if not the pain of father’s belt
or large boy’s knuckles, then pulsing fear
of ridicule for cowardice.
A martial expectation clings
to each boy’s image of himself.
Which is to say life kicks his ass.
A man—a fool and so a man—
will likely suffer for his manhood
as a boxer suffers for his bread.
What is more beautiful, more true
to who we are (for what we are)
than fighters, spent, embracing all
that each had tried to murder from
the first bell to the last, and what
may offer greater hope for us,
for some of us, than that embrace?
I think of all the broken men
I see in parks and on the streets,
the untouchable unloved sons
who mumble to themselves and rise
from refuse each new day to wander.
And I recall the several times
my father beat me viciously;
and several times I fought, it seemed,
to save my life or childish honor;
and I recall small triumphs in
the midst of small humiliations.
As children, fatherless and armed,
do damage to themselves each night,
what man should not embrace himself
beyond the reach of brutal men?