W. Todd Kaneko
Flower For Adrian Adonis
Before he was adorable, Adrian Adonis
was rough. He rode his motorcycle
across the country, wrestled
every man in New York, Hollywood,
Texas—breaking every man he fought
with a knee drop. He wrapped thick arms
around a man's neck, squeezed
until the announcers exclaimed
Goodnight, Irene! as bodies crumpled
to the canvas. My father rode
a motorcycle back in the seventies,
an old Indian my mother took
when she left us. Sometimes a boy
is smart to keep silent about things
he finds—secret photos of my mother
astride that bike, her lips peeled
back in a lovely snarl at the Golden
Gate Bridge, in Times Square,
at the Grand Canyon. My father, alone
in his underpants after a double shift
at the plane yards, those photos
gripped in one hand, his forehead in
the other. When he became adorable,
Adrian Adonis was a buffoon,
a man smeared in perfume and eye
shadow prancing through flower shops,
sashaying with a bouquet of posies.
That tough guy who rode his motorcycle
from fight to fight, who fought for the World
Championship, fought for the fun
of beating a man—Good night, Irene!
All that's left are flowers now.
That Night the Fabulous Moolah Finally Lost Her Championship
The stars were out that night
Moolah wrestled the cowgirl—
that's why we came here
to New York in 1984, where alligators crawl
the sewers, where the rat kings skirmish
in alleys. Sometimes, a man can't see the sky
so he invents something to look at.
Moolah the Slave Girl clad in leather
pleats and leopard's claws in 1953.
The Fabulous Moolah now, her pockets full
of dollar bills, flowers perfumed for love
or murder. Moolah—ladies wrestling
champion for twenty-eight years before
this night. We came to see the stars
form new constellations, that neon pop
singer squeaking ringside for Moolah's rival—
the cowgirl blows kisses to MTV,
she-bops under the lights. Her lips glisten
as she slaps on a chinlock, a knee lodged
in the old woman's spine. We remember
what those legends still say—Moolah
was an old beast with a crocodile
cunning, the slipperiness of weasels.
A man feels helpless when he can't help
but root for the wrong woman. Jumping
headscissors, a flying mare, those bodies
dissolving into tricks of light, the Milky Way
vanishing when the night blooms
dark with loss. That's why we came
here—because Cleopatra still rules Egypt
from the sky, Medusa those undercrofts of bone.
Moolah grabs them by the hair, bashes
their heads together to remind us
who the men really come to see.
Playboy Buddy Rose Knows How Much He Weighs
I do not weigh 271 pounds. I weigh a slim, trim 217.
— Playboy Buddy Rose, Professional Wrestler
No one wants to be a bad guy, but to me
Buddy Rose will always be exactly 217 pounds.
My father said I was too short to grow
into a professional wrestler. Every weekend,
the Playboy postured in my father's living room,
half-cocked in glitz and bleach damaged hair.
Not my father's house, but on the West Coast
where men wore tights, grappled for honor
and the love of a good knuckle sandwich.
Before I threw my first punch, before
I understood it's not easy being the bad guy,
my father tried telling me wrestling was fake—
a pageantry of blood and teeth for old men
and wide-eyed children. He told me to study
if I wanted to be a doctor, but Buddy Rose
was a Las Vegas hog flaunting his sallow
physique, jiggling all over in a full-nelson
before tumbling out of the ring headfirst.
Back then, I just wanted to see the Playboy
get his heavy ass kicked. I wanted my father
to show me how a good man makes a fist
out of soft fingers. I wanted to know
what Buddy Rose probably knew back then
as he stomped back to his dressing room—
there is no such thing as a good guy,
only men who look good.
W. Todd Kaneko has recent work in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, NANO Fiction, the Collagist, and elsewhere. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.He is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor 2014) Visit him at www.toddkaneko.com.
Illustration by Alex Fukui.