Fist Fight at 38

The round-shouldered man is trying to hit me,
his one decent swing like a hornet flying near.
Two other stabs at sucker punches
with other players in between us.
Each miss makes him angrier.
My last fight was in sixth grade
in a tomato patch behind a cinderblock garage.
Three boys throwing swings at each other—
the meaty thwap of fist on upper arm.
There were starlings in the cherry tree.
My blood tasted like ten penny nails, garlic.
Now even the air has a taste.
The trees in the park lean in, the dusk
buzzing the street lights on.
I am a moth dodging his bat-like fists.
His hands are too hungry.
I am in the fight, thinking about
the fight as if it already happened,
thinking what I’d do differently next time.
He has ripped the stitching from my sleeve.
I am in the eye of something,
a storm wall of people keeping us apart.
Gray birds are flying higher into the oaks.
Someone is honking a car horn again and again.
I have not forgotten what my own blood tastes like.
It is yellow like a lemon, harsh and cowardly.
I still dream of that first fight,
touch it in my sleep like a bruise rising beneath the flesh.
I earned the red spit once.
Now, nothing but jump shots, filing cabinets,
temp jobs and errant jabs, the hard work
of sleeping that follows never landing a punch.

Brent Fisk started sending work out again a little over two years ago and has had over a hundred poems taken in journals like Rattle and Prairie Schooner. He was also lucky enough to have had two Pushcart nominations. (brent.fisk@wku.edu)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761