IN THE HEYDAYS OF HIS EYES
(taut jeans dancing)

An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
 
 
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WHISKEY IN WHITING, INDIANA

James Hazard

Watching them drink shots was best. That fierce color as if it were burned into the glass--the shot glass itself so specialized, small and hefty the way a bullet is. Shots made them talk tough and say fighters' names: Mickey Walker, Willie Pep, Beau Jack, Stanley Ketchel, and Tony Zale. They talked cuts and knockdowns and recalled whole fights by the round. I got excited. I'd be Tony Zale, eye brows obliterated, and told them so. "Jesus Christ, no!" They'd cock their heads at the glass, the bartender would pour another shot. "Jesus, not you, Jimmie." They did that. Get a dream up, then tell you it was no good. Like how proud they talked about the mill, how tough and dirty they got and then made you promise to do homework so as not to be stuck like them. They said don't drink whiskey too. In the bathroom when nobody was home I'd be famous in front of the mirror with a shot glass of Pepsi, watching myself throw one back. This was after my title fight which I won after taking awful punishment, just like Tony Zale from Gary. I'd use my mother's mascara and lipstick--to make black eyes and blooded places on my face, tuck cotton under to swell a lip. I'd study their Jimmie in the mirror: everything they loved and warned me not to be. Sock down another shot, wince the way they did, and watch myself defy them by loving what they loved, by fighting my way into their dreams of themselves and out of their dream for me.

 
 
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