Boxing in a Backyard Ring on a Summer Night
Beckett is younger, the far superior fighter with
every advantage in skill, timing, and technique.
A bricklayer by trade, his gloved fists are stones,
and his hard, solid punches rock me on my heels.
Sometimes a blow is concussive, as if some brute
had bashed me in the head with a small boulder.
Then the world goes away; when it comes back,
I have no idea where I am. I stand inside my skull.
It’s like standing in a marble dome or a cathedral.
When I retreat to my corner, I sit on a little stool,
where my imaginary trainer throws water on my face
and my imaginary manager screams, “Cross his right!
Circle to the left! Stay away from his jab!” Reeling,
I spit blood in a bucket, and consider the rivalry,
the way that he’ll always be there waiting for me,
his fists raised, never backing away, moving forward,
the desire to knock a man unconscious.
I dress my mother matter-of-factly.
She sits on the side of her bed,
I lift off her blue nightgown
and replace her underpants
with fresh ones. I pull around her
a cream-colored bra, then a white blouse
with a collar. I roll her knee socks up her legs
and then pull onto her the smart black slacks
she still loves. I put on her left tennis shoe first,
then her right, and double-knot them.
I bring a navy sweater over her head,
and arrange it, pulling the shirt collar
through the V‑neck so she looks put together.
I comb her white hair with a brush as gently as I can,
without hurrying, before I touch her lips
with the lipstick she’s worn forever—a Revlon
color that makes her pale, wan skin glow
and is aptly named Cherries in the Snow.
When we’re all done, I offer her my arm
and hand her the cane. I say, “Let’s go, Beautiful,”
then I escort her to the kitchen where
we drink coffee together, looking
out the window without saying a word
to one another, but we’re happy,
if “happy” is the word for the way this feels.
Richard Jones’s most recent books of poems are Stranger on Earth (Copper Canyon Press, 2018) and Avalon (Green Linden Press, 2020). The editor of the literary journal Poetry East, he will celebrate forty years of publishing with Poetry East #100, a volume called “The Bliss of Reading.” Reach him at www.RichardJonesPoetry.com