The Swordsmen

fought Sunday mornings in the park below
our window, their sabers of sawed-off
broom handle wrapped with duct tape drubbing

cardboard shields spray-painted silver. Kendo
101? Continuing ed.? Neither seemed to be a teacher,
and their equipment was eccentric at best: one,

having tinfoiled his cudgel, sent minnows
of light swimming up our building with each swing;
the other wore a plastic colander,

secured with string, as a face mask. It was the spring
we simmered in that tiny apartment
like two panicked wasps on a window pane,

stinging epileptically at the glass. The swordsmen
dungeons-and-dragons geeks?arranged
themselves in exacting tableaux, twisting

to imitate last night’s action movie
and thoughtfully critiqued each other’s stances,
then froze for a beat, savoring the static grace

which, the instant they began to battle,
vanished: they flailed and cowered awkwardly
as toddlers. No, that’s wrong, toddlers would not

act so sadly tentative as these two,
who thirsted so keenly to feel pure fury
flash through their bodies but not, after all,

to bloody each other. Each week the tableaux
lasted longer, the action contracted,
until at last they came not to fight

but to prepare to, and posed for hours stock
still in the purple shadow of an apple tree,
cudgels lifted to kill, adoring each other.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

In this photo taken May 19, 2017, a GPO worker stacks copies of "Analytical Perspectives Budget of the U.S. Government Fiscal Year 2018" onto a pallet at the U.S. Government Publishing Office's (GPO) plant in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The budget’s moral measure will be assessed by “how well it promotes the common good of all,” the bishops write.
Kevin ClarkeMay 22, 2017
A veteran activist provides a blueprint for creating a movement in the moment of Trump.
Nathan SchneiderMay 22, 2017
Given the number of those in the California legal system today who are Latino, “you can guess a large percentage of them are Catholic.”
Jim McDermottMay 22, 2017
Pope Francis waves during a visit to give an Easter blessing to homes in a public housing complex in Ostia, a Rome suburb on the Mediterranean Sea, May 19 (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano).
Vatican leaders seem quietly confident that the meeting will go well.
Gerard O'ConnellMay 22, 2017