The National Catholic Review
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.


Joel Brouwer is the author of Exactly What Happened (Purdue University Press, 1999) and Centuries (Four Way Books, 2003). He teaches at the University of Alabama.

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