The Finish You Expect from Issue 97
After Michael Downs
Wrestling isn’t really about pain. To hurt
someone, you don’t need a ring, music,
tights with your name on the back or up the leg.
Easiest of all is getting hurt yourself.
You don’t even have to ask, just move
a certain way, take more space than you
deserve, and someone will come swinging.
When wrestlers say money they mean love.
They always want more than they have
and have less than they need. Backstage
there’s no way to hide your hollow spaces.
The boys don’t mind if you’re just having fun,
but working wasted puts their lives at risk.
When I was asked to step outside I took
the warnings, punches to the ribs and gut.
Even when my arms were free I didn’t swing.
The hospital feels worse than jail.
After an arrest, I just have to sober up
and find out what I’ve done, when my hearing is
and how much it will cost. Doctors
don’t know anything for sure. They say
if I quit drinking, take exactly the right pills,
if my seizures stop and pacemaker
keeps working, I might have some years left.
Coming up, I heard a lot of things I wanted
to ignore: that the bleeding you can see
is never the worst kind, that working well
is worth more than a win, that if you learn
to love the guy who’s beating you,
you won’t really lose. Wrestlers never quit
the ring. Instead they find that it’s quit them,
been torn down and taken somewhere
they aren’t booked. The outcome may be fixed,
but you don’t always get the finish you expect.
Kayfabe in a Different Form from Issue 97
In professional wrestling, the term “kayfabe” refers to the portrayal of staged events as real or authentic.
Even if you dislike a guy you put
your body next to, on and over his,
get smeared with sweat and baby oil,
facepaint and blood. Some guys
reek of sex and last night’s booze,
gear they’ve let fester in their bags.
Others: shampoo, musk, a touch
of salt. Wrestle, shower, drive,
then shower again. Of course
we joked about dropping the soap,
who needed a bigger towel
to cover up, who had nothing to hide.
Guys described lucky escapes—
someone older, ugly, out of shape,
who hung around their hometown
gyms and rubbed them the wrong way,
chose the shower next to theirs
and stared instead of looking down.
I didn’t have to brag that I was sleeping
with the boss. Boys understood
Pat grabbed at them because he could,
because he liked to see them squirm,
half-mad but also flattered.
He could’ve left me any time—
he had tons of stroke, ran tryouts
for the Show. And I suppose
I could’ve asked for better matches,
to not end every night with my boots
seeing ceiling. But once our door
was closed I didn’t think of wrestling,
the sweaty skin my hands had skimmed,
how guys would grunt to sell a move,
signal they were ready with their breath
or squeeze my hip to hold me off.
Pat always got a room with double beds,
had me untuck the sheets and roll around
to make them both look used.
For him it was kayfabe in a different
form—keeping the surface smooth
while we worked underneath.
The Woman Who Can’t Forget: Self-Storage from Issue 89
Jill Price was the first person to be diagnosed with what scientists have termed hyperthymestic syndrome. Her autobiographical memory is so strong that she remembers virtually every event in her life from the age of fourteen.
My first matryoshka: blonde peasant girls
with braids, red pinafores, pink blushing cheeks,
each opening to reveal a smaller, identical self,
the last no larger than my thumb. I like best
the ones that change: Yeltsin, Gorbachev, Stalin;
elephant, tiger, bear. Inside me, every self
I’ve ever been: the girl who thought her mom
would die if she gained weight, left for college
with cardboard boxes she carried home
mid-term. The woman who lied to her husband,
got fired for correcting her boss. Matryoshka
crowd my mantle, bookcase, shelves—I can’t stand
to leave them stacked. My old selves breathe,
shudder, speak, each convinced it knows me
best, knows better than I do now. Mornings,
I recite their names, how and when I got them,
make sure each set’s complete. If any one
went missing, it would leave a hollow space.