So this is what I do: I nail things down, I define them, I say "walking up that walkway was like entering another world" or "I saw how every body was focused on its wounds," and yet each interlocking word makes that synchronicity disappear and I am left with a pitiful list, testifying this is what happened. And so I ask you, what drives that need to describe until there is no room left, until each motion is beaten into a solid account? Didn’t you say that the limits of my language are the limits of my world, each word shaping and flattening the history of its making?
But I’m talking of a world where the physical is all there is, the boxing ring where fist pounds flesh legitimately, all the pains of those watching pounding with those fists under the lights, the scripted crowds rising decked out in leather and sequins, watching the fighters in the ring, your flesh linked to theirs, the blows they make your beating against this complacency, the stories overheard off-hand: how she was stabbed in the leg to make her stay, how he stomped up and down on top of the car until the windows shattered, the old jump the dealer routine.
For you are suspended in the life of the city beneath the city, consumed by the constant cleaning and folding and chopping to present the world, hands repeatedly cutting or stamping food they will not eat and clothes they will not wear, muscles driven to keep moving, soothed into stasis with promises that this will soon be over, you are here until you get home, and you are there until you get here, a receptacle shaped into a question, a mouth pressed in the wrong answer, and when did you realize that even this, your body, was an irrelevant machine?
Don’t think about that answer— the little boy standing in the ghetto yard above his friend on the ground, your eye gliding past not wanting to place itself there and imagine that brutal spinning world—but still the buildings rise up behind him, screened in and gaping, raw need slapping you in the face with the inadequacy of any answer, until someone strides out in a long black coat, pulls out a bottle of gin, pours it over the body and walks away, alcohol pooling around the stilled head while you look over and see the eyes behind the grating watching you with an expression that says, now what, what do you want, that even this grief, this wound will be absorbed, ground down and worn away—
In the ring you feel the space in the air between you charged and drifting, you’re looking for the pause and click that measures the time between the fist drawn back and the blow to your stomach, but you can take that, moving in a circle, sweat in your eyes, a white glare, it’s all about the rhythm of another body, the sit ups and the running and the hardness of your muscles tuned to listen for his beat his pulse to tell you how to move a little faster, to get ahead and get two blows for one, each thud of pain shifts and remakes you, you feel yourself snapping back elastic toes flexed and gripping the ground, you’re not backing up or falling down, he stops for a second as you make a false jab with your right, than shift to your left, blood is in your eyes and you are filled with fury, then suddenly you can see the fight, you see it all laid out, as if you were playing cards and you saw the hand and all you had to do was wait for the cues, here it is, now is when you punch in him the head, your fist feels the bone of his cheek resisting, than giving, and he reels back, head rolling, falling on the ropes, not down yet, until you hit him on the other side, and then a voice somewhere is counting and your body goes limp, and gradually you see him, now solid and still on the mat eyes closed, and you are done
Take a minute then, and examine each scene: the slick smooth sheet of the boxing ring scrubbed nightly of any traces, the feet that scuff the hard dirt until that dark pool is gone, the boy gone with it, no diagrams or history, just the momentary flash of flesh in a cone of light, audience reduced to pure reflection, a collective cry of sympathy or triumph—