I believe I just discovered the meaning behind Mike Tyson’s answer to a question I posed to him last night at the New York Public Library, where he was interviewed by Paul Holdengraber.
The answer is a little overwhelming, truthfully. Through tears & self-effacing comments, he spoke about many things, but spent a good deal of time talking about what it was like to be trained as a killer for a life of war, an animal loosed upon the world. He talked about contemplating murder by gun & suicide before going off an a five minute expose of all the French farmers who rose from humble beginnings to become gods of war (with Mike naming these farmers turned warriors, their ancestors, & the successors who eventually conquered Attila the Hun).
Mike’s head is smooth & hard & deceptively flat looking from the front, eyes set & facing straight forward. It’s difficult to keep his gaze. He glanced up & said, “Hey there, mister.” I said, “Looking forward to reading the book. You ever write poetry, Mike?” “Poetry?” “Yeah, poetry.” I was thinking, I wonder if Mike Tyson would collaborate with me on a poetry chapbook. The universe is crazy in allowing certain ridiculous things like this to occur; I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing such things come to fruition before, so I figured to try my luck again.
“Poetry?” he paused.
The guy responsible for getting the line moving was annoyed but he wasn’t going to tell Mike Tyson to speed things up.
“I don’t know,” said Mike. “Maybe it’s in me. If I wrote poetry it would probably be like Bonnie Parker.” & then chuckled, looking around. Everyone chuckled but no one had a fucking clue what he meant.
This is what I believe he meant: Bonnie Parker, of the infamous Bonnie & Clyde duo, supposedly wrote two poems while they were being chased by the law.
Here are links to the two poems. One’s about murder, the other’s about suicide.
Both speak of a tragic trajectory forced upon the speakers early on, & the prices to be paid for the freedom they allow themselves. It’s all a little melodramatic, but there lives in each the occasion of emotional truth, anger & spite & a fortitude the stepped-upon, encased in the glory & fame we honor our outlaws, which makes these poems attractive in ways not necessarily agreeable, but still attractive, perhaps even to Mike Tyson, a retired god of war.