Joe Louis is fighting tonight

    Photo by Polina Senderova / North by Northwestern.

    My father throws his coat over his shoulders,
    They circle in their sockets, a shrug,
    Nonchalant – not throw, slide, and his fingers, like reeds,
    Vessel-speckled and blushed, peak out over the grey.

    Then comes the hat, plucked off the rack two-fingered
    With the flourish of a bullfighter, a toreador –
    The light bulb, swinging in time with the turning of the Earth
    Emanates through the fibers, and the wayward ones
    Bristling the outer layer glow a glassy luminescence.

    He cuts a figure –
    The hat rays out in parallel with his shoulders,
    And his nose breaks an obtuse angle, a hook
    That seems to lift the corner of his mouth into an ever-sneer.
    He moves drunk, his head lolls in whatever direction he’s speaking,
    Intoxicated and intoxicating.
    He grabs a glass from the sink and sloshes some amber in it.
    He takes it quick and inhales through his nose;
    He stops thinking, a gauzy smile
    And insensate love in his eyes.

    Joe Louis, he says, and the name flows into itself,
    Wide, very wide, and ether heavy;
    The sounds are a dull vibration, and moving down the spine
    They hum how I pray the first sip of whisky will feel,
    Dripping into my stomach and spreading through my blood
    Like an ooze.

    The lights come shining through the drapes
    And the car horn, a nasal drone, scythes under the door.
    He turns back towards me, wherever I am.
    Don’t worry, one day you’ll be grown, and we’ll see Joe Louis fight.
    We’ll smoke a cigar together.

    But I know then that when I’m grown, when I can swill whiskey
    And run my finger round the brim of my hat,
    That Joe Louis will have a withered crag of a chest,
    Kneecaps that stretch away from the skin,
    And he’ll wheeze like a deflating balloon;
    The body no longer able to hide itself,
    The mind reeling with long-dissolved nights,
    Whose dimensions no one can quite agree on.


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