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Sport 25: Spring 2000

Lloyd Jones — In Bed with Muhammad Ali

page 165

Lloyd Jones

In Bed with Muhammad Ali

In bed I read (again)
Bob Greene's account
of Ali in O'Hare
airport, his painfully
glazed eyes
Like a statue in rain.
The pitter patter percussive memory
of his fists
holding awkwardly
a pen to sign
Muhammad Ali
for a middle-aged fan
who just wanted
to say…
But, Ali has moved on,
with that ‘thousand-yard stare
of a marine’, handing out
little copies of the Koran
like the matchbox girl in
Oscar Wilde's tale.
A middle-aged woman
‘smartly dressed’,
observes Bob Greene, drops
to her knees
at Ali's feet.
In one blind step
Ali is around her.
page 166 ‘This way champ,’
someone is saying.
‘This way, champ.’
Now Ali has a small crowd
around him. He tells them—
‘God loves you. Every one
of you.’
He raises that famous fist.
Faces beam as if this is news
they weren't expecting
but will believe,
because the man who could
hold a fork of lightning in one hand
and was so fast
he could turn off
the switch by the door
and be in bed
before the light went off
has told them so.
An elderly woman
places her hand on his sleeve.
‘There,’ she says.
‘Now I can say
I touched Muhammad Ali.’
Ali inclines his head, the eyes twinkle.
Another man, white, confident
holding a briefcase
He begins with the words
that he's sure
no one else has ever used.
‘I just want to say,
in Zaire,
back in '74,
my life was hell,
sheer hell,
page 167 but when you dropped
Foreman in the eighth…’
The man shakes his head,
and someone says,
‘This way champ.
This way.’
Then, on page 372 that line
of Soyinka, the great African poet—
‘Bombiye Ali. Bombiye.’
And I switch off the lamp
and I'm in bed
before the light goes out!
Bombiye Muhammad Ali,