—after Tyehimba Jess
Freedom is what you can buy
with a left jab & a right cross.
You’ve got the uppercut of a champ.
On a sweaty August night, you watch
Ramos v Ramos from the Olympic
on TV. You turn off the blaring AC,
want to hear the fighters’ tssiiuu tssiiuu, exhaling
as they attempt to break each other’s skin.
You’re light on your feet like Mando,
got Sugar’s hand speed. Freedom
is your girl by your side telling you to fight.
She brings your boxing license
in a lunch bag while you labor
at Lockheed, roots for you in Rocky
Lane’s garage on a Sunday
as you spar any man who dares.
She wipes your burning face
with a cool towel, the sinewed shape
of your body surfacing quick
after you trade in Budweiser for a jump
rope. Freedom is the rattle in your jaw
the first time you take a hook
to the gut, the way a glove slides
across your nose slick with Vaseline
as you size up the weary contender,
know that look in his eyes that whispers
across the canvas between rounds. Finish me
already, body shriveling in the corner, you’ve won.
by Eloisa Amezcua
from The Academy of American Poets