Late Round and Boxer
This clinch is preface to the final embrace of loss
Even the winner knows, thirty-six minutes that make you less
No matter how much leather you dish and eat. What's sweet
About this science isn't confined to the sweat
Whose salt rivers run you down
Like rapids that carve their own bed in the stream's din.
It's hours in the long dark before, your hands
Bandaged against break to send their hard thanks,
Landing where you dream, the long shot of pain
Scored for performance's final cut, a panorama
That began with sitting up a thousand times. No one tolls
This bright agony, shape that makes you the left ball
Of God—only monks and maybe puritans,
Who would approve the way one slip of discipline
Blooms in the blood-filled eye, the swollen cheek.
This is your not-yet-rotten luck,
To live a lucid half-hour half naked and bent
In a squared ring where you can die of heart.
for Shahid Ali, 1949-2001
I want to learn to sing with my hands,
To create in the rest of me something to bring with my hands.
A drummer's hammer toward melody is one knuckle of it,
No rest in that furious offering with my hands.
Each shot rattles the gums behind the mouthpiece,
Head voice that jabs language I sign with my hands,
Cast up with my deaf breath in the barn where I train,
Like a magic coin I pretend to fling with my hands.
Each word, each digit deserves its own bell,
Even in forms whose necks I wring with my hands.
Does this rhythm, once made, stalk the streets,
A prisoner I have set free, sprung with my hands?
I'd rather be water or dumb metal
Than bone that I, my own gravedigger, sling with my hands.
To practice so long for so little is to plant in dust
Gestures history may or may not ring. With my hands
Taped, these pickers and stealers of multiple breaks
Reach out to you, to cling with my hands
To the broken distance between us. There isn't time
To pause, only feint, so I must think with my hands
And put down combinations, marks I make
On you in lines I string with my hands.
I am not another Ali, neither dancer nor dance, butterfly nor bee;
This, the only way I know to sing with my hands.