The Champion and the Challenger

He serves a winner, the challenger, but his head’s
already gone, shaved on top to avoid the thinning
hair, the grimace on his face like last year’s
leaf on the ground. The champion has nothing to lose,
he’s won it all, the tributes have all been made,
the love’s been had and he understands what the old poets
do, something about the leaves, poems like leaves,
the old dog indulging the young pup chewing on his ear
as the wind moves through the branches above.
And in the garden on the other side of the lawn
the cardinal lands, like a gunshot wound,
but the champion knows it’s the whole universe
that’s bleeding, an old story, showing a glimmer
of the fancy footwork, but something else has seeped in,
a feel for when it matters and when the blood is
nothing but a little rain on your shirt, a little spring rain.

Cory Brown, associate professor of writing, has taught at Ithaca College since 1990. Over the last two years, he has published poems in several literary journals, including The Antigonish Review, the online Pedestal Magazine, and The Fiddlehead.