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POOR BOY'S GAME FOR MUHAMMAD ALI/ Michael Conrad Dickman 1.AU and Frazier, 1975 From this moment on remember that everything they do, no matter what, is beautiful. Make no mistake. When Ali leans in with his left he cares so much about how it feels, cares more even than big Joe Frazier, who only cares that it's happening, whose concerns are slowly turning internal. There is the audience screaming. So many faces. The third man in the ring, holding up fingers. Looking, looking, looking, looking. There is the tin taste of blood and how Frazier's hearing fades like when he was a boy in a tub of water, leaning his head back into the cavernous echoes. He is alone inside his body, like one who enters a glistening ballroom from a long narrow hallway and loses a breath because the world has suddenly become so much more grand, realizes that he is part of something which hardly concerns him at all. Moments ago Ali was in his dressing room, talking himself into the ring, a white hot cloth across his eyes. Now he is listening to muscles and blood. To what muscles and blood could want with another body. Coming to terms so quickly with what wül give way, and what wül not. Ali is talking to him now, so close, he is asking Do you want more? Did you beUeve it would be any different? Are you going to give me everything? 20 · The Missouri Review 2.AH Among Children When the dancing could become dangerous, but doesn't, not yet. They wiU run out onto dirt roads in shoes or without shoes. They wiU come early in the morning or at the start of evening. They wül come out into fields at any time, to meet him, to see, just to stand back for a moment without breathing and look. What matters here is that he is among them, turning, switching from foot to foot in quick ghostly anticipation of the invisible fighters. The men who have heard enough, and are coming. The chUdren are happy, are frightened, and some are shaking through their skin in this country's low sinking heat. He is moving in time to the caUs of his trainer. The oldest among the children have become brave for a while and begin to box careless jabs into the arms and chins of their friends. If anything is being taught here it's in the dance that isn't a dance but the true beautiful body pressed against another in hope and precision, in a slow blue fury. Their smaU feet stamping the ground, jumping, their voices rising behind him in a prayer of dust: Ali, Ali, Ali, Ali. 3.Muhammad Ali, Sacred, 1985 His eyes stayed. Still. His legs dancing back, slipped from him and an arm thrown, where before you couldn't see it, slowed into stillness. One man learning to live inside of another. Where nothing can be defeated. 4.Muhammad AU Underwater He is standing at the bottom of a pool Michael Conrad Dickman The Missouri Review · 21 surrounded at last by rest, by the soft moments water affords. A body gathered around a body. Everything barely moving— His shorts. The laces in his shoes. The hairs on his arms and legs quietly sway under the breaking light above. Every voice on the deck is low and more motion than meaning. He cannot really teU who they belong to, but somewhere he knows each of them. Here surrounded by a furious grace that doesn't shimmer so much as it shadows he has found himself inside the soft moment under in a room away from the slow world and has begun to open his fists. The unbelievable fact that we could see all of his left hook, his right jab for once ease in time from his chest and eyes, push and split water easy as skin breaking, opening into the thing that lets it Uve. 22 · The Missouri Review Michael Conrad Dickman The entire history of the dangerous shuffling of feet. The fist from nowhere made visible. In a stiU swiftness he has...


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