Prizefighter

Ventriloquise your lust for blood through me,
a pound for every three of body weight
I only know the purse and wounded sleep
my flesh is rich and rippled
sustained on beef and porter
in my corner’s tavern

Ribcage, diaphragm, collarbone, jaw;
I articulate your weakness as I find,
test your empire’s strength on mine
chance your arm to lose an eye
a year’s worth of labour
wagered on my back

I laid out Tom the Greek in Taplow station yard
two hours, three minutes standing
trading blood and punches
like hands of cards where clubs lead hearts
until the pack divides
to patron’s diamond or sexton’s spade

Harder work than navvying Sonning,
darker than Kilsby tunnel,
I grab this chance of glory
with both bareknuckled hands
and leave a dead man’s teeth
on the cobbles, horseshit and straw

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