Do we all remember that aging song,
I get knocked down, but I get up again?
It grated on people’s nerves back then,
(still might), but as a 90s baby, I feel an affinity.
I too can take hits on the chin with a grin,
still look good while I’m headed down to the ground.
Like the time a helmet rammed my jaw in peewee football,
nothing broken, but black and blue
—the peculiar blue of broken blood vessels under the skin.
The days it was darkest, I felt proud: my imagined shadow of beard
aged my prepubescent face into a stronger kid,
less afraid of the world.
Tough can be kind, in the right measure,
it can motivate in unexpected ways.
When I listen to my friends talk of having kids,
bringing new people onto our wounded earth,
with glaciers melting, the onslaught of the deep blue sea.
And I think of my own parents,
the strongest people I know,
and how uncertain the future may have looked,
watching the black plumes of Kuwait’s burning oil wells
from maternity ward TVs.
I gather all that ordinary bravery into me,
wear it as headgear, buckle under my chin,
cover my hands and tap the knuckles together.
A boxer entering the ring,
Sparking arcs of bright-blue electricity.
So I’m standing here with my fists raised.
Come knock the lights right out of me.
Image: Jeffrey Gibson, Deep Blue Day, 2014
Found vinyl punching bag, recycled wool blanket,
artist’s own repurposed painting, artificial sinew, steel studs
49.5 x 16 x 16 inches