The Greatest

"You are what you believe you are." --Prophet Omega

Back then, some old fart said to me,
"Your arms are too short to box with God."
Then he leaned back, satisfied.

Serenity was the aim, around those tables.
Serenity is something
that sometimes begins with mayhem.

Muhammad Ali. The Greatest.
In my white bread world of childhood, I heard the gloves land.
"Stupid name."
"Draft dodger!"

I saw, on tv, Joe Frazier pound away at you like a force of nature.
blows any one of which would have leveled an ordinary man.
"This must be what dyin' is like."
This is what I know:
you must tell yourself what you are, before you can become what you are.
And, oh, you will be a target.

Muhammad Ali, The Greatest.
No one has ever been themselves, created themselves, celebrated themselves, the way you did.
That kind of stuff comes with cost,
but you expressed the God you loved in every movement and every word.

Sometimes teaching begins with blood.
Who can witness pure wild courage and not learn?
I am in awe of you--
because this white Catholic woman sees her best spirit in you.
Is there better teaching than that?
Wham! The Greatest!

Back then, some old fart said to me,
"Your arms are too short to box with God."
But he was wrong, and Muhammad Ali proved it.

You can box with God
box WITH God
and do it with a holy fury.



Kerry O'Connor said…
This gave me chills - such passionate words. Even though I have never been a fan of boxing, I was impressed by the legendary Ali, as a child, stuck the old Apartheid South Africa. He has always been a giant among men, like so many great leaders and icons of the 20th century, now lost to us when we need them the most.
'Holy fury' – what a wonderful phrase. And so apt. Like Kerry, I'm not a fan of boxing, but I loved to watch him dance and win. There are great truths and realisations in this poem, Shay, and as always you say them so well.
Timoteo said…
This knocked me out!
hedgewitch said…
He was one of a kind, indeed, yet as this poem says, so we all can be--one of a kind, ourselves, the only self and best self we truly are, if we are wiling to take the hits. I was never into boxing before or after him, but while he boxed, I saw beauty in pain and science in brutality. The price he had to pay was so high--no wonder so many settle for less.
Stacie Eirich said…
Love the gritty, real dialogue feeling in this - hits the mark (no pun intended). "Holy fury" is indeed fitting. Thanks for sharing.
Sherry Blue Sky said…
What a fantastic tribute! I love "you must tell yourself what you are before you can become what you are." So true. "Who can witness pure wild courage and not learn?" I love this. And the "holy fury." Brilliant!
brudberg said…
I think if you are the greatest, you can be held at awe like this.. a man to admire, a man who went against and came out with a victory... yes you box WITH God... great tribute (though I have never held boxing in awe)
TexWisGirl said…
loved it. i was a white-bread, small-town, catholic girl, yet his presence impressed me, too. i like the passage about telling yourself who you are to become it.
This was a wonderful tribute to a mountain of a soul. La la mosk
Margaret said…
1:30 am - just turning into bed after a full day unpacking from our move to the mountains of NC - a fantastic poem to go to sleep with. I adore your personal voice in this, and twist at the end on the old farts words.
Maude Lynn said…
This is really beautiful, Shay. It captures the essence of what he meant to a lot of us better than anything else I've read.
Pat Wahler said…
Oh my goodness, I loved this one. It says so much about the spirit of doing what you're meant to do despite what anyone else has to say.

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