“Knock Out” was one of my Japan poems. I had written a pretty good number of these from 1997 until 2003 or so and then stopped. When I wrote this one in 2014, during my Tupelo Press 30/30 project stint, I hadn’t done one in a while but this was an image that I had kept in my back pocket. Every year, Fukui City has a Phoenix Festival. The Phoenix is the symbol of the city, which was destroyed by the Allies during World War II, rebuilt, and devastated again in 1948 by an earthquake that killed almost 1000 people in the city (the number was more than 3000 for the prefecture).
I participated in two Phoenix Festival parades in my three years. This took place in the first. I was part of a team of foreigners carrying a float shaped like a dragon. Periodically, we’d throw it up in the air and on one of these times, the beam we used to carry it, dropped on my head. In all the years of martial arts, I’ve never been hit in the head as hard as that. It’s not an experience I recommend. In any case, I was knocked out. No one noticed and they carried on. I was out for only a second or two.
The second time I was ever knocked out
was in a parade for the Phoenix Matsuri
marching up and down Phoenix-dori with
other foreign guys and a float carried
like the Ark of the Covenant made up
to look like a dragon and whose neck broke
halfway through, so he would nod up and down
to the crowds on the sidewalks and the fans
watching at home. March, march, march before
up in the air, up in the air, up, up
high, then the hard drop of the beam on my
head, and the world goes black and I crumble
hard on the street, waking next to the feet
never noticing me splayed on the ground.
This poem is in The Minstrel of Belmont, published by Finishing Line Press. I would like to thank Leah Maines, Christen Kincaid, and the whole Finishing Line crew for all their great help in producing this chapbook. The Minstrel of Belmont is available at Amazon.com and on the Finishing Line Press website.