Rocky Marciano leans into a lucky one. Takes a fall. But it’s early in his career. He staggers back after the punch, shakes his head left, then right. This is years before million dollar purses and ESPN. But Marciano isn’t Jake LaMotta either: bloated, eyes dulled, Scorcese filmed-in-balck-and-white. Let’s make this an allegory. LaMotta will be capitalsim-slowing, slowed, unable to speak through a shattered mouthguard and broken teeth. No, that’s not right either.
Let’s go to the videotape.
There, Marciano leans into it -he wanted that punch, maybe to make himself angry enough to win: angrier than a million dollars, angrier than the nightly news.
Cut to commercial.
[Are your breath, armpits, eyebrows fetid? Febrile? Feral? Do you hanker after lo-cal, low sodium, low maintenance? Is your hunger the insatiable need to fill the unfillable? What defines you? Localize. Itemize. Narcotize. Intensify, intensify.]
The universe expands, except for a black hole, which swallows-not even light escapes. I once knew someone who swallowed light. Could make each noontime as bleak and cold as a Russian bunker, where friends and loved ones would be trapped for years, etching out their names with hardened, uncut fingernails. For two years after the war ended, six
soldiers were trapped in a Soviet bunker. No light, no way to move the corpses as the men died off one by one. Only two made it out, one falling dead as the light glinted off his ashen flesh when he stepped out into the sun after that long, long stay. Rocky Marciano hits the canvas, blinks as the ref makes the count. Rocky Marciano leans into a
lucky one. Or is it lucky? Maybe Marciano staggers back a bit; maybe he sees stars, or hallucinates, sees himself as a thirteen year old boy watching police boats drag the Hudson River. It’s nighttime and Marciano flattens against the barroom wall. He isn’t drunk, but maybe he should be. Two decades as a prize fighter and anger gets boring-
become too familiar, rage a priori - a buzzing that he doesn’t quite hear anymore. Like people who live near the trainyard and can sleep through the night. You know those people when you meet them, their voices carrying over everything else, voices raw and thin from yelling all day. A Camaro in the passing lane shakes with bass, with Led
Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” looped and a hiphop vocal track added. What’s that anger? It’s a kind of violence you hear, a violence that fills everything you see. Inside the ear. What’s more intimate that that? Rocky Marciano leans into a lucky one and his ear swells up. He’s stone deaf within the year. No buzz, no bell to end the round - just the vast echo of finitude reaching out past the ropes at the edge of the ring.
by Richard Deming