W. Todd Kaneko


This is a cowboy boot planted square
in a man’s forehead, a crack of teeth
across knuckles after his marriage ends.
Test was a man who should have known
a wedding in a wrestling ring always ends
in calamity. He punished his foes
before hitting them with his pumphandle
slam for the 1-2-3. He never got retribution
against that man who stole his wife
because a woman must be complicit
in the crimes that men commit for her.

This is the wedding ring my father wore
on a necklace, a reminder of how
violence feels. This is my father
passed out drunk clutching a cocktail
dress left by my mother. I buried that
garment in the trash when I was a boy.
We never spoke about it. Death
is unconditional, without ceremony.
Love is a trick of memory in the shadow
of a wish. This is the sheen of baby
oil smeared across a man’s chest
to remind him how sexy he once was.
This is the familiar taste of blood.

This is my father’s collection
of wrestling matches on VHS, mine
after his death. This is a coffee-stained
dress resurrected from the garbage.
This is a man who should have known better.


                                          In the tavern where my father fell, I find
                            no bloodstain shaped like my father’s body,
                                                         no dent where his head clashed

with the floor. The bartender says they talked
                            about all those men they watched
                wrestle on television—Classy Freddie

                                                          Blassie, hated by every pencil-neck geek
                                          in America. Women swooned for him in California,
                                                                        the bartender said counting out his till.

                          Who knows why women do the things they do?
                my father said, recounting those twenty-five
                                          people in Japan dead of fright

                                                                        at the sight of Fred Blassie gnawing
                                                          on a man’s face, everyone’s bodies slicked red
                                                                                      Twilight calm, tavern hush—

                            dead air broken by a siren’s cry outside,
                                          then a crack like hammerfall,
                shivered glass. There is no such thing as life

                                                          so long as a man sits alone, no such thing
                                          as death so long as we say a man’s name.
                                                                        I sit down on my father’s stool,

the bartender pulls a beer for each of us. We talk
                            about the men we used to watch
                wrestle until our voices give out.

W. Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor 2014). His writing has appeared in Bellingham Review, Barrelhouse, the Normal School, the Collagist and many other places. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and teaches at Grand Valley State University.