Death Of A Light Heavyweight

A bird or two wobble overhead,
sing and look off into the distance.

The mahogany coffin of my father
polished and smooth like his white shirt.

His face now uncut, unmarked.
No sign of 175 fights in half-filled gyms.

No evidence of his crouch, no evidence
of his right that could break a man's jaw.

I speak to his surviving friends,
his first wife, and to a local reporter.

Words pour from my mouth, worthless.
The breath grows scarce.

I enter my mother and father's house.
Nothing has changed or been put away.

His brass palomino clock,
the oiled shotgun and decoy ducks,

but its long since we hunted
the Rappahannock and Susquehanna flats,

long since we floated the sea kayaks
into choppy Chesapeake Bay.

A very long time since he drove
my friends and I to high school dances

or visited my dorm, or came to see
his granddaughter in Richmond.

The garden is unkempt, raspberry
bushes flailing in the wind.

Blue hydrangea dark as funeral drapes,
rhododendron crossing in uneven rows.

Unremarkable afternoon,
children eat, play and soon fall asleep;

A daze falls over the house and grounds,
the poplars continue what they were doing.

The dry birdbath, a layer of dust
in the cracked bowl.

The gym fills with the faithful,
lazy cigarette smoke rises in the klieg lights.

I see my father crouched at ringside
ready to answer the timekeeper's silver bell.

by Bernard Henrie

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