I dream I am shadow-boxing.
Gleam of taut skin sculpting muscle,
the slap of shoe sole. Legs pummel,
constantly shift, find the centre, prepare
to hit or take a shot. Move, move,
move out of the way, another imaginary
fist punches air, where was I? oh yeah,
I was ahead of you. The tone is
sepia, the colours, mauled gray,
browns and burgundy; the deep black-red
cuts and scabs, the bleeding eyebrow taped
beneath the endless glare of the ring light,
a silent draped wine threat blind punch
drunk man. The ring is defined. It is a land
bound by ropes and cables. As wide as it is
long. Flat and featureless. I circle the edge
fists jab, shuffle, I make up what is mine,
what I will defend. The familiar thrill mounts,
I begin to charge, muscles snap, surge with power,
the notion has begun—I feel like my feet move
into a vacuum that grips and moulds me;
my arms are pulled, stretch out elastically.
To try and stop would be to fight, but to surrender
is to act without thought, to win effortlessly.
Now, the foes appear. All the hated spectres,
an endless parade of ducking the defenses
of Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Pinochet, Batista,
Ceausecu. All the savage shadow conquerors
who kept their gory work wisely out of sight—
BANG! another blockhead flies out of the ring!
(The pile of recumbent villains is really quite
embarrassing.) Now everything falls silent—
it’s time for the main event. Emerging from his
corner low and fast, mean as ever—it’s Popeye!
“Wait a moment!” you’re saying, “Popeye’s the
good guy!” Yeah, well, tough—this is for the title.
The bow-legged gimp is meat. If that means
this time I’m the villain, so be it. Like I said:
the other mugs were warm-ups; it’s time
to carve the bird. Popeye squints that one
beady eye over his pipe at me and says,
“Skip dip de bo bobben, there’s more than
somethin’ in the State of Denmark that’s rotten,
gimme some spinask and we’ll see who’ll be beat’n’bought’n … .”
Suddenly, Popeye stops with a gasp that blows
his corn cob pipe about 50 yards to one side.
I am sitting on a mountain of spinach.
I am the fulcrum between spinach and universal
reality. The contrast of green and white inspires me.
“Up the Eire!” I shout. “Hey,
no fair using the language of poetry,” says Popeye,
“that’s magicks and no fair.” He’s got me
there— the little runt is right—poetry is
the only magic known to man, one hundred per cent
proven pure …. The sailor is sunk.
I haul aloft a flag of fire. I cast a rhythm net
that shakes the rattle between white and green;
I am Mr. Tambourine Man on Saint Patrick’s Day
and I am making Popeye dance celestially.
The universe spirals, drains into a hole
defined as the end of spinach. It is rich
in iron, magnesium and Vitamin C and it is
all tumbling into a green, not black, hole.
At its centre a cascading nexus of reality
and spinach is set grinding. Popeye moans,
“I need spinask,” which unbeknownst to him
I have been providing. His legs are turning
emerald, the tips of his fingers resemble
young shoots, the chlorophyll mounts in him
like a pharmaceutical tincture. Popeye is
as bloated as an overblown kid’s cartoon.
He begins to spew the spinach of every
victory dominated savage fear pleading
naked beating he ever laid on. He tastes every
can sucked, slorped, chewed, gulped, inhaled,
tossed back and swallowed. It’s too much for
him, the memory bulges, his eyes, fingers and toes
pop and he explodes a star of raw vegetable passion
and I feel it all begins to collapse within me,
falling faster, further, to an inevitable moment
of truth—Oh No!—there is no truth in my poems!
There are no revelations! But it is too late, I am lost
in the rapture of my fantasy—where I can believe
in my words and that the world is a better place for them.