Grip

If it had become a competition in which we,
Like children desperate for the blue ribbon,
Pulled knotted hemp, gripping until certain
Of calluses, if our contest awarded the strongest,

The boy who could best inflict pain yet not 
Flinch when injured, then you won, for I must 
Imagine the brown of your back to reach my 
Peak, a short thread of breaths, a tug of war

With the heaviest child grunting at the end 
Of the rope until jerked and dragged over 
The line. That fat kid flounders through muck

The way I splash your relentless name 
In shivers about me. Watch him wallow. 
If he tastes mud as bitter as this poem

Of mine, then I win – and you love me.

Jericho Brown, "Grip" from Please. Copyright © 2008 by Jericho Brown.  Reprinted by permission of New Issues Press.
Source: Please (New Issues Press, 2008)
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