Writing the Walls -

Pretty / Tough - Seamus Mullen

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