Billy Hightower

It’s been twenty-five years. You may be
an angel now, may have been then,
at eight an older boy. I’d just turned six,

the first thing you found out about me,
and got, a gift from my father,
two pair of bright leather boxing gloves.

You tried them right on. “Want to go a round?”
Innocent, I took you up on it, slipped
my own on and swung. You knocked me down

before I could blink, and stood over me, laughing.
Billy, I would have killed you if I could.
As it was I jumped up and split your lip

before you recovered from the shock
and knocked me down again.
Twenty pounds on me, I didn’t stand a chance,

but I came at you, crying
like rain, a whirlwind
of thin arms and legs spinning.

I don’t know how long it went on,
how many times I fell on the lawn,
but I’ll never forget your serious face

or my father’s stiff form in the doorway,
arms folded, that tight-lipped grin
as he watched from the front porch.

I don’t know how long he stood there
before he came and stopped the fight.

(Ken Zimmerman 1986) (appeared in Brooklyn Review)

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