Why We Fight

by Al Maginnes

Because, for boys, every bond must be tried,
               it never surprised me to find myself
locked with a friend and rolling, first
               him on top, then me, in mud, snarling
like beasts lashed by twin ends
               of a rope we could not break.

Heritage or instinct, boys are raised
               for conflict, smell it out, kick
to get it started when it will not simply rise
               out of breathing. I can’t recall
any friendship ruined by
               an afternoon’s shoving match. At worst,

our fights foreshadowed the subtle tectonics
               that finally divide most friendships.
With hindsight we could claim they were
               practice for the conflicts with bosses
and women waiting to be discovered
               behind the long horizon where they hid.

But the real lesson was understanding
               how to stop, how to sit grass-stained
and breathless, a crust of blood drying
               on the lip, watching TV and sharing
a bag of chips with one you wanted,
               moments ago, to prove you could hurt.

AL MAGINNES is the author of five full length collections and four chapbooks of poetry, most recently Inventing Constellations (Cherry Grove Edition, 2012) and Ghost Alphabet (White Pine Press, 2008), winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Tar River Poetry, Solo Café, Arkansas Review, Bookends Review, Southern Humanities Review. He lives with his family in Raleigh, NC, and teaches composition, literature and creative writing at Wake Technical Community College.