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



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