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poetry


LOOKING AT THE LIGHTS
by
Jeff Kass

All wrestlers practice failing.


We need to know what to do when were getting cranked.

Inevitably, we will be on our backs.


Somebody will be tougher, somebody will be quicker, somebody

will be strong enough to knock us flat. Its called looking at the lights,

as if when were horizontal and helpless, were also gazing at paradise.


All I know is its hot down there. It stinks.


The friction of your head rubbing against the mat could start a bonfire.

The guy whos decking you is breathing in your ear,

a rush of panting grunts.

His sweat mixes with the skin on your throat and drips in your hair and

your girlfriend is watching from the bleachers as his muscles

glisten and you are buried.

Your teammates are groaning and urging you to keep fighting but secretly

they doubt you wont surrender and the referee is cutting the air at

smaller and flatter angles to signal the shrinking breadth between the mat

and your shoulders and he poises to slap, he poises to slap and that is

why every day in practice we must drill and rehearse for failure.


Its called bridging.

Make your neck a great spoon stirring the soup of your head.

Stir it left. Stir it right. Hold it. Hold it. Stir it left.

Hold it. Stir it right. Hold it. Hold it.

He will be a ten-ton slab trying to break you flat—

you must resist, your neck must insist no, with your neck no,

with your neck no, no, you must

train your neck to insist NO.



Jeff Kass is a teacher of English and Creative Writing at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor MI and Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanit MI. He also works as the Poet-in-Residence for Ann Arbor Public Schools and as the Dzanc Writer-in-Residence for Community High School. He was the Ann Arbor Grand Slam Poetry Champion in 1999 and 2000, and the runner-up in 2001 as well as the Champion at the inaugural Ann Arbor Book Festival Poetry Slam in 2004.



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