Ai’s “Shadow Boxer”

Ai Ogawa (1947-2010)

Shadow Boxer


You know what hunger is, Father,

it’s the soothing half-dark

of the Library men’s room

and the Reference Librarian,

his head pressed against my thigh,

as tears run down his pudgy face.

Sometimes I unzip for him

and let him look,

but never touch, never taste.

After all, I’m here to try to reconcile

the Classics

with the Batman Comics philosophy of life

and this pathetic masquerade,

this can’t be life in caps or even lower case.

This is 1955 and all I know is boredom and desire

so when I leave, I cruise down Main Street

for girls and q quick feel.

They call it the ugliest street in America,

but I don’t know yet

that it’s just another in a lifetime of streets

that end kissing somebody’s feet or ass.

I just tell myself to drive and keep on driving,

but like always, I swerve into our yard.

You’re still at Henrahan’s,

Drunk and daring anyone to hit you, because you’re a man goddammit.

I climb the stairs to my room

and lie down under your boxing gloves

hung above my bed,

since your last fight in Havana.

When I can’t sleep,

I take them down, put them on

and shadowbox, until I swing,

lose my balance and fall.


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