In the ring, there is no care. There is spit and blood, blows and sweat, round upon round of violence, but there is no care there. One day … One day, in the near future, they will learn the art of unboxing. At the end of the match, after the crowds have departed and the stands lay bare, they will begin: they will take off each other’s gloves, unwrap each other’s broken hands, and tend to them; and they will take a cool, damp cloth, and take turns squeezing drops of water into each other’s mouths, or wiping away the blood, or pressing that cloth against each other’s swollen eyes; and they will run fingers along each other’s bodies, tracing the bruises they themselves left with their fists, the cracked ribs, the split lip; and they will hear each sharp, pained inhalation, each moan — they will see every wince — and they will mutter reassurances; and they will look deeply into each other’s eyes, or eye, or if both eyes are too swollen to see, they will caress the face of the other; and they will feed dates to each other, and oranges, and apricots, and offer fresh milk, and water, to the other to drink; and they will talk about the fight, their strategies, how each blow felt, and they will compliment each other’s strengths, and offer advice for their weaknesses, and they will talk about what compels them to fight; and if one of them is knocked out, the other will take them and cradle them, until consciousness is regained. They will tend to each other and care for each other until they both can walk away.
The Art of Unboxing by Sasha Olthof (2017) in Ephemera: Poems, pg. 6.
Painting by John Miedema (2018)