Letter Number 2 (Bald Patch)
Dear Mr. Tyson,
I noticed the prominent, out of place bald patch near your right forehead while watching vintage footage of the 1987 heavyweight title match against Tyrell Biggs. Easy to spot because it looked too polished with carnauba wax and advertised for much more than its estimated resale value. Also, because the patch matches one on my left temple I’ve been working on for almost a year solid. Yours much more prominent, though. More exposed. Professional. Result of a stricter training regimen. More balanced diet and bobbing head movements. Peekaboo tactics designed to elude faster than a son of a bitch. Much more padding reserved for bullying, repentant hands, instead of skull.
Come to think of it, I’m wondering at the exact weight of your gloves and how your fingers formed inside them as clean fists. How difficult it might be to grab and pinch individual follicles from such a position. The sense of responsibility your knuckles must wake up with each morning. (More on that in future letters.) Or the hairs falling out on their own during your morning jogs in upstate New York drastically dislodged. Depending on the incline of the side streets and eventual country roads alone. Leaving behind a reminder trail of pulled head hears to get back home for spaghetti dinners and reel-to-reel film projectors by sundown or else.
Hair as black as basement or attic. Sweat that could’ve rested on the patch if you would have only taken a moment to lower your untested chin. I feel what could be a similar sensation when I shower and hard water meets my own exposed skin on a first name basis. But your skin is baddd skin shining differently in that Biggs fight. More a smooth matte finish meant to convey deadly confidence. An absence designed to assert maximum ring control. Whereas my growing pains show patterns of losing it.
Letter Number 18 (Sex)
Dear Mr. Tyson,
I remember when I was maybe 5 years old my mother finding a Crayola crayon drawing I’d made of Adam and Eve, peach white and stark naked in the Garden of Eden. She critiqued my work like only a Puritan can. Debased in vulgarity as fallen pink vulva and the unashamed nipples on the man/clay covered in godly thumbprints. I think I said something about wanting the renderings of their original forms to remain “as authentic as possible.” She disapproved of the crass nudity and my sights on original sin. I couldn’t look her in the eye.
We never talked again about the sex of human bodies. No one outside a grade school VHS tape told me the ways of grown-up figures making more of themselves. Holding bowls of fruit in their perishable laps. My father taught me to shave with a disposable razor blade one unchosen afternoon, but only because the thin moustache that had wound up on my lip, more like soft knuckle hair than manhood, embarrassed him in public. Strangers unable to distinguish my age through wily pubescent interference. And I wasn’t even allowed to use Gillette shaving cream (the best a man can get), so my lips ended up light gray where the hair had been, after.
The rest I learned from watching private screenings of Melvin Van Peebles’s on-the-run outlaw flick, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. How to break a sweat in half. How it takes two to make a thing go right. How it takes two to make it outta sight.
It has been a strange way to have a dick. Like, I was never taught what to do with it or how to walk around mannish, knowing I’d grown one somehow. There have been off-balance moments between my hips. Campfires in my solar plexus. Worst of all how I don’t know how to honestly son or daughter. Draft memos towards family business. Fill the first page of a Holy Bible with dates. So instead I listen to Muddy Waters brag about his bedposts and write graphically (like OedipusRex, blue-balled) to express what I couldn’t color pre-kindergarten and keep tucked in the waistline of my boxer shorts (for extra padding from low blows).
Letter Number 22 (Wail)
Dear Mr. Tyson,
It has become a steady wail. Persistent. Where I pick myself apart with fingernails and front teeth. From the front yard reduced to fetal position. Arms swaddled incapacitated in gas station receipts, dental floss, unapologetic lover hair, al dente spaghetti noodles stuck to the dusty kitchen wall, a full summer clothesline’s worth of dirty laundry knotted into a rope ladder. Waiting terrified to see if they’ll let me cry myself to sleep again up against a lamppost. Bent at an angle sure to put some age in my spine, damp from desperate sweat and rain.
Sick sound in the self-embrace, squeezed out between my elbows. I am an out of tune saxophone, hollow brass down the hallway of the 5th grade band room. Dry mouthpiece drawn out way too thin and flat, practically shrieking with nothing to say. And I have nothing to say besides the Pound Puppy take-home eyes peeking from my sister’s closet the morning after Christmas. Pitiful. (Familiar visions of the devil never taking a holiday, around the clock like Wal-Mart Super Center hours —heartbroken over how the shifts will outlive us.)
Metal-on-metal sound almost, the rust of aluminum garage door hinges or worse. Classic car shows in the mall parking lot, invasive dental equipment, an upstairs neighbor taking a hot shower in the middle of the night. I can’t keep up with the bad in terms of vibrations and hold my belly to feel for any leftover resonance.
Attention to detail down to the fractures and distrust of a place. Casual hatreds. The petty slam poetry of martyrs waiting impatiently to see Glory. (All rhythm and alliteration, no divinely-inspired message to witness and obey.) Similar to the ambiguous instrument meant to accompany psalms, but shrill from having never been taught first-hand how to play any prettier. And bitter over it. Like I was born to give birth to mourning sounds.
Evan Nave is Normal, Illinois’s native son. He represented Illinois State University’s English Department as the 2010-2012 Sutherland Fellow in creative writing, and he graduated from ISU with a PhD in English Studies in 2017. His writing has appeared in Seven Corners and Misery Tourism and his first chapbook project, Thoughts Like:, was published by Press 254 in 2012. He currently lives and works in Chicago