My mother taught me to grow into the name,
took me under her wing, showed me
where weakness lived in the family:
the slow-witted and dim-sighted,
where and how to seize my advantage.
I quit wrestling early
after a half-dozen rug-burns
from my brother’s bristled fore-arms:
smooth skin learns to think
quick and shrewd,
looks ahead of brawn, finds contests
where victory is fore-gone.
not by right but cunning:
That night was quiet,
darker than I expected:
no moon or stars, only black.
I did not see
or hear him coming—
I was alone and cornered,
no trick, diversion to rescue me.
Whoever he was, he matched me wit for wit,
left me no chance to slink,
no advantage to seize,
or weakness to exploit.
My hand forced,
I wrestled for my blessing.
The contest went through the night,
each move he anticipated and countered.
It was monotony, but I kept at it.
In the dim light before dawn I could see
him unfazed: no heavy breath or sweat.
He stood straight, stared at me, waiting.
I lunged one last time, he stepped aside quick,
but I caught hold of his ankle and clung to it;
I did not let go.
The Man laughed, gave me a limp and a new name.