SMOKEmore smokethickening the air, staining the air blue-grey, rising on waves of breath, and falling, and filling the channels of breath, and reddening eyes.
Smokewreathing the rafters, lying in grey-blue folds over the sloping bank of menthey may be men over there, mens faces and bodies slanting down to the parapet.
Smokefighting with the glare of the reflectors, fighting the bald splendor of the canvas-padded ring, with the fleshy faces of the seconds, bare bodies, suspender buckles, white shirt-fronts, and the referees gold watch chain. Smokefighting and always losing.
Smokestung with sudden victories of flame, tiny fireflies that spurt, wink, spread glowing orange over faces framed in writhing twists of blue-grey. Smokefighting and losing.
Voicesstriking down upon the ring, curving like blows around the rocking heads of the fighters, landing on my ears.
Voicesglancing over my shoulders, rumbling through my veins. I echo them under my breath: A brave rush, Tony! A fine left, Jack!
Smokemore smokeI make it myself. My eyes strain through the smother, my eyeballs push and tug at their muscles.
Bang! goes the bell. Theres the flash of a left, the crook of an elbow, the twist of a nude torso, a right cross darts over a shoulder, into the air above a bullet-heada locking of arms, the thud of a glove ramming a naked sidea dashing referee cuts the locked forearms, lifts the lowered heads, slices between breasts jamming like savage bulls, and dancing out into the open, leaves a neutral zone behind himnow, as he whirls, before him: Hiss! a gloved left lines across the gap, a shoulder blocks the jab and launches a viperous answer into space as a cropped head shifts an inch, the short rights follow in, the lock snaps shut, again the tattoo drumming on the ribsa muffled buzz of bated breathand again the referee with his key parts the dovetailed fightersonce more the zone, the hissing leads, frowning looks, tense and bitter, straining for an instants targetlegs spring, feet patter, the lefts leap, the rights zig-zag, miss or glance, locked againthe drummingsweltering in a fiery space, walled in smokeBang! goes the bell.
VoicesVery scientific in his feet: sings a bored Irish voice across the halla laugh rolls along the tiers, sweeps into a roara murmur of repetitions: What did he say? Very scientific in his feetA spatter of belated laughs.
Back to GreeceTwo thousands of years ago, several hundreds, some odd months and days, to be exact, and all of Greece that could get there, watched the same thing under the olive-ripening sun on the plains of the Alpheus, at Olympia. Jack Britton was then Theagenes, a bull of a man, with mountains of muscle flanking the column of his neckand Ted Lewis was Euthymus, eager, hopeless, and undauntedthen they wore leather thongs upon their handsand we were Greeks, our backs to the door, and on the further side of the frail boards was black Barbarianism, crushing to break in upon us.
So it was, and is: skill, quivering light brains, muscles flexing and snapping, lefts and rights; and against them, the Brute, sagging with sheer gravity of bulk upon the candle-flame of Intelligence.
Greek and Barbarian, skill and Brute, light and dark, over and overvictory and defeat, shuffled confusedly in the smoke.
Something sighs in me when the Brute is baffled, the jeer of the crowd is my jeerI like the knock-out too, but I like it to come as lightning comes, and when it does the triumph makes me sadfor red Brutality outwitted by grey Skill, for grey Skill stunned and reddened by dull Brutality. Which wins? The Brute, he always wins, and Science never loses. And Art sits on the sidelines and wins bets from each of them.
Phidias might sign his name under that moving frieze of nakedness, gliding through areas of smoke in ten thousand instants of beauty.