Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 21: Lightning Path, Prince, W. Todd Kaneko, "Rickidozan Was Big in Japan"

Catch it if you can.  The present is an invisible electron; its lightning path traced faintly on a blackened screen is fleet, and fleeing, and gone.

Dillard reflects upon how fleeting the present is.  It's here for a few moments--like a shooting star--and then burns up in the atmosphere.  Too fast to even make a quick wish on it.  It doesn't even leave an after-image in the world.  It flashes and is gone.  The future becomes the present; the present zigs into the past; and the past fades into memory.

I have been thinking about my past a great deal today.  This morning, the singer Prince was found unresponsive in his Minnesota recording studio.  Paramedics attempted to revive him, to no avail.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.

I was 15 when Purple Rain came out.  It was the soundtrack to many school dances I attended, couples grinding away to "When Doves Cry."  Prince was the anti-Michael Jackson.  Jackson was all moonwalking and sequined gloves.  Prince was all screaming guitar and sex.  I listened to Jackson during the day.  Prince was my midnight music.  The stuff that played in the car as I cruised with my friends, scamming beers and girls.

So, when I heard the news of Prince's death, it made me feel old.  Mortal.  As if a part of my youth had just been declared D. O. A.  And the feeling has stayed with me all day long, into the evening when my Book Club met at my house.

This month, in honor of National Poetry Month, we read W. Todd Kaneko's The Dead Wrestler Elegies, a collection of poems about professional wrestlers who have met untimely ends.  Lots of heart attacks and cancer and drug overdoses.  It's a sobering book about growing up and grappling with mortality and love.  In short, a perfect companion to today's events.  (I have included one of my favorite poems from the collection.)

Saint Marty is feeling a little . . . fleeting tonight.  A meteor.  Electron.  A breath in winter air.

Rickidozan Was Big in Japan

by:  W. Todd Kaneko

After the empire fell, after the fires
left scars over backs of foxwife
and fisherman, Rikidozan invented
professional wrestling for Japan,
swallowed the atomic bomb, then
devised a new word for faith.
After my mother left us, after
my father dreamed of starting over
in a new place, the way Rikidozan
appeared in Japan with karate
chops and arms that grapple
men to the canvas for a quick one
two three--Rikidozan with thunder
in his hands and sun fire to forge
new names for virility, for honor.
Rikidozan with eagle claw.  Knife
hand.  Dragon's tongue.  Rikidozan
using the deadliest parts of a man
to breathe life into battered bodies.
My father watching television late
into night until every grappler faded
into static and snow.  My father
tinier in that dark room than he is now
in death.  Rikidozan devising new names
for manhood.  My father proclaiming
that professional wrestling is fake,
Rikidozan explaining that autheticity
doesn't matter when a man
needs something to believe in.

Do not go gentle into that Purple Rain storm . . .

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