for Paul Rohan

Old scrapper, skin for gloves,
calloused knuckles, broken  nose

that made your face fit your voice:
Brooklynese classic-poet-quoting boxer

belying your fourth-grade education—
Milton, Chaucer, The Bard in

the corner of your kitchen, your son
rolling his eyes, thirsty for a cold one,

itching to leave the house paid for by
overtime Sandhog cash earned working

earth-shifters, bedrock-breakers, breathing
pumped-in pure oxygen in the womb

of the earth; even now in your eighties,
your doctor marvels at your lungs,

but you recall the cave in, the crushing
of your ribs, the year in a body cast

spent memorizing ten-dollar words
and immortal stanzas, impressing

the college educated like your son and me,
both thirsty but not as much as you.