back of the station and we look out
at the platform while we smoke illicit
cigarettes.  I, for one—and I tell the others this—
have had enough of bloody trains and body parts.
The noon train pulls into the station and stops
just beyond the platform.  Behind it, the biggest
winner stands on the platform and pretends
to be surprised.

Published inOniontownPoemsWords

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