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Eight Count

by Scott Withiam

Jerry Quarry spars a couple of rounds at Grossingers,
preparing for Ali,
although there is no way to prepare for Ali
(as there is no way to prepare for Allah)—number one,

entirely too fast. And two,
we, who knew the time or study history, know
what happens.

Three: Do we? Quarry keeps going. Four:

or should I say I keep seeing Quarry exhausting himself—
speed work, crunches, skip, skip, skipping rope.

Five: His jaw locks; twitches
below the ears. His eyes wrench inward;
his face is all too much, more meaningful now than then,

at six: too much like the neighbor couple’s faces,
as they tangled naked on the couch
a few nights before.

Seven: Now: Is that really love, Lord, working, grunting hard as we can to make ourselves disappear? Is that how you want us
delivered? Some prophets would say, “Yes.” But training finished,

Quarry throws on his shiny green robe, and brimming life,
floats toward me just like that neighbor
who rolls off of his girlfriend,
steps outside, onto the porch,
whistling, sticks his head out,
fixes himself under the summer stars.

Eight: He’s the one still standing.


Scott Withiam’s poems are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Fine Madness, Green Mountains Review, and Madison Review. His chapbook, Desperate Acts and Deliveries, was last year’s winner of the Two Rivers Review Chapbook Contest, and his first book, Arson & Prophets, came out with Ashland Poetry Press in fall 2003. (6/2005) 

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