Shadow Boxing

Posted: March 22, 2010 in Poetry

This weekend was Capital Slam. A full run down of the results, implications of the results, and my catastrophic clumsiness can be found here.

Oh yeah, and it is my birthday. 42 years young.

CONTEXT: May, 2008

This is the poem I actually performed at the Capital Slam Finals in 2008. This piece was inspired by listening to The Boxer Who Just Returned From London by C.R. Avery. The pieces aren’t that similar, but using the idea of poet as boxer came from his piece. The second time I performed it was when the CapSlam team opened for C.R. at the Mercury Lounge so he got to hear it and he said he liked the direction I went with the metaphor, so that is cool.

It just happens that C.R. is my favourite performer, so his influence is pretty much a given.

    Shadow Boxing

I eyed the ring with no ropes,
Just a mic stand
And a queue of hopefuls
Who thought they had what it takes
To be the champ.
The air was a mix of spilled beer
And nervous sweat.
Peanut shells crunching underfoot
And a relentless litany of car horns,
The call of the night dwellers
Living in a world I had read about
But never seen.

The crowd hummed in anticipation.
Did they want blood?
Were they citizens of Rome,
So tired and jaded that it took
Torn flesh and broken bone
To sate them?
Or were they seeking
What I was seeking,
Not knowing what that really was.

The first fighter stepped to the mic.
I saw no fear in his body,
Just in his eyes.
He started slow but precise,
Jabbing out with rights
That hit only air,
But his fist snapped back
As if hitting a heavy bag
Braced by the strain and expectations of life.

He threw out some more blows
Before staggering back as if struck
By a wild haymaker clean on the chin.
I saw his nose start to seep
The colour of roses and eyes
Seep the colour of morning dew.
He fell away from the mic,
Beaten and bloody
With a smile that betrayed
A broken chiclet grin
Behind Angelina lips.
He was happy…
Beaten, but happy.

Over the next days I was haunted
By the faces, bruised and broken
One moment, smiling and laughing
The next.
I saw a hundred pound woman
Throwing out bombs that hit
The audience like thunderclaps.
I saw a tired man who looked
Like he had faced his ring demons
Dozens of times, and lost
Every time, keep climbing up
To face whatever he saw
When he laced up his gloves.

I had to understand.
I found a dusty old gym
Unused in years and went to work.
My footwork was weak and I knew
I could never keep up with those young
Prize fighters who threw out
Lightning blows with
Hermes tongue and Mercury mouth.

I needed to stand, toe to toe,
And drive my point with sledgehammers
Wrapped in whatever velvet I could

I ran to get my old body into shape.
I wouldn’t be able to fool anyone
Into thinking I was ready to face
The challenge,
But I wasn’t doing it for them.
I tried the speed bag but
Couldn’t keep up
So I hit the heavy bag,
Over and over, until my
Knuckles were swollen and I
Couldn’t stand the pain of
Another shot.

Then I staggered down to the
Arena, and signed myself up.

Nobody laughed when they saw
Me taking my turn.
My hands were taped and gloves
Slipped on by a smiling MC
Who wasn’t yet born when I was
her age.

I stepped up and threw out my
First combination at the spectre
That appeared before me.
I recognized my opponent from
Every mirror I ever peered into.
He laughed at my attempts and said,
“Don’t bring that weak shit here.”
And caught me with a cross to
The jaw that sent me reeling.
The vision before me doubled and I knew
I had lost
But I refused to go down,
Knowing that if I lost my legs now
I may never step up again.
I quit with the finesses
And threw out some bombs –
The surprise on the phantom’s face
Was echoed by a murmur from the
Poetry crowd –
I watched through swollen eyes
As his punches also landed.
Finally my arms felt the weight
Of my extertions and could no
Longer block the shadow punches
Raining down on me.
Three minutes had taken its toll
And I fell.
I looked up at my shadow and he
Said, “Not good enough. Not yet.”
I spit out the frothy red and smiled
Like a man who had just won the
Lottery, because now I knew what all the
Fighters before me knew,
And I also knew
I would stand and fight again.


Next up is the third of the three peices I wrote trying to come up with one for the finals that year.

  1. […] Comments (RSS) « Shadow Boxing […]

  2. […] a kickass set! He even did his Boxer returning from Londeon piece, which made me wish I had done Shadow Boxing, since it was inspired my his poem. The highlight may have been his improptu cover of the […]

  3. […] pieces I performed were: Shadow Boxing, One Petal, Trapeze Artist, A Van Full of […]

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