Bio Note: I am the founding editor of RATTLE, now Editor Emerita. I received my Ph.D. from Honolulu University. It was a complete surprise to win the grand prize in Poetry to Aide Humanity by Al Falah in Malaysia. Malaysia, imagine! I now teach privately, and work with students all over the world. It’s only right I was born in the year of the dragon.
Darkly I Enter the Ring
My father left school when he was fourteen and joined the Navy—a fellow could do that back then, lie about his age, doctor-up his birth certificate, or present a letter from his mom, even if he had to doctor-up that too. He came out a man, shaving, all spiffed up, wearing better duds than he’d ever been given as a boy. So, what seemed natural to him was to reenlist, but this time, man that he was, he went into the Marine Corps, traded one uniform for another to walk around in, cocksure of himself. He got into boxing. Every chance he’d get, into the ring he went. He knew the four corners better than most men know their own back door, the one they enter and leave by every day. It was nothing to him, a broken nose, ten stitches, twenty stitches above an eye, shattered cheekbone, a few thousand split lips—it was all better than being a sweet boy with sun-bleached hair. I got into the ring myself once, his baby girl, lifted the top rope as he would have done, paced corner to corner, jabbed into the air just to feel power in my back, my arms. I even tossed myself against the ropes to feel that sensation of being thrown back into the game. I got down on hands and knees, experienced canvas in my face. I didn’t feel what I think my dad felt, even though it was all there for me. I felt nothing, except the dark presence of his sheer stubbornness in youth.
Out of Nowhere
this morning, the memory of hiding in a closet, seven-years-old, my father in the kitchen of that small California Court apartment, past midnight. Across the center pathway, all the lights of other houses are dark, and him, with yet another freshly poured drink, talking to dead men in his unit, back riding waves toward Omaha Beach, those rolling waves, the boat about to fall open, that trembling boat—sweet mother of Jesus, into cold water they went, rifles above their heads. Have mercy, pray for us all in the hour of our need.
©2021 Stellasue Lee
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell her or him. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL