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  • Route 7 Review

Jeff Newberry—The Fighter

The Fighter


After the last one hangs up the gloves

and goes home, he’s all mop and scrub,

a bucket of cleaner, a white canvas sack

full of sweat-stained and blood-flecked


towels used to sop the heads of kids

half his age. Some nights, he strikes

a fighter’s pose and throws a few jabs

at the body bag. He’s right at home


for a moment, twenty years ago, steel

in his veins and abs like a radiator rack.

The body fails. All bodies do. He spit

years into buckets that filled with bile


after factories and rounds of layoffs

and divorce and sons who don’t call

no matter how many years pass. Once

he closed his eyes at night and visioned


a life held high above a cheering crowd.

Never a boxer, he wishes he’d found

the sport. He wrestles the janitor caddy

to a stop and throws a few phantom


punches at his shadow on the wall,

where the young men fight themselves.

He can’t win this fight. The man knows

every feint already. This sparring


partner has made the same moves for years.


Jeff Newberry


Jeff Newberry's most recent book is How to Talk About the Dead (Red Hawk Publications, forthcoming). An essayist, novelist, and poet, his writing has appeared in a wide variety of print and online journals, including Brevity: Concise Nonfiction, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Red Rock Review, and Laurel Review.

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