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,

Advertisement

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.


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

 10.17.2018 Pope Francis greets Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago before a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
“We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 20, 2018
Catherine Pakaluk, who currently teaches at the Catholic University of America and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, describes her tweet to Mr. Macron as “spirited” and “playful.”
Emma Winters October 19, 2018
A new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security could make it much more difficult for legal immigrants to get green cards in the United States. But even before its implementation, the proposal has led immigrants to avoid receiving public benefits.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 19, 2018
 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then nuncio to the United States, and then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, are seen in a combination photo during the beatification Mass of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4, 2014. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
In this third letter Archbishop Viganò no longer insists, as he did so forcefully in his first letter, that the restrictions that he claimed Benedict XVI had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick—one he alleges that Pope Francis later lifted—can be understood as “sanctions.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 19, 2018