More Than The Alley

by Doug Draime

I fought in alleys as a kid,
in the small town alleys
of Vincennes and the city, steel-
sot alleys of
Pittsburgh, for no other reason
than I had to fight. It was something
unavoidable, destined.
By in large I won the
majority of them,
which means nothing. I could have
just as well lost most, and it would not
have mattered
It wasn’t the winning
or the losing, that had nothing
to do with it,
just as words often have nothing
to do with poetry.
It was more than
the battle, the alley,
or the crowds
taking perverse delight
in the blood flying from adolescent faces,
cracked bones and the possibility
of serious injury.
Something, some pure rage inside prodded
me on, and I was always
astonished after
to find myself reasonably intact,
having come through one of the most
dangerous
kinds of human interchange.
There was never a fight
in which I didn’t
shake from a sickening deep gut fear,
my hands trembling like
a dumb unconsecrated nun.
The swallowing of my fear was like
choking down razor blades, but
I would take a deep breath, swallow
and swing hard.

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