Learning to Fight

by Joshua Karunwi Moore


My father never taught us,
said the only thing we should be fighting over,
was an education,
If we wanted to break spines
we could crack open a book.
We didn’t raise any barroom brawlers,
my mother used to say,
if ever we chose to start
a fight, we could be sure
she’d finish it.
But, whoever told them,
Thou shalt not wrestle against flesh and blood
clearly never caught an episode of
The A-Team,
or a scene from Monday Night Wrestlemania,
couldn’t know,
that the proper placement of fist to hip
can make a grown man turn a somersault.
How the sudden thrust of thigh off rope
can buoy the body over a ring.
How the subtlest shift in grip can
make an opponent sing out in submission.
Those shows, taught me the only moves
I knew to use that summer,
when those big kids
tried to pound us,
and my attempt at Mr. T
left us bruised, and
pressed into those pricker bushes.

Let me begin again,
the first time I heard my parents fight,
I was twelve years old.
Huddled in front of
Wrestlemania’s technicolor glow,
the clamor of my parents’ voices
building to the decibel of a breaking storm.
Not that thunderous clamor of clapped hands,
for another of Hogan’s aerial finishers,
more like the sudden crack and fissure
of a lightning bolt,
breaking over the banks of the Detroit River.
No one ever tells you
the body doesn’t rebound, like
a wrestler off the moorings of a ring.
That the sudden crack of knuckle
against bone, can echo louder
than the thunder of any cheering crowd.
I can still see, that image of my father,
driving his fist, over, and over, and over.
As if the repetition could teach her something
she didn’t already know.

Years later, when my mother finally left him,
and stood at that wavering edge of new beginning,
I asked her, Why?
Why, now?
To which she’d replied,
that she finally knew
what he’d really meant to teach her,
only wished,
it hadn’t taken
forty years
to learn


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