June 19, 2008 § Leave a comment

The tumble of Floyd Patterson is in all of us. I look at what we had, rewinding in slow motion. One uppercut at my jaw, my teeth fidgeting in their sockets. Your moves seemed underwater. Recalling the patience of bandage. Each finger wrapped in its own baby shawl. The words in my fingers put to sleep. When we met you had your hands deep in your mid-winter pockets, holding the promise of the fight to come.

Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008


The Arrowhead

June 19, 2008 § Leave a comment

He takes blind swings, a glove to the face,
the voice clenched in the curl of a fist,
all the things that words can’t say. Skipping
to that embrace, he ducks and dances
knowing the ring can be a lonely place,
its table edges stretching out for white miles.

The tattoos on his schoolboy arm in blue
and red, a black arrow, the head pointing down,
how a lightning strike might, towards the earth.
All this will fade, a flags waving blur, even
the rope he falls against, to be alive
and know only this: the arrowhead.

Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008

This Victory Means Something

June 18, 2008 § Leave a comment

Sometimes Jasmin stays up late
while all her school friends
are safely tucked up in dream beds
she watches the boxing with her dad

Scarlett says any woman
who loves the fight, has a man
in her family with gloves
her father, five uncles.

Fi’s boxed in the RAF.
She remembers the special time
by his side, witness to swinging
punches on TV, the Rumble in the Jungle.

All three learned early that this
victory means something.
The neat rules of a fight, what it is
to be invited, the chance of a win.

Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008

Too Hurt Not To

June 18, 2008 § 1 Comment

My dad was a boxer and all his brothers,
skinny angry boys in shorts. The weddings
we went to, there was always a fight.

We’d sprint and jostle to get as near to
the bite as possible; the sweat and heave
of it. Nothing as sweet to the ear

as the sound of leather punching on jaw
or chest and the hit him, hit him,
sprayed with spit and sweat and blood.

A blue face proud and cut. The air thick
with market perfume. Men too poor to back down,
too hurt not to. That’s what I’m homesick for:

my dead dad, and his thin brothers. My mum
has seen all five of them in the grave.
No hand strong enough to punch that away.

Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008

This Life can Kill You

June 18, 2008 § Leave a comment

Someone has died, you did not know him well
but the man is your friend’s father,
It gets you thinking about all that he told you.

What does it all add up to ?

An angry man spat his virus of mean words
on to his wife. In the ring, a boxer said
is where the addiction starts.
You get to feel so powerful.

I just like to fight, I came from fighting

You think of your friend driving to the funeral
in the falling rain, how all the times
he just wanted his dad to die,

to stop punching him,
just to fucking leave me alone,
for fucks sake.

is ever as easy as closing a door
and leaving it closed. The last time
you see them alive pray you know
it’s the last, that you say goodbye,

and take them in their battered
unfinished form
away with you forever.

Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008

The Ghost in the Ring

June 18, 2008 § Leave a comment

The referee is the ghost
in the ring, tied by
invisible thread
to two men. Each

wearing the others blood
on his skin, the way
fierce lovers might.
There’s not a mark

on his starched shirt.
He’s one half of a dance.
Sweat and spit fly.
To be this close

to the knife edge,
to follow the footsteps
of fighting men
and not to hurt,

to have the battle
in your grasp. Tasting
another’s victory
as if it were your own.

Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008