The memory of my first fight
is unreliable like a first kiss
or first fist full of marbles
in a Petion-ville courtyard.
Where other tales embellish
mine is feeblish—filled with
phantom swings and cheers
—no bruised knuckles or ego
to speak of. A first kiss begins
and ends with a lie about not
the falling in but the fallout—
it's not gracious or eloquent
when it flees—no matter the grip.
Even in the courtyard it flees:
a stock of marbles in a pair of
sweaty palms is not to be trusted.
Before the lag or knuckle down
there is no way of looking passed
the look in another set of eyes
when they've got nothing to lose.
But you learn. Sometimes, you do
just about anything to avoid the fight
but not when it finds you in a pair
of gym shorts and Jeff is bumbling
something about your mother.
I swung but can't remember if
I landed any punches or if the pave-
ment simply clipped his clumsy feet.
So I tell it like a tale about a first
kiss—with no trace of a bruised
ego or fright— or like the story
of routing a rival playing marbles
omitting the fact he was the nephew
of a Tonton Macoute. No matter
the courtyard, stories about full fists
are always more legendary than true.