lucha libre (\loo’-chah· lee’-bray\): 1. wrestling 2. Mexican style wrestling known for its high flying aerial power moves and wrestlers that use masks to abscond their identities.

Don’t Blame masks. Blame smoke.
Blame the tricky sorcery
of shiny boots, capes
and props. Blame spandex’s
tight grip on wrestlers’ thighs.

When swollen biceps of masked men
slap canvas, how like broken toys
their bodies become, each one
proffering his limbs to the other.
And we, their spectators, hooked

under pain’s smelly spell,
we cannot resist wanting
sweat, and blood. We rouse,
like tiny rioters, wave our fists,
curse the winner.

Blame the winning wrestler,
how he radiates,
center-stage, how he performs
his own ascension up ropes,
his thick arms, hot and throbbing.

Blame his left foot poised
top turnbuckle. Blame
his hands-on-waist pose,
or the braying crowd,
or the thud his leg makes

as he falls, hacking down
on his opponent’s
waiting chest.
Don’t blame masks. Blame
spicy pork rinds and their vendors.

Blame bikini clad women
and TECATE splayed
across their asses and tits.
Can boys be blamed for imitating

their fathers, leaning
at their chair’s tipped edge,
praying his man clobbers
the other guy? I blame
a fourth-grade shoving match

with sister. My forehead
turned hot by an early June sun.
I hadn’t understood
how anger, like a hot spring,
boils at the belly’s core

until it’s hostile vapor
clenches fists. I never tried
to weigh muscle against meat.
Never had to throw a punch.
I blame the thin hush

an audience becomes
as bone-tired men stumble
into their musty dressing rooms,
how their faces elude us
each match—the windswept dirt

under the feet of ten-year-old
onlookers’, their cheering
for my sister’s grip. Blame
the swirled marble buttons
of school uniforms,

the impossibly long wait
for recess. Blame
the purple blooming bruise
sketched by the brush stroke
of her hands.

I have not thrown a punch since.
I wish I had bright sparkling
fabric hidden under
my dress shirt. Blame
the seams of a practiced persona

into which we’ve all
neatly wrapped our arms.
Blame the seamstress
who sewed this mask
and cut all the loose threads.

This arena is a site for unveiling,
my locale for loosening the strings.



Rendered cloth and sparkle,
matching cape and boot.
When I am tacked to his face,
I am the winner. No small feature
framed without my laced-tightened
grip, holding his role. The crowd
remembers how my mouth
curves around his lips, how I keep
my place despite his sweat.
When he leaves the ring
he can take out another face.
He can go back to claiming
his uncloaked self.
Here I am his camouflage,
his veil.



I woke with the word
on my tongue—slap—
unsure how to loosen
its stiff sound tacked
on my voice. Slap.
I tried mouthing
some other vowel,
some softer sound.
In the shower,
through breakfast,
all day—slap—
idled in my jaws.
Creeping under the brass
faucets’ glint,
at the bottom of my china
cup, in the folds of taffeta

Then came the snippets:
a boy’s anxious eyebrows
and surprised ovaled
lips; a worn armrest
under a black gloved hand.
At dinner, the kitchen girl
dribbled gravy
on my pulled chicken,
I thought blood,
and spit. I imagined
a whole body
working its weight
into a weapon.
I whispered boot.

In the metal bit
of my horse’s mouth
I saw smoke, and tassels.
I said mask.
I held my tongue.

Back in my stable
the thin legs of a spider
scaling the wood wall
became fine fingers,
balled themselves
into a sweaty punch.
I said blow.

Tonight I scrub my tongue,
but the words unravel.
I lay them in my cheek,
suck down every single
syllable. I try to forget
all the heavy words.
Microphone. Spandex.
Each a tightly laced
note, a rubber sole
on my neck.

Nandi Comer
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