08/11/2003 11:00PM

By request, a poetry encore


TUCSON, Ariz. - Readers who enjoyed Norah Pollard's lyrical poems about her father, jockey Red Pollard of Seabiscuit fame, that appeared here last time out, have asked if there are more.

Happily there are.

They appear in a new book of her poetry titled "Leaning In," published by Antrim House, Box 111, Tarriffville, CT, reachable on the Internet at www.antrimhousebooks.com. With their permission, here are two more of Pollard's elegant and elegiac poems dedicated to her father.

Wondrously warm, they reveal how a daughter feels about a famous father whose intellectual complexity was never fully developed in Seabiscuit, either in print or on the screen.

I asked Norah how she liked the book and the movie depicting her father's life. She enjoyed them greatly and liked Tobey Maguire's portrayal, although she said her father was far more weather-beaten, and she regretted that her cultured mother's role was underplayed on both page and film. Agnes Conlon Pollard was, Norah says, an exceptionally talented and highly intelligent balance wheel who kept Red alive and ticking, and played a far greater role, after breaking her engagement to a doctor and giving up a privileged life to marry Red, than either author Laura Hillenbrand or producer Gary Ross developed.

One of Pollard's new poems on Red tells of the destruction of Narragansett Park in Rhode Island, where Pollard rode and, ironically, died after the track's demise. The second poem is a haunting ode to Red's memory. Here they are, in that order.

Narragansett Dark

- for my father

They led the horses away.

They tore down the fences.

The wrecking ball brought down

the grandstand, the clubhouse.

They plowed under the track kitchen,

The tack shop, the bettors' windows,

They burned the green barns.

When there was nothing of Narragansett

But a great empty space, the moon

glittered over it like a Vegas sign

and the wind blew dust across

900 acres to the Newport-Armistice roads.

The next day they paved.

Black asphalt covered the scent

of hay and the horse.

They built a drugstore,

a store for linoleum, and they

threw up subdivisions, aqua and mustard

and pink, whose mailboxes rusted

before they were sold.

Then they built a nursing home

where now the old jockey lay in a narrow bed.

He did not know where he was

so the irony was lost to him,

but he knew his wife would come

and wash him and light him a cigarette

and put the swatches of cotton

between his toes and pour him

a small cup of blackberry brandy.

Long nights alone, after the TV was

shut off and the brandy gone,

he'd listen for something

All the long, dark nights, listening

One night a lean March wind

rattled the gate and his heart labored

in his breast and he rose up

for he heard what he heard -

the soft nickering and blowing, the thin

rustle of silks, the creak

of saddle and the tick

of hoof on stone.

And he left the bed and went out

To where they stood in the grasses.

He stood before them and

their breath fell on him like cloud

and he saw their great eyes pool the moon.

And the one waiting for him,

the one with an empty saddle,

was a bay.

He mounted up and they rode under the moon

and the wind flared the mane of his horse

and was hard and clean on his face.

The others galloped on either side, silently,

as if they were running on moss or flowers,

and he went with them where they took him

into the fields of night.

Last Light

If, some summer evening,

you were to come upon

my father's bones

under the ferns

by the dark and languid

Ten Mile River,

you would find them small,

for a man,

and note that the skull

was beautifully shaped.

You would note, too,

the unusually long and

narrow bones of his hands

bound together by the black rosary,

the fine shreds of green silk tie

still caught around the white

spools of his neck, and

the hair, translucent when

they buried him, now

perfectly clear, luminous as

spider's silk.

Many of his bones would show

old cracks and fractures -

his nose, ribs, one arm, a hand

the hips, that terrible leg, the clavicle -

a chronicle of bad breaks

in a life of riding horses.

And then, if you were to kneel

And hold back the laurel and blackthorn

shading what had been his face,

you would find,

pooled in its socket like

a tiny lake among snow hills,

his glass eye,

steadfastly shining,

eternally innocent of the wild, harsh

and gorgeous world it had gazed upon,

forever blue.