Pugnax Gives Notice

Original Text: 

Carmine Starnino. This Way Out. Kentville, Nova Scotia: Gaspereau Press. 2009

1He’s done with it, the tridents and tigers,
2the manager’s greed, the sumptuous beds
3of noble women who please their own moods.
4He’s done with dogging it for the crowds,
5the stabbing, the slashing, the strangling,
6the poor pay, the chintzy palm branch prizes.
7Make no mistake. Pugnax is a real fierceosaurus.
8Winner of 26 matches, a forum favourite.
9Yet his yob genes have, it seems, gone quiet.
10Fatigue has called his soul back to his body.
11Circles under his eyes; he sleeps badly.
12Late-night cigs lit from the dog-end of the last,
13cutwork of the clock nibbling him small.
14In the barracks around him his friends snore,
15lucky returnees of the last hard hacking,
16dead to the world, free of a weapon in the fist.
17Priscus face-down in the crook of his arm.
18Triumphus flung open, caught on a bad turn.
19Verus collapsed, whacked, against the cot.
20Flamma, doomed by down-thumbing shadows,
21lies in a stain of his final shape and size.
22Pugnax loves them all, chasers and net-fighters,
23fish-men and javelin-throwers, carefree
24despite punishing practices, screaming orders,
25despite limbs trained to turn lethal for mobs
26unable to bear the thought of two men
27clinging to life, but here it’s only the thock
28of wooden sword against wooden sword,
29the racket as they fall on each other’s shields
30in joy. Pugnax’s heart breaks for them.
31Understand, he has inflicted pain and felt pain,
32but now wants to go native, move into a flat,
33experiment with fashionable clothes,
34dawdle at the baths, tame his nights with tea,
35be spellbound by the smell of soap, find a wife.
36Our boy dreams of joining the crowd,
37shouting himself hoarse as some bonehead
38gets knocked down and the blade pushed
39through his chest, stapling him to the ground.
40At intermission, he’ll watch as the blood
41is raked over with sand, thinking chore thoughts:
42yard work, paint jobs, weekend projects.
RPO poem Editors: 
Jim Johnstone
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Poem used with permission of the author.