The Shadow Boxer

He entered the pub with his coated wife
fretfully following behind
Ordered a pint and a glass of Mackies
A man with a mission in mind
Sat at a table to the side of the dartboard
lit up and emitted a cough
Three pints later he stood abruptly
and slowly took his shirt off
Loose fitting trousers with fists held high
sporting a plain grey vest
Eagerly anticipating the round one bell
ready to fight a clean contest

Some stared, some looked the other way
but none did intervene
As he stood his ground and traded punches
with an enemy unseen
He landed jabs in the solid, smoking air
keeping his chin tucked in
Practising his shuffle, bobbing and weaving
like they trained him in the gym
Before him misty memories of his finest hours
of battles long and hard
A handful of wins, some close defeats
at Liverpool stadium on the undercard

He fought a close three rounder
landing punches with precision
And then shook hands with each of us
after he'd got the decision
Another drink then before the fading sun
gives way to the darker night
Shirt on once more and out he went
to face the hardest fight
His wife close behind in his footsteps
more faithful than a dog
As they journey onward together
through the smouldering, thickening fog

Richard Raftery