We arrive at the same time as he does
to some stirring mid-nineties anthem.
The arena’s almost empty, we’ve got hours

until the main event, the young and handsome
prospect enters next to wild applause
from twenty family members. Then the customs

of referee’s instruction and touched gloves.
The bell rings and the prospect goes in fast,
the journeyman covers, ducks and weaves—

they always rush right in, their flailing fists
are keen to make short work of him, he knows
from all these monthly pocket money fights

fed to the debut boys, his return blows
are known to not cause problems, his efforts
revolve around giving the punters a show

while not taking too many heavy shots
so he can make his losers’ split next time
to pay the bills and keep the missus sweet.

She’s at home watching X Factor, the chime
of the last bell provides longed for relief,
he hugs the prospect, whispers lies to him

about how he’ll have a successful life
and not be a domestic nearly ran.
His string of losses hold back debt and grief—

a rosary necklace of bearable pains
that gives a chance to those he loves the most.
He’s gone before the imbecile refrains

of smash his ‘ead ‘in! ring from post to post,
the slobs in suits, the patriotic orgies
of jingoistic bias and lewd boasts

at ring girls with their labial wedgies.
But all these rituals are yet to come,
with one more L writ in his career’s pages

the journeyman begins his journey home.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Richard Purnell
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 18:11:31

    bloody hell, niall. that’s brilliant.


    • Niall O'Sullivan
      Nov 06, 2011 @ 18:26:18

      Thanks mate. I often consider myself to be a bit of a journeyman poet, so it’s easy to emote with the journeyman boxer.


  2. Paula
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 19:13:01

    Wow. The imagery & resonance left me speechless throughout. I saw it metaphorically; it’s man’s journey through any hustle & grind.



  3. peter litton
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 23:47:18

    Hey Niall, this is my favourite so far. You have taken this form, as you did the sonnet, and made it your own. I wondered…with all the practice the journeyman gets, he could probably take out the contender, or would that be self defeating.


  4. Niall O'Sullivan
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 08:16:17

    Thanks Peter. Good point about the journeyman. I think most of these guys lack the power to upset the prospect, they get a few punches in but that’s about it. I also don’t think they know too much about who they’re fighting so they find it hard to strategise. But you make a good point, as the poem points out, it might not be worth it for the journeyman to outpoint the prospect in the long run. The journeyman has no aspirations to be champion, he knows his role, plays it well and makes a living.


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