Late fall, the world again closing in
upon itself. Nights extend, days stall,
and the chill takes hold of Pennsylvania.
We hibernate under artificial light
in the practice room where crewcut coaches
bark enduring truths then whistle us alive
in this rite reserved for the quick, the strong,
the sinewy light doggedly wary.
This must be some kind of love, this shutting out,
shutting in, this drain of self into self,
more weight to shoulder through our hunger.
We shuffle and tender our sugarfeet.
He's a mirror-me: I claw, he claws, heads butt,
hands seize slick muscle. I collar him,
rough a forearm hard to his clavicle,
stutter-step. Balance, balance is all.
I am stronger, faster. So say tight grips,
the hurried brawl. I flash to a leg;
he drops to splay his weight over me,
the way soggy nautical rope might feel—
knotty, tentacular, doughy. He grabs
my head, wheels on the axis he makes of me.
His strength meets mine, I parry his every move
(each the other reified). The mild sorrow
of blood rises warm in my mouth.
He's on his back! I power down, but he rears
unstoppably from the mat. Sudden loss,
sudden win. We practice both, again, again.
No winner here, it's him, myself, I pin.
Greg McBride's collection of poems, Porthole, won the 2012 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. His chapbook, Back of the Envelope, appeared from Copperdome Press in 2009. His work has appeared in Boulevard, Gettysburg Review, River Styx, Salmagundi, and Southern Poetry Review. His honors include the Boulevard Emerging Poet prize and a grant in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. A Vietnam veteran and retired lawyer, McBride edits The Innisfree Poetry Journal.