Ali, Ali, Ali!

he came back to
his country after
winning a gold medal

but the gold was
in his smile,
in his movement
his grace

and that gold
graced the world
as it hung around
his neck for all to see

and the waitress
back home in
Kentucky told him,
we don’t serve negroes

and the gold
medal became
a stone

its weight
forcing his head
downward so that
his eyes could only
see below

(and he employed that in the ring, pulling his opponents head downward to tire them out…it was illegal but it worked)

but he saw the
depth of depravity,
took that medal and
tossed it into the river

and as that medal
sunk, he rose to
the greatest heights
and greatest lows

of course there
were the fights,
the predicting of the
rounds the opponents
would fall

the rhymes and
rhythms of poetry
articulated into our
scarred flesh that
he took as his own
and emerged unmarked

“Float like a butterfly,
sting like a bee, his hands
can’t hit what his eyes can’t see”

and while his gold
medal sunk into that
river in Kentucky’

his speed of hand
mind and tongue
kept us on our toes

pushing us to
dance along with
him in our minds
if not our legs

lest we forget
the movement
birthed and burnished
in us

we just needed
to see him to
remind us who we
were when our
mirrors betrayed us

we haven’t seen
one like him

and we

(c) 2016 Tony Robles


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