The Engaging of Professionals by Alan Franks
Winner of the 2006 Plough Poetry Prize; judge, Ian McMillan
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 around 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 roars 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 once 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.