John Stupp

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Ode to a Grecian Urn

An old dancer
that’s the image I haveArtwork by Gene McCormick
of Rocky Marciano
moving like a Greek hoplite
at a Met exhibit
among priests and maidens
clumsy legged
rough hewn
more Clydesdale
than thoroughbred
heavy hoofed before the Attic gods
and Jersey Joe
slow in the ring
crouching amid the ancient pipers and tambourines
thus did Keats write
When old age shall this generation waste
Thou shalt remain
he was talking about you
and Suzie-Q
the buffalo you carried in your right arm
on television
like the armor of Achilles
which was said to be holy

Jazz Guitar Chronicles 5

Miles Davis said
he hoped to play one new idea a nightArtwork by Gene McCormick
if he said so
then there was hope for me
that’s what I used to think
until I realized I’d never get past mediocre
his solo on All Blues
was there for the taking
so I memorized it note for note on the guitar
I would be Miles
all gravelly voiced Miles
with Cannonball and Trane and Bill Evans
in that band in 1959
the year the Yankees lost the pennant
and the Dodgers won the World Series
and flipped everyone the finger
oh I remember that
and all the songs I played nowhere near perfection
the solos I tried to hum
like the sound of parties
in the summer
you’re invited to but you don’t go
until you practice and practice and practice
hoping there’s a guitar there and a girl and a sunrise       
but there isn’t
only the tired Washington Senators
you saw once as a kid
with an aunt who was bedridden shortly thereafter
and never saw you became great

For Stanley Ketchel

Michigan brought you
into the world
and you were trouble
and trouble knew it
you ran away from home
learned to fight in Montana
a savage among men
won the world middleweight championship
lost it won it back
then had the belt stolen
you fought Billy Papke four times
the Illinois Thunderbolt
survived a brutal sucker punch
so much for touch gloves boys
and come out fighting!
you fought Jack Johnson in 1909
knocked him down
gave him some of your teeth as a gift
you died at 24
shot by a ranch hand in Missouri
he said you were feeling up his girl
who sees something like that coming?
at what point did the gods curse you
the toughest man west of the Mississippi
barroom and whorehouse fighter
you would have been safer in prison
the train that carried you home to Grand Rapids
was filled with sportswriters and fans
only Henry Ford had a bigger funeral
in Michigan
and you know what happened to him
he made the newspapers stop counting
because he thought you’d get up

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.