8.3 between rounds

from on stage, the plague

I can still see her there,
in the frame of my rearview mirror,
the soft of her face is staring off
to the right
or is it straight ahead?
she doesn’t know yet,
she hasn’t decided,
she’s not sure whether or not
to keep fighting

she is a boxer between the rounds
sucking hot air through
the gaps in her mouth guard,
finding her hands
in gloves that weigh
ten thousand pounds.
her sweat stains the sticky
hard stool she sits on
and her legs,
like a plate
of spanish flan,
settle in pools
on the mats
beneath her feet

she is between rounds
and I don’t know what she wants to hear

I want to stoop in front of her
and look into her eyes–
place my hand upon her shoulder
to tell her that
it’s ok
she fought the fight
but it’s time to go home now
the towel is heavy in my hands
I want to give it to her
so she can have that
grievous relief
that awaits fighters who are
not fated to win their bouts

but I grip her arm with my hand
until the veins pop in my wrist
and her eye winces under my fingers
I stare her down
and then I whisper–
this fight isn’t fun
this fight isn’t easy,
but I’ve fought this fight before
and I will fight it again
with you now
and here

she’s not a fighter,
and she has no place in this ring
but they don’t raise your hand
in the end
unless you fight

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