The words are harder to dodge
than his left hook would be:
Hit me, come on pussy, hit me!
Players at the other end of the court
stop dribbling & form a ring
around us.  I feel them throbbing,
hear the hissing of that frenzy
building that begs for blood
but I know how easily an elbow
fractures when you straighten
the arm by the wrist & apply
pressure to the leathery flesh
protecting the bone.  He leans in,
shoves me with his upturned
palms & I wonder if he knows
that his eyeballs are softer than
eggshells & that a finger jab could
make my face the last image
he’ll remember for months
while the gelatin that are his eyes
try to heal.  He says, Hit me!
What are you a coward?  You scared?
I whisper it & almost believe no one
hears it but they do & all goes quiet:
Yes, I’m afraidI’m afraid.
That moment when I must decide
to suffer or to cause suffering is quick.
I turn my head as he connects, my jaw
accepts his fist & I soften the blow,
& when I see my face in the fear on his
& when the weight of my knees pushes down
on his biceps & I cup his face with
my fingertips like it’s some thing I’ve created
& the spit is gone from my mouth
I am afraid, God help me, I am afraid.
Coward by Roberto Carlos Garcia

Photo used under CC.