Brief family history told in the form of a classic wrestling storyline

I. Saturday Night’s Main event

My dad would not let my mom out of the house 
in a skirt higher than two fingers
above the knee. They would
rush back home 
if the waiter had paid her 
too much attention. It was great
business for babysitters, who would charge 
for just showing up or leave early. 
Either way, I got sent to bed before 
the most anticipated fight of the evening. 

II. The Divorce

This poem is dedicated to Tessa Blanchard, 25,
who spit in the face of Nick Gage 
in a no holds barred inter-gender match 
while all the men in the crowd chanted 

Nick                    Fuckin’                        Gage

in support of the self-anointed King of this Shit, 
who struck his opponent from behind 
before the bell even rang.

And still,
Tessa won!

She reminded me so much of my mother,
who wouldn’t be caught dead 
spitting in public.

III. The next to last time we spoke I was trying to catch a glimpse of The American Dream Dusty Rhodes on the TV behind you

These are the only 
two things I have
left to say 
to your mother and you. 

You were holding up both fists, 
much like a wrestler would. 

IV. I have my son’s last name

When they call for him to meet me
at the school gate, he sometimes
forgets and gets called back for his bag.
And I remember how when I was not 
much older than he is now, I knew 
and grew to love that it was never 
my father there to pick me up. 

Guillermo Rebollo Gil

3 Questions for Guillermo

What was your process for creating this work?

Both "the snow on the roof of the house" and "brief family history told in the form of a classic wrestling storyline" were written around videos of wrestling matches found on YouTube. Thus, they each feature a partial account of whatever happened in the ring between two opponents. Then, a decision had to be made regarding what the context should be for offering this sort of play-by-play. In "the snow," I opted to consider the performer's biography. In "brief family history" I took the autobiographical route. In both instances, my intention was for the accounting of an event that, given the fact that pro wrestling matches are 'fixed', has no consequence per se, to come to matter on a deep emotional level for all of us who tune in to watch.

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

"The snow on the roof of the house" began as an essay where I hoped to explore why wrestler Chris Benoit mattered to me as well as the ethical implications of that concern. The essay started to take the form of a poem when—upon revising—I noticed that the piece could garner greater urgency the quicker it moved. "Brief family history" started with a series of failed poems where I was trying to imagine my father (who hated pro wrestling) as a wrestler. The poem began to take shape when I turned my attention to my son and my mother. Wrestling can be tender that way. 

What is the significance of this work to you?

Poetry and pro wrestling have a lot in common: they both depend on an ever curious exertion and show of force with no real result. I am intrigued by the possibility of exploring one with the tools of the other. In this, I am looking to follow, and add to, the fine work of writers like W. Todd Kaneko, Colette Arrand, Brian Oliu and Josh Shepard, among others. 

Guillermo Rebollo Gil (San Juan, 1979) is a poet, sociologist and attorney. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Fence, Feed, Mandorla, Spry, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Trampset, FreezeRay and Anti-Heroin Chic. His book-length essay Writing Puerto Rico: Our Decolonial Moment (2018), a careful consideration of the potentialities of radical thought and action in contemporary Puerto Rico, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in their New Caribbean Studies Series. He belongs to/with Lucas Imar and Ariadna Michelle. Happily so.

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