Thursday, August 23, 2012


image borrowed from bing


Bruno started boxing
when he was eight years old,
the red leather gloves huge on his small fists,
and he loved it.

with the speed bag by the door.
his head barely touching its midriff.

He had to stand on an apple box
to swat the speedo,
slapping it into a blur,
fast and hard, nearly
tearing it off its springs.

He and the big bag became intimate,
his jabs snapping sharp into the sweaty folds
of the faceless porous partner,
his uppercuts pummeling every stitch,
smacking the stuffing loudly, thudding
as his terrible right and left hooks
tore at the texture of bag and glove,
training like his life depended on it,
night and day the grunting
and pounding rang out clarion
from the rough hewn garage gym.

Then his father bought him 
some free weights,
a sit up board and press bench.
The young man’s muscles rippled with joy,
growing, thickening, pumping up.

First featherweight
then lightweight,
then middleweight
becoming a strong light heavy,
battling his way up through the rings at
the Boys Club, YMCA, high school, then college. 

He fought like a physicist,
never with blood lust,
mostly knocking his opponents down
and winning by points,
but several times the adversaries
stayed down for the knockout call
rather than face his fists again;

but he was proud to be a boxer,
not a mauler,
not a braggart,
never arrogant or mean;
he did not hate the men he faced,
he just loved to box;

there were a few times he fought to a draw
hardly recognizing his own swollen features
in the mirror the next morning.

He really only lost once,
to a Hispanic
who failed to acknowledge pain,
who fought in the streets daily
without gloves;
somehow this had enraged Bruno
and he had unleashed punches
that broke ribs and bruised bone,
leaving the other man covered in blood,
yet the fighter battled like a bull dog
and refused to go down,
winning by points.

Bruno never was the same after that,
as the youthful joy was replaced
with sadness, and the mindless behemoths
he faced began to break apart his dreams,
punching beyond his body, injuring his soul,
until he rose one hot August morning
and he embraced his epiphany,
listening at last to his higher self:

“Fight no more forever, for you are worthy of something finer.”

Somehow he found the strength to walk away,
setting aside who he had been,
putting away his gloves, trophies, headgear,
allowing the rope burns to heal,
saying adieu to the ring, to the crowds, 
letting the heavy bag hang dry, kissed by dust,
forcing the speed bag into silence,
as he unclenched his fists

and became a scholar, a lover, a poet
and a father himself, who only pulled
out his scrapbook of press clippings
when begged to do so by his three sons.

Glenn Buttkus

August 2012

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Claudia said...

wow...what a great portrait.. sometimes things happen that make us stop what we loved doing all our life..sad in a way and yet...makes room for other things to fill that space...very well written glenn

Victoria said...

This has everything, Glenn...description, action and a narrative arc. I like the vulnerability of the character.

Claudia said... removed the word verification...THANK you!!!

Susan Daniels said...

This is fantastic--also love the visual of the punch and the bag. Not to mention the beautifully drawn characters here. Wow.

Susan said...

"training like his life depended on it"

"letting the heavy bag hang dry, kissed by dust, forcing the speed bag into silence, as he unclenched his fists and became . . . "

You must have known this man! your details are so deep in the culture of this "scientific" approach. I could not pull myself away. If he has something to say now, it is because of the intimacy of the encounters under and around the glove which taught him everything including success, failure, and humility.

hedgewitch said...

A lot of character--in the older sense of the word--in this character study. You make it seem quite natural that a sensitive soul could find a path into a brutal life and not see the brutality, only the skill and nerve. Nice structural use of single words to mimic punches, also.

Brian Miller said...

nice.....really cool character sketch and you know it is interesting...not a boxer but i feel for this guy...i been there having to hang up something i loved at one point...and i became a poet too...smiles.....really great piece man...

Lane Savant said...

Man, you are getting dangerous!

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Wonderful descriptive piece Glenn and love how Bruno realised he had crossed his own boundaries and sought change in his life.

All made extra special by your reading of your work.

Anna :o]

Beachanny said...

Depth of character in his spirit of a true athlete, the rise and fall characterized here; but the story applies in one way or other to all athletes. It's always a short life, and a painful one..physically, and in terms of sacrifice. The image is shattered in many ways, but the arcs to gold medals and trophies take heavy tolls. Wonderful portrait details precisely.

awakenedwords said...

really enjoyed this, fantastic details but not too much. great story

Wolfsrosebud said...

what a journey you've taken us on... the progression was done so well.

Semaphore said...

Excellent portrait, and what detail you pack into the characterization! It creates an incredible three-dimensional portrait. And an effective use of a concrete poetry subsection as well.

sonny said...

amazing detail....loved that line...allowing the rope burns to heal....

kkkkaty said...

Made me think of all great boxers we've known..."until you walk in someone else's shoes.....",,, nicely crafted..

Dave King said...

Some folk can never change their self picture, but for some life deals a knock-out blow that does it overnight.

marousia said...

Love the phrase "fought like a physicist' - this is a wonderful portrait - I was searching for the 'like' button

Chris Lawrence said...

A full and satisfying poem that goes through and emotion and feeling