By Darren Morris
Featured art by nrd
I ran into the boxer Leon Spinks in 1992.
Spinks had won the heavyweight belt 14 years before
from Muhammad Ali. He had also won bronze
in the Olympics and gone to the penitentiary
for possession. By the time he got to me
he was all done with fame and fortune.
But he still scrapped with life, just trying to be.
At that time, I was staying with my brother
in Springfield, Missouri. He ran a pool hall
and kept an apartment in back of the place.
I snuck into the kitchen late one night for a slice
of that industrial orange cheese that I was
addicted to. I flipped on a light and
there was a large man sleeping on a cot
in the middle of the white-tiled room. But
I went ahead and opened the fridge because
when you are visiting someone, nothing is
unusual. It should all be that way, every day,
everything new, but it rarely is. I reached in and
lifted out a long orange sleeve. That’s when
the sleeping man said, “Leon hungry,” and instantly
I remembered my brother telling me that Spinks
had started coming into the bar, but I did not
believe him. It had been so matter-of-fact
that I barely retained the anchor to the info.
I made sloppy towers of tomato and cheese
sandwiches for Spinks and me and we ate them
in silence except for all the tooth-sucking
that bread and cheese promoted, especially
for Spinks who had more than a few teeth missing.
I cleaned up and Spinks lay back down. There
was nothing really to say. But when I turned off
the light, as if still a boy, Spinks said, Nigh-night.
They call it American cheese because it is processed
from nothing much. In 1978, Ali taunted him
and Leon beat his ass in one of the biggest upsets ever.
I met a ton of people back then who ceased to matter.
But that did not stop them and they persisted.
Darren Morris‘s poetry can be found at The American Poetry Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Best New Poets, and others. Recent poems are or will soon be located in Mud Season Review, The Sewanee Review, Blackbird, Please Hold Magazine, Rattle, and Clementine. Fiction has appeared at The Pinch, The Legendary, and Passages North.