What It Took To Win


The image that inspired this poem.

You kept your cool, like
It was no big deal.
You smiled, shrugged, and spun-
But I saw how your muscles twisted
Under the strain.
I saw you light fires with your eyes,
One the flint and the other the kindling.
One the flint and the other the kindling.

I remember meeting you, years ago
When your tattoos were just tattoos.
Your hands were soft, before
Acquiring calluses from dealing
Sidewalk squares like cards to eager bettors.
I remember making debtors with you
Never thinking it could happen to us.
Their empty stares echo under your eyelids now,
Like bloodshot ghosts.

You kept your cool,
Evidence that you’d lost it before.
Once, I would have read your eyes-
Letters as black as vision and
Gilded with the gold that rims your glances.
When I saw smoke signals go up, I was
Proud of you for pushing forward.
I didn’t know you were burning your words.

I will keep my cool now, and
Watch you dance your streets.
Sell them more of yourself
To line the cracks with your skin and
Plant weeds there in the sidewalk.

When I catch my own eyes
Reflected in the glass nearby
They show only clear, cloudless blue.

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