“Carefree as a Plantation Darky in Watermelon Time ”*

Jim Jeffries worked the corner the night
I fought his little brother. He saw up

close how my left can drop a man
like a cherry from a tree. The younger

Jeffries was a game fighter, but he had
no elasticity. Because he was so game,

I helped carry him back to the corner
after I put him to sleep. Naturally,

I was surprised to find I was a 2 to 1
underdog to the older Jeffries, the same

man who retired immediately after
he saw me in action. I don't care if Jim

did keep a grizzly as a pet: I'm going
to make a whole lot of money betting on

myself. If I felt any better, I'd be afraid
of myself. I'm so fast I only got my shadow

to spar with & most times, it don't keep
up either. So I shoot craps to train my fists.

I play the fiddle to train my eyes.
I play baseball to get ready for bed.

When I drive my Flyer over the red rises
into that Reno sunset, everybody from

Philadelphia to Australia will see Jack
Johnson's taking his machine for a ride.

*The title is a description of Johnson training to fight Jim Jeffries for the Heavyweight Championship from the Baltimore American (July 2, 1910).

©Originally appeared in Pluck!