Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Gaby, With Fellow Poet Ravi Shankar
Receiving Replica Medieval Bludgeon,
aka Connectitut Book Award,
At Hartford Public Library

All You Gotta Do
Is Get Up One More Time ...



  • Blues For Ruby Goldstein


    The best time is sunset when the streets get
    quiet. No more kids playing stickball
    under the window. No guys looking up
    to see if you're home. What does anybody

    know about a body anyway?
    It can take a worse beating than most
    can imagine. You can get every rib broken
    and your eyes punched shut and your kidneys

    can bleed like you see at the butcher. You can
    forget your name and still be in church
    the next morning passing the plate. It's why
    guys like to get in fights at the bar:

    no one who's taken a punch really thinks
    he'll get killed. I mean sometimes it's different.
    One time out on the street this kid mouthed
    off to cop. Just some skinny kid not from

    around here, probably he lived further
    uptown. They took him round the back
    of my building and let him know what was what,
    how this part of town ran. I remember

    him down on his knees, not making a sound
    just slumping forward and rocking back
    as he took the boot in the face. One would
    grab his head like a barber checking the length

    of his hair. And he'd pull so the kid rose up
    a little and then he'd let go. It went on
    like that for awhile. That kid probably
    thought he was done for. Yeah. He probably

    thought they'd leave him for dead. Which they did.
    He was slight. What we'd have called a flit
    or a fairy. Or something unkind. But you know?
    He got up a few hours later. At first

    he just crawled but he found his legs
    pretty soon. He got up and looked around.
    You could see him take a big breath before
    he walked into the street. That was brave

    for that kid to do that. And the guys let him
    go without making much of a fuss. I think
    a beer can got thrown and maybe a couple
    guys spit. Nothing too bad after what he'd

    been through. I was skinny myself. "The Jewel
    of the Ghetto." That's what they called me back
    in the 30's. So I know the kind of
    lip you take from guys bigger than you.

    All heart. That's what most little guys are.
    But that counts for a lot. In the gym or
    the ring all you gotta do is get up
    one more time than the other guy thinks you can.

    It's true. Nothing breaks a guy's spirit
    like a skinny kid getting up off the floor.
    Some nights I could see the moment I won
    before I won. I'd take every punch

    that some fighter could think of, I'd feel them
    just let themselves loose in my gut till they
    let go or sometimes the gut and the head
    and the gut one more time and here's something

    no fighter will tell you: there's a sound
    you make when you hit and you hit and you're
    nothing but motion. It's not like sounds
    you make with your wife or a girl, it's rougher

    and darker and sometimes it feels better
    and after you feel so relaxed. You can't
    really explain it and make it sound
    normal. But a lot of folks know what I

    mean. And I'd let the guy do it, let him
    get to where he'd want me to hold him
    up for a bit. He would almost thank me
    for not falling down. We'd stand there till

    the ref pushed us apart. Both of us catching
    our breath. And those big guys just couldn't
    believe it, that I was still there, not passed
    out on the mat. One time I even whispered,

    "It's over" in this guy's ear. Real quiet
    so as not to embarrass him. Just, "Look."
    And then I walked back to my corner
    and then I came out and punched him once

    in the jaw. He looked up like someone called
    him for dinner and then he just fell.
    I can still see him against the blue of the mat
    like when you're lying down and a man

    comes into view above you with the whole sky
    behind him.

    What I'm trying to say is
    a body can take a hell of a lot. It's
    100 degrees today in this city.
    And still the kids are out on the streets,

    the women are outside at the market,
    there's the girl in the next building learning
    to play violin. And sure they're all sweating
    and wiping their foreheads but who's gonna

    say, "Stop." They don't want to. That's the truth.

    Gabrielle Calvocoressi was born in Central Connecticut. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Stegner fellowship in Poetry, a Jones Lectureship in Poetry at Stanford University and a Rona Jaffe Woman Writers' Award. Her poem "Circus Fire, 1944" received The Paris Reviews' Bernard F. Conners Prize. Her first collection, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart was published by Persea Books in 2005 and won the Connecticut Book Award. It was shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award . Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals and online publications including; The Paris Review, The New England Review, Gulf Coast and Guernica. A new multi-media piece is forthcoming online on The Owls.She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the MFA program at California College of Arts in San Francisco and in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College. She will be a visiting professor at Bennington College in the fall of 2009. Her second collection, Apocalyptic Swing is out now from Persea Books.

  • Apocalyptic Swing

  • More Poems By Gaby

  • You can follow Gaby on Twitter at @Gabbat

    1 comment:

    Patricia Fargnoli said...

    wow! What a marvelous poem. My husband,(who died years ago), in his early 20's during the depression lived on Front St in Hartford, hung out at the gym and fought in Hartford boxing matches in order to bring home the ten bucks or so he'd occasionally win to help his mother and father feed their large family. Gaby's poem might have been his rings that true. Thanks for this one Andy.