Golden Gloves

My father fought in Golden Gloves. Back then
The ring was where you slugged your way to hopes.
It was no place for fey, aesthetic men—
There’s no nuance on canvas, or the ropes.

I asked him, Dad, what does it mean to lace
Into someone? He smiled, as if unpacking
An old valise of thoughts on how his face
Received its crisscrossed road map of shellacking.

You lace into a fighter when you hit
And let your inside glove glance off his skin.
The lacing on your gloves is coarse as grit,
And cuts flesh like a file biting in.
Do it enough, his blood will start to flow.
They’ll stop the fight—you’ll win by TKO.



Cooking for Vegans

Imagine a barnyard soufflé
Of chicken-feed, pig-slop, and hay.
That’s what you’d serve
(If you really had nerve)
At a banquet for vegans today.

Never a well-marbled steak,
Or nicely fried haddock and hake,
Or baked ham en croute
With champagne in a flute—
Such foodstuffs would be a mistake.

You couldn’t have lobster or veal
Or anything else at your meal
That came from poor creatures
With non-human features
(You know how these vegans would squeal).

Don’t cook for such jerks. You will fail.
Eat roast pork and cabbage or kale
Followed by biscuits
With t-bones and briskets
Washed down by a tankard of ale.

And after you’ve finished the ham,
Wind up with a nice rack of lamb,
Then an egg-custard dream
Made from butter and cream,
And slathered in apricot jam.

That’s the way humans should eat—
With plenty of dairy and meat.
Not gnawing on grasses
Like rabbits and asses
Half-starved in malnourished defeat.



Don’t Become the Crazy Old Cat Lady

You’ve got too many of the filthy things:
Flea-bitten bags of fur, half streaked with mange,
Tiptoeing on your kitchen counter. Hell,
There’s cat hair everywhere. You can’t sit down.
And God, that stench—ammonia’s pungency
Mixed with the reek of dried, forgotten turds.

What is your problem, woman? What sick need
Compels you to house useless, feline strays?
You’re still young, honey—there’s a chance for you,
But take it now. For if you hesitate
I see distinctly what the future holds:

You in a flowered granny skirt, unwashed,
And straw sun-hat, bedraggled, broken-brimmed,
Plodding along in sneakers smeared with grime,
Pushing a supermarket cart piled high
With kitty litter, cat food bought in bulk,
Trudging the aisles and mumbling to yourself—
Everyone gives you leeway as you pass.
Propped by the register, the checkout girl
Gazes in boredom at her manicure
As you stand there splayfooted, frizzy-haired,
Dithering in an absentminded daze
While out of a tatty purse you dredge up dimes.



Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide.  He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.

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22 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    Dr. Salemi, um,, I know your portrayal of the cat lady is a masterpiece, but what about my breakfast?

  2. Peter Austin


    I enjoyed all 3 of these poems, but the best by far is ‘Golden Gloves’ – brief, telling and quite gut wrenching.

  3. Joe Tessitore

    An on-line poetry lesson.

    The fighter still remains, and has taken the Limerick to the next level in “Cooking for Vegans”.

    “… the Crazy Old Cat Lady” is portraiture at its best.

  4. Mike Bryant

    I love the nod to your Dad. He was a real man. Susan was a little lost in the boxing lingo so I set her straight!
    Of course, all the poetry is wonderful.

  5. Joe T.

    Brooklyn Joe is a fighter I know.
    He was an unbeatable foe.
    Then he married the baker
    But just couldn’t take her
    So now they’re both rolling in dough.


  6. Jeff Eardley

    Joseph, as a relative newcomer to SCP, can we say a big thank you for this wonderful trilogy. My wife’s father was a paratrooper and boxer in WWII and he would have loved “Golden Gloves” and we never knew about “lacing” Apart from that, we know a Catwoman and a few vegans. You have certainly hit the spot with us and thanks for making us laugh out loud in these troubled times.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Thank you, Mr. Eardley. I wrote the cat lady poem for a young American woman friend who had a soft spot for stray cats, but who was also afraid that she would become one of those pathetic old biddies. The poem shocked her out of her ailurophilic tendencies in a flash! She also moved to England, and now lives somewhere in Leeds (with no pets at all, thank God),

      • Leo Zoutewelle

        In that case, it was worth the loss of my breakfast. thank you.

      • Jeff Eardley

        We have had a news story over here this week of a pet cat with Covid 19. Leeds could be in lockdown by Monday, ha ha!

  7. Margaret Coats

    God said: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat, and to all the beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. That was the plan for Paradise, of course. Now in the Ice Age, perhaps we need something stronger (classical satire, never more uproarious than from you), but I’m glad you remembered the kale and champagne.

  8. Sally Cook

    Dear Joe,
    When my mother announced that if we did not do X, Y, or Z she would “lace in” to us, we knew she meant business. I never knew what she meant, but perhaps it was just as well. I knew she was serious; that is all that mattered.
    Her father owned a hotel and bar in a Midwestern logging town, and she often told us proudly of how he could consume an entire meal using only his knife – steak, potatoes, apple pie – even peas– and-washing it down with the hard stuff. And this was breakfast !! in
    So we are sync on the first two But Joe, you are simply familiar with the wrong sort of cat. Those street cats that infuriate you are ruining New York. I’ve known some very personable cat, and can vouch for them anytime .

  9. C.B. Anderson

    This is what happens when one tells the truth in rigorous poetic form: a round of appreciative accolades. Of course you know that your observations would be censored in most contemporary venues, which just goes to show that conservatives are the true liberals.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear Kip —

      Two of these poems (“Cooking for Vegans” and “Don’t Become…”) were rejected by three separate formal-friendly venues. They were obviously scared shitless of publishing anything that might offend anybody. A lot of the editors who run supposedly “conservative” magazines are actually gutless wimps.

  10. Rod Walford

    Joseph I loved all three of your poems! They are not only down to earth they are downright earthy and they pull no punches ( pun intended). Hard hitting educational poetry at its best.

  11. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Dr. Salemi, what a marvelous array of top-notch poetry. “Golden Gloves” is most certainly an education in boxing. I’m reminded of Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” and wondering if you ever caught the boxing bug from your father, or if you just concentrated on packing a powerful punch with your golden pen?

    “Cooking for Vegans” is deliciously hilarious. I will admit to smiling knowingly at the admirably and vividly portrayed “crazy old cat lady”. A couple of old aunts in England fit the description perfectly. This poem reminds me of my father who said much the same to me. Being an avid gardener and bird lover, he loathed cats with a passion. I adopted a cat for my son when he was six. My father was mortified and lectured me on the pitfalls of moggies. Every time my parents visited, the cat made a beeline for Dad, purring and cooing and demanding attention. Dad softened and on the day Wellington died (14 years later), my father was beside himself with grief. I reminded him that he hated cats. He simply replied that Wellington wasn’t a cat. He still hates cats!

    Thank you for these lovely poems and my trip down memory lane.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear Mrs. Bryant, I will admit that there are some nice cats. My good friend and teacher, the late great Dr. Reinhold Aman, was a ferocious kitty lover, and could have well deserved the title of “Crazy Old Cat Guy.” (I can tolerate cats a lot more easily than I can tolerate the insufferable vegans.)

      No, my father never taught his sons to box. I don’t think he wanted us to endure the physical punishment. But he did give us his old, worn-out Golden Gloves mitts, which we used as playthings.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Dr. Salemi, I have just looked up the late great Dr. Reinhold Aman and what an absolute treat it’s been to read of such an intriguing individual. You must have had some super conversations. I think I see glimmers of him in your bold and fearless poetry.

      • Mike Bryant

        Joe S,
        I also looked up Dr. Aman and found a copy of the book that he himself considered his best. I noticed that you wrote the blurb. On your recommendation, I’ve ordered it and can’t wait to get it.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I knew Rey Aman for nearly forty years. He was the salt of the earth. He spoke fifteen languages fluently, and could read a dozen more. He was a world expert in Germanic philology, a top-notch editor, a meticulous scholar and researcher, and he didn’t take crap from anybody, including the dirtbags at the University of Wisconsin who denied him tenure on some utterly fake pretext. (He was actually so brilliant that he made the rest of them look like chopped liver, and of course they didn’t like that.)

        Rey’s journal MALEDICTA was absolutely groundbreaking in its scholarly exploration of vituperative language from all over the world. It pulled no punches, as my father would have said. Naturally, the politically correct dweebs in academia couldn’t stand it. But MALEDICTA will be read long after the race-class-gender garbage of modern “scholarship” has rotted on the library shelves.

        You never wanted to be in Rey Aman’s crosshairs, if he went after you in print. He flayed his enemies alive, and then took them apart ossicle by ossicle. And he published his attacks in MALEDICTA itself, so that an enemy’s reputation was trashed world-wide, in the seventy or so nations where the magazine’s subscribers lived.

        God bless him and keep him!

  12. David Watt

    Joe, you taught me something about the art of boxing, and provided ample laughs at the expense of fanatical vegans. My favourite lines are:

    Not gnawing on grasses
    Like rabbits and asses
    Half-starved in malnourished defeat.

    You tell it like it is, and do it so well!

    I’ve never been a big fan of cats. To my mind, dogs have more character.
    I definitely can’t see why anyone would want to keep more than a couple of felines.

  13. Peter Hartley

    Joe S – These three offerings are such good descriptive poetry that despite the tons of crap from every cat in Western Europe ornamenting my lawns I can still imbibe the stench from your Crazy Old Cat Lady from here.


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