The Burn

It smelled like dried blood in the basement of the church,

where Jimmy Hurricane Hattie and Crazy Casey Flaks cut their teeth.

The pipes rusted in the open air, beneath the pews, perspiring and

dripping onto the canvas--onto the sweat and the shame and the glory.

Two old men sat on an old bench, pointing at the ring, arguing in feeble tones.

"It was Red Ruddy who got Harpo with the left, I sawr it."

Both of their faces are on the only poster on the wall,

young and with level eyes and taut skin and without

the myopia and the cancer, the divorce and the accident,

printed in black and white on the yellow paper,

advertising a fight that took place on a day

when their names were reverently spoken into the smoke

that twirled in the ceiling fans in the late afternoon.

The church crowd entered above, each step a gunshot in the depth,

and the ring was dark and quiet as dust pelted it from above.

They turned off the lights on the ring, which hadn't seen any

fight since the day God arrived upstairs,

so the men downstairs prayed into their broken hands.


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