The Cherub

The Cherub

by Will Stenberg

He looked like a big muscular cherub, curly blond hair and pale blue eyes, arms like ship-ropes. He had no malice in him, though— just violence. In fact he was a sweet kid anywhere but in the ring. Once there, though, something came out, an unsettled ego, a rage. Sparring will hurt but is meant for studying, each fighter learning and teaching, but he wasn’t interested in the science. He just wanted blood.

I was never a very good boxer, but I will say this for myself: I would get in there with anyone. So I would get in there with the cherub, a heavy who must have had sixty pounds on me, a welter who at my bulkiest can almost scrape the bottom of middleweight. 

Generally I could keep my distance, but one day he cornered me and lost control, battered me beyond the bounds of friendly sparring. Weight-classes exist for safety so his size was a problem. And something nameless was in his eyes, some old wound festered. He sunk me to my knees — wheeling, thudding blows — no restraint until others came in and restrained him.

The Englishman helped me out of the ring and I weaved into the dressing-room, drunk with hurt.

Next week in the gym a friend of mine, big guy, offered to spar the cherub. Fewer and fewer people were willing to do so. I stopped my bag-work to watch. They circled each other, two megafauna cautious of shared strength.

Then, after a few desultory jabs, my friend dropped him with a stiff straight right and it was over. The cherub lay dazed on the canvas, blinking up at the bright lights. My friend looked at me and nodded, once, and I thought all that day about the different names we can give to love.

Will Stenberg is a poet, screenwriter and musician who grew up in a small logging town in the wilds of Northern California and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. His work has been featured in Otis Nebula, Sybil Journal, Parhelion Literary Magazine, and elsewhere, and his poetry collection “No Comebacks” was published in 2019 by Yellow Lark Press in Austin, Texas.