His left hook split your face and sent
your brain to visit the farthest reaches
of your skull, your head bobbing on
a sea of fractured shouts receding
into a single point of
The cut kept opening up like a family secret.
They made you stop before you lost the eye.
You went to war, re-crossed the Atlantic,
survived, came home, got so drunk
at times that you let my dad drive.
He was five,
steering the boat of a Buick down
Old Fannin and over the Spillway bridge,
headlights pouring out across the Reservoir,
water consumed by the night.
We laugh about it now but Christ.
It’s a wonder I was born.
I was alive before you died
but you were already ebbing.
I mostly remember you as a voice,
stumbling over words like
bourbon over rocks—
smoky, sun-tanned, gruff,
and I remember, I felt loved.
His left hook split your face
but from the cottony somewhere
you heard the count
and the lights flickered on.
You swam back through the ropes
to jab and block the cross
through curtains of blood
but the ref called the fight,
defeat by decision,
and the thing
sometimes you couldn’t
tell your son from a stranger,
a gardenia from your wife,
you were lost in your now,
an immigrant again.
And then the Sunday punch—
you kissed the canvas and didn’t get up.
Did it slip by you as you slipped
through the ropes, or did you mark
the ending beginning?
Where is home if you were born on a boat?
Was it loss that made you drink,
or was it a means of returning?
[Note: Something a little different! This poem, Requiem for a Bantamweight, is back from its most recent rejection, 130 days, form letter of course… I still like it though so thought I’d share it here]