Night and its Strange Likeness to a Diego Rivera Mural

posted Sep 7, 2010

I shadow box the sheet hanging over the opening
             to the back of my house,
tacked up to trap in the heat.

I jab sometimes with knives in each hand
             shredding the sheet before me,
or with a hammer-like swing

to the right stab at the bathroom door.
             A young Mexican man at my gym
beams and asks if I’m training for a fight.

No, just fighting my own demonios.
             He laughs but nods his head yes to this.
Tonight I’m fists against the mattress

propped up against the wall.
             Sometimes I switch to fighting southpaw,
an alien feel.

I’m soldier training for no war
             in an age where the menace
is a field in the brain:

the chess pieces are dunked in flame
             and shuffle about while I blink
and press on from stop light to stop light.

I’m finding the tomahawk again at the tire shop,
             and snapping kicks at my refrigerator
to pass the nights in this ghost house.

Even when I’m bow hunting with the rain
             of red and yellow leaves
that fall like hands all around me,

I wonder has nature finally given
             what my fathertried to provide,
slapping the scars all over my skin like medals?

Armor up, boy. The sun may as well
             have brass knuckles
at the ends of its beams.

John Rybicki is the author of We Bed Down Into Water, and a contributor to The Best American Poetry 2009. His work has also appeared in Ploughshares, Bomb, Poetry, The North American Review, and others. He teaches at Alma College, changes tires part-time, and works for “Wings of Hope” Hospice teaching poetry writing to children who have been through a trauma or loss.

We’ve published eight more poems by Rybicki: “Smoke,” “Brother,” “Yellow-haired Girl with Spider,” “Julie Ovary Song,” “Two Movements for Martell Epperson,” “Near the Old Packard Plant,” “It's Morning and I'm Trying on the Walls,” and “Some Nights I Catch you Sleepwalk Waltzing.”