Friday, February 18, 2011

The Boxer on Canvas

 Benny "Kid" Paret
(March 14, 1937 - April 3, 1962)

The Boxer on Canvas

The grinding of a beaver's teeth
back and forth over poplar.
You don't waken to blueberry pie,
huckleberries generously laced into it,
fresh vanilla ice cream on top.
No.  A man is yelling from down
a narrow coal mine shift,
Seven... Eight... Nine... ,
and your knees won't listen,
your heart rushes blindly,
you don't care about wood smoke
from slash fires you loved as a boy.
You start to cry to your deaf
and dumb body about damned gravity,
but finally you smile at the people
who want you to be a vacant lot
strewn with busted glass.

Benny "Kid" Paret, in an NBC nation-wide broadcast on March 24, 1962 from Madison Square Garden, suffered thirty unanswered blows from Emile Griffith as referee Ruby Goldstein delayed stopping the fight... for any number of reasons.  Ten days later, Paret, who never emerged from a coma, died.

This poem had Benny "Kid" Paret in mind, though it was predicated by the death of another fighter, whose name I cannot recall, in 1974.  The poem first appeared in Poetry Now (Vol. III, Nos. 4-6 -issues 15-16-17-18), edited by E.V. Griffith. 

The poem was also included in my 1978 chapbook, Poems to the Memory of Benny Kid Paret (Sparrow Press: Felix and Selma Stefanile, editors).

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