“Placing a $2 Bet for a Man Who Will Never Go to the Horse Races Any More” by Diane Wakoski is an expression of animosity she feels toward her father after meeting him for the first time in 14 years. It is an exploration of her philosophy of life and how her unhappy childhood has impacted her. Wakoski writes about her painful relationship with her father and explores the distant and miniscule relationship between father and daughter. “Placing a $2 Bet” is a poem of Wakoski’s philosophy towards life and the men, specifically her father, who inhabit it.
Wakoski starts the poem not with the first lines, but with the title “Placing a $2 Bet for a Man Who Will Never Go to the Horse Races Any More”. The fact that she is placing a two dollar bet could mean that she is poor, but most probably means that her admiration for her father is extremely low since the minimum amount one can bet is two dollars. Wakoski then starts the body of her poem with the following line: “for my father”. The fact that this line is not capitalized could mean that she does not think her father is deserving of a proper introduction.
However, the fact that she does start out with this line could also mean that she does care about her father and wishes they could have shared a relationship. This brings about the first complexity in her confused state of opinion. She then continues on with the following lines: “There is some beauty in sorrow and the sorrowing, perhaps not beauty perhaps dignity would be a better word which communicates life beyond just what the body dictates food clothing shelter. ” Wakoski starts the poem in a bizarre fashion with a unique structure that at first seems confusing.
However, Wakoski is indeed setting up her poem by introducing the idea that dignity overpowers beauty. Wakoski cleverly states that sadness and those that are sad have some sort of dignity. Wakoski changes the word from “beauty” to “dignity” to erase and change an idea society has created. She says that vanity is not more important than self respect and pride, rather it is vice versa. She also lists items such as “food”, “clothing”, and “shelter” to show the simplicity of life and that there is much more than just these essential things.
Waksoski beliefs the word dignity has the power to communicate the complexity of life. Wakoski then goes on with the poem with the following lines: “It is nothing that lasts. It quickly turns into gloom, hate, resentment, a burdening apathy sometimes severity towards others”. Wakoski explains that this idea of dignity does not last and that it turns into a hateful feeling which in turn makes people spiteful and mean towards other people. Also, Wakoski is saying that sorrow is a part of life but is unexpected.
It affects people differently, but will eventually pass. In the next lines, Wakoski is cleverly setting up the rest of the story: “But like a scarlet bird from the tropics suddenly seen flying in a New York City park, so unexpected, so unexplainable, there, different from its surroundings. ” Wakoski creates an image of this exotic bird in the streets of a heavily busy city to exaggerate a certain unexpectedness. Wakoski, through later reading of the poem, uses this image as a sort of metaphor to the unexpectedness of meeting her father and her father’s death.
In the next couple of lines, we learn more of Wakoski and also of her father: “Caliente, the poor man’s race track, in Tijuana, Mexico where I met my real father an old retired sailor after 14 years of separation”. Wakoski sets up a realistic portrayal of this scene by using a place and a race track named “Caliente”, which in Spanish means hot. She is effective in giving her audience a realistic image. Wakoski also shows the reader a glimpse into her life. The audience now knows she is not wealthy and that she has been long separated from her real father.
She then says “and learned that the real pleasures of gambling are knowing how to lose”. Wakoski states that the best part of placing a bet and gambling on it is knowing how to lose, inferring to her pessimistic attitude toward her father and her idea that she is betting on him and is thankful she has lost him. In the next part of the poem, Wakoski makes final amends with her father by betting on a horse: “Old man, I place a bet for you”. At first, she may seem as though she is partaking in an action that will pay homage to him.
But in reality, she is letting go of him for good: “now that you’re dead and I am still living. It is on a horse called ‘The Man I Love. ’ Gamblers are sentimental so you will forgive me living now and giving away my love”. Wakoski, through a clever title, implies that she is not a gambler due to the fact that she is placing a small bet of two dollars. Also, the name of the horse being “The Man I Love” is in the present, not past tense. The fact that she is betting only betting two dollars means that she has no faith in this horse winning the race, and therefore has no faith that her father will be there for her.
It is obvious that the person she is talking about when she mentions the word “gamblers” is her father. Also, the idea that her father will forgive her leads to the conclusion that her father never really cared and never will even though she had nothing to lose or apologize for. This final section of Wakoski’s cleverly stylized poem explores the idea that her betting on this horse is out of spite and that she could care less about her father and whatever love they had. Placing a $2 Bet for a Man Who Will Never Go to the Horse Races Any More” is a cleverly stylized poem by Diane Wakoski that explores the complexities between a detached father and daughter and the sorrow that comes with it. It gives the audience a clear understanding of the life of Wakoski and the pain she endured through this complicated relationship full of want, yet also full of hate. This poem details the pain and complexity this type of relationship could bring.