For this poem, the prompt was "news of the day". I was searching through CNN, Huffington Post, etc. when I found a photoset of kids' mixed martial arts, a culture I didn't even know existed. I was so struck by two of these images depicting two very different sides of one of the fighters, a seven year-old named Mason "The Beast" Bramlette. I'm not passing judgment at all on the culture or any families or kids involved in young MMA fighting; I just couldn't get the idea out of my head. One of the photos I wrote about is here but the two below are what sparked the initial idea.



he didn’t cry.
that's how we knew
when it came to blows
he would survive.

when the first punch lands, it’s light, but snaps
like an arrow.
his foot follows
darting out, a brazen kick
to sweep under ankles
and plow through throats.
i wonder
if he will remember this
when he is older
old enough to kill
to regret
and bruise.

two photos, before and after
before: a toothless smile, a championship grin
and two arms stretched out in L-shapes
showing off.
after: his tears, streaked and not forgotten
he covers his face
his mother holds him
he cries.

from the crowds of those of us
old enough to know better
he walks away because he isn’t sure.
i follow because i am.