‘Could the answer be that the more elemental we become
in sport and art, the closer to the spiritual we get?’
— Gene Tunney
The day before my son was born I packed
my duct-taped gloves to spar for the last time
and discovered among my gear his hat.
It was the size of a large fist.
And so I put it on mine.
Cosied it up. And saw stars.
Something about the diminutive cotton cap
demanded delicacy and care beyond
the imagination of a gauze-wrapped gloved fist.
Twelve hours later at the ICU, a head start into the elemental—
electrodes constellating our son’s skull and chest
connect to the intensive-care version
of an electronic round-bell that periodically
misreads his relaxation as not respiring, and misfires,
jolting the nurse from the far corner to turn it off.
This goes on longer than Sayers-Heenan,
and after midnight we are sent to our room,
where my wife and I watch Bridget Riley,
a bantam-weight working on a PhD,
on ESPN. My wife asks why it is important
to finish each punch with a twist
and I give her the catechistic doctrine that the twist
may open a cut on bone, that a punch without
the final twist is like the ‘Our Father’ without
the Protestant addendum about the power and the glory.
Eventually, the question diffuses in November drizzle.
Bridget Riley rises from the canvas after an early knockdown
and hooks her opponent into oblivion,
my wife already asleep
as the early morning decants.