Float like a butterfly

AP Photo/John Rooney

espnW will publish a bi-weekly poem on Sundays. This week, Shayla Lawson pens a tribute to The Champ: Muhammad Ali.

Whose fist rings out in the shape

of Africa? A right-handed continent.

A bass-clef hook. Superman

don't need no seat

belt, our hero sings out to a comic

book landscape; KAPOW

just the flap of his cape in flight. Muhammad

may have climbed to be The Champion

but, it isn't the mountain that wears

you out, it's the pebble in your shoe. Funny,

when the world doesn't know what to do

with a battle, it makes him a dancer;

when the world doesn't know what to do

with a canvas, it crowns him king. Only

The Greatest could contain

him: his poet, his painter--his own

masterpiece. Each pair of K.O.'d

eyelids, a brushstroke signed in flesh.

Whose fists brought down a heavy

-hearted century? A flash-bulb beauty;

a human swift of foot. He pummels

into flame more galvanized than golden

gloves. Ali came to save the way.

A rumble in the clouds; sometimes

it's only through the clay

the Earth can recognize the stars.

Shayla Lawson is the author of three poetry collections: A Speed Education in Human Being (Sawyer House Press, 2013), PANTONE (MIEL Books, 2016), and the forthcoming I Think I'm Ready to See Frank Ocean (Saturnalia Books, 2018). She is a member of the Affrilachian Poets.