Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 4



Margaret Cantu-Sanchez


The Boxer's Dance

He sat eagerly watching the hands circle the face on the clock,
waiting for the small hand to reach the three.

His legs showed his impatience,
shaking up and down in rhythm with the ticking second hand.
At last, the long awaited—
Diiiiiinnngg!!

He raced past lockers, students, and teachers alike,
barely hearing their muffled shouts—
“See you tomorrow Sonny!”

Out the doors he burst,
gulping in the fresh air.
Free at last!

He continued to race down his neighborhood,
block after block,
past the barking dogs, paleta man,
mothers pushing strollers, and kids racing second-hand bikes.

He only slowed to a brisk walk once he reached the corner—
Pecos street.
From there he could see the gray, cement building
beckoning to him, to come join those inside.

The rest of the way he sped-walked to conserve his much-needed energy.
At the front door, the sign read “BOYS CLUB.”
“AFTER SCHOOL BOXING TRAINING, COME JOIN US.”

His lips whispered these words for almost the hundredth time like a hushed chant,
a smile pursed his mouth, his heart began to thud, like a speeding bag.
A push on the door and he was enveloped by the mixed scent of sweat and leather,
as an inconsistent breeze hit his face from the industrial fan.

Inside, boys were already geared and suited up,
practicing jabs, left hooks, right punches,
dodges and weaves—dancing throughout the gym
to the sounds of coaches yelling advice—
“put your hands up,” “always protect your face,” “jab with your strong arm!”

His body assumed a new air.
He stood taller, walked slowly—but with a sense of purpose—
a sense of belonging.
His head barely dipped down and back up as nod of greeting
to those who called—“Hey Sonny, how’s it going?!”

He walked straight to the back, the locker room,
where he changed into hand-me-down boxing shorts
and shoes, grabbing his gloves
(shorts and gloves a battered brick red from over-use).

At last he emerged from the back,
mouthpiece in place,
boxing helmet slightly tilted to the left,
a bit too large for his still growing head.

He stared in silent reverence at the ropes
before he entered the sacred ring.
His opponent, a scrawny Mexicano named Beto,
bouncing like a bunny from left to right.

He practiced his own jabs,
bounced the same bunny hop
and finally—
legs assumed the stance,
gloved hands in front of his face,
ready to jab, punch, hook, bob, and weave.

The brass bell was struck by the ref—
the diiiiing felt from everyone’s head to their feet—

signaling the beginning of the boxer’s dance.




Mangos of Life

I sit, attempt to mimic the peeling of a mango
as Grandma used to.

It isn’t as willing as it was in her hands.
The mango slips and slides,
almost cuts me.

I have to rip and strip,
three, four, five, six times,
But the taste—the taste is the same.
A light, sweet, hint of tangy, slippery taste on the tongue.

The flavor takes me back to my Grandmother’s house.
Pictures of children, grandchildren,
weddings, graduations, line the walls.

She sits heavily but content in her chair,
right under the skylight,
as if God Herself is blessing her work.

Sunbeams highlight the perfection--
red, yellow, orange, just a hint of green—
in one hand she cradles.

In the other hand, the ancient knife,
a seemingly dull blade,
darkened, no longer polished,
after years of use.

I sit at her feet and watch—
her fingers caress the mango in one hand
and deftly sheds the skin with the other.

She needs only two or three strokes
with the blade, enticing the peel to come away in her hands.
She turns the fruit over and over.
With each rotation, she undresses,
revealing the bright orange underbelly.

At last, it’s ready,
she offers the soft feather-like pieces
to me, one by one.
Like a little bird, I savor each bite
as the pieces melt on my tongue.

She hands each slice to me,
there appears to be nothing left
but the hard, pulpy center seed,
with only strings of rind left.

Willingly she surrenders the sweetest, softest parts
and all that is left for her
is the firm core where the seed,
its origins remain, ready to begin life anew.



Margaret Cantu-Sanchez: “I am an Instructor of English at St. Mary’s University where I teach various composition and literature courses with a focus on Latinx theory and literature. My academic publications explore how to approach the teaching of Latinx literature and theory. My poetry has been featured in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2021, Pecan Grove Review, and the San Antonio Review and often focuses on my childhood experiences growing up and spending time with my maternal grandparents in the Rio Grande Valley.”




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