The Boxer

Christmas, 2001 / No. 7

A boxer I once knew told me he used to put

his hands into the cherries each night like a hunter

might drape buck or lion skins over a stone

to show their original size,

preparing himself, he said, by thinking—

of the skeletal dog’s head he and his son found

in a washed away grave by the riverbank

out back, its bone and teeth so indistinguishable

from a wolf’s that it ruined

their weekly meeting—

or of what little he’s heard of the beating

I received that day in Sunday school

when, on asking the quiet teacher

if when God says “Worship no false idols

before me,” he’s implying he is a true idol—

or of that dockside pimp he used to frequent

after a stint at sea,

the one who carried penicillin and morphine

in a folded white doctor’s coat to clean his best

clients up before sending them back,

minus the memory of pain, to the women

waiting in the toilet stalls—

or of the night he caught his cat shitting

in the woods behind his home, her grace

swept away in one long crouch, the look over

her shoulder with jewelled eyes, the ginger

stepping away without a trace of shame—

or of what I mentioned of the gypsies in Rome,

how no babies were ever thrown at me,

but how one woman shoved her hand wrist-deep

in my pants as I boarded a tram

below the Vatican, trolling about for change

on the wrong side of a pocket,

how if I wasn’t being robbed

I might have paid her prettier cousin

for something similar—

or of that time at the coal docks in Cardiff when,

after months at sea and just one night

on a wooden pier, he suddenly realized that trees

were meant to be seen only by sunlight,

moonlight, and, so briefly, firelight—

or of the braggart hunter he killed with a single punch

in that Mexican cantina, how no one realized

the man was dead until the bartender tried to serve him

a consolation drink, pulling him down

like a sack of stone hammers,

his slumped, silent form falling heavily from the bar.

George Murray lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He is the author of three books, including The Cottage Builder’s Letter (M. & S., 2001). His work has appeared in publications in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Last updated summer, 2006.