Rich Strike by Ed Ruzicka

Rich Strike
—for Nancy Von-Brock

Mine eyes deceived me, mine.
I thought that was the 2 horse
that came flashing forward,
legs like pistons firing three
times for each two the other
horses’ struck. I was, we were,
after all, before all, drunko, drunkas,
drunkat, drunkamus, drukatis, drunkant
on Nancy Von’s uncle’s recipe
handed down for generations
from Todd County, Kentuck—
the recipe that calls for bourbon,
mint, bourbon, sugar, bourbon,
shivers of ice, bourbon, mint, bourbon.

I look closer, me, with zero,
looped-out eyes, me. It’s number 21.
No way. Who the frog is this?
What is that glorious bay so lit up on
that he goes a-nipping at the stable horse’s
long-cabled neck? Is this irritation,
thrill, anxiety or high-jinx?

What a stamp, what a finish, what a period
at the end of a drunko, drunkamus day.
All those tons of top-dollar horse flesh
done in, limp & ragged without riches,
succumb to the furious thunder of nobody
who rode, do-dah-day, into Derby history.
Who bet the bay, Mattress Mack? Who bet the bay?

Oh my God, that indelible sable-dark stallion
whose eyes mine eyes fell into
like I was set to pull a parachute cord
in a night-wind tumble, drifted back to Show

and I can feel the wind that jockeys with skin
as taut and electric as their mount’s hides
feel as they press into stirrups in the stretch,
thorough-bred’s endless necks stuck out,
tornadoes of dirt flung backwards.
a hundred thousand tickets blow off
in the long, wind of twenty ponies
lathered up and pounding.

by Ed Ruzicka

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem’s repetition and word play rollicks into exhilaration as both the speaker and horse race towards the last line.

2/27/2022 by Ed Ruzicka


I have been 2x vaccinated against the shingles—
an affliction commercials show
as lava crackling on top of skin.
Nerve endings go haywire.
I feel safer now as I go
room to room at the hospital
where rashes and lesions
appear on the papery skin
of our elderly routinely.

Of course, my safety does nothing
for anyone bunkering
in the subways of Kiev
as Russia gives it another
deep dive into history and a lesson
on the marvels of modern war-craft
so Putin can have his fill
of limbs ripped from bodies.

Brick and mortar cough as they rise
and tumble, topsy-turvy, orchestrated
by what music of decimation
is created at the tip of a missile.
There now is the little girl
in her inadequate sweater
who wanders out of rubble.
She will need a new mother.

Instead she finds a dusty kitten.
Over and over, in passionate whispers,
the girl promises to be the kitten’s protector.
I am safe and I am trying to stay safe.
In the worst of times eyes turn to stone
and February is never kind.

by Ed Ruzicka

Editor’s Note: War feels interminable no matter the season, but winter is never kind.

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

Rapvilnel by Ed Ruzicka


Walls explode around a woman
fully dressed in the tub with a cat.
Not a bird in the sky. A mail box
and a toaster oven fly by the window

Because dogs pay attention to pressure
in their joints, they hunker down
in closets, under beds
well before the funnel’s terror

moves across the body of the city
like the finger of a dominatrix,
well before the city becomes
crouching, cries, paralysis, fury.

What gets misconstrued
gets misconstrued up and down the block.
Walls explode around a woman
fully dressed in the tub with a cat.

A Kawasaki crotch rocket
with Michigan tags is thrown
through plate glass at the Piggly Wiggly,
slides to a stop in the cereal isle.

The city is littered with the city.
A red rider mower with a tractor seat
is in the rain. Its shed is matchsticks.
The woman with the cat in the tub
looks into the sky, hopes for over.

When the sky is done with Naperville
great oaks and maples lay on their sides.
Birds come out, dart. Birds rest
on the roots of oaks, of maples.

by Ed Ruzicka

Editor’s Note: The repetition in this poem grounds the reader while the rest of the imagery blows askew within the lines, skillfully reflecting the utter disarray a tornado can make in a life.