Saturday, February 27, 2010


In the center of the human eye
A blind spot

Optic disc
Where nerves combine, twine,
Launch themselves en route to

Seems like a major
Defect of design


Focusing your gaze,
While seeing nothing at the core
Expands awareness of
Tangential happenings

Your best perception’s sited slightly to the side
Off base
Alert to every movement of a foot or foil
Every twitch and feint

Thus the rule:
Don’t look at your opponent’s blade
Target on his chest, his shoulder
Belly button
Where ‘er it is that you intend to hit

A universal lesson:
We’re blind to our obsessions so
Concentrate on nonessentials
Things you cannot see
And can’t control
The vital residue will take care of itself

Friday, February 26, 2010

Perpetual Recovery

It’s always something

When the dinged hand heals
The foot gives out
Ice and ibuprofen do their work
Suddenly, the calf
Contracts into a muscled lump
Pull out The Stick and roll, and roll
Soak it in the bath
To decompress

Life’s an endless round of heating pads
And ice
Tape, orthotics and compression sleeves
Vital accessories

Doling out the pills
Balancing the inflammation of my joints against
My liver’s tolerance

Staying in the game—
In the long term it’s a struggle
I know that I’m doomed to lose
But then, so are we all

For now, it will suffice to ice and dose
Massage and soak
Wrap and brace and patch

Get me to the strip and every pain’s erased by
Endorphin rush
And sheer delight

Fencing one more day, or month, or year would be enough. Dayehnu!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Off Hand

There’s really no good place to park it
Dangling at the waist—a smidge away from carding
Raised in a poetic arch—SO quaint
Resting on the shoulder—feeble little T-Rex paw
I’ve even seen it perched atop the mask (which looks deranged)

In Tucson, once, I fenced a gal who had none
(No off hand, that is)
Fabulous example
Of making lemonade

In this asymmetric recreation
It’s vestigial
Sure it holds the mask while you salute
Big deal
It spends the bout
A minor anchor for the arm that does the
Yeoman’s work of flinging forth the lunge
Or pulling the recovery
Once in a blue moon it shines, provides the flourish
Capping off a squirm
Mostly, like a little sister, it’s enjoined to
Stay out of the way

Worse than useless
A nuisance
Begging for a bruise
Or cut, or broken nail


In the end,
The roles reverse
Gloved hand relegated to the humble task
Of juggling mask and foil as
The off hand
Reaches out to shake

Embodying victory or, at least, good grace

Friday, February 19, 2010

Too Amped Up

Slash and flick the air
Striding to the strip
You slap your leg
Snort and jump into a deep on guard

After every touch
A grunt
Or yell
Or tenor ululation

After every questionable call
A grimace of disgust
Voice raised in indignation
Arms gesture, miming what you think you did
Head shakes in despair

If I hit you (when)
There’s hell to pay
Charging down the strip
Beating at my blade with all your strength
Anything to put me in my place

And (here’s the kicker)
It’s just practice
What call for such testosterone-induced ferocity?
Set aside the “Y” for just a bit
Listen to your inner X and be…a mensch
If not a mentor then at least
A co-explorer of the possibilities
Within the bout
A fellow traveler who can
Celebrate what I do well and
(on rare occasions) lose with grace

Combat is not always war, ok? So call a truce, and battle me with gentle violence, calm determination. AND...DON’T...YELL.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zero Balance

High School nights—
Homework at the table
Napping like a dormouse by the fire
Bed by 9 and (shock!) a book beneath the covers

Homework at the desk
(Sometimes, Sterling or Cross Campus treks)
Nodding o’er Organic Chem
Bed by 10 (no, really, it’s the truth)

No parties. No carousing
(Except a few team whoop-it-ups after
notable victories. Perhaps one all-night marathon of

Fast forward thirty years.
Now deep night is when I’m
Warm and loose
Ready to engage

10 o’clock and I’m just started
Looking for the eight bout, or the ninth
Prepped to shed my lamé and my cord
Bracing for a lesson that will
Push me to the brink
1 am and I am virtuously tumbling into bed.
(Well, except when I am late)

The debt comes due at dawn
Up at six to stretch and start the complicated dance
Of food and pets and poop and papers
Planning for the day

Now, now I want to draw on that account
At least eight years of copious banked sleep
Plus interest
Confident it holds enough to cover my extravagant
Expenditures of time, and find it

What gives? Who stole my
Safety net
Drained my savings
Left me

So much for thrift

The lesson? While you’re young and have endurance
Blow the wad—don’t save it for your later years

Rest isn’t like a Twinkie, it won’t keep for decades ‘til you
Need emergency supplies

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Silent Teaching

How can I explain
What lives, imperfectly
Encoded in synapse, muscle, bone?

Words fail

“The lunge is thus
The arm extends, just so
The knee remains above the toe”

I fumble to explain

Language is a feeble conduit
My blade conveys much more than nouns and verbs
Your eyes can hear much more than I can speak

This, this action, tension, angle, spring

Just watch
Let lessons sink into the mirror of your mind
Transmute into memory of acts that were not yours

But could have been, and will be in a future past
When you surpass me with your graceful acts

Monday, February 1, 2010


Is an act of will
Not faith
Based not on conviction
That you will care for me, keep me from harm
But certainty you won’t

Trust is walking on live coals
Juggling fire
Swallowing words
Like honed swords

These are not domesticated threats
They burn, or slice
It is their nature
Just as it’s the nature of the world to wound

And so I trust
Knowing that if not this time then the next
The flame will bite, the blade pierce…
You will lash out
That’s why we callous, to withstand
The heat and lanciation of
Being who they are
Consistent in their imperfection