A blue balloon
Clipped to a black hoody
Trailing a slow running 9th grader
Teased a reticent runner
Into following along.
He took jabs and cross hooks
At the dancing balloon
Which slipped the punches
With a knuckleball bob and weave.
The round didn’t last three minutes
As the pugilistic player
Had not a puncher’s chance
And he got lost in the weight
Of oxygen debt,
Personal doubt, and
The realization of Rendell’s commentary
On the state of toughness
Seeping from our society.
Walking became his Rope-a-Dope,
Gasping for breath his Tyson mouthpiece moment,
And as a side stitch set into spasm
The young fighter, once barely a runner,
Showed the glass jaw quality of his meager endurance.

Ding. Ding.

I got to the restaurant early and picked a seat in the corner where I could see the whole place. Sitting with my back to the wall allows the best view of all the happenings going on. I had not been to Drip in several years, so it felt like my first time there. If Starbucks is the Wal-Mart of coffee, Drip would have to be the idea that Starbucks wants to market, a cool place to hang out and have good coffee.

My friend arrived and we had the usual banter, work, The Wire, kids. From where I sat I could take it all in. There were suburban moms who had just finished working out before heading home to the family. They didn’t care a bit about the sweat or their sweats for they were confident in their lives. Then there were the suburban, recently single moms who came in all dolled up trying to impress with their heals and straightened hair. While Drip was a step up from Starbucks, these woman were way over the top.

There were men there too. Some were old guys who were out to read the paper, have some eggs, and just enjoy the quiet time that the diner atmosphere provided. One guy could not pull himself away from work and sat with his plate on his lap while he tapped numbers into some spreadsheet on his lap top, which was on the counter for some reason. For awhile I thought the crowd was too vanilla, but then I remembered I was in Hockessin.

Then the place got interesting. My friend was talking about sports memorabilia when I had to interrupt.

“Bernard Hopkins,” I said.

My friend looked back and our conversation turned to the history of this great boxer. I kept an eye on him and wondered how he might answer some questions about success, failure, and resilience. I wondered how he thought his experience as a boxer might transfer to someone who had never boxed.

As I looked around the room, I also wondered how many people knew who he was. We were sitting next to one of the all-time great boxers, yet he was moving through the restaurant without an entourage or anyone going over to him for an autograph or selfie. It was cool that everything was so low key, but kind of sad too, because he is such a great boxer.

When it was time to go my friend dared me to walk by Mr. Hopkins and fake a punch. There was no way I would want to inject myself into his life while he was having breakfast. That would be rude. Really, though, I wouldn’t want the punch that might come back because I’m really just a corner man.

I hear Bernard was able
To break the cycle of violence
By committing fully to boxing.

They say he
Left it all behind
With a discipline that never wavers.

I’m loving my summer vacation
Stuck in the pleasure of peace
Untouched by the flaw,

My imperfection where
I want to make a point,
Driving home some zinger.

I heard his message
Of being right by not being,
By just going with the flow

Because problems are bigger
For others than anything
I’ve ever manufactured.

Then came August,
The last few weeks before returning
And something happened,

Shoulder pains, neck pains
Ridiculous dreams and
A renewed interest in protest songs.

I’m on my bicycle, Bernard,
Staying away from the corners by
Bobbing and weaving

Against those old habits
I let go during this summer respite,
My time of change.


All he wants to do is play,
But his muscles are too big,
His bob and weave too shifty, and
His jab lethal.

It’s all in fun, though.

My cats have him nearly figured.
He’s more them than boss man canine,
A life loving feline graced with a pit bull’s body,
More dancer than brawler.