Matt W. Miller
Real Life

In The Fighter Wahlberg plays a welterweight
from Lowell named Mickey Ward and Mickey
one night, sticking up for his crackhead half-brother
Dickey, played by Christian Bale, gets his right hand
busted by the cops, just like in real life.

                                                                  In the film
one of the cops is played by the real-life son of one
of the cops and he was, for his time, a cop in Lowell.
I played football with him in high school. I can still
see him all alone in the end zone after our tunnel-
visioned QB threw it to me again on a tight end drag
for short yard gain.

                               Great to see him play his dad,
though I heard there were issues between them,
and then to see him grin into the camera during
those closing credit shots of the town and people.
Hollywood had come to us to find a hero and though
I never met Mickey I saw him once at the gym.

A few years later, well after the cameras tided out
of town, after Bale had made his Oscar speech,
Dickey got popped again for stealing and dealing
and the cop I played ball with drove home one night
so ripped he never saw the SUV as he veered across
Route 110 in Methuen.

                                      A man named Bryant Paula
died instantly. The cop, the boy I knew, was arrested.
He wept in court, asked to be punished, and went to jail.

And none of this has anything to do with the movies,
except that maybe everything has to do with the movies,
our falling action, our light flickering against the dark
as we run alone into an October end zone, arms flailing,
hoping someone will see that we couldn’t be more open.



Matt W. Miller is the author of the collections The Wounded for the Water; Club Icarus, selected by Major Jackson as the winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize; and Cameo Diner: Poems. His newest collection, Tender the River, will be published by Texas Review Press in 2021. He has published poems and essays in Birmingham Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Narrative Magazine, Southwest Review, 32 Poems, American Literary Review, Massachusetts Review, Memorious, and Crazyhorse. He is the winner of Nimrod International’s Pablo Neruda Prize, the Poetry by the Sea Conference’s Sonnet Crown Contest, River Styx’s Microbrew/Microfiction Prize, and Iron Horse Review‘s Trifecta Poetry Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University and a Walter E. Dakin Fellow in Poetry at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, he teaches English at Phillips Exeter Academy and lives with his family in coastal New Hampshire.