My grandfather was not a boxer
but he loved to fight, throwing
punches at the faces of hard men,
left and right hooks, uppercuts
in barroom brawls and alleyways,
with hands the size of iron trivets,
forearms cut with ropes of muscle.
Eventually, after decades of stitches
and bruised knuckles, after his hair
turned white and his eyes clouded,
he would shadowbox in the garden
behind the dilapidated potting shed,
swinging slower, less light on his feet,
but safe in that manicured square
ringed by boxwoods and evergreens,
the bees in spring buzzing applause.
My grandmother would watch
him from the kitchen window,
in a sweater she always wore
regardless of the weather,
and wonder what he was fighting
against, or, perhaps, fighting for.
And that’s how my grandfather died:
throwing a final right cross in the air
before dropping to his knees at last,
knocked out on a mat of green grass,
washed by an unexpected downpour,
water collecting in opened red tulips,
loving cups in full bloom, the first
ten drops of rain counting him out.
Standing in that garden decades later,
I know I am no fighter.
Approaching old age, hands in pockets,
I watch for signs of unexpected weather,
worry about things beyond my control:
car crashes, cancer, electromagnetic pulses,
the minutiae of a thousand apocalypses.
Is the future drawing back
a left hook I will never see
coming? Will a haymaker
hit me like a hammer,
unmaking my family
before the final bell?
And suddenly I realize:
maybe I should have
learned to throw
a ******* punch.