By Don Kenton Henry

He works in the quiet corner of a dank and darkened gym

It reeks of the sweat of men of color and the working stiff

Alone, it’s just the mirror, the floor, and him

Gone are the days he was all angle iron and barbed wire

on two feet fighting for fun or hire

Yet his hands are wrapped tight as his hardened core

Hardened still, but less so than years before

At one time, the first―his fists―were like ten-pound stones

The other―his core―like a granite slab

Only now, he feels the grind of the cracks that run through them . . .

But he’s tapped for this fight and steps into the ring once more

For now, he jabs at his opponent who smoothly counters punch for punch

And he slides along the wall taking cover under his jab―

Protects his chin under a shoulder hunched

As each fighter shuffles to the rhythm  of his plan

Too well each knows the other man

In his mind, he is the pugilist young and elusive

The sweet scientist

A feint, a slip, a bob and a weave, luring the old guy in

Then suddenly impetuous―the brawling banger!

He lets loose his famous left hook which he drives from his hips

All the way from South Chicago to East Philly

It’s one that’s caused many a pug to take leave of their senses

But the guy in the mirror just gives it a shrug, and into the breach he advances

He’s bold and he’s cold and not afraid to take chances

Strong on offense

And, though worn and torn, his opponent reminds him of someone he once knew in younger days

Someone who reminds him of his once careless ways

Light is in his corner but very dim

Still enough to illuminate the scars of the other man

The laced brows of bigotry, the thickened eyelids of  narcissism, the cauliflower ears―one of infidelity the other of conceit

They are less trophies than sins

He feels the guilt that comes from knowing, at one time―to him―there was no difference

He sees that look in his eyes and the other guy sees and feels it too

He wants to take this guy out, make him feel pain, make him pay, make him lose

He wants to punish him for the smallest mistake

Today’s and yesterday’s

Prove that pride is a costly corner man

A double jab, a hook to the rib―break that floater! Feel it crunch all the way through the glove, up the forearm and into his shoulder―then a cross to twist the chin―to twist the jaw―to twist the spine then―hopefully―lights out

Let blood, sweat, and spittle fly across the ring, over the ropes, into the crowd

across the face of family and all who judge

But the punches seem to glance off

And the old guy keeps coming

The one guy he never handed a loss

The old guy carries with him a reminder of everything he ever walked away from

No―not fights or punches; he took the best and brunt of those, the judge’s cards be damned!

But from the loves, the smiles, the laughter, days spent with the young and the old, the hopes, the dreams and The Brass Ring of what is now lost and unfulfilled potential

And, closing the gap, his opponent now leads with his right―his strong hand―and catches him right in his conscience

His head reels, his ears ring, and so does the bell

And the guy in the mirror raises his left hand he calls “time” and his right hand he  calls “past”

In a ring of “Broken Dreams”

Our fighter’s down on the canvas then awakens in bed, dripping in sweat

Until the next night when he steps in the ring with the stone-cold undefeated

A dark shadow in a black satin robe that bears his name in red . . . “Regret”

And once more our fighter digs deep in his guts, down deep into his soul . . .

And gives all for the upset



2 comments on “SHADOW BOXER

  1. love the shsfoeboxer

    Sent from my iPhone


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