Eyes on the Prize Fight

They fought their way
into our minds
while we were unaware
of anything except cheering
for our side.

First there was Jack Johnson
or the Galveston Gorilla
as an unforgiving press called him.

He moved the Heavyweight
from White to Black
only to defend reality a second time
until there was no hope
for anything except equality.

Then as war clouds gathered
Joe Louis was the Brown Bomber
whose air war on the radio
complemented Jessie Owen’s ground assault
and the partisans cared more
about country than color.

Finally there was the Butterfly Bee
beautiful and loudly colored
with the unstoppable mouth
enduring the cocoon of
self-exile from the sport
to protest injustice and a failed war,
emerging in splendor.

Ali taught us actions
really do mean more than words
until the fight game
became just another sport
with fans more interested
the winner rather than
race and country.

Janet Taliaferro