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Muhammad Ali at the Ringside, 1985

November 20, 1988|Wole Soyinka

One sits still. His silence is a dying count. At last the lens acknowledges the tested Hulk that dominates, even in repose The giddy rounds of furs and diamond pins. A brief salute--the camera is kind, Discreetly pans, and masks the doubletalk Of medicine men--"Has the syndrome But not the consequence." Promoters, handlers It's time to throw in the towel--Parkinson's Polysyllables have failed to tease a rhyme From the once nimble Louisville lips. The camera flees, distressed. But not before The fire of battle flashes in those eyes Rekindled by the moment's urge to center stage. He rules the night space even now, bestrides The treacherous domain with thighs of bronze, A dancing mural of delights. Oh Ali! Ale-e-e. . . From "Mandela's Earth and Other Poems" (Random House: $13.95; 96 pp.). Soyinka, a Nigerian novelist, playwright, critic, poet and professor, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. "Muhammad Ali at the Ringside, 1985" is a poem of seven stanzas, of which the portion quoted above is the third. 1988, Wole Soyinka. Reprinted by permission of Random House.

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