by Thomas D. Reynolds

At thirteen, my daughter’s friend
Is learning how to box,
Sparring twice a week.

The gym is dim and shadowy,
And when she jabs a left hook,
Striking at spinning dust motes,

Her thin arm with extended fist
Becomes a sweeping jackhammer
Traveling the length of the gym.

Sweat beads above her upper lip,
And both eyes remain tightly closed,
But her thoughts are inscrutable.

The boy who taunts her going down,
Or the silence of an empty house,
Steady dripping of a leaking faucet.

Whispered encouragement of a father
Whose memory is growing dim,
Dead in a car accident three years ago.

She sidesteps to the edge of the mat,
And for whatever grips her attention,
Beyond the slamming of some door

Echoing across an empty parking lot,
She unleashes one blistering punch that
Based on her grim smile, seems to land.


Thomas D. Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community
College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in
various print and online journals, including
New Delta Review,
Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon: The Journal of Sport
, The MacGuffin, Midwest Poetry Review, and The
Pedestal Magazine

On “Punch”:
The poem is one of a series of sports-related poems I’ve written
over the past several years, poems which deal with sports on the
margins and attempt to define the significance of such activity
for the average individual, not professional athletes.  This poem
is based on the experience of one of my daughter’s fourteen-year-
old friends.  She lost her father in a car accident several years ago
and still seems to be struggling to come to grips with that loss.  
Last spring, she became involved in boxing, traveling to
competitions across the area.  I can only speculate that landing
punches at a number of potential (and invisible) adversaries might
be cathartic.  

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 2, Number 2
(Fall 2007)

Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.