Boxers, A Poem

I.

The truth, it’s said, is that boxers
Don’t know when to quit.

That they refuse to leave the ring
until they are hollow shells

Of themselves, shuffling ghosts
Chasing ghosts chasing them—

Except there’s a deeper truth,
that you and I are boxers, too,
called from our short stool by a bell:

That we all hang in there
For all manner of reasons;

That we all take too many punches
Before we look to our corner;

That we all think we can
Wiggle our way out of trouble
And make it to that next bell.

Before we hold the boxer’s
Tenacity against him,

Can we agree that next time
We’re staggered, hanging on the ropes,

That we’ll drop our hands,
Find the referee’s eyes and beg,

“Stop this fight right now.
I’ve had enough. Please,
Protect me from myself”?

II.

Or can we understand the instinct
To ball one’s hands and swing again
Until our strength ebbs or awareness dawns?

Looking back, I see so many times
I swung when, at the the least,

I might have peered between raised hands
To get a read on what was across from me.

And more times when stepping back I might
Have transformed this square
Into a circle, eliminating the sides.

Other times I might have closed the distance
And arrived on shared ground, sacred space.

There are ways to quit, ignobly or not, in this world,
As there are many ways to break—open or apart.

The truth, they say, is that boxers
Don’t know when to quit.
They are not alone.

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