When I think of debts (other than those to family), I think first of libraries and librarians – God bless them every one. A college professor for more than 30 years, I taught first at Oregon State and since 1992 at Linfield College. Five books of poems carry my name on their spines, including an Oregon Book Award winner (1989) and the most recent two from Jessie Lendennie’s Salmon Poetry, which, delightfully, has a mailing address without a single number in it.
Fathers and Infants
-20 May 1985-
On 17 separate screens
(I counted them between rounds), Carl
"The Truth" Williams jabs and jabs, slips
a Holmes' right, shakes his head no,
that knockdown in the third an earlier lifetime,
seconds and minutes adding up as we watch,
bell and commercial simultaneous and loud.
They're pushing beer, and it pours colder there
than it ever is, cold, pure, and by the time the song
is half done we're most of us looking down
the White Sale aisle or maybe watching the escalator
stairs rise and slide flat under the seamless floor.
My Jason's sound asleep, the Nuk still stuck
in his slack mouth. Rosy around the lips,
he's still breathing, buckled in his layback stroller.
Radios, stereo-chairs, the big screen TVs – this
is Home Entertainment in the anchor store,
Lingerie one floor up, with dresses, the beauty parlor.
Next door, Appliances, four spendy rows
of energy efficient, no fingerprint freezers,
washers, refrigerators – your Whirlpools
and Maytags, even trash compactors someone wants.
Donuts downstairs – snack bar, the economy basement.
The guy belonging to a plaid umbrella stroller,
his daughter in a blue dress, matching bonnet,
he says Look at Holmes. 35. He's fat.
Fat or not, right now his one fight's a measured ring,
Everlast right cocked like a hammer, and his cheek
swollen like its overstuffed with cotton.
The anonymous daughter in the plaid stroller
(I'd call her Rebecca on account of the bonnet),
she pats her soft knees, open palms up and down,
up and down, her legs kicking too – all of her
bouncing so insistent the stroller wheels
roll back and forth in the carpet dents.
The bell again, beer or cars, something
MADE THE AMERICAN WAY. Soccer crowds
riot … Reagan … Nicaragua … News Digest …
Rebecca's rubbing her eyes with her fists.
Was it five years ago Boom Boom Mancini
killed that guy – Korean? I saw the round on tape
– nothing like this fight. Four days
I prayed for Benny Kid Paret, for all the good
it did him or my fifth grade parochial soul.
Listen, the kids are all asleep, except Rebecca
and she's just cooing with every punch.
Six of us here, counting the sales guy, each of us
thirsty, each of us sure we need a new truck.
Jason's out like a light. Then his mother's back,
a kiss for us both, packages under one arm.
So we're turning, ready to stroll towards Parking,
and I see Ali standing second row ringside,
grinning, waving a towel over his head.
He knows a sad fight when he sees one.
Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali, you can read his chanting lips
and the crowd's with him.
He's leading his own cheers.
reprinted from The Admirations, Lynx House Press, 1989
©2016 Lex Runciman
©2016 Lex Runciman