that put the whoopin’ on grown ass men,
that were held high by seventy-six referees,

that squared up in schoolyards, that beat
and bloodied and burglarized,

that were coarse as oak bark, burly as a black bear’s paws,
hands that made fists hard as a copper mace,

that broke the dead weight of heavy bags and knocked
trainers across the ring like traffic cones,

hands that mowed Smokin’ Joe down in two rounds,
that staggered Kenny Norton
into the ropes and the halogen beyond,

hands that palmed gold medals and shook presidents’ hands
and gripped the leather steering wheels of Rolls Royce’s,
hands that lobbed meat into tigers’ jaws,

that pummeled Ali’s muscled midsection
until they could pummel no more,
hands that met quicker hands
and struggled to lift their own bulky body
off the canvas,

hands that refused to close into fists any longer,
that leafed through the silky pages of a Baptist bible
in the warm shoulder of Texas,

hands that carried five boys and five girls to their beds,
that stroked a calico cat’s tail,

hands that held the empty river of a woman’s back,
hands that matured and greyed
like good shoe leather,

that signed contracts, closed electric grill-tops,
and posed under the scrutinizing lights of television studios,

old hands that mingled in church congregations,
that passed out bowls of minestrone in Harris county,

old hands that held the pads for young fists
in Houston community centers,

old hands that held other old hands tremored from brain disease,
old hands that missed the snug fit of horse-hair gloves,
old hands that still could crack, that could still put
a whoopin’ on,

old hands that found the half-moon of a young man’s mouth
at forty-five, that held the heavyweight title once again.