Bouncing Off Of Ali’s Poetry: On a Lit Gym

Note: Those connected with the Guerrero family, Tim Bradley et al. should check out the two prior postings before jumping into this piece. What’s below is unedited.

Bouncing Off Of Ali’s Poetry: On a Lit Gym
Dedicated to Joel Diaz and Dave Zirin and Freddie Roach
by Ox

“If you love God, you can’t love only some of his children.”
— Muhammad Ali

“children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew”
— E. E. Cummings

I see kids acquiring their necessary boxing skills whilst having access to the beauty of literature, film and more right there in the gym. Taking the poetry — the pugilistic lyrical bounce — that we all were first treated to courtesy of The Greatest as a point of departure… to new levels.


What is a gym that is lit up? Perhaps it’s a spot where the kids can come at any hour of the day or night, and have access to caring adults… with a singular library… curated by a well-meaning soul… without conditions imposed… for no cost… at odds with the horrid momentum which envelops them*. Which spotlights the light within them, respects it, nourishes it, encourages it. I fancy it would be a place where youngsters could truly bloom… pugilists-to-be mixing, nay blending with kids who have no interest in fighting. It would be on fire.

*I’m not just speaking of children who come from (officially) challenging neighborhoods; I’m touching upon what Ali pointed out when he called our society ‘cross the board sick. What Rev. Martin Luther King was talking about when he said America was “the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.”

I could — as a former Professor of Cinema History, Comparative Literature, Dramatic Art & Speech and an ESL educator on all levels worldwide for decades (with much rich life experience) — serve as an asset for the purposes touched upon above. I could conceivably be available to do so pretty much 24×8 to counteract the elements which work 24×7 to undermine the light in our children. Pretty much unconditionally.

[Light? What light? What's with the poetic expression? Our kids today need a real education, grounded in the practical; this ethereal language doesn't help.]

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces

The Bly translation of Rilke’s A Walk fascinates me. But it’s the kind of thing that’s unlikely to resonate with too many of the youngsters who are being processed and butchered by our unfeeling, unaware educational system, to say nothing of the many who do not make it through at all. Their academic experience, as a rule, is filled with unnecessary limitations, geometric at its core, running them in convoluted circles which waste their precious heartbeats and light.

When there’s talk about education, it’s almost always centered on money issues, or matters of peripheral concern… like dress codes or even less important parameters. When violence is addressed the discussion turns invariably to the application of what I call tourniquets and band aids, rarely dwelling very long, if at all, on the source of the bleeding. Anything but what would necessitate consideration of institutional change. Reform blah blah rules.

But back to the light.

The light is in the children. They do not need to be tweaked. Nor prepared to acclimate to, arguably, the worst societal/environmental momentum in history.

The light IS the children. It is, to play with Shakespeare here, the fountain from the which our current runs or else dries up. And that is a very different statement, by the way, than what you hear routinely — oh so politically correct — that the “children are the future.” My statement is radical.

Yes, our children must be taught to deal with “the wind in our faces.” Those would be the inevitable punches delivered by this million-petal miracle of life. And the other mundane realities which dominate so many of our heartbeats. But they must not be learned — those lessons — without bouncing off of Ali’s poetry. Or, to put in another way, their souls cry out for a lyrical bounce, and a place that’s well lit… where they can work out growing up beautifully. Singing and dancing to the tune

O bailan todos o no baile nadie

Contact the author at to set up a telephone talk.

“In the coming months there is no doubt that the men who rule Washington will try to damage you in every way open to them, but I am sure you know that you spoke for your people and for the oppressed everywhere in the courageous defiance of American power.” — Bertrand Russell to Ali, just before the government stripped him of the poetry he brought to the ring, turned the lights off in his gym.

Concluding note: In the link for Joel Diaz (in the dedication above), you’ll find a short video centered on Jesus Vargas, who expresses an interest in journalism, says that he might major in that discipline. As higher education becomes more and more ruled by the military and corporations, I fear for the kind of training he’ll receive in that realm. I’d love to offer an alternative to him. [Pause.] There’s a blend to be had which puts together the sweat and tired bones of the gym with The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, my favorite collection of poetry.