The Fish

In wrestling parlance (at least in my high school) a fish was a wrestler who went out there and got pinned all the time. This is that person's story.

At the weigh-in I was under,
He was half a pound too much.
For the next hour he sucked his gums and spat
over and over into a dixie cup,
sitting on the crapper, pushing, pushing,
his coach murmuring above him.
He finally made weight by smiling on the scale.

I loved to wear the red tank top
that buttoned snugly under the crotch,
I loved the tights with padded knees,
the square white shorts, the thick white socks,
but most of all the high black shoes,
light as gloves, only allowed to be worn for the match.

I was a rookie, him they called Gramps --
I was fourteen, he was twenty --
my mouth was full of braces,
his was full of stumps.
My coach said, Just go after him.
He's starved so long he's weak as a girl.
All you have to do is last.

I had wind and strength to spare,
I had youth, I had brains,
even a kind of virtue:
this was manly, this was fun, this was healthy,
a boy used this to grow on, mens sana
in corpore sano.

What Coach didn't say was this:
He's poor, he's dumb, he hates you.
He wants to kill you,
and he's going to try.

But I saw it in his eyes
above the center of the mat,
and it took me down
and pinned me under him,
wriggling and twitching like I had no arms or legs.

This poem appeared in The MacGuffin.