Jerry Quarry spars a couple of rounds at Grossingers,
preparing for Ali,
although there is no way to prepare for Ali
(as there is no way to prepare for Allah)—number one,
entirely too fast. And two,
we, who knew the time or study history, know
Three: Do we? Quarry keeps going. Four:
or should I say I keep seeing Quarry exhausting himself—
speed work, crunches, skip, skip, skipping rope.
Five: His jaw locks; twitches
below the ears. His eyes wrench inward;
his face is all too much, more meaningful now than then,
at six: too much like the neighbor couple’s faces,
as they tangled naked on the couch
a few nights before.
Seven: Now: Is that really love, Lord, working, grunting hard as we can to make ourselves disappear? Is that how you want us
delivered? Some prophets would say, “Yes.” But training finished,
Quarry throws on his shiny green robe, and brimming life,
floats toward me just like that neighbor
who rolls off of his girlfriend,
steps outside, onto the porch,
whistling, sticks his head out,
fixes himself under the summer stars.
Eight: He’s the one still standing.
Scott Withiam is the author of Arson & Prophets, a collection of poems published by The Ashland Poetry Press in 2003. His poems have appeared in AGNI, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Green Mountains Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry East, and Poetry International. Poems are forthcoming in Ploughshares and Tar River Poetry. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (updated 3/2010)