The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


John Stupp

Ode to a Nightingale


                           after John Keats

My heart aches
and a numbness pains my senses

in other words
the Pittsburgh boxer Fritzie Zivic
was having a rough go against Henry Armstrong
in the glare of Madison Square Garden
October 4, 1940
Homicide Hank was just too tough
too fast
too experienced
that’s why he was the champ
and the baying crowd knew it
Fritzie’s blood was everywhere
except where it was supposed to be
his gloves untouched
I was afraid to fight dirty
I was afraid my reputation would cost me
he told Red Smith after the fight
I had to fight clean
then in the 7th round
Henry head butted Fritzie
started giving him elbows
started giving him the business
so the ref says to the both of them
if you guys want to fight that way
it’s ok with me
that was the break our boy needed
thou was not born for death immortal Pittsburgh!
by round 10
Henry was bleeding from both eyes
the result of unpleasant encounters with thumbs and laces
as choirboy Fritzie hammered him
with low blows and uppercuts
until the champ hit the canvas in the 15th round
like a drunk on wet pavement
was it a vision or a waking dream?
I’ll settle on a vision
back in Pittsburgh the millworkers and machinists
up and down the valley
sang like songbirds from that day forth



John Stupp

Art Class


They said
at ringside
Harry Greb
the smaller man
from Pittsburgh
had no peripheral vision
had only one eye
and for that reason found it necessary
to disclose his location all of a sudden
and forcefully
to heavyweight Gene Tunney
on May 23, 1922
in Madison Square Garden
breaking his nose in two places
in round one
then severing an artery above his eye
there was so much of Tunney’s blood in the ring
Harry had to wipe his gloves off
so he could continue hitting
the New Yorker unimpeded
round after round
the referee helped by handing him a towel
and a brush
easy like
so as not to separate the student from his canvas
newly created
and the many pigments of color he could not name




JOHN STUPP's third poetry collection Pawleys Island was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. His manuscript Summer Job won the 2017 Cathy Smith Bowers Poetry Prize and will be published in 2018 by Main Street Rag. He lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.



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