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.