Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
print version

Letters to Jack Johnson from Joe Frazier

Philadelphia, PA, 1962
Philly colder than Rosetta’s stare
once she found I’d been laying with Flo.
Told her it don’t matter cause all the babies need heat,
so I send hot bills back to Beaufort
and once in a while a few pounds of meat.

Been boxing too,
Philly fools got two left feet,
wonder how I hit hard with no practice,
I tells them luck, but truth is
when the slaughterhouse turn quiet and manager gone,
I’m surrounded by armies of departed livestock.
I introduce my fists to hanging ribs
and feel spirits moving bout me,
dance like it’s midnight,
swing hard when blood reach my eye.

Tokyo, Japan, 1964
Buster beat me but beat himself in turn,
now I’m burning foreign roads
swinging Civil Rights at the clouds,
trying to unearth the gold in this medal.

They calling my left hook a train,
say it make a man meet his maker,
hump the canvas like a wet dream.

New York, NY, February 16, 1970
At Madison Square,
in a sixteen by sixteen square,
Ellis’s face found the square grill
of a round glove,
pitched a tent on the mat,
cried uncle from a wooden stool.  end

return to top