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Spirit Boxing

It is the tightness in the gut when the load
is heavy enough to knock me over backward,
turn me back on my heel until my ankle cracks

and I holler out Jesus, this Jesus of Joe Gans
setting up for the next punch while taking in
one that just made his soul wobble, the grunt

I make when the shift is young, my body
a heavy meat on bones, conveyors not wired
for compassion, trucks on deadlines, uncaring

pressure of a nation waiting to be washed, made
clean, me looking into the eye of something like
death, and I look up, throwing fifty-pound boxes,

Jesus now John Henry pounding visions of what
work is, the wish for black life to crumble, snap
under all it is given, these three souls of spirit,

hands like hammers, a hammer like the word
made holy, word echoing a scripture from inside
the wise mind that knows men cannot be makers,

that in making we want to break each other,
ache moving us to refuse to surrender to time
in factories, catacombs feeding on the spirit.

Afaa Michael Weaver

Spirit Boxing
University of Pittsburgh Press

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