Song of the Week: The Stance by Wes Weddell | inspired by Nick Wong’s essay entitled A Fight for Shared Spaces

Bushwick’s annual collaboration with the Jack Straw Writers Program has become one of my favorite shows of the season, with a different songwriter paired with each writer to produce a song inspired by the different pieces (which range from fiction to poetry to journalism to memoir and beyond in any given year). In 2012 I drew wandering pugilist Nick Wong, who had contributed an essay titled “A Fight for Shared Spaces” about his experiences in boxing gyms across Latin America.

I know little about boxing, but Wong’s piece (starts on page 43 here) resonated with me in the same way that my favorite baseball writings do (and I do follow baseball passionately): here it’s not really about boxing itself so much as life, and there’s plenty of room for people of all stars and stripes to connect with the observations and emotions. One passage in particular put a strong picture in my mind and provided my ‘way in’ for writing the song:

Entering a boxing gym in another country makes you a tourist in two ways.  The first being the quite obvious one of being in another country, but the second is a more subtle form of diplomacy.  The way you hold your hands, the distance of your stance, whether you lead left hooks off the jab or always follow up with the right hand, is a representation of your school.  Essentially, it is your dialect to the language of boxing, and once you announce an intention to fight, the entire ambiance of the gym shifts; people stare as you walk by, silently estimating how you size up in the ring.

The song will appear on my next album, which is itself supported by a grant from Jack Straw Productions. And you can hear The Bushwick Book Club Seattle “house” band Read and Destroy shred it in concert, too!

The Stance by Wes Weddell

The window’s cracked and the lighting’s bad,
But I ain’t here for the view
I’ve come to test the theory that I’m someone
Every pair of eyes is taking in my size
And going three quick mental rounds
Wondering just where the hell I come from

Between the bells, when the gloves are raised
As I take my stance, I give it all away

My left hand says I’m from out of town
Front foot says I ain’t backing down
My record says I ain’t gonna win no title
Got a good right hook and a bad right knee
And I carry the weight of my family
They knock me down, and I love ’em still despite it
But I keep on fighting

The heavybag has seen better days
It’d be in the trash if it weren’t for tape
And sometimes I feel pretty much the same
Still I walk right through that door
Take my lumps and earn my score
Knowing I can’t really walk away

Oh, I got dreams, buddy, same as you,
But I ain’t reaching for the top—just another rung or two

There’s an old saying from the East
Fall down seven times, stand up eight
I’ve got a feeling inside of me that
Eight ain’t gonna win this race

I got two bruised ribs and a flattened nose
And I say to you: “That’s the way it goes”
I wouldn’t take it back or try to hide it
I fight for better, fight for worse,
I fight to break my family’s curse
I fight to shout out: “Hello, world, here I am!”

That’s why I keep on fighting