When Ernie Schaaf fought the freak Carnera, Sharkey worked his corner. After the knockout he carried him like a bride to the dressing room, where he saw the young power leave Schaaf’s body and move golden near the ceiling, like lapping waves. The kid hung on for a few days in the hospital till his Ma came, asking—Honey are you my sweetheart? —Yes, Ma cut Sharkey in his depths. Soon after he himself faced Carnera’s grotesque sadness. Some say Sharkey took a dive, but truth is there was a sound like a keening wind, then Ernie Schaaf stood before him, even as a ghost still the picture of a heavyweight, except for a hat, which he never wore. Sharkey wondered what changes death had wrought in his friend as he too fell before Carnera’s fists.
Will Stenberg is a poet, screenwriter, and bartender. He grew up in the redwood forests of the Northern California coast and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. The poems excerpted here are pulled from a full-length manuscript entitled No Comebacks, inspired by Peter Heller’s seminal work of boxing history In This Corner…! Will boxes recreationally and writes and records music under his own name.