Gamble by Daisy Bassen


I know how to lose, the Irishman said,
Happily, as if it were his heritage,
Familiar as the particular grey of the town
He’d come from a year ago, a town
He wasn’t ready to return to. Winning
And losing, the sides of a tossed coin
Before it’s caught in his callused hand,
He meant they were joined, the chance of one
Predicated on the other. I know how to lose
Without any promises, how to drop my eyes,
Look at the window over his shoulder,
Remembering everything. How it felt to hope
And to be without, unable to keep from pressing on.
I’ve always known I could carry a stillborn,
Could hold a nurse’s hand through the delivery.
The world isn’t made for my victories
And doesn’t care to be remade.
I’d be lost if I considered that, if I gave up
On a sure bet, the coin falling into my hand,
Gravity pulling every atom towards greatness.
I know that like the grey of my town,
The brackish creek sliding under a bridge,
The ocean never very far away.


Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and [PANK] among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.

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