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This came to me during the long drive back from Chapel Hill on September 11, but I’m just now beating it into almost-presentable shape. I probably should’a waited until my Texas review was up, but we’ve been swamped at work with actual work so enjoy this while we recover from our travels.

America used to BE somebody, a heavyweight champeen
with a warm smile that earned respect from good people
and powerful arms that demanded it from anyone else.
A little slow on his feet, to be sure, but brave and free.
At least until some corrupt promoters talked America
into an Asian kickboxing match in a sweltering arena far from home.
Unfamiliar with this foreign style, and with poor coaching in his corner,
America got his ass handed to him from the first round.
Too stubborn to quit, America stayed in the ring too long,
until the fight was beaten out of him.
America was blacklisted, relegated to staged wrestling matches with fat Russians
and back-alley brawls for mafia kingpins against lefty Latins.
Eventually America quit altogether, content to sit in his home in the ‘burbs,
watching the world go by on TV, growing fat and apathetic.
He might have gone gray and been forgotten, except for some Mad Arab
who still held a grudge over a past match America had all but forgotten.
The Arab swore revenge against America, and his tag-team partner The Hebrew.
So when the doorbell rang at America’s house, America woke with a start.
Snoozing in front of the TV, Disney t-shirt stained orange with Cheeto dust,
he was not expecting visitors.
He opened the door, that bright September morning, imagining girl scouts selling cookies,
only to receive a vicious sucker-punch in the face,
followed by a devastating uppercut to the jaw and a jab in the gut.
America stumbled back, letting the door slam shut.
He awoke in a pool of blood to see the neighbors,
peering through the window with concerned faces.
Humiliated, he lashed out, “Fucking towel heads! Goddamn sand niggers!
You foreign bastards stop looking at me, you shits,
or I will personally come out there and kick ALL your asses!!”
Once-caring neighbors turned away, anxious and perhaps a little scared.
America wanted a rematch, a chance to set things right, to climb back in the ring
and feel the glory of victory again, at least feel like a man again.
Impatient and thirsty for blood, America forgot or ignored the training
of his better coaches of his youth.
Instead, he turned to amateurs and late night TV infomercials hawking quick fixes.
Too many years of sloth and gluttony had dulled his reflexes
so that by the time he arrived in the Mad Arab’s neighborhood,
ready to throw down, the Mad Arab had slipped away.
So America picked a street-corner bully, a thug he had bested a decade before,
and beat him handily – but failed to notice the neighborhood punks drawn to the fight.
Now some still chant for America, “Onward Christian soldier!”, their great white hope.
But while America stands in an alley on the other side of town yelling “Bring ‘em on!”
at any who will listen, America’s wife and kids wonder where he went
and why he’s not at home fixing the dripping faucet, changing the burnt-out light bulbs,
and making sure there’s enough gas in the SUV to get to the store in an emergency.
The Mad Arab eyes the house, wondering if America remembered to send a check
for the home security system while scuffling with gutter trash on the other side of town.
The house has been battered by storms, the kids huddling in the basement
while America beats up somebody else's kids across town,
claiming it's for the good of the neighborhood.
Now America is no longer free to go home and take care of the wife and kids,
because he’s too punch-drunk to realize they go hand-in-hand, bravery and freedom.
In other parts of town younger fighters train for the heavyweight title, The Big One,
while America slowly but surely wears himself out
in a fight he is not brave enough to admit was wrong.

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