Referee, The Poem

I haven’t written a lot of poems in the last year. My most prolific time was in the late 1990s. I had just gone through an unexpected break up with a girl I was nuts about. She was an art director and a writer. I was working in rights, clearances and intellectual property at the same company where I met her. We traveled together, went to a lot of movies, and would often lay on her bed writing.

At some point, I became star-struck regarding New York City and wanted to move there to work at a television network. We broke up by default. We were in love, but our relationship could not weather the distance.

I wrote a lot of journal entries back then, and was often moved to jot down a poem. The following was written in 1997, while I was sitting in a one-room apartment in Cliffside Park, NJ, just a short bus ride from downtown Manhattan.

The pain of loneliness and the excitement of adventure argue,
Each convinced of its position mutually exclusive of the other.
To what do I owe this honor?
A front row seat to the fight of the century.
As blows are struck, drops of sweat fly in my face.
Poignant reminders,
Rude, salty, definitive.
Whom do I root for?
Is that even a sensible question?
Shouldn’t I be hoping for a draw?
I cringe with each punch;
On the edge of my seat,
Stomach in knots,
I look for the referee.
My eyes roam the room for the time clock.
I listen for the bell.
What round is it?
Who’s calling this fight anyway?
The room is spinning;
I can feel the pain.
I can sense the desperation of each fighter.
In a dizzying moment of clarity
I realize the referee is me.

© 1997 Steven Barto

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