cassius clay was a helluva fighter
he danced and
he taunted and
the cameras couldn't keep away and
muhammad ali was the same
big and bold and brass and
the cameras were obsessed

he could find no rest no escape
he ran off to the congo and
rumbled in the jungle with
this guy who makes grills and
they beat the shit out of each other and
everybody cheered and
the cameras affixed themselves to
his arms and his legs and his brain and
maybe that's why he got parkinson's and
started shaking like a
frightened old man overcome by a ghost and
when he lit that torch in atlanta
the games where bombs burst in air and in olympic park
where bodies lay bloodied and blistered in the
golden glow of the muddy southern sun

when he lit that torch he was shaking so much you
almost thought the thing was going to go out but then it
struck against the oil and this flame
bigger than anything any of us could have imagined
leapt into life and muhammed stood under it, shaking and
now i meet kids named cassius and all they know is they were
named after some boxer and i tell them that i knew this man
i saw him light the torch in atlanta
i saw him change
i saw everybody change
i saw a flame leap up that i could not have imagined

we all needed to change our names
to change our anthems
but only he had the guts to do it
so young cassius you have your name
take it and shake it and turn it into something else and
cassius you will shine forever in that muddy southern sun.

from the Fall 2005 issue of iamb. more of my poems from iamb here.

1 comment:

Marta said...

I love the last line