Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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The Lost Boxer

sitting cross-legged
in the shadow of an alley’s mouth, his fists
named Patterson & New Jersey
his heart a starving ox, starlings in flock,
once found the boy clinging
to the Midwife’s body in the mud
behind a bowling alley on the Missouri,
resting geese white lamps on the river.

The man called Bedlam made a proposition
from behind the counter of a liquor store
where the boxer set a plastic pint of vodka,
his translucent
            anodyne star.

Bedlam offered him terms
to spare the boy. The boxer accepted
that his heart would become a brown trout, famished
& mouthless in torrents of larva,
pointed upstream.

According to the terms
these are also what his heart became—

a gold monument to archangels in Valetta

an enduring record
            into which everything that rises will redescend

the carnival dwarf, deaf as a photograph

lightboxes: small harbors in ice
            for arctic seals

among the trumpets,
            drums struck by a single red hand—

He vomited yellow bile
at the first of the boy’s cries.
& at the sight of the midwife’s surrender
went straight for liquor
to steady his hands.

The boxer traded his life, what little
he thought there to be left,
to rescue the boy
from a reed cluster
circled by black wings,
            rosaries spiraling upward,
a twin-helix of birds
            he stepped into,
that dove for the heart of the man.  end

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