Muhammad Ali Entered My Dream Just to Say Hello

Ali in 1966. Photographed by Thomas Hoepker.

By Michael Cantor

We talked mostly pussy,
two old guys trading brags and stories
old style, toe-to-toe, center of the ring,
nobody taking a backward step.
BAM! Nothing on under the dress BAP!
POP-POP-POP then her other sister BING!
Folks could hear them yelling my name POW!
and by about the fourth round
I was in trouble, mouth breathing, arm punches,
couldn’t match his speed and moves
You can get them little motor homes to rocking
and all that joy and beauty.

So I switched to boxing,
told him how I saw him win the Golden Gloves,
delicious Cassius Clay from Louisville
seventeen years young
taking apart some gnarly old British semi-pro;
and we talked about Manila and Sonny Banks
and Cleveland Big Cat Williams and Sonny Liston
on his back in Maine
and eventually, of course, about that night in Zaire
with big George Foreman BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM
pounding him into the ropes in the eighth round,
Ali absorbing it all
(helped by those loose ropes),
then sliding off to SNAP a jab, and SNAP-SNAP
two more, and WHAP, a right, and WHAP-WHAP-WHAP-WHAP-WHAP until
big George Foreman
destroyer of men, pulverizer of Joe Frazier,
choking on spiders,
toppled.

He told me about losing the title to Leon Spinks,
and getting into shape and winning it back,
and the crazy fight in Tokyo with the Japanese wrestler
who kicked the life out of his legs,
and how he came back from that to knock out Larry Holmes,
to win his fourth title, to be The Greatest Ever.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell him
that he lost the Holmes fight,
that he was so badly beat up that twice
Holmes begged the referee to stop it
before he killed a man,
and that finally the corner threw in a white towel.
How could I say anything?
It was only a dream and it was his dream now also,
inside my dream of that beautiful seventeen year old boy
dancing in circles in Madison Square Garden
BAP-BAP-BAP-POW!

Courtesy of Shit Creek Review

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