The Order of Things
Joshua Bennett
The boxing gym was across the street.
Its blue floor was soft and dull: cornflower's 
tongue, tepid sea. The coach was kind enough. 
His name was Ralph. His shirt was clean 
& nonspecific, the inverse of my moth-worn 
Syracuse Lacrosse sweatshirt 
from who-knows-where. 
The first class would be free. 
The gym was across the street.  
From my apartment, I mean. 
The five-floor walk-up full of art 
students and great-aunts 
with names that ring like elegies. 
I live next door to a Planet 
Fitness full of shiny people. 
My arms are smooth as shellfish. 
There is no time like the present to pray 
for difference. This is how the hunted persist.

*

Christina and her friends threw me up against the fence, held me there like a portrait in a museum boasting free admission for students under the age of 10. The chain-link made latticework of my unremarkable back. When I fell to the ground, the other children circled me like a hunger, humor was no reliable salvation. I stated my case thusly: "8 on 1 can't be that much fun for any of us, am I right?" The jury returned in a flash, a unanimous decision to shake up the show-off. From the blue floor of our newly renovated playground, Ian's face was all I could recognize. I charged at him like a mother walrus darting through the deep, all instinct and tusk. Ian fell as a tooth might, his space in the phalanx suddenly filled only by my supple ghost.

*

My dad could beat up anybody else's dad. I knew this largely through folklore he spun from the day of my birth until the first signs that his jet-black curls would soon settle into winter. In my unkempt head, the transition from Jim Crow to Vietnam was as clean as blood could ever be, two battlefields branding him iconic, unkillable. He chased Tamara's ex boyfriend through an entire apartment complex with no break for breath or drink. Punched a hole in a wall after a parent-teacher conference ended with an indictment of his favorite son. His third second chance. The youngest one. The loyal prodigy, destined never to crystallize into proper mirror, never master the alchemy of knuckle blooming into broken nose, jaw left hanging like a half-pendulum, red un-symmetry shaming a stranger's face.
Joshua Bennett hails from Yonkers, NY. He is a third-year doctoral candidate in the English Department at Princeton University, Callaloo Fellow, and, as of this summer, teacher of 8th grade Composition. His poetry has either been published or is forthcoming in Anti-, Tidal Basin Review, Drunken Boat, Word Riot and Muzzle. He is also the founding editor of Kinfolks Quarterly.


more by Joshua Bennett:
Ode to the high top fade