The Blood I Can Draw

Originally posted, 7/15/2010.

Joe Frazier’s left hooks
were the only thing
on my mind.

I had just turned eleven,
had just listened
to the Fight Of The Century
on a scratchy AM radio
a few nights before.

Although I was a righty
I threw what I felt was 
a mighty left hook
at Jeff Maxwell’s jaw
in the middle school gym
and (though we were just playing)
I laid him out
flat and crying,
and I admit

it felt pretty OK to see him there, sliding
on his ass away from me as I tried
to explain it was all in fun to Mr. Tornello
as he shook me and dragged me to
his sweat-soaked office
to await

my parents.

Right jabs and Muhammad Ali
were on my mind
a few years later when Henry Gifford
got dropped, this time in anger,
on the shores of Thompson Pond
for cussing me out
when I cussed him out
for breaking my switchblade,
and this time

there was blood on his mouth
and I confess
it felt OK
to see it moonlit and shining
on his face and I am glad now
that I hadn’t had
the knife in hand
at the time.

Kung-fu movies and Bruce Lee
were on my mind a few years after that
when it felt OK to deliver
a straight-arm open palm blow to the side
of Joe Peron’s nose during a work dispute
in a warehouse,
and heard the gentle snap
of his bridge breaking.

He knelt there
holding his nose. His hands
soaked and dripped blood,

and that felt better than OK
for a minute,

and because we were men
we just shook it off

and told no one of the fight.

It’s all on my mind again,
childhood and adulthood,
fights and

fighter heroes
of ring and screen,
and I can’t shake off

being old and heavy,
and thoughtful
about how much harder
I could hit today
because I know so much more
about how much better it feels
to hit than
to be hit.

How good it felt then,
and how good
it would feel again
if the opponents I have now could be
dispatched that easily,

but now I face
unpunchable bills,
bloodless banks,
rapacious creditors,
my own rotten body, and

the creeping fear

that these are enemies
I will never beat.

I stand thrashing in the kitchen
past midnight: cross, jab,
hook, uppercut,
palm strike, temple strike,
slash, stab,
icepick grip, sword grip.

I wish I could be a pacifist
in soul and action,

but I am not;

this urge to admire again
the blood I know I can draw,
to know the joy of winning
simply and quickly,

is almost more than I can bear.

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

One response to “The Blood I Can Draw

  • Eileen

    As a very small woman, the only time I’m not afraid is when I am blind with rage. I feel totally powerful and would take on almost anyone then. That’s when I realize it’s a good thing I was born small, a woman, a knife fearing klutz, and before women were taking self defense classes. I scare myself when I get that angry, because I feel so powerful and free.

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