Apr/May 2008 Poetry Special Feature

My Life as an Amateur Fighter

by Nathan McClain

My Life as an Amateur Fighter

In my featherweight years,
my jaw was like the tongue
of a one-ton temple bell

a man kept ringing with his glove.
The man looked like my father
who woke me with a jump rope

slapping a concrete floor,
who taught me to stand up
to pain like maple trees stand

up to chainsaws, because
someone is constantly trying
to cut you down, he'd say.

My teeth flew away like moths.
I floated. I stung. I learned to work
my heart like a heavy bag.

I used to love someone.
We fought
with pillows because

they most resembled clouds.
Our love was a collection of bruises
that bloomed when we touched

each other. She was
like a washcloth pressed against
my cheek, cooling

the longer she was held.
I was 0-12, like the widow
who is only familiar with loss.

I sat near a window opened
mostly to night, tonguing
a spot where several teeth once lived.

I'm always looking
for things that should be
there, but aren't.


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