Sample Poems by George Guida
I could have been three-time champ,
big right hand not enough to spare me
knockouts on foreign turf. On cold canvas
I would have felt the roots of new designs
spider my brain, watered with blood of cuts
swallowed rounds on end. My mind would have gone
to the crocus, the flower flailing at the dead world.
My mind would have mustered receptors
to change the crowd's eyes to a flower nebula's buds
and me to a gazer through space. Hope is
unearthly as fighters who hemorrhage fame,
bleeding out in secret silent scenes,
as widows who spend life weeping in the grave
grace of motherhood or sweat of other men's beds,
not those ringside, watching parades, but those who saw
mirrored skulls when their men stood up to shave,
blades slicing necks, slicing lives into absolute afters
and befores. I would guide them through a galaxy of sorrows
until my trainer came, to lift me to my feet, to see
flashes of an end in his crimped face, then hear in his voice
his father and children, who know me as dim
legend. My mind would go to the granddaughter
stroking his hand as dementia knocked him to the ropes
with Sugar Rays and Smokin Joes and Iron Mikes and Kid Somethings,
Assassins, Busters, Golden Boys, Bombers and Truths.
I'll sing his song as I train for the return,
reciting the steps of my feint and counter, counting
the steps to cut off the ring and send to the preaching of Gospel
and hawking of products the man who believed
himself too clever and strong, to his dimming
with a smile that shines for the heartless world,
if I were so bold as to call it names
and declare a meritocracy of soul, as if I could
calculate the losses it would take to glide along
the surface of the earth and see the beating hearts
of fallen fighters rising from the dirt and all at once,
float through the crop of barrages and connect
with the force of a god come back to redeem.
When you crash into the dive
you've been selling this girl,
because the owner was once a champ,
and catch the big man's eye,
so he comes to shake your hand,
and the girl wants to love you
because you're twenty-seven and smooth
in a way that dies soon enough
though you can sink into yourself
so deep you are training for a title shot,
you are grateful and always hear his name
in that street dangling off Times Square
like the undone lace of a boxing glove.
His eye is the blank truth.
Blinded in the gym near the end,
he doesn't catch the shade
of your bare hand. The crowd is always one.
He is always the partner sparring
with moments of passing lives
owing nothing to success.
He gives you the shadowed corner
where you show her lies.
His silk shirt gathers the dim spotlights
crowning the autographed shots
of old opponents landing blows so hard
they spray beads of sweat into your scotch.
He is far removed as you are now
from that glory and taste of blood,
from that plan to surpass Ali ("the elevated one")
with wings grown from absence: one shot,
one defense, one venture to stay the man
he knew he could always be, "someone
you could model yourself on," yourself
almost salvaged in memory of that girl's eyes,
something you forget. Dementia pugilistica, you learn,
drove his fists through the frames, shattered
black-and-whites, those walls where one night
he believed he was showing a long-dead wife
the arena where men of the moment can always be.
The thumb cuts and rectangles (ovals, fish shapes,
starbursts) slap thick air, a leather strap of games
you'd play if you had better things to do and
a partner careless of pots or going out fast
or ten other classes you should know: of chance,
banking, casino, vying, testing, patience-
as the dealer recalls the rules-collecting,
rummy, stops, adding, fishing, and trick, yes, trick.
Four suits in English and French, hearts extended-
Do you want to hear this?-to German-huddle
at tables where beer keeps victim's blood at bay-
cups, coins, crowns, castles, pikes and-Would you guess?-swords
for the Italian and Spanish-
for the former; for the latter common clubs.
They told us kids this would keep us entertained.
The cut, shuffle, draw, feign and call would save us.
Instead of making fetuses doomed to scrapes
we'd learn sportsmanship and etiquette of play.
Starting with Rummy, with discard, children's sense
of words at root, ignorance of melds and loss.
Then Vatican, Vint, Kaluki, Loo, Pink Nines,
Spinado, Pip-Pip, Oh Hell! and Knockout Whist.
Most of these conceit, as if we'd hew to names,
not flutter to stud like thinly whiskered moths.
Imagine the Jack of Swords all calculus
and instinct, leapt from a dull boy's hand to slice
a deuce of diamonds. Whose brain conceived this?:
Handjass, Klaberjass-fragments of music-Brag,
Slobberhannes, Spite and Malice, Marjolet.
Whose nasty little secrets hidden up sleeves?
Whose prescient ruse that tarot cards intended
to amuse would empower the wicked Fool?