1st, Open Category 2005 - Alan Franks

The Engaging of Professionals

Right from our early, amateur rounds,
Back before we'd even drawn
Each other's blood, let alone gone down

And taken a count, even then we swung
Ourselves round this very ring
Like heavy bags set loose for slanging,

All uncultured shoulder shots,
Elbow half-blocked grazing knocks,
Eventually learning how to spot

Some opening in the free-for-all,
Then haul up and release free-fall
The barely padded wrecking ball

Of us. As for the referee,
We took one look and saw that he
had recognised in you and me

A pair who had no time for laws.
He ducked out through the ropes. The scores,
He said, were level, and what's more,

Would always be. He left us to
The roar of ringside relatives who
Then bawled for me or bawled for you

And flung the chairs about whenever
One of us was taking heavy
Blows, and winced to see the leathering

Of familiar faces. One
Well-meaning aunt declared the fun
Was over, time to cut and run.

We told them to go hang themselves
And carried on so that the welts
And weals and bruises from the belts,

Which only we two had the skill,
The dedication and the will
To trade, grew even greater till

We'd lost each other's eyes behind
The swollen brows which still confine
Them deep as love and twice as blind.