The chain rattles in time to the sound of the blow

in rhythm every second the sound is heard again

a bell rings and silence fills the gym

there's not a day I'm not early to train

three minute noodles after school,

and bus rides the only times I sit down

sweat sweat sweat

if you filled the hall with

an evening of my sweat I'd drown

every other day 

the hall is a new place

youth club on Tuesdays

in it's kitchen cupboard

Saved The Last Dance on VHS

That was when I was thirteen

02 centre in Finchley road

My family isn't my family

if my father isn't home

I'm working on keeping my left foot ahead

and transferring the weight

working on perfecting the simple things

keeping my guard up

twisting the balls of my feet when throwing a punch

turning combinations on pads

into faces finding spaces into seemingly closed guards

twisting opponents into corners

not dragging my feet across the floor

careful stepping spider

Left hook fly swatter

Marlon my new sparring parter

year younger only really give him jabs

but he grows every time we touch gloves

later that night I train with the elders

they've learnt that there's no point holding back

they're trying to hit and all they do is miss

only time I encounter uppercuts

is when I enter a classroom

sleeping head lets chin

fall onto tables

sleep sleep sleep

slip into red sashes

sometimes blue

any corner of the ring

just know I don't lose

I went back to that

posh night in essex

and beat a boy

a stone heavier

Colins mate


and wishes

he bet on me

Colin slaps my back

Dad and I drive back

sleep with the trophy in my bed

my local corner shop

is now two buses away

turn up half an hour late

as paper boy and am

given the sack

can't tell my mates

my parents have decided to separate

muscles ache in my bed

Colin teaches me punches

thrown by willie Pep

in the midst of a winning streak

I find it hard to talk to Eve

she's fallen into friendships

and is good at conversation

I talk through punches

and fight like English

is my second language

talk talk got to talk

talk talk that's all the world is

my little bull terrier bingo

once came into the gym

and everyone there stopped to pet him

when in West Hampstead

he was looked at like he was a rat with a leash

maybe only boxers see the beauty in beasts

when you're avoiding punches

you see the beauty in anonymity

in school I'm asked if I've fought black boys

I tell them yes but it's the irish I'm scared of

Skipping Phapa’s bobbing head out my memory.

Jason borrows one of my boxing videos

didn't think it'd get passed around the whole school

sixth formers congratulating me on my bloody-nosed victory

the Sams chicken in my mouth so I don't say anything

Red pitch football followed by red pitch football violence

Mahmud breaks Pablu's arm, Jamal is chased

by Joseph and his brother with knives in their hands

how many summers ago was it that I remember

giving that same Joseph stone cold stunners

Sonny attacking men with hammers

now Kai is rushing Droisma while getting lunch

everyone is stepping up

trying to leave a mark

pressure to get something done

because at the end of the GCSE's

these boys wont be able to be here

and planting punches on others

are all the control we have left on ourselves

Ms Prince the only teacher to notice I've dipped

or maybe I was only ever good at English.

I tell her nothing while my insides are screaming.